Are you ready to conquer the peaks of the highest and most spectacular mountain range in Northern Ireland?
For those looking for their next big hiking challenge, climb six of the highest peaks in the Mournes over three days, including SlieveDonard, Northern Ireland’s highest summit at 853m / 2,798ft.
A high level of fitness is needed to walk 5 to 6 hours a day, but the climb won’t be the only thing taking your breath away - with spectacular views over the Irish Sea, mountains and reservoirs from each summit.
Day 1: SlieveDonard, Commedagh and Bearnagh
Distance: 10.9 miles (17.5 km)
Start point: Trassey Track Carpark or Meelmore Lodge Carpark both on Trassey Rd
The route: A challenging circular walk with some strenuous ascents that are certainly worth it. The route takes in three of the four highest peaks in the Mourne Mountains (SlieveDonard 853m / 2,798ft, SlieveCommedagh 765m/2,509ft, SlieveBearnagh 739m/2,424ft) rewarding walkers with wonderful views out to the Irish Sea and back into the High Mournes. Starting from Trassey Track, you will walk towards Hare’s Gap (a saddle between SlieveBearnagh and Slievenaglough) and into the open mountains. This walk takes you along part of “The Brandy Pad”, a track created by the boots of smugglers and the hooves of heavily laden ponies, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries. The next summit is Northern Ireland’s highest, SlieveDonard where you can expect extensive views from the top as the mountains sweep down to the sea, opening up views from Newcastle to the Isle of Man, Wicklow, Donegal, Wales and Scotland. As you ascend the final summit, SlieveCommedagh, be sure to look up from the south side where the impressive ‘Castles’, agroup of spectacular granite tors, can be seen.
Day 2: SlieveBinnian
Distance: 7 miles (11km)
Start point: Carrick Little car park, at the junction of the Head Road and Oldtown Road near Annalong.
The route: This fantastic circular walking route follows the famous Mourne Wall to the summit of SlieveBinnian (747m / 2,450ft). Built by hand over 18 years between 1904 – 1922, the stone wall is 22 miles in length, connecting the summits of no less than 15 mountains in the Mournes. Ascending to the spectacular South and North Tors of Binnian you will discover a landscape like no other. The real beauty of this walk is the striking panoramic views of Silent Valley and Ben Crom Reservoirs (built to gather water from the Mourne Mountains and the main water supply source for most of County Down and Belfast) which dramatically open up below as you reach the summit. As you walk, 800 metres below your feet is the Binnian tunnel. Built between 1947 and 1951 by over 150 men led by candlelight, the two-and-a-half mile long tunnel was constructed to carry water from the Annalong valley to the Silent Valley Dam. After taking in the views on what has to be one of the most picturesque picnic spots, begin the gradual descent past the Blue Lough and Annalong Forest back to Carrick little car park.
Day 3: Meelmore and Meelbeg
Distance: 5.5 miles (9km)
Start point: Ott car parkon the Slievenaman Road
The route: Following the Mourne Wall, this route summits SlieveLoughshannagh (619m), SlieveMeelbeg (708m / 2322ft) and SlieveMeelmore (682 / 2,238ft).Experience extensive views along the line of the Mourne Wall from Slieve Lough Shannagh northeast to Meelbeg and Bearnagh and southwest over Carn to Slieve Muck and the south coast. Lough Shannagh itself is a beautiful lake, known as the ‘Lake of the Fox’according to folklore. Situated beneath the mountain, it is the largest natural body of water in the Mourne Mountains. Time for summit number two of the day, SlieveMeelbeg is one of the seven peaks over 700m where you will experience excellent views of Fofanny Dam, Lough Shannagh and the Blue Lough. Complete your summit success with SlieveMeelmore where you will find a tower probably built to give some shelter to the workmen who constructed the wall.
Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail
When walking in the Mournes use the Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland (OSNI) Mourne Activity Map 1:25 000 available from Visitor Information Centres in Newcastle, Visit Belfast located in Belfast City Centre or from www.osni.gov.uk
Mourne Rambler Bus Service - Translink Service 405 (operational May to August) stops at various points within the more remote areas of the Mournes
Mournes Shuttle Bus Service – A 16 seat mini bus providing a shuttle service to walkers in the Mourne Area
Where to stay
This three-day itinerary has starting points in the northern, eastern and southern regions of the Mourne Mountains and the days can be taken in any order. This means you can base yourself in any area which is accessible to the mountains.
Meelmore Lodgehas direct access to Trassey Track, camping, hostel and B&B accommodation as well as an onsite café and bistro this is an ideal place to base yourself for the challenge surrounded by the beauty of the mountains.
Mourne Lodge,in the tranquil village of Atticall, isin the heart of the Mournesbetween Silent Valley and Spelga Dam. This budget guest accommodation centre has a number of ensuite double, twin and dormitory rooms.
If want to base yourself in a town, check out Walkers Welcome accommodation in Newcastle, Co. Down.