I love hill walking and hiking, especially in the Mourne mountains in Northern Ireland which are so accessible to everybody. But being a photographer (and a bit lazy) I’m always eager to get to the best views as quickly as possible so that I have more time to absorb the views and find as many potential compositions as possible. So if you are a bit lazy like me, then the following two recommended routes to spectacular views should interest you!
Route 1 – Slieve Loughshannagh / Carn Mountain
This was the first ever walk I did in the Mournes and in my opinion offers some of the best views of the whole area. Access is from a carpark over the hill from the Spelga dam and once there it is approximately a 40 minute walk to the top of Slieve Loughshannagh!
The climb up is pretty uneventful until about halfway up you get come the Mourne wall. Once you climb over the wooden stile you are greeted with the most spectacular view of Doan and lough Shannagh down below. From here you can either continue on up Slieve Loughshannagh on the left or climb up Carn mountain on the right. Carn mountain is slightly higher than Slieve Loughshannagh however the views from the latter are better.
From here you can see a whole panorama of summits in a semicircular shape including Slieve Meelbeg, Slieve Meelmore, Slieve Bearnagh, Slieve Donard and Slievelamagan from left to right. Further right brings in views of Doan, the Silent Valley and Ben Crom reservoirs. Beyond this the view stretches all the way to the coast.
Route 2 – Slieve Bearnagh / The Brandy Pad
About 4/5 miles north east from the previous carpark brings you to another easily accessible route that starts at the base of Slieve Meelbeg and leads up the ‘Brandy pad’ to the ‘Hare’s gap’ and then up the side of Slieve Bearnagh. (The ‘Brandy pad’ is an old smugglers route that was used for many years to smuggle alcohol and tobacco from the coast into the center of the country!)
There are two routes you can take here, you can either climb the Hare’s gap on the left hand side which is a sort of small ‘U’ shaped valley between Slieve Bearnagh and Slievenaglogh, or you can go right which takes you further up the side of Slieve Bearnagh and over the Mourne wall. If you choose the latter route you are again greeted with the most spectacular view of Doan and the silent valley in the distance. You are getting near the center of the Mournes here, almost surrounded by hills and mountains. It feels like you have entered some kind of prehistoric plateau which is silent, barren and beautiful!
If you are interested in climbing to the top of Slieve Bearnagh then taking the Hare’s gap route will be easier. Once over the gap there is a stone stairway built into the mountain on the right that leads up the side. The rest of the climb up is relatively easy. I should point out though that the view from the Hare’s gap itself is not nearly as breathtaking as the previously mentioned route.
If you want to get an idea of what you can expect to see on these routes then please take a look at the photos on the website. There are many images available there of these routes and many other areas of the Mournes too.
Brian Davidson – landscape, macro and still life photographer