HIKING WITH KIDS – THE MOURNE MOUNTAINS – PIERCE’S CASTLE

How incredibly lucky have we been this Autumn?! Nature just keeps on delivering its beautiful, rich display of colours and the bright days have definitely made getting out and about to have some adventure time in the great outdoors so easy.

A couple of weeks ago we decided to take the 3 boys for a hike to Pierce’s Castle in our wonderful Mournes. It is a hike my husband Trevor and I have done before and were eager to take the boys there for the splendid views and also the tranquillity to be found away from the more popular trails in our beloved mountains.

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We awoke to bright sunlight, and although it was a chilly morning, we knew we were in for a real treat in the mountains. A bright, crisp day is hard to beat in terms of views and also makes walking with kids that little bit easier as they are neither too hot or too cold, and moaning is kept to a minimum.

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Armed with a rucksack jam-packed with flasks of soup, boiled eggs, jellybeans (always a little bribery needed when little legs get weary!) and hats, gloves, scarves and waterproofs just in case! It is best to be prepared after all! IMG-20181029-WA0037.jpg

Our excitement levels peaked when we caught our first glimpse of the Mournes on our drive down from Belfast; not  a single cloud hugged the summits, an unusual sight especially so early in the day.

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We set off from Leitrim Lodge car park, swinging round to the left past Rocky Mountain sticking to the obvious trail. We soon met a few friends, little Shetland Ponies all huddled together and all too happy to pose for a picture or two.

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Once we had managed to convince the boys to say farewell, we travelled on up the trail, turning left once more to ascend Tornamrock, where we stopped for a snack and to enjoy the crystal clear views.

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We also took the opportunity to shed some of our layers, because it was actually much warmer than we had anticipated, with barely a breeze to contend with. The calm washed over us as we lay in the early afternoon sunshine, chilling out and enjoying the happy beginning to the half-term holidays. A hectic few weeks had earned us some much-needed recreation time and this was the perfect place to allow ourselves to breathe deep and delve into the restorative power of mother nature.

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Soon, we decided to walk on towards our intended destination, following a trail through heather towards the rocky outcrop in the distance. We paused several times to rest and savour the panoramic views across the mountain range, each of us picking out our favourite mountain to hike.

Before long we were ready to ascend to the summit of Pierce’s Castle, bright glaring sun making it tricky to see where we were treading. We were glad when we reached a point that the sun dipped behind the rocks and we could walk more easily. Despite feeling tired from the early start and from the exertion, the 3 boys took off to climb the rocky top while Mum and Dad followed at a slower pace. This is a great location to practice a little easy climbing as there are no huge drops to worry about. Of course, the boys reached the summit before we did and stood waving as we picked our way slowly up through the rocks. Cheeky!

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The efforts were well worth it though when we stood atop Pierce’s Castle in the wonderful Autumn sunshine and turned 360 degrees to marvel at the splendid views. Silence fell over us, an unusual occurrence, as we were captivated by the palette of calming colours and artistry on show. There’s really nowhere else that brings so much joy to my heart than being there in those mountains with my boys! Just magical and life-affirming.

The soup was a tasty treat as we sat and chatted, having the entire mountaintop to ourselves. As my husband and I lingered over a coffee, not wanting to depart from the view just yet, the boys ran off to explore some more of the rocky surroundings. After a while, the sun beginning to lower and our bodies beginning to cool down, we decided it was time to move on. Reluctantly, we packed up our things and followed the trail on around to where it meets Batt’s Wall, which we crossed over into the forest. We descended down through the forest alongside the river, listening to its powerful and soothing rush as we tread on the soft forest floor. Here, the boys enjoyed a game of hide and seek and using fallen twigs as antlers pretending to be stags! I was quiet and pensive, feeling the benefit of our time outdoors to slow me right down and put life once more into perspective. There’s little in life that has the power to sort my thoughts, enable me to be so grateful for all that I am and have and simply just be present than time spent in nature.

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Soon, we reached the trail which led back towards the car. We walked, arm in arm, tired but full of joy, hungry but contented, filthy and stinky but replenished in so many ways. Another perfect day of hiking and memory-making in the Mournes!

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