115 Central Promenade,
Newcastle, Co. Down
The Mountains of Mourne:
(028) 437 23842
Thirty miles south of Belfast, stands the town of Newcastle and behind it rise the Mountains of Mourne, a mountain range made famous by the song-writer Percy French. It is Northern Ireland's premier mountaineering area, and it's granite crags form one of the best rock climbing venues on the island of Ireland. The latest rock climbing guide lists 800+ routes ranging over the entire spectrum of grades.
It is the close proximity of mountains and sea which makes this area unique. The beach runs for several miles along the County Down coast, with the mountains rising directly from the sea as illustrated in this view.
The Mournes is also an excellent hill-walking area. In clear conditions the view from Slieve Donard, its highest summit includes the Isle of Man, the lake district, and the hills of North Wales as well. It is small when compared with the Scottish Highlands, or even with the Lakes, but contains nontheless an interesting collection of hills. The area is compact and navigation is generally straightforward. The main area, the eastern Mournes is laid out as a trident with two big valleys running roughly N-S and separating the three 'prongs' of the trident. West of this area, another group of high hills centre on the twin peaks of Eagle Mountain and ShanSlieve before falling to lower hills which continue west and south towards Rostrevor.
A number of Outdoor pursuits centres operate in the Area, one of the main
ones being the Tollymore Mountain Centre, which is Northern Irelands main
Mountaineering instructional centre. More information may be found
If you are new to this area, you may also wish to look at the companion
page covering the Newcastle area which,
in addition to providing general information gives you access to information
on Hotels, Guest Houses and other accomodation in the area.
Access to the area is easy. Coming from The South of Ireland you should first
aim for the town of Newry. From there, take the road through Hilltown to
Newcastle. From Belfast take the main A road, which takes you south through
Ballynahinch to Newcastle. If you are coming from the UK mainland by car -
the Cairnryan and Stranraer ferries are probably your best bet. A major point of interest
is the reduced fares which the Ferry Companies sometimes offer outside
the main Summer season. These could be used to facilitate a weekend or
long weekend trip over to the Mournes. More details of travel options are given
This On-line guide to the Mournes, compiled by
Hilltrekker, concentrates on Hillwalking, but includes also a section giving
details of a small selection of the 800+ rock climbs listed in the latest guide. The
guide assumes normal summer hillwalking conditions. For the winter hillwalker, the
Mournes has a lot to offer, when conditions are right, so long as suitable clothing
and equipment is carried. Conditions on the higher summits can be artic.
The most important factor is to consider the consequences of any kind of mishap high
up and carry enough spare clothing to survive until help arrives.
Section 1 of this guide gives details of walking routes to all the high summits of the Mournes. Section 2 gives information on a short selection of rock climbs with information on the location of the main crags. Section 3 covers the possibilities for winter climbing. We emphasise that all activity in mountains is potentially dangerous. This guide is provided as an information source for visiting walkers and climbers, but inclusion of a route description is not a recommendation. Users of the guide must measure their own capabilities and experience against the demands of mountain adventure. Stay within your own capabilities, make sure you have map and compass, and beware of loose rock. In relative terms the Mournes is a safe area. But serious accidents have occurred here, including fatalities. Contact the police in case of emergency, they will organise rescue. Be comforted by the knowledge that there is a highly efficient volunteer rescue team (The Mourne Mountain Rescue Team) with a core of people on continuous call 24hrs a day 7 days a week. Don't make it necessary to have them called into action. Enjoy the Mournes with care.
Route 1 : Slieve Donard from Newcastle
This is perhaps the most popular walk in the Mournes, so much so that considerable erosion has become evident in recent years. Renovation work on the path has taken place at a number of points which has improved matters. It is the normal route up Slieve Donard.
Start in the Donard car park in Newcastle. Walk to the back of the car park and pick up an obvious path past the transformer and into the trees. Follow the path up the left bank of the Glen river. After approx. 150 metres a bridge is encountered. Cross the bridge and swing right to ascent the left bank of the river, with cascades and waterfalls on the right. A second bridge is encountered. Cross this and continue again on the left bank past more waterfalls and cascades to the third and final bridge. Do not cross this, but continue up a broad stoney track to a gate giving access to the open mountainside. To the left is Thomas's mountain with the prominent deep cut gully of blackstairs on it's flank. Directly ahead is the sharply defined profile of Eagle rocks on the flank of Slieve Donard.
Go directly ahead with the glen river on the left and forest on the right (bearing 234 degrees). After half a mile the fence bounding the forest on the right swings right then left and finally sharp right. High up on the left the great prow of Eagle rocks is a prominent feature. Continue directly ahead up the Glen river valley on the well defined track. Near the head of the valley turn left to cross the Glen river. The path, which has been substantially re-engineered goes directly up, then curves right to gain the flat saddle between Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh. Walk back (southward) to intercept the Mourne wall. Turn left along the wall for the top of Donard.
The final section of the route climbs beside the wall (either
side may be followed) directly to the summit of Slieve Donard. This
is something of a grind being a continuous slope for 1000 feet, but
with increasingly impressive views over the Mourne country to the
south and west.
Route 2 : Slieve Donard via Thomas's Mountain
Follow route 1 as far as the gate giving access to the open mountainside. Go through the gate and turn left to cross the glen river below the bee-hive shaped stone building known as the ice house. A tributary joins the glen river at this point. Ascent its right bank to the bottom of the deep cut gully down which the tributary tumbles in a series of cascades. Scramble up the right bank of the gully (i.e. left of the gully) staying well back from the gully walls which overhang at this point. This is quite steep but easier ground may be found by keeping further left. Weave up through the short rock bluffs in this area taking care on sometimes wet rock.
