I’ve mentioned spending a few days in Newcastle, Co. Down recently, and the town was the perfect place for a spot of hillwalking on Slieve Donard, and its neighbour, Slieve Commedagh. Slieve Donard is, at 850m high, the highest mountain in Ulster, and in the top twenty in ireland. The walk I was setting off on would take in Donard’s summit, and that of Slieve Commedagh, the second highest peak in the Mourne Mountains. Unlike many mountains, ascending Slieve Donard would mean climbing every one of its 850m, as I would be starting at sea level, on the coast at the Slieve Donard Hotel. A short walk through the town of Newcastle brought me to the Donard Car Park, where I entered the Donard Forest in bright sunshine. The mountains looms over the town, and you can judge its influence by the fact that everything I’ve mentioned so far is named after it!
Making my way through the forest, I followed the course of the Glen River upstream.
When I emerged from the forest, the sunshine had disappeared, and it was now an overcast day. I continued to follow the course of the Glen River on a clear track, evidently heading for the col between Donard and Commedagh. At this point, the Ice House came into view – a stone structure used in the past to preserve food. The domed part sits over a deep shaft which would be filled with ice.
As I left the river and made my way up to the col, the ground became steeper, and there was some consolation in the loss of the bright sunshine. Eventually, I reached the mid point of the col between Donard and Commedagh, at the bottom of a steep sided “U” shape. The Mourne Wall passed along the col, going up to the summit of Donard on one side, and to the top of Commedagh on the other.
I crossed the wall, and got my first views over the rest of the Mourne Mountains.
I now began the steep climb alongside the Mourne Wall to the summit of Donard. This part of the walk really tested the legs, and a fellow walker coming down from the summit didn’t do much to encourage me. He had a pained expression on his face as he moved slowly down, and he shouted across, with what almost seemed a sense of injustice, that it was even harder coming down.
Thankfully, after a few stops for breath, the slope began to level out a little, and the top was in sight, marked by a stone shelter in the wall. This had been built along with the wall to provide shelter for the workmen involved in the construction.
I’ll continue the walk, with some views around the summit, in a second post.