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Walk of the Week: Hare’s Gap

By Linda Stewart

The Hare's Gap is the most dramatic mountain pass in the Mournes.

 Its sharply-defined outlines indicate that ice once passed this way, using the Gap's convenient north-south alignment to advance and retreat over the entire Mournes range.

In more recent times the Hare's Gap marked the exit point for smuggled goods that had crossed the hills from the coast along the Brandy Pad. The contraband, which included soap, leather, spices and coffee, was carried through the mountains on the backs of small ponies that descended by the Hare's Gap to the valley of the Trassey River and on to Hilltown, a favourite distribution centre.

Nowadays, the Gap is a popular starting point for routes scaling adjoining peaks, or simply for a walk along the gentle contours of the Brandy Pad.


The walk begins from the council car park along Trassey Road at the northern foot of Clonachullion Hill. Walk left from the car park entrance to reach a combined gate and stile marking the start of the Trassey Track. Please use the stile and keep the gate closed.

Cross two further stiles to arrive at the forest edge and the beginning of open mountainside (1km). Beyond the third stile the track continues 1.5km to a ford. Threading its way uphill, the track approaches the Trassey River along the left hand stile. At this point the cliffs of Spellack, the north-east shoulder of Slieve Meelmore, flank the opposite bank of the river. Spellack is reputed to owe its present form to the erosive power of glaciers which swept across an older rock face to leave the granite cliffs freshly steepened. Today its sheer precipices provide challenging rock-climbs.

A point just short of the ford provides a comprehensive view of Slieve Bearnagh, seen here between its neighbouring peaks of Slievenaglogh and Slieve Meelmore, from which the cols at Hare’s Gap and Pollaphuca separate it. Slieve Bearnagh is one of the most picturesque Mourne summits with its combination of height (739m), crags, summit tors and smooth rock slabs. The mechanised quarry workings on Bearnagh’s north face stem from a temporary post-war revival in the demand for foundation blocks and monumental stone.

Cross the river and continue 100m to a Y-junction. Follow the level left fork (right fork climbs to the quarry) and cross a second ford. From here a winding track, commencing over the bare rock pavement and then through a boulder field, leads in 600m to the Mourne Wall at the Hare’s Gap.

From the Hare’s Gap a range of routes can be followed, exploring in a number of directions. Right, a stiff climb leads up Slieve Bearnagh, considered by some to be the grandest of all Mourne summits. Left, a continuation of the walk follows the Brandy Pad, passing beneath the Diamond Rocks (in 500m) on the side of Commedagh, great weathered granite pillars — likened to a Giant’s Causeway high in the mountains. Whichever option is taken, the views from Bearnagh and along the Brandy Pad are spectacular. To complete your walk, retrace your steps back to the start.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation NI or, tel: 028 9030 3930 or

Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (formerly CAAN) in association with Belfast Telegraph have 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: Hare’s Gap.

Area: Mournes Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Nearest big town: Newcastle

Distance: 4.35 miles.

Terrain: Quarry track with final uphill section over rocky terrain.

Restrictions: The majority of these popular walks are not formally designated public rights of way but developed over time due to traditional use. Walkers are advised to respect that they may be walking on private land and are encouraged to make themselves aware of and adhere to the principles of ‘Leave No Trace’ —

Time: You should leave approximately 2 hours 45mins to complete this walk.

Refreshments & facilities: There is a formal car parking area available on Trassey Rd at the start of the walk. Toilet facilities and refreshments are available at nearby Meelmore Lodge. There are also a number of shops, restaurants and pubs in the nearby town of Newcastle.

Publications: Route 10 in a pack of walks titled Mourne Mountain Walks, produced by Mourne Heritage Trust, available to purchase from the Mourne Heritage Trust and Newcastle Tourist Information Centre.

Walk Developed By: Outdoor Recreation NI and is maintained by the Mourne Heritage Trust.

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

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