After about 150 feet the angle eases and you can return to the edge
of the river again. Follow the general line of the river (bearing
due south) over sometimes wet terrain. The river rises in the shallow
bay south of Thomas's mountain which can be readily attained to the
left and which provides an excellent view over Newcastle. Cross the
river near its source and move on a bearing of 200 degrees up the slope
towards the steep upper slopes of Slieve Donard. Extensive areas of
scree are now visible. Gain the crest of the broad and somewhat ill
defined ridge and turn onto a bearing of 232 degrees. Make
your own route weaving up through the scree on slopes which can be quite
steep. A large mound of stones is passed before the summit is attained.
Route 3: Slieve Donard from Bloody Bridge
From the car park at the North end of Bloody Bridge cross the road and pass through at the entrance barriers to pick up the path leading up the river valley. The broad well marked track is followed up the left bank of the river for 400 - 500 yards to a point where it is joined by a tributary (the glenfoffanny river) running in from the North-east. [N.B. see warning below] Cross over the glenfoffanny river on the stepping stones and then cross a stile to emerge on the open mountainside. Follow the left bank of the river over rough and sometimes marshy ground. Pass to the right of extensive quarry workings and arrive at the Mourne wall where it traverses the flat area immediately south of Slieve Donard. The view to the south and west is impressive with the whole of the central prong of the Mourne trident in view. The East faces of Cove mountain and of Slieve Beg are well seen directly across the Annalong valley.
To gain the summit of slieve Donard turn north and follow the wall to the
summit. Overall this is probably the gentliest ascent route to N. Ireland's
highest summit, with no really steep sections and little navigational
WARNING: The crossing of the glenfoffanny river is normally perfectly straightforward, and is done by hundreds of walkers day and daily, without a thought. But under certain circumstances it can be potentially dangerous. On rare occasions the upper slopes of Slieve Donard become subject to particularly severe rainstorms which generate large amounts of drainage from the mountain. Within an hour of the onset of these rare conditions, both the main bloody bridge river and the glenfoffanny river swell to become thundering torrents of water. The normal crossing point is where these two rivers converge and, in these conditions, a descending party following the normal route to Bloody bridge will find itself stepping down over sloping rock steps towards stepping stones which will certainly be submerged, with violent raging rivers on both sides. The danger in this is clear. The only correct course is to make a possibly long detour up the side of the glenfoffanny river until a safe crossing point can be found. On occasions in the past, footbridges of various kinds have been placed at this crossing point, but all have eventually been torn away. Not a surprise to anyone who has seen the violence and the volume of water than can arise here. However in normal weather conditions there isn't a problem. So be aware, but don't be deterred.
Great news Folks! They have now built a bridge!. Its got two steel girders, is firmly fastened to the rock, and is well above the level of the water. This one is designed to last!Return to walks list
Route 4: Slieve Commedagh from Newcastle
Slieve Commedagh is the second highest Mourne summit and is readily climbed
by a simple variation of the normal route up Slieve Donard, its neighbour to
the east. Follow route 1 to the Donard-Commedagh col and turn right at the
Mourne wall. Follow the wall without difficulty to the Water Commissioner's hut.
This is not the true summit of the mountain which is several hundred yards across
the plateau. Walk North west across the flat summit plateau (bearing 48 degrees)
to the summit cairn at 2515 feet. Take care in mist as the summit plateau of Slieve
Commedagh is entirely featureless.
This route can easily be combined with an ascent of Slieve Donard by any
of the three routes listed for that summit. This will give a good walk
involving about 3,400 feet of climbing and descending.
Route 5: Slieve Commedagh from Clonacullion
This is a longer route to the summit of Slieve Commedagh than route 4, but is highly recommended on account of the scenery en route. It can be extended to the summit of Slieve Donard by reversing part of route 4 to gain the Donard-Commedagh col, and then following the last section of route 1 to the summit of Slieve Donard . This gives a fine medium length walk along the Northern ridge of the Mournes. The route, as described, ends on the summit of Slieve Commedagh.
From the car park at Clonacullion gate, (312314) take the main trassey track into the mountains. This broad track passes through two gates before emerging into the trassey valley. Follow the track until directly opposite the Spellack buttress on the right. The trassey track is parallel to the trassey river on it's right in this section. Pick up a grass track which comes in from the left to join the main trassey track at right angles. This is opposite and below the centre of the Spellack buttress.
Take this path and follow it for several hundred yards directly up the slope where it swings right towards Slievenaglogh. Follow the path until it begins to turn left again. Leave it at this point and keep going straight ahead to gain a prominent grass ramp (bearing 133 degrees). To the right and behind magnificent views open up of the slabby northern side of Slieve Bearnagh. Follow the grass ramp past the remnants of Quarrying activities towards broken cliffs marking the northern extremity of the Slievenaglogh buttress. Pick your way through the rocks to get above the line of cliffs. Carry on roughly on a bearing 142 degrees until the Mourne wall comes into view. Turn left at the wall.
The route hereafter follows the wall all the way to Slieve Commedagh. If you stay on the northern side you will have good views northwards over the county Down countryside. Staying on the southern side will give you better views into the interior of the Mournes. In either case views to the west over Bearnagh, Meelmore and Meelbeg are immediately impressive, while to the east the line of the route leading along the ridge to Commedagh is now in view. Follow the wall over the top of Slieve Corragh. Beyond Slieve Corragh a short diversion north for about 100 yds will give you good views into the pot of Legawhirry, an impressive corrie nestling between Slieve Corragh and Slieve Commedagh. Skirt the rim of the corrie and follow the line of the wall steeply to the water commissioners hut on the summit plateau.
To descend you can retrace your steps or alternatively drop down to
the Brandy Path from the col between Commedagh and Corragh. This can then
be followed back through the hare's gap and hence down onto the Trassey
Route 6: Descent of Slieve Commedagh via Shan Slieve
This route is described in descent rather than ascent because this is probably the best direction in which to do it. In particular it can be combined with Route 4 to give a simple traverse of Slieve Commedagh. The route can of course also be done in ascent. In descent however one gets a magnificent view over Newcastle and the whole of the bay, with the beach stretching away northwards for miles.
