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The Mourne Mountains are my favourite and (in my humble opinion) the best place to walk or hike in Northern Ireland, especially if you want that feeling of being in an untouched landscape. Another benefit of the Mourne Mountains is that you can choose a walk as easy or as difficult as you’d prefer. Choose a well-defined trail or go off the beaten track – the choice is yours! Whilst I enjoy the challenge of difficult terrain and steep gradients, the walk I’ve chosen to describe here (Bearnagh, Meelmore and Meelbeg from Trassey car park) is of moderate difficulty and so can be completed by anyone with a decent level of fitness.
Park at Trassey car park on the Trassey road and from here look straight ahead where you’ll see the start of Trassey Track. The track climbs gently beside Clonachullion Wood, becoming rougher underfoot as you progress.
Head through two further gates and before long you’ll leave the wooded area and the landscape opens up. Follow the trail on a gentle incline as it tracks the Trassey river. In front the mountains reveal themselves and the trail will split off left and right but keep to the central route, heading directly for the col between Slievenaglough (on the left) and Slieve Bearnagh (on the right).
The trail becomes rougher as you ascend towards the col but soon you’ll see the Mourne wall with a stile directly in front. Cross the stile and admire the view from your current position known as Hare’s Gap. From here turn right and follow the wall where the climb up Bearnagh is steep but begins with some stone steps.
After some period of ascent arrive at the rocky outcrops of the North Tor of Slieve Bearnagh. Keep following the Mourne Wall across the col separating Bearnagh’s split summits where a short but steep climb leads to Bearnagh’s huge summit Tor.
At this point, if you’re minded like me, you may want to climb up onto the rocky summit Tor but this is optional of course! From the summit an amazing panorama unfolds with Slieve Binnian on the left, then Ben Crom reservoir, the pyramid shaped Doan in the centre, flanked by Lough Shannagh on the right.
After admiring the view (and taking about a million photographs), follow the Mourne wall west to descend down from the top of Bearnagh to the col beneath Slieve Meelmore. This is a very steep descent necessitating numerous switchbacks – mind your step!
From this col the climb to the summit of Meelmore is a steady ascent for 500m and you’ll know you’re at the summit when you see the stone shelter built into the wall.
From here, head in a south-westerly direction to your next mountain – Slieve Meelbeg.
The ascents and descents of Meelmore and Meelbeg are less steep than Bearnagh! Upon reaching the cairn at Meelbeg you have completed your third and final summit of this walk (cue celebratory jig!). From Meelbeg descend the mountain in a westerly direction until you meet the stony Ott track. Descend Ott track and about 150m from Trassey road you’ll see a stile on right on the other side of a shallow stream. Cross the stream and stile and follow Trassey track (signposted Ulster way) for almost 2km in a north-easterly direction until you see Meelmore Lodge getting closer on the left (several white buildings which normally have a number of tents pitched beside them).
Cross the stile and follow the straight-as-an-arrow track to Meelmore Lodge.
Here you can rest up and treat yourself to a cup of coffee or something to eat! Trassey car park is a 5 minute walk down the road from Meelmore lodge and completes the loop of this walk!
Bearnagh is one of my favourite mountains in the Mournes with its rocky Tors adding real drama to the summit. Whilst by no means the most difficult hike in the Mournes, this walk is a good one to undertake as you get sweeping views of the Higher Mournes, 3 summits and a circular loop which finishes at lodge with catering and showering facilities!
All in all, this walk is roughly 12.5km/7.8miles with 974m ascent/919m descent and takes about 5 hours.
Three summits in one walk isn’t really suitable for newcomers or casual walkers but can be undertaken by most with a decent level of fitness (I promise!).
Bring some lunch and/or snacks for this walk as the ascents and descents will make you hungry! As always, also bring plenty of water and waterproofs/an extra layer (because you know what NI weather can be like!). Trekking poles are useful for the steep descent from Bearnagh. You can also start and finish this walk at Meelmore Lodge or Trassey car park as they’re close to each other. Meelmore lodge has free toilet and shower facilities if you need to freshen up or change at the end of the walk. If you’d like any advice on hillwalking then feel free to contact me via and/or follow me on Instagram @ulstersnapper.
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