Slieve Doan (Dún Maol Chobha) is one of the lesser-known peaks in the Mourne mountains – at 593m it is small in comparison to its neighbours but frequent hikers to the area will agree it’s a little gem of a mountain, relatively easy and quick to climb, offering panoramic 360-degree views of the surrounding kingdom of Mourne from the summit!
Ben Crom (Binn Chrom/curved peak) is Doan’s closest neighbour, again one of the lesser-known peaks (although some people will recognise the name as the dam and reservoir at its feet supply water to County Down and most of Belfast), but like Slieve Doan its location in the centre of the Mournes provides unbelievable panoramic views of the whole mountain range, rivers, lakes and reservoirs, all sweeping down towards the Irish Sea.
As Doan and Ben Crom are found in the heart of the Mournes they can be reached via many different trails, but the Ott trail seems to be the most popular and the one I’ve always stuck to. There is a small car park on the Slievenaman Road, and from here you just climb the stile directly across and follow the trail until you reach the Mourne wall.
I’ve climbed this trail in many different conditions, including snow and ice, but it’s always manageable – you just need a good pair of walking shoes or boots as it’s stony and sometimes quite slippy if there’s been heavy rain, as all the little streams nearby can overflow. It’s also usually wet and boggy further up the trail no matter the weather, so I wouldn’t recommend trainers!
When you see the wall and approach the stile ahead you should see some of the mighty peaks of the Mournes coming into view. Once you put your foot on the first step of the stile and start climbing upwards you will then see a little rocky peak appear right in front of you – this is Slieve Doan. I have heard people calling this stile at Ott the gateway to the Mournes but I like to exaggerate that a little further – I personally call it the gateway to heaven, because the world that opens up in front of you is just amazing to behold!
Once over the stile just start walking in the direction of Doan, veering slightly to the left and keeping Lough Shannagh on your right. This little dirt trail will eventually lead to a more awkward boggy terrain which can be difficult in places, but you will always find a way through!
After crossing the bog you’ll find yourself on the rocky gravel path up to the boulders and crags of Doan. The climb doesn’t take long but it is quite steep and you will have to scramble over some of the rocks towards the top, so take your time and be careful!
The views from the top of Doan are absolutely breathtaking – mountains for miles all around you and an amazing bird’s eye view of the Silent Valley reservoir. The huge rocks on top are the perfect place setting for a little picnic, and most importantly to stand on and pose for a few snaps!
When ascending Doan I’ve come from both left and right but I find the easiest way back down is to the left slightly then right, round the front of the mountain facing Lough Shannagh, this way you have only one huge boulder to scramble over quite easily and the rest of the descent is pretty straightforward.
The way down is always a bit more nerve-wracking for some people, including myself when I first tackled Doan – you are definitely more aware of the steepness and how high you are, so if someone gives a tip about an easy way down of course you’re gonna go for it!
Today because we were also taking on Ben Crom we didn’t go back down the rocky trail we used on our ascent. Once we were past the tors we veered over to the right and down the other side of the mountain towards our next peak.
Looking over towards Ben Crom from Doan you can make out a little trail rising up it from the direction of Slieve Loughshannagh, the Meels and Bearnagh, but the quickest thing to do from this point is to just plough on through the wild terrain to your right! The grass is deep and soggy but Ben Crom looks so close you know it won’t take long to reach!
You will come to a little river running down towards the reservoir but there are plenty of rocks and boulders to get you across to then start your ascent. The terrain of Ben Crom is exactly like Doan – once out of the wet boggy base of the mountain, the rocks and boulders are like a staircase taking you up the rest of the way. The summit of the mountain is also very similar with large flat boulders providing a lovely area to picnic or basically just to use as platforms to stand and take in the amazing panoramic view!
From here you can see the deep dark waters of Ben Crom reservoir below you as well as the Silent Valley and even further over to the sparkling Blue Lough in Annalong valley. The last time we were here there were only three other people on the whole mountain, it is so quiet and peaceful. It is the perfect place to sit and unwind and think about nothing else other than the amazing world around you.
Unfortunately no matter how much you might love being in the mountains like me, hometime has to come sometime! Descending the mountain, you can follow the trail I mentioned earlier towards the Meels and Slieve Loughshannagh. Although this is a dried up riverbed and easy to walk through in most places, you will still be met with some boggy ground like before. You will probably come across other people using this trail who have been hiking the other mountains but are now also making their way back to Ott.
Keep following the trail to the left round the base of Slieve Loughshannagh and you will finally join the track where you began your journey to Doan – this will bring you back to the stile at the wall and you can make your way back down the Ott trail to the carpark. All in all, this adventure will take you around 4 hours.
Helpful info & tips
I always say in my reviews that I love hiking no matter the weather. Sometimes you just have to go for it and not wait around for a good day, but realistically, this adventure has to be seen and on a nice, clear, sunny day to fully experience the Kingdom of Mourne in all its glory!
In all honesty I also wouldn’t really fancy doing Doan on a very wet, cloudy or windy day – it’s a small mountain and an absolute gem, but it’s also steep, narrow and rocky, and in my opinion could be quite scary and difficult for inexperienced hikers, depending on the conditions!
Golden nugget of advice
This place is just amazing – no matter how many times I’ve been I still look around in absolute awe. Sometimes when ploughing through and watching my footsteps through the bog and grass and over the stones I forget myself until I look up again to be reminded how unbelievably beautiful our world is. It always just puts everything into perspective whenever you need it most!