From the summit cairn of Slieve Commedagh follow a bearing of 3 degrees which will lead across the plateau to the edge of Commedagh's northern corrie, which is known as the Pot of Pollgarve. The plateau necks down to a ridge which curves down the rim of the corrie and is pleasantly narrow for several hundred metres. Note that under winter conditions this corrie rim forms cornices and some care is required under white-out conditions. Note also that, where the plateau necks down, the ground is moderately steep for a period and can be icy in winter, when care is required. The ridge levels out, broadens again, and following a bearing of 31 degrees approx. rises slightly over the summit of Shan Slieve. There are good views behind into the Corrie and across the Glen river valley to the prominent prow of Eagle rocks on the north-western side of Slieve Donard.
From the Summit of Shan Slieve descend North East on a general bearing of 56 degrees. The ridge broadens and becomes indistinct with occasional scree patches. An indistinct path can be found. After almost a mile the angle eases to a temporary flattening. Here turn due east and weave down over broken ground with short rock bluffs. Extensive forestry plantations are evident. Descend a narrowing stretch of open ground to locate a stile at 363296. In good visibility there is no problem, but in thick mist the compass will be needed as the hill-sides here are relatively featureless.
Once over the stile (it can be slippery when wet) follow a rocky track
down through the forest to find a horizontal forestry road at 365298.
Go directly across this and keep descending on a path which makes
several big bends before joining a second and lower horizontal track.
Turn right and after several hundred metres arrive at a bridge over
the Glen River. Turn left and follow the riverside track down into
Route 7: Slieve Bearnagh via the Meelmore-Bearnagh Col
Follow the Trassey Track (Route 5) from Clonacullion right up to the head of the Trassey valley, to a point where it splits, with one branch leading up towards the Hare's gap, another leading up towards some quarry workings on the shoulder of Slieve Bearnagh, and a third swinging hard right underneath debris from the quarry and leading up into the valley between Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Bearnagh.
Follow this latter path, first rightwards across the hillside, then left up rocky ground towards the broken slabs which run along the northern side of Slieve Bearnagh. Carry on along the path to the Mourne wall at the Meelmore-Bearnagh col. To the left as the wall is approached, the rock slabs steepen and sweep up for 350 feet forming the main Bearnagh slabs, a major area of lower grade rock climbing.
Climb over the wall and turn left. Pick up a track which avoids the eroded
rocks and weaves up the steep hillside, moving first to the right and then
trending left higher up. There are loose sections here so take care. Once
Above the rocky section one can move over leftwards towards the Mourne wall.
The route ahead is steep and follows the line of the wall mostly on grass,
but with occasional boulders and slabs. Emerge at the summit which is crowned
by a series of tors. The highest tor can only be attained by a short rock
scramble. Just to the right of the highest tor a series of ledges and slabs
lead to a good vantage point just below the highest point. Take care of the
drop to the south and east if you go to this point.
Route 8: Slieve Bearnagh via the Hare's Gap
This is probably the most popular route to the summit of Slieve Bearnagh.
It follows the Trassey track (Routes 5 & 7) up to the point where it divides
just below the quarry on the northern flanks of Slieve Bearnagh. Here go
straight ahead up the boulder strewn slopes to the prominent Hare's gap. A variety
of discontinuous paths will be found in this section. Pass Through a gate
to the opposite side of the Mourne wall. Turn right towards the rock step.
Find the recently engineered staircase path which takes one up left of the
main difficulties to the flat shoulder above. Move rightwards to the wall and
cross a flat shoulder before the angle steepens again. Climb up the steep
slope, which regretably is showing much erosion. Arrive at the first of the
summit rock tors. This can be by-passed by moving left and following a track
past the tor to rejoin the wall above. Continue to the high point ahead. This
is not the highest point of the mountain which lies on the next tor to the
south and west. Some rock scrambling is needed to attain the true summit,
but a series of ledges and slabs leads righwards to a high vantage point.
Take care if you go to this point.
Route 9: Slieve Meelmore via the Meelmore-Bearnagh Col
Start at Clonachullion gate.Gain the Meelmore-Bearnagh col by following the
route already described for the ascent of Slieve Bearnagh.(route 7) At this point
turn right towards Slieve Meelmore. Two walls run up the upper part of the
mountain. Follow the wall on the right on either side. The route is
straightforward all the way to the water commissioners hut. Staying close
to the wall gives a few simple rocky sections which can be pleasant
Route 10: Sleeve Meelmore via the Spellack Buttress
Start from the Clonacullion gate and follow the trassey track to a point
below the Spellack buttress. Here a track breaks off to the right and crosses
the trassey river at an obvious crossing point. From this point the Spellack
buttress presents a roughly triangular aspect,sheer rock in the centre
giving way to broken rock and grass, becoming progressively easier towards
the extremities of the triangle. Follow the path across the river, where
it swings round to the south to run along below the southern slopes of the
buttress. The path eventually crosses the river running down from between
Slieve Bearnagh and Slieve Meelmore. At about 200yds before this river turn
right and scramble up the steep slopes, mostly grass, going almost due west
until you gain the crest of the slope.Then turn right again to move almost
due north up an easy slope which will eventually lead to the top of the
Spellack buttress. Stay well clear of the cliffs in windy weather. From
the top of the spellack buttress turn south west bearing 216 degrees (approx)
and head directly up the ridge to the summit
Route 11: Slieve Meelbeg from the road
There are two routes to the summit of this 2300ft mountain, from the minor road which passes Clonacullion. When approaching from Newcastle pass the Clonacullion gate, and after about a mile and a half, find on the left, just beyond a farm-house a recently renovated parking place, at the bottom of the U-valley between Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Meelbeg. From here there are two straightforward routes to the summit of Slieve Meelbeg.
a) Cross the stile some 50 yards from the road and follow the track up-valley. It is stony at first but after some distance becomes grassey. Head straight up the valley towards the col, keeping a stone wall and a river on your left until the wall bends sharply leftwards. Now climb Steeply up to the col between Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Meelbeg. Here you will encounter the Main Mourne wall with a convenient stile. Turn right and climb steeply to the summit following either side of the wall.
b) The second alternative is the North West ridge. This is gained
after going up the valley for about 300yds, then turning right and
making for the lowest part of the ridge. Once up on the ridge
turn left unto a bearing of 136 degrees and follow the ridge to
the summit. The lower section of the ridge is wet in places.
