Walk of the week: Charm of Slieve Croob
The countryside around the peak of Slieve Croob has a unique charm and beauty which shines in the sunny weather.
Slieve Croob (1,755 ft/534m), locally known as The Twelve Cairns, is the highest of the Dromara Hills, a range to the north of the Mountains of Mourne. These peaks are foothills of the high Mournes and form part of the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
You'll pass the source of the Lagan on this walk too.
What to bring
Waterproof and windproof clothing are essential and strong walking boots are also advised. Walkers should carry enough food and water for the walk and for emergencies as well as taking a first aid kit. As a further safety precaution, you are advised to inform someone of your intended route before you leave.
The route begins at the Dree Hill car park, picnic site and viewpoint at the foot of Slieve Croob, located off the Dree Hill Road near its junction with the Finnis/Clonvaraghan Road four miles south of Dromara.
Walk onto the Dree Hill Road and take a right to head downhill towards Finnis/Massford. To the right you will see the nascent River Lagan cutting its way down the mountain.
Just before the small hamlet of Finnis/Massford, take the road on the right, the Drin Road and watch for a concrete lane on the right with the name 'Pass Loaning' at the entrance.
The 'Pass Loaning' is a path landowners have agreed to allow public access on foot. Continue to the end of this lane until you reach a gate and a step stile leading onto the mountain.
The route follows an old walled, sunken lane feature marked with twisted thorn bushes along the tumbled walls.
When it becomes too difficult to walk along the feature, continue on the bank on the same side as the posts. You are headed towards a fence on the horizon with a stile. Nearing the fence the old sunken lane disappears into a tiny stream so walk over to the left of this, looking ahead for the stile in the fence and a waymark post and making your way to this as best you can.
Looking back from this point you will see Dromara below and, as you scan the horizon to the extreme right, Cave Hill in north Belfast and Scrabo Tower, near Newtownards, at the head of Strangford Lough.
Once over this stile, pause to locate the next waymark on the right where the hill meets the horizon line - you will see the tip of one of the transmitter masts visible above this. Follow the waymarks until you reach the metalled road.
Turn left for a short walk to the summit and fantastic views (or right to return to the car park). After a short distance you will come to an area of hard standing to the left of the road giving great views towards Belfast and towards Scrabo Tower.
Follow the road to its very end, and enjoy the views of Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains.
To get to the very top of the mountain, marked by a triangulation pillar and the remains of a once spectacular cairn, climb the first stile just off the road, look for the next stile which is in an almost vertical line upwards from the first stile and follow the beaten track to the triangulation point. Enjoy the panoramic views from the summit.
Retrace your steps along the transmitter road. Near the second yellow grit bin, to the right of the path, the River Lagan rises. Take a couple of steps off the path here and you will hear the gurgle of the stream. Rejoin the transmitter road and walk down the hill and you will see the Lagan cutting its way down the mountain to the right. The land on either side of the transmitter road is privately owned and grazed by sheep so keep to the transmitter road.
The local name for Slieve Croob, The Twelve Cairns, derives from a tradition that an ancient, large burial cairn was rearranged at some point to form 12 smaller cairns. The singular size of the cairn and its prominence as a landmark was recorded by Lewis in the 19th century when he described it as '¿80 yards round the base and 50 on the top, and is the largest monument of its kind in the county; on this platform several smaller cairns are raised, of various heights and dimensions'.
There are fantastic views over Co Down and beyond from many points on the walk. The beauty of the summit is marred by telecommunications masts (obviously there is no public access allowed in the compounds) but on a clear day there are spectacular views across Northern Ireland, Belfast, the Sperrin Mountains and the Mourne Mountains.
On either side of the transmitter road the vegetation comprises mainly grasses such as densely tufted mat grass. This wiry plant gives a characteristic whitish tone to the slopes in winter, which contrasts with the green of cultivated fields below.
These grasses are able to survive sheep grazing which eventually kills other species such as heather that would once have dominated the slopes. The nodding white heads of cotton grass signal wetter areas. If you look closely among the sedges, you may find butterwort, with a rosette of spreading oval pale-green leaves looking like a yellow starfish.
Meadow Pipits, one of our commonest upland birds, are to be seen dropping like paper darts into clumps of rushes along the transmitter road. These small, brown ground nesting birds are recognised by their sharp call note, 'pheet' or a triple 'pheet- pheet-pheet'.
Hunting kestrels are a familiar sight, hovering or hanging in the updrafts over hill edges with a fanned tail on the outlook for prey. Buzzards are also frequently seen in the area.
Returning to the car park you will see a public art piece created by Chris Wilson and erected by Banbridge District Council in 2007.
The sculpture, entitled Source of the River Lagan, consists of slabs of Mourne granite sandwiched together with a window to view the landscape and etched plates representing local heritage in the form of the nearby Legananny Dolmen and the continuation of ancient traditions in the form of the Lughnasa Festival.
This piece is one of five specially commissioned for the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as part of a project with Down District Council and funded by the Mourne Natural Resource Rural Tourism Initiative funded by DARD.
Legananny Dolmen, located off Dolmen Road in the same area, is a portal tomb some 4,000 years old. This is a burial chamber created by raising a large capstone on top of three upright stones.
Nearby is the 1,000-year-old Finnis Souterrain, known locally as Binder's Cove.
For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, contact Countryside Access and Activities Network at 028 9030 3930 or its website countrysiderecreation.com.
Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, we will amend accordingly.