So in August 2019, my son and I decided to go to Ireland and climb both the highest peak in Northern Ireland; Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains and the highest peak in all of Ireland; Carrauntoohil in the Reeks in County Kerry in the Republic of Ireland (this is covered in another posting on this site).
This posting covers Slieve Donard…
For those of you not already aware Slieve Donard is the highest peak in the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland at 850m (or 2,790 feet). The Mourne Mountains are in County Down.
So, for my son and I to get there from ‘Old Blighty’ (England), we took a flight to Belfast International Airport and stayed the night in the center of Belfast. We got up early, and as we were in Ireland, it was raining (it doesn’t always rain, honest!)… Had a nice big breakfast and then headed off (in the rain) to the Bus Station to catch a bus down to Newcastle (the nearest town to Slieve Donard). My son was not happy as he thought that this trip (and climb) was going to be either wet and uncomfortable, or a complete wash-out. I said, “let’s see what it is like when we get to Newcastle”.
We boarded the bus to Newcastle and found that we could get a Rambler ticket that was not only cheaper than the return ticket, but also allowed us to use any other bus service that day! We left Belfast and as we were going along the rain was slowly easing, and as we got nearer to Newcastle it had stopped and the roads were dry; the sun was even making an appearance. Things were looking up; indeed we could see the Mourne mountains as we got closer to Newcastle and when we got to Newcastle bus station we could see the mountains (including Slieve Donard) looming above the town, and the sun was still shining, and it was still dry.
Houston, we are a go!
We found the start of the trail in Donard Park, this trail runs alongside and over (at several points) the Glen River (the trail is around 3 miles from the start to the summit). The path is a mixture of scree, eroded tree roots, bare rock and all of them at once, so you need to be nimble and sure-footed, as it is easy to slip on the rocks or catch your foot on an exposed tree root (as we both found out). The first part of the path is through woodland and you don’t get any views until you break out of the trees and get to the main path (near the final bridge), but when you do see the view it is fantastic!
When you finally make it to the top, hopefully without any twisted ankles, slips, and out of breath, the view (on a clear day) is amazing! Luckily for us the rain did hold off, and it was pretty much perfect weather for climbing.
I found the climb to be harder that I had expected, and I should have known better! I would say that the final part is by far the hardest and at least at tiring as parts of Ben Nevis and Snowdon. It isn’t technical, you just need to be nimble (sure footed), and take regular rests to get your breath back. In fact coming down from the summit to the saddle/col was more dangerous than going up. It would be easy to slip, trip or fall, so take it slowly and carefully. A walking pole (or poles) help immensely in these situations.
The rest of the descent is fairly straightforward, and very pleasant when you get back to the stepping stones, walking back down to Donard Park. My knees were starting to complain as we neared the end of the return journey, and I did mention that the bare rock was rather slippery in places, and I slipped and fell; luckily I inly bruised my hands, knees and my pride 😉
Thoroughly recommended, and I’d love to visit the Mourne Mountains again and do many of the other trails and peaks.
That is peak 4 of the 5 highest peaks in the British Isles (by geography), just one left to tackle, but that’s another story!
Have you climbed Slieve Donard? Feel free to share your experience of your adventure, via the comments box or via the contact form/ticketing option.
All photos and other material used in this posting is Copyright, 2019 by Talkytoaster or Ben Overton, All Rights Reserved.