The articles on Trek NI have always been a great help to us anytime we’ve wanted to try a hike somewhere new, so I’m delighted to write this review of my own, hoping it will encourage anyone who hasn’t tried Slieve Martin yet to give it a go!
Slieve Martin (485m) is part of the Southern Mournes, located within the beautiful Kilbroney Forest Park. It’s surrounded by the magnificently vast Rostrevor Forest and overlooks the gorgeous glacial fjord that is Carlingford Lough. This area is so unbelievably stunning it’s no surprise it was the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’s wonderful world of Narnia!
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As with most hikes we’ve done in the past, the first time we decided to take on Slieve Martin I did some online research the night before. Trek NI is always my go-to but there are also lots of other sites giving info and directions on different walks and hikes in the Mournes and elsewhere – it’s always a good idea to do your research before you head off!
You will discover between the various sites that there are usually a few different routes to take on most hikes and Slieve Martin is no different, and as always I wanted to go with the longest route for more of a challenge!
Well, even with my research and screenshots of all the maps we ended up lost in the maze that is Rostrevor Forest! There are so many tracks and turns we ended up doing a 14km hike of the whole area without making it anywhere near the top of the mountain! This was still extremely enjoyable, trekking among the huge trees, walking past beautiful streams and waterfalls, but I left with unfinished business and was on a mission to get back ASAP and conquer that summit!
Sure enough, we were back the following week and decided to go with another route whereby you take the car further up the steep forest drive to the second car park at Cloughmore rather than parking in the lower car park near the entrance, which we did last time. At Cloughmore car park you will see a large notice board with a map of the different routes from this point including Fiddlers Green and the ancient Oakwood trail, but our only interest that day was getting to the stone ASAP as we knew from our research that once we passed this we would be on our way up Slieve Martin.
The 50-tonne Cloughmore Boulder, which according to Irish legend was thrown here by the giant Finn McCool, is extremely impressive, and the spot in which it sits overlooking Carlingford lough and the magnificent Slieve Foy makes for the perfect place to picnic and take a few snaps!
After doing so ourselves we looked for the obvious track leading away from the stone into the forest opposite and continued our ascent.
We followed the stony forest trail steeply uphill for about 30 minutes and arrived at the col between Slieve Martin and Slieve Meen. From here, a 10-minute climb up the grassy mound in front of you will bring you to the trig pillar at the summit.
The scenery from this point is even more impressive – a complete panoramic view of the surrounding countryside: the Lough, the Irish Sea, the Cooleys, and some of the other Mournes including Donard and Binnian.
After a walk around the summit absorbing the amazing surroundings and taking 100 photos and videos, we started our descent. Again, while doing my research I discovered some people followed different routes on the way down as well, but we decided to play safe and go back the way we came.
When we reached the car around 40 minutes later after another quick stop-off at the Stone, I felt that great sense of achievement and happiness that I always feel after experiencing and conquering another mountain!
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Additional helpful info
I would recommend this hike to anyone of all ages and fitness levels. I would class it as moderate and not overly challenging. Obviously the trail is steep in places but the stony terrain is quite even and flat with no big rocks or boulders to scramble over, which can be found on a lot of other mountain trails. And if you throw on a good pair of walking shoes or boots, all the better!
As with any mountain hike the steep ascent up Slieve Martin will get your heart rate up and break a sweat, but it’s up to you what pace you take it – just remember, one of the big advantages of hiking is the cardio workout!
Another tip would be to check the weather and save Slieve Martin for a good clear day. I love climbing whatever the weather but you have to experience those views, it just wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t!
Hiking is so good for your heart, body and mind, especially in a place like Kilbroney. The sounds and smells of nature in the forest and mountains are an instant mood booster and stress reliever, and renew our appreciation and gratefulness for the world around us. Once you do it, you’ll be back for more!