Over the years, whenever I passed the road sign to Derryhick Lake near Pontoon, I made a mental note to check out this secluded lough at some stage.
Finally, on a sunny, if cold May Bank Holiday Monday, I took the turn off the L1717 along the Parke to Turlough road to drive up the hilly route that winds its way to the popular pike fishing lake.
My first impression was that the lake was much bigger than I had expected, but not as an impressive as the nearby Loughs Conn and Cullin with their many islands, sheltered sandy coves and magnificent views of Nephin.
However, as is often the case, first impressions can be misleading and it wasn’t long before the charms of Derryhick Lake had won me over.
There is lots of parking at the lakeside and, although this is not a designated walking trail, the boreen that skirts much of the shores of Derryhick is perfect for a casual walk.
Surrounded by rocky hills, Derryhick is in a lovely setting where some beautiful wildflowers and plants thrive in the stony and poor soil along the lakeshore.
As you walk around the lake, you will come across an incongruous sight in this remote place – a large gantry-type structure projecting into the lake to pump water to the hilltop tower, overlooking the lake, that supplies the Parke group water scheme.
The sight of the whins (furze and gorse) in full bloom in the early summer scene was a tonic after the greyness of a very wet winter that seemed to go on forever.
The richness of the thorny plant’s yellow flowers and deep green stems was accentuated by the surrounding beds of Heather, still bronzed, but beginning to show signs of life again in anticipation of summer.
The leisurely walk ended abruptly as the trail stopped on Derryhick’s southern shore at a little bridge over a small river that flows out of the lake.
I spotted a couple of Fringed Waterlilies (Nymphoides peltata) with their pretty yellow petals growing on the river bank.
It’s hard to believe that this lovely wildflower that grows around the edge of lakes and ponds is considered an invasive species by the fisheries authorities because it clogs water bodies and excludes native species.
Back to the Bronze Age
Human habitation around Derryhick Lough has been dated back to the Bronze Age (2000 BC to 500 BC) as a result of the discovery of a number of Bronze Age cooking places, known as a fulachtaí fia (Burnt Mounds).
These communal cooking places were usually built close to a stream such as the one that flows into Derryhick.
The remains of such pre-historic ‘kitchens’ can be identified today as a low earthen grass-covered mound, containing ash and charcoal and small fragments of burnt stone.
The cooking process involved a wood-lined trough dug in the ground and filled with water. Stones were heated in a fire beside the trough and when hot enough the stone were put in the water trough to cook the meat which was wrapped in straw to keep it clean and weigh down by a stone tied to a straw rope.
The heated stones used to cook the meat were replaced, as they cooled, and thrown to one side, forming over time a horseshoe-shaped mound.
Hemmed between the waters of the lake and decorated with a ribbon of native trees, wildflowers, shrubs and bushes, the walk around Derryhick was so enjoyable, I intend to return on a summer’s evening when I’m sure it will be even more enchanting.