Route 12: Slieve Muck From the North and West
This somewhat neglected mountain rises south-east of the Spelga Reservoir. Its flat summit can be attained by several routes accessible from the road running north south through the mountains, over the Spelga pass. The shortest route starts at the southern end of the reservoir where a track breaks off the main road and runs down to the edge of the water (spot height 1225 ft).Leave your car at this point and climb the stile over the wall on the other side of the road. A stone wall can be seen running almost due east up the steep side of the mountain. Follow the line of the wall directly to the summit plateau. It joins the main Mourne wall at a point 50 yards north of the triangulation point marking the summit of the mountain.
The summit can also be approached from the north starting at the highest point of the road (spot height 1,336 ft) Climb over the fence and walk up the gentle slope (bearing 142 degrees) to the summit of Ott Mountain(1724 ft) At the curved summit turn slightly northwards (bearing 130 degrees) and drop down to the col between Ott mountain and Cairn mountain. This area is distinguished by the presence of wind eroded peat stacks. Pass these and climb steadily to join the mourne wall at the col just north of Cairn mountain. Turn south along the wall and follow the gentle slope to the summit. The main wall bends westwards at this point and drops to the col between Cairn Mountain and Slieve Muck. Once at the col two short rock outcrops become evident to the east of the wall. Scramble up the lowest of these and follow the wall on the long gentle slope (bearing 195 degrees) to the summit plateau.
Note that the terrain on the earlier part of this route is somewhat featureless
and good navigation is needed in misty conditions. The two routes can be
combined to give a traverse of the mountain in either direction, which is not
unduly long. Note however that the car born hillwalker will need to return
along the road to the starting point.
Route 13: Slieve Binnian From Carricklittle
The most direct route to the summit of Slieve Binnian is from the Carricklittle car park. This is about 3/4 mile beyond the entrance to Rourkes Park at GR. 345219 on the C313 road. The route is something of a slog, though the views to the north are impressive.
From the car park go up the Carricklittle track which runs almost due north before curving west to join the Mourne Wall at a gate and stile. Cross the stile and continue with the Mourne wall on the left and a fence on the right. The track curves right to follow the south western edge of the forest. Leave it and instead go directly up along the side of the wall. It runs straight for half a mile up a steady slope (bearing 297 degrees approx). Higher up the profile of Douglas crag becomes apparent on the right.
The angle of the slope steepens and the wall veers left, then left again,
rising steeply to end finally against the summit tor of Slieve Binnian.
The Summit cannot easily be gained from this point. Instead move right
along the bottom of the Tor and scramble up steep grass and heather slopes
to a gap. Turn left and climb a rock step. Cross the rock slabs above with
care towards the final step up to the summit, which is adorned with an old
metal fence post. Care is needed on this final section particularly in
strong winds, or when the rock is wet. In Winter conditions with snow and
ice, the slabs above the rock step can be glazed with ice and the final
part of this route may be hazardous.
Route 14: Slieve Binnian via Blue Lough and the N.W.Ridge
This is a longer route to the summit of Slieve Binnian than the previous direct route from Carricklittle. It can readily be combined with the previous route to give a very good traverse of the mountain.The main car park at Carricklittle is at GR.345219 and from it a track runs north then turns North west to intersect a stone wall at a gate and stile. Cross the stile to emerge on the open mountainside. The track continues along a narrow section of ground with the Mourne wall on the left and a fence on the right. Trend rightwards and follow the well defined path along the edge of the fence. The forest on the other side of the fence is Annalong wood. After about a mile the forest ends and the path crosses a prominent stream coming down off Slieve Binnian. High up on the left, the Douglas crag is a prominent feature, while ahead and to the right extensive views open up, of Slieve Lamaghan, Slieve Cove and the whole of the Annalong valley.
Continue straight ahead on the track,(bearing 342 degrees approx) ignoring a branch track leading off to the right and aiming for the low rock bluffs of Percy Bysshe which are visible directly ahead. Cross another prominent stream, and shortly afterwards veer left unto an adjoining path. Continue with Percy Bysshe on the right. The path curves past Percy Bysshe, and after several hundred yards the Blue Lough comes into view. This is a pleasant point to pause with interesting views.The rocky south side of Slieve Lamaghan looms to the north and to the south Blue Lough buttress is a prominent feature on the flanks of Binnian.
The area immediately south of blue lough is wet and boggy. Pick your way across it and follow the prominent path north west to gain the col between Lamaghan and Binnian. This is another spectacular view point with good views across the Ben Crom reservoir to Slieve Bearnagh and Ben Crom. Turn sharp left (bearing about 222 degrees) and make for the North ridge of Binnian. Pick up a broken and increasingly eroded path which winds its way through rock bluffs and boulder clusters to gain the crest of the ridge. The ridge rises steadily ahead, almost due south to Binnian's North tor. Pass to the right of North Tor going more or less south west. The crest of the ridge curves southward, rising steadily with a number of rock tors. A little scrambling can be had on these if desired, but they are all easily bypassed. Pass through a gap in a stone wall and ascent steadily to the final tor just before Summit tor. Descend into a gap where the direct route from Carricklittle is joined. Scramble up the short step ahead, cross the slabs and gain the summit.
