Walk of the Week: Slieve Donard, Commedagh and Bearnagh
This is a challenging walk with some strenuous ascents, but it is certainly worth it. The route takes in three of the four highest peaks in the Mourne Mountains (Slieve Donard 853m, Slieve Commedagh 765m, Slieve Bearnagh 739m) and also the Brandy Pad — the well trodden and infamous smugglers track.
The walk gives wonderful views out to the Irish Sea and to the heart of the High Mournes.
This walk starts at either of two car parks. The first is the Trassey Track Car Park. From Bryansford take the B180 to Hilltown — 4 km later, turn left onto Trassey Road. The car park is on the left approx 1.5km along this road. Alternatively, carry on for another 500m approx and park at Meelmore Lodge Amenities Centre.
From the start of the Trassey Track, follow the obvious track up towards the mountains. You will go through three sets of double gates, including the one at the start, before you reach the open mountains. Look ahead and you will see Hare’s Gap, a saddle between Slieve Bearnagh and Slievenaglogh.
Continue up the main Trassey Track and just before the path increases in gradient up towards the quarry, take the right-hand track up towards the col between Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Bearnagh, where you meet the Mourne Wall.
Cross the stile and turn left, following the Mourne Wall up Slieve Bearnagh, which is a challenging ascent with some rocky outcrops to manoeuvre. On the top make your way over to the Summit Tor for wonderful 360-degree views of the High and Western Mournes.
Walk across to the North Tor, approx 500m away. From here, follow the steep track down Slieve Bearnagh towards Hare's Gap. Part of the lower track is built steps.
On reaching Hare’s Gap, you get good views of the High Mournes and Ben Crom Reservoir. From Hare's Gap, follow the easily identifiable Brandy Pad, bearing left at the distinct cairn on the path at the col between Slieve Beg and Slieve Commedagh. Continue along the path underneath the Castles (pinnacles on the south side of Slieve Commedagh) and at the end of the Castles, bear left and continue on the path up to where it meets the Mourne Wall at the col between Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh.
At this point it is possible to walk up Slieve Donard and retrace your steps back to the col before tackling the summit of Slieve Commedagh.
Follow the Mourne Wall up Slieve Commedagh. From Commedagh, views can be enjoyed to Newcastle below and out to the Irish Sea.
From here continue along the wall, up Slievenaglough and then down towards Hare’s Gap. It is better to be on the south side of the Mourne Wall to navigate your way down the steep ascent towards Hare’s Gap. Part of the lower track is built steps.
At Hare’s Gap climb the stile or pass through the gate and descend through the rocky terrain to meet the Trassey Track. Follow the Trassey Track back to the start point.
The summits of Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh rise above the seaside town of Newcastle and are iconic images of the Northern Irish landscape. Slieve Donard, at 850m, is the highest mountain in Northern Ireland and is named after St Domangart. Domangart was a disciple of St Patrick, who founded a monastery at the nearby Maghera, and lived as a hermit on the mountain.
Next Saturday, October 27, you can join the National Trust on a guided challenge walk to ascend the two peaks of Slieve Commedagh and Slieve Donard. Discover ice houses, stone pitching and eagle lairs. Strong footwear essential. Meet at Donard car park at 9.30am — booking essential. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk/greatniwalk for more information.
For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.
Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (formerly CAAN) in association with Belfast Telegraph has provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland 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: Slieve Donard, Commedagh and Bearnagh.
Area: The Mourne Mountains.
Nearest town to start point: Bryansford.
Distance: 10.9 miles, circular.
Time: Walkers should leave approximately 4 hours to complete this walk
Suitability: This is a strenuous walk only suitable for those with a high level of fitness.
Terrain: Rough forest and mountain tracks, steep in places.
Access Restrictions: Dogs must be kept under strict control.
Walk Developed By: Outdoor Recreation NI and is maintained by the Mourne Heritage Trust.
Map: Sheets 29 of the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).