Highest Point in Northern Ireland: Slieve Donard

Mourne Wall

Mourne Wall Self Portrait

What better cure for jet lag than climbing a mountain? After landing in Dublin at 5am, and picking up my rental car, I headed north, into the countryside of Northern Ireland. I’ll spend some time in Dublin next week, but I always prefer countrysides over cityscapes. In the meantime, I’m trying to keep all this straight: drive on the left, sit on the right, shift with my left hand. At least the pedals are all in the right place!

Being an ardent old-fashioned map lover, I declined a GPS, only to find out the back roads of Ireland defy all maps. I had no idea where I was for several hours yesterday. Oh well! I don’t have anywhere to be anyway. I drove to  Newry and then turned east towards the Mourne Mountains and the coast. When I passed a sign for the Tollymore National Outdoors Center, near Newcastle, I stopped and asked for a hike recommendation. The woman at the front desk said, “if you’re feeling ambitious you can climb Slieve Donard, the highest point in Northern Ireland.” Sold!

The trail followed the Glen River, which runs along a bed of hard, slippery granite.

The trail left from Newcastle and followed the Glen River, which runs along a bed of hard, slippery granite.

The Ice House, ruins of a 19th century "refrigerator" along the Glen River.

The Ice House, ruins of a 19th century “refrigerator” along the Glen River. On the way back down, I fell sound asleep here. No idea how long I was out! Ah, jet lag.

Wet, misty, foggy day. Beautiful!

Wet, misty, foggy day. Beautiful! No such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. I packed assuming it’s going to rain everyday. If I get one blue day I’ll be delighted!

The trail along the river

The trail along the river

This trail has been used for centuries and it's well marked and well-paved. The initial approach was pretty gradual but it turned into a stairmaster!

This trail has been used for centuries and it’s well marked and practically paved. The initial approach was pretty gradual but it turned into a stairmaster!

Following the Mourne Wall. This 26-mile long wall runs through the Mourne Mountains, across many of the summits, including Slieve Donard.

Following the Mourne Wall. This 26-mile long wall runs through the Mourne Mountains, across many of the summits, including Slieve Donard.

Hikers in the fog. Despite the weather, I met a dozen other hikers on the trail yesterday. I guess if you wait for sunny days to hike in Ireland, you never go anywhere.

Hikers in the fog. Despite the weather, I met a dozen other hikers on the trail yesterday. I guess if you wait for sunny days to hike in Ireland, you never go anywhere.

The Summit! This cairn sits over top the highest passage tomb burial chamber in the UK, dating to the 12th century.

The Summit! 2,789 feet. This cairn sits over top the highest passage tomb burial chamber in the UK, dating to the 12th century. A disciple of Saint Patrick lived up here in a prayer cell and legend has it, he still watches over the mountain top.

Summit memorials on Slieve Donard

Summit memorials on Slieve Donard

Top O' the Cairn

Top O’ the Cairn- highest point in Northern Ireland!

Style over the Mourne Wall from the summit tower- erected in 1910

Style over the Mourne Wall from the summit tower- erected in 1910

Following the Mourne Wall back down off the mountain, into the mist

Following the Mourne Wall back down off the mountain, into the mist

Stay tuned for more posts from Northern Ireland! Up next: the Antrim Coast and the Giants Causeway! Love me some columnar basalt

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in Big Sky, Montana. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
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8 Responses to Highest Point in Northern Ireland: Slieve Donard

  1. Is there not a pub up there on the summit? Maybe you missed it in the fog.

  2. Loved these foggy photos. Wonderful to see other aspects of Ireland that I’ve not seen in books/magazines before.

  3. Karolyn Cooper says:

    It’s great to see a visitor being so positive about the Mournes. I love those mountains. Hope you get better weather for the Antrim Coast. Don’t just walk on the stones at shore level at the Causeway – there is a great cliff top path with lovely sea views (on the right day!)

  4. ritaroberts says:

    Looks positively dangerous to me Mary but exciting. Love the misty photo’s.

  5. Elisa says:

    Pretty pretty!!! hops up and down!!

  6. Dom says:

    So very gorgeous 🙂

  7. Leaf & Bark says:

    Brilliant photo! I love Ireland and agree, the countryside is breathtaking. Oh and feel you on the sit on the l right side driving! ugh!

  8. Mary – the misty mountain photos are so great! Thanks for sharing this mystical place. Best to you, Carol

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