Hill: Slieve Donard
Date: Friday 17th July 2015
Company: Just myself
Distance: 10km, Ascent: 1055m
Time: 3Hrs 20Mins

After work on Thursday, I drove to Girvan in order to catch the Friday morning Stena Line sailing from Cairnryan to Belfast. On arriving in Belfast, at around 09:45, I then drove to Newcastle (NI) for an ascent of Slieve Donard, the highest peak in Northern Ireland. Slieve Donard is the only Irish peak which makes it into the Trail100 list of "best" hills in the UK. This list is very subjective; it is definitely NOT the best 100 hills in the UK.

On arriving in Newcastle, I parked in Donard Park from where I would ascend Slieve Donard via the Glen River route.

Map of route undertaken:

From the car park, I initially walked past some playing fields before entering Donard Forest.

Track through forest beyond Donard Park:

I followed the track running alongside the Glen River. On reaching the first of three tracks running through the forest, I crossed the bridge and then continued up through the forest to the left of the river.

Glen River waterfalls:

The next section of track has lots of exposed tree roots, which are slippery when wet. This track does however provide great views of the Glen River.

Glen River:

On reaching another track running through the forest, I again crossed the bridge before making my way up through the forest to the right of the river. This track eventually led me to the mountain path at the top of the forest.

Glen River waterslides:

Looking back along Glen River:

Once out of the forest, the track improved significantly. I passed what I believe to be an ice house.

Beyond the woods and into the open:

Ice House:

Having looked at the MetOffice weather forecast for "Slieve Donard" I had been expecting rain pretty-much throughout the walk. It remained dry throughout with the exception of a ten minute shower during the walk out .

Looking back along Glen River track:

The good track made for fast progress and I was soon overtaking all the other tourists. The track very much reminded me of the Ben Nevis Tourist Route albeit not as busy. While walking on boulders does prevent erosion after a while it is hard on the knees.

Looking towards the col between Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh:

The track leads up the col between Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh.

Ascent to the col between Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh:

Looking back towards Newcastle:

Ascent to the col:

On reaching the col it was very windy, however the incredible Mourne Wall, which runs from Slieve Donard to Slieve Commedagh and beyond, provided almost complete shelter from the wind. The Mourne Wall was constructed between 1904 and 1922 providing jobs for many workers. It is 22 miles long and connects the summits of fifteen mountains.

Slieve Donard and the Mourne Wall:

If I did not have a 6hr+ drive ahead of me to get to Killarney, I would also have ascended Slieve Commedagh. But alas today, time was short so it was just a quick up and down Slieve Donard.

Slieve Commedagh:

The Mountains of Mourne looked fantastic. They reminded me of the Mountains of Arran in Scotland. I definitely want to return to Northern Ireland to walk more of these mountains.

Mountains of Mourne:

Mountains of Mourne:

The Mourne Wall was really useful during the ascent, serving as a windbreak.

Looking back towards Slieve Commedagh during ascent of Slieve Donard:

Mountains of Mourne over a broken section of the Mourne Wall:

View during ascent:

It didn't take long to reach the summit where there is a large cairn and a stone tower.

The summit of Slieve Donard:

I used a large stile to climb over the Mourne Wall and then went inside the stone tower.

Inside the Mourne Wall stone tower at the summit of Slieve Donard:

After climbing back over the stile, I visited the large cairn before returning immediately back down the hill.; no hanging around today.

View from atop the summit cairn:

During the descent, I took a couple of panoramic shots, one with my DSLR and the other with my iPhone. The iPhone panoramic feature is pretty-good.

Mountains of Mourne panorama:

Mountains of Mourne panorama:

As I made my way back down, I could see very heavy rain just a short distance away. I was glad the wind was blowing this storm away instead of towards me.

Heavy rain below:

I returned to the car via the same route before undertaking the long drive to Killarney. Slieve Donard via the Glen River trail is an excellent walk.