Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Slieve Donard - my first 'Dillon'

Walking the Mourne Wall

Date First Walked: September 28th 2008
Range: Mourne Mountains

Mapsheet: 29
Distance: circa 10km
Classification: Dillon, Hewitt, Marilyn, County Top (Down)
Height: 850 metres
County: Down
My Dillon Count: 1

My hillwalking debut. Having had the idea that I'd like to climb a mountain floating around in my head for some time, I saw this as sympthomatic of a mid-life crisis so decided to tackle Ulster's highest mountain to get it out of my system. What I hadn't anticipated was the enjoyment I'd take from the experience that would convert itself into a hobby and by times something of an obsession!.

We tackled Donard from Bloody Bridge, a round-trip of about 10km which follows part of the infamous 'Brandy Pad', a track created by smugglers of illicit cargoes of goods through the mountains from the east coast inland.

Follow the river on your left until an obvious crossing spot around 1km upstream before continuing up along the old quarry road. After climbing around 2km, you will reach the site of an old quarry complete with outhouse which is a good spot to have a snack. These quarries provided granite for the streets of Belfast as well as many cities in England and further afield.

From the quarry, continue to climb along a grassy track which will eventually lead you to the impressive and epic Mourne Wall at the Bog of Donard. Turn right and follow the wall up the steep and rocky incline. The braver can try 'walking the wall', literally walking on top of the wall itself but the steepness can make this quite tricky in places. After a number of false summits, a lookout tower and a large cairn mark the summit of Donard which offers superb views across the range. Retrace your steps back down..

A fantastic walk and as you start from sea level, you'll feel like you've climbed all of the 850 metres.

Donard can also be climbed from Newcastle and I believe that this is an easier, more gradual climb over less rugged terrain.

Flight Path
Time out at the quarry

The Final Stretch
Jason on the steep 1 in 3 incline towards the top

View from Slieve Donard
View from the summit cairn

On top of the world, looking down on creation
Jason beside the summit cairn

Room with a view
View from the summit cairn

The Mourne Wall
Descending back down towards the Bog of Donard

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