Mourne Mountains

Above the clouds on Meelmore and Meelbeg

30th March 2021 by Laura Kelly Share

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Last year I decided to move back home after 10 years of living in England. This coincided with the beginning of the pandemic. In the last year I’d been getting into hiking whilst travelling. As far as hiking in Ireland went for me before this; Slieve Donard, Croagh Patrick and Slieve Gullion and all of which were before the age of 15.

I live in Belfast so the Mournes are only a 50 minute drive away. As well as hiking, I love photography. Because of this I prefer hiking at sunrise or sunset, when the light is softer and there often aren’t as many people around.

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One of the best things about the Mournes is that there are so many of them. I have a little note on my phone with all the different hikes I’d like to try. I’d managed to make a good dent in this during the various lockdowns.

Meelmore and Meelbeg were next on the list. I’d been up Bearnagh for a beautiful sunrise a few months back which is right next to them. You could definitely do the three in one go – that was my plan but the 5 hours of sleep had written that off.

Meelmore and Meelbeg sit at the the back of the Mournes from Newcastle. The most common path up them starts from Trassey car park/Meelmore Lodge. From my experience they seem to be much less busy than the likes of Binnian and Donard.

I always keep an eye out for good weather and if it coincides with my time off, I’ll try to get a day where the wind isn’t too high and the visibility is good. I prefer there to be some clouds rather than clear skies as I think they make for a more interesting sunrise/sunset.

This particular day I set off from Belfast just after 2pm. It was completely clouded over and wasn’t showing any signs of shifting. The further I drove, I could see little patches of blue trying to break through. The clouds were very much still there but started to thin out into fog. At 3:15pm I parked and headed off on the Trassey track.

I was still hopeful for a nice sunset but didn’t really mind if it wasn’t going to happen because the partial visibility was still pretty beautiful.

Half way up the mountain the clouds were thicker but the sun was trying to shine through, creating some pretty apocalyptic-looking scenes.

After a relatively moderate inclined walk up the track I reached the Mourne Wall. I love reaching that wall. When I get there I think, you’re not too far now but the hardest part is definitely ahead.

About 30 very sweaty minutes later I reached the summit of Meelmore and the view I was greeted with almost brought a tear to my eye. Peeking above the clouds I could see the tops of Bearnagh, Donard, Commedagh and Binnian.

After standing on the wall, soaking it all up and a few ‘Oh my God’s’ later, I took a few shots and headed over to the adjacent peak – Meelbeg. From one peak to the other took about 20-30 minutes descending into and again out of the clouds. I climbed up onto the wall and changed a few wet layers to dry (thanks to a wee man somewhere in Donegal for this tip) and immediately started warming up. Then I watched the sun set with a huge big smile.

When the sun disappeared below the horizon I headed down Meelbeg alongside the wall and turned left at the stile trying to cover as much distance as I could before it got dark. The path is pretty much straight and follows the stream. When you reach the wall turn right and follow it back to the gate on the Trassey track.

I think this was probably my favourite hike in the Mournes to date. It was a good workout but not too difficult; I liked being able to climb two in one and have the different views from each summit; lastly the conditions, as you can see above, were pretty unbelievable.

Happy hiking, everyone!

READ: Ballynagelty bench viewpoint from Kilbroney Forest Park

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Additional information

The track is very uneven, so look out for loose rocks. From the three peaks mentioned here (Meelmore, Meelbeg and Bearnagh) I’d say Bearnagh is the hardest hike so if you’re looking for the biggest challenge go for that one.

Going up Meelmore from the Mourne Wall, I met a lovely couple who told me to follow the left hand wall (it veers off at about 45degrees) as it is a less steep incline than the main wall heading straight up Meelmore.

Hiking shoes/boots are a must as the path can be pretty boggy in places. Save your trainers.


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