Family-Friendly Mourne Mountains

A Family Trek to the Chimney Rock Railway Tracks

27th October 2020 by Wendy Hanna Share

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Whilst there is no shortage of good places to visit in the Mourne mountains there sure is a shortage of good days! Especially at October’s end. With that in mind we took advantage of a sunny Sunday and headed off on the hunt for the old quarry tracks on Chimney Rock Mountain. From the Bloody Bridge Car Park, with kiddies and doggy in tow, we crossed the busy road and headed toward the renowned Brandy Pad trail.

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We filtered through a quirky wooden opening. There was just enough room for hikers and backpacks to slip through. Most definitely not enough for a donkey, never mind one laden with brandy.

Once through, we were drawn by the gush of the water to the old bridge on the left before starting the climb. The path itself is beautifully maintained and a perfect width for the traffic flow. An information board and granite stone greeted us with an arrow pointing upward.

Whilst the mountains dominated the skyline the sound of the sweeping river refreshed the senses as we headed upward. It was lovely to pause and watch it cascade over the slabs of rock. Natural pools had been carved over time making it the perfect stop for all the brave folk water who were having a fabulous time water bouldering. The wooden footbridge came into view quite quickly and the two huge silver water pipes shoot across the opening from one piece of land to the next. A glimpse of the workmanship created to carry water from the Mournes all the way to the big city.

The journey continued when over a wooden stile and through rougher terrain. We passed another stone with Mourne Wall, direction and distance. We brushed through the undergrowth of fading heather and occasional briar for a further twenty minutes or so. There were people ahead crossing the river toward the stile on the left and we carried on.

The crossing point was easy to navigate with a natural stone path over. A clear, well-trodden track lay exposed and once over the stile we were on the gravel track and heading for Carrs Face. It seemed a right dander away in the distance. We were surely on the high ground now and able to absorb the stretching views as far as the St Johns Point Lighthouse and the unmistakable Isle of Man silhouette.

For the next thirty/forty minutes we followed the gravel path which levelled out nicely. The granite gave off the occasional glint in the midday sun. People were dotted along the route and indeed some were even on the return. Perhaps on the descent from Slieve Donard.

On arrival, we were quite taken by the sights at the abandoned Crannoge Quarry. There were visible remnants of the past and a deafening hush. A small shelter with only the bones of the roof left.

Giant stone slabs split by plug and feather. Old footings lay exposed. Piles of rubble and broken machinery lay embedded in the undergrowth. The Quarry walls streaked in greys and rust.

We rested on an old sleeper whilst refuelling. This gave us a chance to marvel at the surroundings and ponder the work ethic, strength and skill of the stone men of Mourne. Certainly not a job for the indoors type. Magnificent to think that the granite, not easily attained, had been exported to line the cobbled streets of some of Scotland and Englands big cities. And today, even further afield.

Chimney rock tracks were playing hide and seek that day but eventually we spotted them quite high up on the mountainside. Through the squelchy bog we headed. We stumbled upon an old wagon, likely in the place it was left many moons ago. A snapshot of the workings of the funicular railway which transported stone from one quarry to the other.

The tracks looked to be clinging to the mountain side. The sleepers were decayed and disintegrating, and the stone was shifty underfoot. But, for a minute you could almost hear the cranks of the wagons once more.

The temptation to climb further was soon dampened by the realisation of a longer descent.

We began our descent on the damp mountainside feeling chuffed to have reached our goal! Fair to say both adults and kids alike lost their footing along the way. The dander back along the gravel path left plenty time for discussion, maybe even a history lesson thrown in unknowingly.

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The views rewarded us at every turn, which was a welcome distraction from the saturated socks and footwear. What could have made the hike better? Whilst this was a reasonably moderate ramble there were moments which did accelerate the heart rate. A good pair of hiking boots and poles for the more challenging moments is a must.

The gravel can also be shifty underfoot. With kids and four-legged friend in tow our moving time was around 1 hour 30 mins to the top. We returned to a busy Bloody Bridge Car Park, so going early was the right choice.

Notes for again. Start early, correct clothing, footwear and fuel are key. Walking poles would be handy on occasion and carry a well charged phone as there will be plenty of photo opportunities on your journey to Chimney Rock mountain.

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