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Hi, I’m Hugh Annett and I’m 71. I live near Gloucester, England but I’m from Mourne and a frequent returnee. I’m a regular walker and cyclist and when visiting Ireland, I always hope to be able to do some walking in the Mourne Mountains, though it’s not always possible.
I’ve walked in a lot of places, mainly because at one time my work involved visiting high mountain societies in the Karakorum’s, Pamirs, Himalaya, Hindu Kush and the Caucuses. But my walking in these places was about visiting villages rather than long distance treks (my only long high mountain trek was on Mount Kenya). In the presence of these awesome mountain ranges I thought of the Mournes, and would often ask myself ‘how do you compare the beautiful Mournes with mountains of such a scale’?
And how I’ve settled this for myself was to understand that the Mournes are equivalent to a great artist’s miniature masterpiece compared to, for example, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. Both are great in different ways. I can’t say what my favourite trek in the Mournes is but I can say that after more than 60+ years of walking in them (initially to help my father with gathering sheep) they remain my special walking destination.
Mid-winter is not a great time for mountain walking anywhere but on a cold, dry and, ideally, sunny day a winter walk in the Mournes is restorative. Still, while given reasonable weather the Mournes are great to walk in in any season. But for me the best possible time are long summer evenings, when the views through the peaks to the sea beyond, down towards Dublin Bay, or across towards the Isle of Man, or the mountains on the Welsh coast, are wonderful, memorable long views.
Why the Mournes are for you
The Mournes offer walking opportunities for most walkers but if it’s a stroll on good surfaces you prefer then best to walk in the Silent Valley, or into the mountains along the Dinney Water. What makes the Mournes so accessible for walkers of different abilities is the combination of the treks/rough roads that were made by men walking to the quarry’s in a former age, or for collecting the cut peat. A favourite is along the Carrick Lane to the Blue Lough or to Lough Shannah. Then there are very climbable mountains and others that are demanding scrambles with cliffs that require rock climbing expertise. Something suitable for most.
The Mournes actually do ‘roll down to the sea’ and the view from the top of Donard over Newcastle and Dundrum Bay makes the climb up Donard (my preferred starting point being the Bloody Bridge) is, I think, iconic.
Be prepared, if you can’t see the Mournes it’s raining, if you can see them it will rain soon.