A point to note is that after heavy rain the two streams mentioned can be
relatively difficult to cross without incurring wet feet!
Route 15: Two Route to Slieve Lamaghan
Slieve Lamaghan lies close to the centre of the Mournes and is most easily approached from Carricklittle. There are two routes to the summit which can easily be combined for a simple traverse. Both are described, as the approach is the same for both.
a) From Carricklittle go up to the Blue Lough by the route already described
for the ascent of Slieve Binnian. Carry on up to the col between Slieve
Lamaghan and Slieve Binnian. At the col turn right and ascend across the heather
towards the South East shoulder of Slieve Lamaghan. Climb straight up the
shoulder (bearing approx 56 degrees) on heather with occasional rock slabs
and scree. There is a fairly well defined path which is nowadays largely
continuous. Views to the west over the Ben Crom reservoir, to Doan, Lough
Shannah and Slieve Muck are impressive. South and East, the views of Binnian
with its flanking crags, slabs and summit tors become progressively more dramatic.
Emerge at the summit cairn.
b) The second route approaches the mountain from the North. Follow the route
to Cove shoulder and the col between Lamaghan and Cove, which is described
under the ascent of Cove from Carricklittle (route 16). Once on the col turn south onto
a bearing of 196 degrees and ascend the broad ridge ahead which rises steeply
to the summit plateau. Continue southwards rising gradually to the summit
cairn which is at the south end of the plateau.
Route 16: Cove Mountain from Carricklittle
Cove Mountain is one of the least accessible of Mourne Summits. Lying in the centre of the Mourne Trident, its summit entails a 4 mile walk from any of the standard approaches. Newcastle, Clonacullian, Bloody Bridge or Carricklittle. The Carricklittle approach which is described here, is long, but there are good paths for much of the way.
From the car park at Carricklittle, (GR. 345219) go up the Carricklittle track. Cross the stile and continue on the main track along the edge of the forest. Where the forest ends, the track crosses a stream coming down from Slieve Binnian. Continue on the track, passing over another stream coming down from the blue lough. Just before Percy Bysshe, turn right unto a bearing of 67 degrees approx, passing round the bottom of Percy Bysshe, before swinging left again towards the south east shoulder of Slieve Lamaghan. Follow the path as it climbs slowly along the bottom of Slieve Lamaghan. The extensive area of slabs high up on Slieve Lamaghan is a prominent feature. These slabs provide some pleasant an long lower grade rock climbs
The path approaches the prominent cliffs of Lower cove before swinging right along the bottom. Do not follow it all the way however. Instead look for an adjoining and somewhat ill defined path which comes in from the left at a sharp angle. Take this path and follow its several zig-zags as it rises to gain Cove shoulder at the point where the lower cove cliffs abutt against the east face of Slieve Lamaghan. Once Cove shoulder is gained the whole of the south face of Cove mountain comes into view, with its bands of cliffs running right across the face.
Follow the path north and then north-west round the slopes of Slieve Lamaghan, to the high col between Slieve Lamaghan and Cove. Now turn north again and get above the line of the Upper Cove cliffs before trending right (eastwards). Keep going upwards on the upper section of Cove which rises at a gentle angle to the summit cairn at 2142 feet. In thick mist is is not always obvious.
On a clear day this is one of the best vantage points in the Mournes. To the north the precipitous flanks of Slieve Beg are spectacular with the Castles of Commedagh and Slieve Donard further to the North and east. Westwards the view of the Slieve Bearnagh group is impressive across the deep recess of the Silent valley.
To descend from the mountain it is easiest to retrace your steps down to the Col before Slieve Lamaghan. From here you can descend onto Cove shoulder and hence back down onto the ascent path. An alternative descent is to go northwest from the summit cairn for 200 yards. Then veer North and descend steep heather and grass to the col between Cove and Slieve Beg. Here turn sharp right and follow the stream out of the high basin between Cove and Slieve Beg. Lower down the stream becomes a gorge with cascades, waterfalls and some interesting plant species taking advantage of the shelter it provides. Once down into the main Annalong valley strike southwards and gain a broad and somewhat muddy path leading down the valley. Pass below the lower cove cliffs and climb slightly to gain a prominent track leading down across the broad expanse of moorland to rejoin the ascent path near the edge of the forest.
An important point is not to attempt to descend from Cove by the east
face. This face is extremely steep with overhanging crags.
Route 17: Slieve Beg from Newcastle
Slieve Beg, along with its near neighbour, Cove Mountain, is one of the most inaccessible of Mourne summits. Much lower in altitude than the other summits surrounding it, it is distinguished by having on its eastern face, one of the steepist crags in the Mountains of Mourne. The main east face is 350 ft high and holds a number of excellent rock climbs. It is split by a huge gully - the Devil's Coach Road.
The route from Newcastle is probably the most direct route to the mountain.
The first part follows the normal route to Slieve Donard from Newcastle, as
far as the Mourne wall at the col between Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh.
Climb over the Mourne wall at this point and continue southward, curving
slightly to the right until you encounter a prominent path. This is the
'Brandy Pad' - a well known track running east - west across the Mournes.
Turn right and follow the track along the bottom of the Castles of Commedagh.
The view to the left down the Annalong valley is very attractive. After
passing underneath the Castles of Commedagh, the path rises to a saddle
marked by a large cairn of stones which roughly marks the highest point in
this region. At this point turn south. Cross the heather slopes sweeping upwards
to Slieve Beg. Trend left to follow the cliff edge (but not too close!). The highest
point comes just before the Devil's Coach Road. The rock scenery hereabouts
is on a grand scale so do be careful.
Route 18: Ben Crom from Clonacullion
Ben Crom is the low summit rising precipitously west of the Ben Crom Dam in the Silent Valley. As Mourne Summits go it is a minor peak, just over 1700 ft high. It gives magnificant views into the silent valley and the cliffs overlooking the Dam and reservoir hold a wide selection of rock climbs.
