The countryside around Slieve Croob in the heart of Co Down is relatively unknown to most of the walkers who regularly explore the high Mournes to the south but this undiscovered area has a charm and beauty of its own which shines out in sunny weather.
Slieve Croob, locally known as ‘The Twelve Cairns’, is the highest of the Dromara Hills, which are foothills of the high Mournes and form part of the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
This route is a short linear mountain walk with 360-degree panoramic views across Co Down.
From the B7 Rathfriland/Moneyslane to Dromara Road at the crossroads with Finnis Road, take Finnis Road (signed for the Slieve Croob Inn) for about two miles — the Dree Hill Road is the second road on the left.
From the hamlet of Finnis/Massford take the Dree Hill Road and follow for approximately 2 miles. The Dree Hill Road leads from the hamlet to the start of the walk at the Dree Hill Car Park, near the junction of this road with the Clonvaraghan/Finnis Road.
Pass through the green kissing gate onto the metalled transmitter road serving the transmitter masts on the summit of the mountain. Follow the road to its very end, passing an interpretative board near the summit. At the end of the road, look up to the mountain — there are three stiles giving access to the summit. The ground here is open mountain and can be uneven and muddy. Spend some time on the summit to enjoy the spectacular views.
Retrace your steps down the transmitter road. Near the second yellow grit bin, to the right of the path, the River Lagan rises unobtrusively. Take a couple of steps off the path and you may hear the gurgle of the stream. As you continue to walk down the road you will see the River Lagan cutting its way down the mountain to the right. Please keep to the road as the land on either side is privately owned.
The sculpture in the car park is a public art piece created by local artist Chris Wilson, entitled ‘Source of the River Lagan'.
Slieve Croob or in Irish, Sliabh Crúb — the mountain of the hoof — rises to a height of 534 metres (1,755 feet) and is the source of the River Lagan. Slieve Croob is the highest peak in the Dromara hills, a range of mountains forming the foothills of the high Mournes. These hills are, however, much older than their southern cousins, the geology of the area being some 400 million years old.
Near the summit, the River Lagan rises as a tiny stream and begins its journey to the sea at Belfast.
There was once an enormous cairn — probably marking an ancient burial place or place of special significance — on the summit and from this the local name, ‘The Twelve Cairns', originates.
Slieve Croob was associated with the celebration of the Celtic harvest festival of Lughnasa, in honour of the God Lugh. Lughnasa or Lammas took place in late July or early August and continued into Christian times as a harvest festival. On the way to the summit the dark blue bilberries — known locally as ‘blaeberries' — would be picked, which gave the festival its local name of ‘Blaeberry Sunday’. It is also known as ‘Cairn Sunday' as it was said to be a tradition to carry up a small stone to place on the cairn.
Once at the summit, an afternoon of dancing, music and games and courtship followed.
Birdlife on Slieve Croob includes meadow pipits, hunting kestrels and buzzards.
A more recent addition are red kites, which have been reintroduced by the RSPB. Red kites are distinctive because of their forked tail and striking colour — predominantly chestnut red with white patches under the wings and a pale grey head.
For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN), tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com
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, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.
Walk Name: The Twelve Cairns / Slieve Croob Walk.
Nearest big town to start point: Dromara.
Distance: 2.4 miles.
Time: Walkers should leave two hours to complete this route and take in the stunning 360-degree views from the summit of Slieve Croob.
Suitability: This is a short linear mountain walk and despite a relatively gentle incline, there can be some boggy patches between the end of the surfaced drive and the cairn on the summit. As such, this walk would be suitable for walkers with a reasonable level of fitness.
Access Restrictions: Dree Hill Transmitter Road is open to public access on foot but as the open hill land on either side is grazed by sheep, no dogs are allowed on the mountain.
Refreshments: It is advisable to bring your own refreshments. Slieve Croob Inn is to the south approximately 2.5 miles along the Clonvaraghan Road, or visit Dromara. There is a garage and shop near Finnis, as well as a pub at Finnis (evening opening). There is a shop, and restaurant and bar at Dechomet (evening opening — weekends may vary).
Walk Developed By: Banbridge District Council.
Map: Ordnance Survey 1:50 0000 map Sheet 20, available in shops or from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).