I HAVE ALWAYS HAD AN URGE TO GO EXPLORE THE MOURNE MOUNTAINS, EVEN MORE SO AFTER GETTING INTO PHOTOGRAPHY. IT WAS ONLY AROUND CHRISTMAS TIME I DECIDED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. AFTER A WEEK OF HEAVY SNOW TOWARDS THE END OF JANUARY I DECIDED TO PLAN MY FIRST HIKE, A BEGINNERS ONE AT THAT. MY ROUTE BEGAN AT TRASSY CAR PARK AND CONSISTED OF HIKING TO "HARES GAP" AND "THE DIAMOND ROCKS". MY HIKE LASTed AROUND 4 HOURS AND THE VIEWS WERE ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING. ITS LIKE A DIFFERENT WORLD UP THERE, ALL THOUGHTS DISAPPEAR AND YOU GET LOST IN THE MOMENT. I UNDERSTAND NOW WHY ITS NAMED ‘AREA OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY’
This image was taken at "The Diamond Rocks" with Slieve Bearnagh to the right and a tiny glimpse of Ben Crom Reservoir down towards the bottom left.
THE TOPIC ON THE HIKE BACK TO THE CAR WERE PLANS FOR THE NEXT HIKE . THIS WAS THE BEGINNING OF MY ADDICTION, A THRILL THAT WAS BEYOND MY EXPECTATIONS, I COULDN'T WAIT TO GET EXPLORING AGAIN.
A FEW DAYS AFTER MY trek MY COUSIN GOT IN TOUCH. HE HAD SEEN THE PHOTO ABOVE AFTER I HAD PosTED It ONLINE AND ASKED IF I WANTED TO JOIN HIM ON A HIKE HE HAD PLANNED FOR THE WEEKEND.I JUMPED AT THE CHANCE AND GOT INVOLVED WITH the PLANNING.
Below is a map showing our hike(bright green line), starting at Donard car park and finishing at the car park at the base of Slievenamuc.
WE ALL SET OFF FROM LISBURN AT HALF 5 SUNDAY MORNING, LEAVING ENOUGH TIME TO PARK ONE CAR AT OUR FINAL DESTINATION BEFORE STARTING OUR TREK AT DONARD CAR PARK. WE STARTED OFF IN TOTAL DARKNESS AND AS WE MADE OUR WAY OUT OF DONARD FOREST AND ONTO "THE SADDLE" THE SUN started TO COME OUT.
This is the ladder that takes you over the mourne wall at "The Saddle". Situated between two of The mournes larger summits of Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh.
AFTER WE CAUGHT OUR BREATH AND HAD A GOOD LOOK AROUND WE SET OFF AGAIN AS OUR 1ST MAIN CHECKPOINT WASN'T TOO FAR AWAY. WE STOPPED FOR A TEA BREAK JUST BEYOND THE ROCK FORMATIONS KNOWN AS "THE CASTLES”, THERE WAS ABSULOUTE SILENCE, IT WAS FASINATING. ONCE WE DOUBLE CHECKED OUR MAP, WE ASCENDED TO SLIEVE BEG. HERE WE HAD A GOOD LOOK AROUND THE "DEVILS COACHROAD" NOT DARING TO STEP TOO CLOSE TO ITS CLIFF EDGES. OUR NEXT STAGE OF THE HIKE WAS THE SUMMIT OF COVE MOUNTAIN, WHICH WAS A LOT MORE STRENUOUS. UPON ARRIVAL WE STOPPED FOR A WHILE AND TOOK IN THE FANTASTIC VIEWS.
This photo was taken on the summit of Cove Mountain, while trying to be creative using my shadow. Above my shadow is Hares Gap with Slieve Bearnagh to the left. Also in the far distance to the right is Slieve Croob towering above Finnis in the Dromara Hills.
AFTER THE DESENT OF COVE THE HIKING GOT REALLY TOUGH. THE STEEP ASCEND TO THE TOP OF SLIEVELAMAGAN TOOK SEVERAL SHORT STOPS TO CATCH OUR BREATH BUT WE TORE ON AS WE HAD PLANNED TO HAVE LUNCH ONCE CONQUERING THE SUMMIT. WHEN WE ARRIVED IT WAS WELL WORTH IT, THE MOST BREATH TAKING SCENERY I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED.
Below was taken from the summit of Slievelamagan, with Slieve Donard in the centre of the image. To the left is the summit of Cove from which we had just came from and behind it is Slieve Commedagh.
This is another image from Slievelamagan showing Hares Castle in the bottom right.
WITH OUR BAGS NOW SLIGHTLY LIGHTER FOLLOWING LUNCH WE SET OFF AGAIN, CATCHING OUR FIRST GLIMPSE OF BEN CROM RESERVOIR AS WE MADE OUR DESCENT. I OFCOURSE HAD TO STOP AND GET A PHOTO.
Taken during our descent of Slievelamagan with views of Ben Crom Reservoir and Silent Valley in the distance. Can you spot hikers making the climb towards us? (wearing red)
THE DESCENT WAS NEVER ENDING, BUT THE VIEWS OF BEN CROM RESERVOIR WERE GETTING BETTER WITH EVERY STRETCH WE COVERED. ONCE AT THE BOTTOM IT WAS TIME FOR A WELL DESERVED BREATHER BEFORE WE STARTED THE VERY STEEP DESCENT TO THE RESERVOIR.
Photo of Ben Crom Reservoir from a spot not far from "Buzzards Roost"
Below was taken from Ben Crom Reservoir
WE WERE NOW ON OUR LAST STRETCH, MY FITNESS STARTED TO SHOW AS I WAS CONSTANTLY GETTING CRAMPS IN MY LEGS. THE STEEP ASCENT TOWARDS LOUGH SHANNAGH BROUGHT BREATH TAKING VIEWS OF THE SILENT VALLEY BUT TAKING PHOTOS WAS THE LAST THING ON MY MIND AT THAT POINT. IT WAS A RACE TO LOUGH SHANNAGH BEFORE THE SUN WENT DOWN BEHIND CARN MOUNTAIN.
Below is image of Lough Shannagh as the sun was going down. Silent Valley is just noticeable in the distance.
ONCE I GOT THE ABOVE SHOT IT WAS A MUCH EASIER WALK FROM THE MOURNE WALL BACK TO THE CAR.THE HIKE IN FULL TOOK 9 HOURS BUT IT WAS WORTH THE SORE LEGS I ENCOUNTERED THE FOLLOWING MORNING. STILL HARD TO BELIEVE SUCH A STUNNING PLACE IS RIGHT HERE ON MY DOOR STEP.