The walk out to Ben Crom stays at a low altitude all the way and is therefore worth while if the higher peaks are shrouded in mist and low cloud. Three routes are described from Clonacullion gate. Two pass through the hare's gap and approach Ben Crom from the east side of Slieve Bearnagh. The third climbs to the Bearnagh-Meelmore col and approaches the mountain from there.
a) The first route climbs to the Hare's gap, by following the route already
described for the ascent of Slieve Bearnagh via the Hare's gap. Pass through
the gate at the Hare's gap and turn right past the sheep pens. A good path
starts here and drops slowly down into the silent valley to the east of Slieve
Bearnagh. This is part of the second route. For now ignore this and staying
at about the same altitude as the Hare's gap, traverse round the east side of
Slieve Bearnagh. After a short period an indistinct path will be found. This
provides easier walking than the bare mountainside. Follow this where possible
for five to six hundred yards until a shallow V-shaped depression is
encountered, in the east face of Slieve Bearnagh. This is a broad open river
gully, the main drainage line on this side of the mountain. Cross it and
carry on moving south. Directly ahead lies the long South East ridge of
Slieve Bearnagh. Turn slightly rightwards and gain the crest of this ridge.
As you climb the dramatic outline of Ben Crom comes into view, more or less
directly ahead. Go over the top of the south-east ridge of Slieve Bearnagh
and drop into the large area of peat bog beyond. There are short broken cliffs
in this area. Carry on southwards loosing altitude gradually until you come
to the river draining this area of bog. This river plunges into the silent
valley in a series of spectacular cascades. Cross the river and rise leftwards
towards the pronounced edge just beyond. Climb steadily up this slope to the
summit. In mist or adverse conditions stay well back from the edge - the drop
b) The second route also approaches Ben Crom via the Hares Gap, but this time, after passing through the gap the route drops down to the head of the Ben Crom reservoir. There is a well defined path all the way down. Once the water is reached cross two rivers to the east side and follow a track southwards along the waters edge. Further on there are magnificent views of the east face of Ben Crom seemed with gullies and buttresses. Finally arrive at the Ben Crom Dam, with the steep flanks of Slieve Binnian on your left and Ben Crom rising dramatically on the other side of the dam.
Cross the Dam and immediately turn left to traverse almost horizontally along
the bottom of the steep broken rocks in this area. Trend generally rightwards
up the slope when you are past the worst of the rock scree and work up
westwards on steep terrain with heather and some boulders. Gain the crest of the
ridge which runs South-south-west from Ben Crom. The terrain eases and you
turn right and head up the slope. As you move up a band of rocks appears
directly ahead. As you approach it trend left moving up and round onto the
west side of the mountain. The band of cliffs gives way to broken rock scree.
Pass under the worst of this and then trend right again picking the easiest
line up. The Summit is not far to the North.
c) The final route approaches Ben Crom from the north side of Slieve Bearnagh. This route follows the track which branches right off the trassey track, and leads up the Meelmore Bearnagh Col. Cross the wall at the Col. Ben Crom is now visible to the far left. Immediately ahead is a large area of bog.
From the Col trend right and pick up a path which contours the base of Slieve
Meelmore to just below the Meelmore-Meelbeg col. Stay on the track and go
round the base of Slieve Meelbeg. A long low ridge runs down North West from
Ben Crom and finally merges with the bogland. Stay on the track until you are
in line with this feature. Then swing left across the bog picking the easiest
route. Get unto the crest of the low ridge as soon as possible and carry on
until it rises out of the bog and the going get easier. The ridge becomes an
edge near the summit, with broken cliffs on the right.
Route 19: The Eagle Mountain Horse Shoe
The Eastern Mournes contains two summits over 2000 ft high and a number of others of lesser stature. In general it is less popular than the western area and it is still possible to roam here at the weekend without seeing another party. The route described covers the ascent of Eagle mountain, followed by a horse shoe traverse over Slievemoughanmore, Pigeon rock mountain and finally Slievemageogh. It is a trivial matter to include ShanSlieve in this outing, as it can be reached easily from Eagle Mountain.
The route is approached from the main road through the village of Attical. Proceeding southwards through Attical cross a bridge and about 200 yards further on pick up a surfaced, but rough track off to the right towards the Eagle mountain / ShanSlieve group which is clearly visable to the north. Follow the track to its end at a bridge and fording point over the Red Moss river.
Cross the footbridge and turn left to traverse up behind the farmhouse. Cross a stile and emerge onto the open hillside. Turn North west and ascend the broad ridge ahead. It is rocky and wet in places but rises without difficulty. After something less than a mile trend right to go almost directly north, then left again, now above the line of the cliffs. These cliffs are the highest and most extensive in the mournes reaching a height of nearly 600 ft as they swing round towards great gully. Continue upwards with the Aughnaleck river on your left and the cliffs on your right. A path may be found in places. Curve round the top of the cliffs as they attain their maximum height, with spectacular scenery to the right. The cliffs give way to slabby slopes, and here trend slightly left wards directly up the slope to the summit cairn of Eagle mountain. The views are spectacular particularly over to the eastern mournes.
Beyond the summit cairn lies a prominent stone wall which makes a right
angle bend just here. This can be a sheltered spot to stop for lunch. To visit
ShanSlieve you should turn South west along the wall and follow it down into
a hollow and then up to ShanSlieve summit which is only about 35 ft lower than
Eagle. Return to Eagle mountain to resume the horse shoe walk.
