Barnesmore Gap is that big opening between Croaghconnelagh (Conall Cullban of Tirchonaill’s mountain) and Croaghonagh (Owen’s mountain), it is the most outstanding feature of the Blue Stack landscape. Here, in this very fine mountain pass the traveller is shut in between these two great hills as he wends his way along a really excellent road that traverses the Gap. These are rugged and gaunt grey mountains which, from a distance, give off a hue of blue, and for three miles on either side the traveller is between massive cliffs and yawning rents cut by streams racing down the mountain and falling into the noisy Lowerymore River. This river keeps company with the main road as far as Lough Eske where it joins the River Eske.
For centuries the Gap has been a strategic gateway between the Northern and Southern parts of County Donegal. But Barnesmore was also, in other days, a place of sinister repute. Up to about 1800, it was the notorious haunt of brigands, highwaymen and rapparees who waylaid, robbed and murdered travellers. It became so perilous that from the mid 1700’s a garrison of Red Coats was stationed at the Ballybofey end of the Gap to ensure the safety of travellers. The authorities also erected a gallows in the Gap to deter these people. The West Donegal Railway Company opened a Railway Line on 25th April 1882, which closed in 1959.
The Lowerymore River meanders through Barnesmore Gap and past the pub, on its’ way to Lough Eske. The Keadue Falls joins the river just past the pub. The scenery here again is spectacular, including mountains, river, waterfalls and hidden natural treasures which entices the traveller to explore. Running along side the river is the old Railway Line which is still visible to all who visit the pub. Many walkers set off from the pub, exploring all that is to be seen here. Few locations offer such variety and splendour.The river has been seeded with unfed salmon fry for a number of years. In 2005 the first of these fish returned and for the first time salmon redds were recorded by the Fisheries Board on the Upper Lowerymore River. A fish pass has been constructed on the river at the impassable waterfalls at the White Goat’s Island. Prior to this construction, salmon could not pass the falls.
The West Donegal Railway Company opened this line on 25th April 1882, the start of it’s construction having been hampered by seven weeks of snowstorm. The line closed in 1959. The Railway ran alongside a ledge built into the hillside for part of its route through Barnesmore Gap. Much of the trackbed can still be traced today, and is visible to all who visit Biddys.
No 4 “Meenglass” with 11 coaches is seen on 3rd August 1959 storming up the Barnesmore Gap with her return excursion. The remoteness here is well illustrated, with the train clinging to the side of the Blue Stack Mountains. Note also the telegraph poles, vital in transporting all the telecommunications services that the railway required to keep it running. This would not only allow voice telephony between stations and signal cabins, but also operated the various block sections. (Top, Right) No 2 “Blanche” is seen on the same date at Barnesmore Station, with her excursion of 10 coaches.