Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Walk of the Week: Lough Shannagh

This mountain ramble follows the Banns Road in the Mournes and circles Lough Shannagh, reaching a high point of 587m at Carn Mountain.

The Mourne Lodge is hosting a free guided National Trails Day walk up Lough Shannagh tomorrow in which walkers can soak up the culture of the area and experience fabulous views from the top.

Visit nationaltrailsday.co.uk for more information on how to book your place on this unique National Trails Day walk.

Directions

The approach to Lough Shannagh is from a discreet car park on the B27, 7km north of Kilkeel on the East Side of the road. A track locally known as the Banns Road leads to the hills.

The route crosses the Mourne Wall and the Miners Hole River, the name recalling unsuccessful excavations for metal ores by Cornish miners.

The track proper ends amid a flat expanse of white granite gravel and eroded peat hags. From here pick your way towards the northern edge of Lough Shannagh (the lake of the fox), in an anti-clockwise direction.

At its north-east corner the lough’s outflow is dammed by a low stone embankment. Cross the river below the dam. Follow the shoreline to the north end of the lough and then ascend over a boggy, pathless terrain to a height of 50m to find a path. From here contour left (west) for approx. 600m to reach an obvious grassy gully that ascends directly to the Mourne Wall. Continue left (900m) to summit of Carn Mountain.

The rocky mountain that overlooks the lough is Doan (594m), which if climbed by the left flank (northwest) provides a rewarding view. This excursion adds an hour to the time taken to complete the walk.

To complete the walk, follow a wall leading left down the south face of Carn Mountain. This is not the Mourne Wall — the latter turns right from the summit to continue over Slieve Muck. At the base of the hill, the wall breaks at its junction with the Miners Hole River. Turn left at the break and follow the left bank of the river (no path) back to the stone bridge on the Banns Road Track (1km). Return to the start via the same route.

The Backdrop

The Mournes are a comparatively young group of mountains, formed some 50 million years ago and predominantly composed of granite. Granite is an igneous rock formed from magma, molten material that welled up from under the Earth’s crust and then cooled.

It’s a very hard rock — the docks of Belfast and Liverpool were built with granite. A series of ice ages has shaped the mountains we see today — the last retreat some 12,000 years ago producing the present-day skyline.

The impressive Mourne Wall was built as a boundary to mark the Mourne catchment. It is 22 miles long and connects the summits of 15 mountains. The construction of the wall stands up to nearly three metres high and on average is just under one metre wide. The wall is a monument to the skill of the men who built it.

Lough Shannagh is the largest natural body of water in the Mourne Mountains. Ten thousand years ago, long after ice had disappeared from the lowlands, many patches remained in hollows high in the hills. Located at 390m in a wilderness area of the Mournes, the deep blue waters of Lough Shannagh occupy a corrie at the foot of Carn Mountain.

After the war it became obvious to the Water Commissioners that it would be necessary to utilise the full yield of raw water available from the Silent Valley and Annalong Valley catchments.

Therefore, in place of the impounding reservoir originally planned for the Annalong Valley, it was decided that a new storage reservoir be constructed in the Upper Silent Valley. Work started on the Ben Crom Reservoir in 1953 and took 186 men four years to construct. Ben Crom is 700 feet long at the top and has a capacity of 1,700 million litres.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or visit 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: Lough Shannagh.

Area: The Mourne Mountains.

Nearest town to start point: Kilkeel.

Distance: 7 miles circular.

Terrain: This walk is on unsurfaced mountain tracks and is not suitable for those with limited mobility.

Access restrictions: The track from the car park (known as Banns Road) is in constant use by farmers husbanding their sheep. Please take care not to obstruct the track at any time.

Refreshments: Refreshments and toilets can be found in Kilkeel.

Publications: Lough Shannagh features in the Mourne Mountain Walks produced by Mourne Heritage Trust and Newry & Mourne District Council – Route 5. This pack of route cards costs £5.95 and is available from Mourne Heritage Trust (tel: 028 4372 4059) and various Tourist Information Centres at Newcastle (tel: 028 4372 2222) and Newry (tel: 028 3031 3170).

Map: Sheet 29 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop, Colby House, Stranmillis, Belfast BT9 SBJ (lpsni.gov.uk).

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