Follow the wall up and over SlieveMoughanmore and down to the pass before the grassy slopes leading up to Pigeon rock Mountain. Go on ahead on gently rising ground until a point is reached where the ground flattens and the wall turns sharp left to follow a northwards line. Leave the wall at this point and go South across flat ground rising gently to the top of Pigeon Rock mountain, where there are several small ponds and a few cairns. Now go almost due south on ground which is quite featureless and falls only slightly for a third of a mile. There are good views westwards to Eagle Mountain, and Eastwards to Slieve Muck. Eventually you drop down through an area with some tracks, stone walls and evidence of quarrying activity. Pass through this and trend slightly left to stay to the crest of the ridge as it continues southwards and narrows towards the top of Slievemageogh. Pause here to look back round a great circuit. Then drop off to the west. The final obstacle is just ahead, for you must ford the Pigeon rock river. Usually this is not a big problem, but when it is in spate be prepared for the possibility of wet feet !
Cross the wall beyond and follow a stone track south. The farm house marking
your start is now in view. Go behind the farm house over broken ground to
find the stile which marks your starting point
Route 20: Lough Shannagh and Doan
Doan is a modest summit nestling in the center of the mountains to the west of the silent valley. Lough Shannagh lies to the west at the foot of the mountain.The shortest approach to the Lough Shannagh/Doan area is from the west. From the main road in the vicinity of Spelga Reservoir, various routes can be taken crossing the eastern prong of the Mourne Trident. The Route described comes in from the south, on a pleasant but longer route.
To find the start of the route drive southwards on the main Hilltown/Kilkeel road through the Mournes. About a mile south of Slieve Muck, the road passes over a bridge at a sharp bend. Just beyond this a stone track leads off to the left, trending north-eastwards. Park at the bottom of this track and follow it for half a mile, at first north east, then almost due North. Pass through a gate and continue across open rough country with Slievenaglogh to the east.
The track intercepts the Mourne wall obliquely at a gate. Go through the gate and continue, crossing the miners hole river and climbing slowly unto a shoulder. There are very good views of the eastern side of Slieve Muck. The track peters out, to the south east of Lough Shannagh among gravel and peat hags. You can walk round either side of the lough, but the most convenient course is along the eastern edge. The Shanagh river flows out of the north eastern corner over a weir. A concrete hut just south of this point is a useful shelter but is sometimes littered with empty cans and other debris.
Doan lies directly to the east. Its southern side is rocky with several
recognised routes. It can be climbed from this side but some scrambling will
be needed. To gain the summit more easily, move north eastwards and climb
heather slopes to gain the ridge linking Doan with Slieve Lough Shannagh.
Turn to the right and approach the summit of Doan from the North west. A track
can be picked up leading up through the summit rocks to the top.
Section Two: Selected Rock climbs
By no stretch of the imagination can this section be considered as anything other than a short selection of the easier-graded climbs available in the Mournes. Experienced climbers are unlikely to need these descriptions to point them to possible climbs and are likely to prefer more modern and harder routes. Nevertheless everybody is a beginner at some stage and the routes described here should be of some interest to a range of people, from youthful beginners finding their first feet on rock, through to long retired mountaineers determined to rekindle their contact with the activity before atrophy finally engulfs them. Visitors from other parts will hopefully find something to inspire their interest in these granite crags which combine generally good friction,(at least when dry) with a not uncommon paucity of positive handholds. However be aware that the crags have NOT been dry at all over several recent summers and the accumulation of a thin veneer of moss on some crags has not been helpful.
Be fully aware that Rock climbing is potentially a highly dangerous activity and no one without a thorough knowledge of all the techniques of roped climbing should attempt any of these climbs
Climbing on Wee Binnian
Wee Binnian, as its name suggests, is a small peak nestling on the south eastern side of Slieve Binnian, an well seen west of the C313 which runs roughly north-south towards the silent valley entrance. These climbs are located at the top of this minor peak which is crowned by a mass of rock slabs slpit by a south facing gully. The grid reference is 317226. Access is best from the C313. Follow a track from this road starting at 319209 approximately until it ends at a gate. Pass through the gate and follow a sometimes muddy path northwards which leads up Wee Binnian.
Many of the climbs start in the prominent 300 foot gully which is itself a good scramble (but take care of loose rock)
Climbing on the Binnian tors
The long summit ridge of Slieve Binnian provides a series of tors offering
mostly single pitch rock climbs of all grades of difficulty. Although it
is quite a heave to carry a full set of climbing gear so high the effort
can be worth while for the variety of routes particularly in the lower
grades. On a sunny summer day one can amble along the ridge, finding routes
of interest on most tors and enjoying the views eastwards over the Irish sea
southwards to the Wicklow hills, and north and west over the rest of the
Climbing on Slieve Beg
The east face of Slieve Beg has one of the steepest mourne crags,
with relatively clean and secure rock. It gives steep climbing at
a variety of grades on routes that can be in excess of 300ft long. The
face is split by the devil's coach road, a steep scree filled gully in the centre
of the face. Some of the climbing is on its enclosing walls, where a
number of one and two pitch climbs may be found. Further round on the main
face a variety of climbs may be found, mostly multi-pitch routes up to about
350 ft long. The climbing here is in a grand situation with views down the
Annalong valley. The routes described below give a taste of what the crag
has to offer.
Climbing on the Lamaghan Slabs
The Lamaghan slabs are a band of granite slabs on the Southeast shoulder of Slieve Lamaghan.They give a number of mainly low grade slab angled climbs, some of which are among the longest in the mournes. Being Southest facing they get the morning sun, and can provide a pleasant climbing venue for a sunny day. Two of the main routes are described, of which the first 'FM' is the best known.
Climbing on Pigeon Mountain
The steep crags on the east flank of pigeon mountain are easily approached from the road south of the Spelga reservoir. Over recent years a car park has been made here at approx. GR 270234. The walk up to the crags is a matter of a few minutes. You approach up grass slopes leading naturally into a gully, with the steep left hand buttress on the south. As you go up the wall on your right becomes prominent. It holds a number of steep but not too difficult single pitch climbs. Harder routes are also available. Two routes are described in this area, and one on the main buttress.
Nig Nog: grade VS; length 25 metres
This climb is something of a minor classic. It starts about one third way
up the gully spliting Wee Binnian, on the great slab on the left hand side. Start just at the
top of a prominent step in the gully. Surmount the blank three foot high wall
using a tiny poch for your right toe and stand up on the slab (very
awkward). Ascend delicately following a line of tiny pochs trending
slightly right to the top. There is NO PROTECTION and a fall will take you
down onto the rocks in the gully!. Not recommended when the rock is wet!
Diamond: grade: Very Difficult; length: 25 metres
The climb starts less than half way up the gully on Wee Binnian, on the right looking upwards. A small grass and gravel platform occurs at the top of a step in the gully bed. On the left, the slabs sweep up steeply, with Nig Nog the most evident line of weakness on the almost blank slabs. The right hand wall at this point has a shallow recess which is the start of the climb.
Climb directly up the recess for 6 feet. Step right, surmounting the right
edge of the cleft to gain a narrow ledge. Move left again and upwards to
surmount the diamond shaped rock above. This is the crux and success depends
on friction in shallow cracks with poor handholds until the top of the
diamond can be reached. Thereafter follow the cracks above without difficulty
to the top. Spike belay.
Christmas: grade: very difficult; length: 30 metresstart of climbs section
The Devil's rib grade: Very difficult length: 50 metres
The main cliffs of Slieve Beg, going left from the Devil's Coach road, swing round in an arc, first south and then south-west towards the col between Slieve Cove and Slieve Beg. Just before the cliffs end in a series of rock bluffs, a gully splits the cliff, rising steeply for 200 feet. The steep arete on the right of this gully is the Devil's rib. It is shorter than the major climbs on Slieve Beg, and easier. However it is quite exposed with fine situations and views, high above the Annalong valley, and conveys something of the flavour of climbing on this steep crag .
Begin by climbing up the floor of the gully until it is possible to traverse
out right on a good ledge to blocks at the edge of the arete. Climb directly
up the blocks and belay at the top.
Poetic Justice Grade: Very Severe length: 110 metres
This climb, which is something of a classic VS, runs up the prominent arete, on the left hand side of the Devil's Coach road. From the bottom of the coach road move left over the scree tongue and past the base of a rock promontory which comes down the left side of the coach road. Carry on past a shallow gully to the base of the main buttress rising to the arete above. The climb begins at a crack below a shallow diedre.
Step up the crack and move up the diedre on small but good holds, until it
bulges after 20 ft. Step left and swing up onto a narrow ledge. Step up and
climb the crack above to finish up steep grass to a small ledge and spike
FM Grade: V. Diff 180 metres
FM is one of the longest lines in the Mournes, giving nearly 550 ft of climbing. It is popular and quite classic even in these days of E-numbers. The climb goes up the highest part of the slabs starting from a small bay, recogniseable from the many footmarks and evidence of previous use. Scramble up through tiresome heather and bracken to gain the start.
The first section up to the 'mauvais pas' can be taken in either 2 or 3 pitches. With a 150 ft rope it will go in 2. From the bottom of the climb go easily up slabs with small pochs and grooves for 90 ft until it is possible to move right to a large stance and belay. From the belay, move left again and straddle up parallel grooves to gain a long layback crack, formed where one layer of slabs overlaps another. Move up easily, using a layback technique with some positive holds until it is possible to move left through a weakness in the overlapping slab. Belay.
From the belay move left again to pick up a similar layback crack and follow this
up to more broken ground with grooves and cracks. Move up a groove to a slab,
step right onto the crest, climb up and move back left. Belay on a jammed stone
below the vertical step ahead which is the 'mauvais pas'.
The final thirty feet wall has several exits. Most direct is the diedre in the
centre of the wall. Climb the diedre direct for 12 feet, using the crack in
the back and small holds on the right, to gain a ledge. Traverse rightwards
along a ledge (exposed) to make a high step and finish by moving left up
cracks and short steps.
Cherchez La Grade: severe 130 metres
This route goes up the Lamaghan slabs about 100 metres to the right of FM. It starts at a small gravel bay. Above and left of the bay is an obvious triangular block. Stand up on the block and then step right into an open diedre. Move up the diedre with a good handhold high up and a foothold in a crack on the left wall. Gain the small ledge and stand up. Step onto the slab above and up (delicate) using small handholds on the right. Ahead is a short overhanging wall. Move up onto this and reach for good jugs formed by a detached flake. Surmount the flake using high handholds and move up for thirty feet to belay.
From the belay move upwards, with slabs grooves and heather ledges, until the angle steepens. Move left unto the prominent rock ramp and go straight up. Trend left to the edge of the ramp and climb through an airy corner. The ramp narrows to an arete and finishes on a heather ledge.
Above is the final and most difficult pitch. Climb up into the overhanging
chimney. Move up on a series of ledges. Make a high step left, move up and
step left, move up and step left again. Stand up on a sloping slab (good
handhold just above). Swing up left unto the exposed upper slab, using a
slanting crack as a handhold. Climb the slab, using the crack and trend left onto the
arete. Straddle the arete using a crack over the top on the left hand side,
or move directly up grooves to finish.
Class Distinction Grade: severe 30 metres
This climb is on the right hand wall as you look up the gully, and is roughly
in the centre of the wall. It starts directly below the open V shaped diedre.
Move up left from a grass ledge to the bottom of a steep inclined slab. Move
up right across the slab on small holds and friction. Climb on up for 15 feet
and come up underneath an overhang. Surmounting the overhang to gain the diedre
is the crux of the climb. Bridge across using tiny holds for the left boot
and small square cut holds for the right. Gain the diedre and climb it by
straddling between the crack in the back and a vertical crack in the right.
surmount the top overhang and belay on the metal spike above