Slieve Bearnagh is without a doubt one of the most striking mountains in the Mourne Range. It is my personal favourite mountain to trek because it is always a really good challenge! It’s distinctive jagged summit can be picked out from miles away as it is made up of two clusters of rocky tors which make it standout from among its neighbours. Seeing it from afar as we drive towards the mountains always gets me super excited and geared up for a good hike! There are also several options for tackling Bearnagh’s steep slopes, giving a variety of interesting options for each time you visit.
Last weekend, we parked at Meelmore Lodge at around 10am to meet-up with some friends for a day out in the mountains. Not knowing what weather to expect now that we are well into November, we layered up super well and then followed the trail from Meelmore Lodge to the Mourne Wall, crossed the stile, turned left and followed the wall along, crossing over several little streams, until we met the Trassey Track. We followed the track all the way to Hare’s Gap, which is in itself a really good hike – check out my blog post on OUR TOP 5 FAMILY-FRIENDLY TRAILS IN THE MOURNE MOUNTAINS for more easily doable hikes. This was the ideal place to pause for lunch as the Mourne Wall offers protection from the wind and the view back down along the Trassey Track is really lovely. While it was a bright, clear day, there was a good strong wind blowing, so we were glad of the sheltered spot for a little rest and some food. Hot chocolate was well received by the 6 kids in our party who had eagerly led the way over the scree-fall to Hare’s Gap – the mountain pass between Slieve Bearnagh and Slievenaglogh.
Once fed and watered we were all chomping at the bit to get moving once more towards our goal – the summit of Slieve Bearnagh. We crossed over the wall and turned right, following the rocky steps upwards. This section is fairly steep, but don’t be deterred, it doesn’t last too long and is a really good workout for the legs! Once you have mounted this section you will join a trail which leads around the base of Slieve Bearnagh, then splits off in several directions. You can follow the wall the entire way to the summit, something we have done previously and really enjoyed, but it is not for the faint-hearted as it is extremely steep and can take quite a while when trekking with small children. Given the limited daylight hours and the fact that we had 6 children with us, we decided to follow the trail on around the base, enjoying the unbelievably clear views across the mountains and loughs. We had certainly picked a perfect day for hiking, with the sun beating down and now in the shelter of the mountainside and well out of the wind, we were all soon shedding our layers in a bid to cool off. We soon met a stream which runs from part of the way up Slieve Bearnagh and here we began our ascent. Parts like this in a hike always seem to keep the kids super-engaged because it is a challenge to find the right places to put your feet, with rocks to jump over, and having a few friends along means that there is also some healthy competition to keep motivation strong!
Our little party was excellent, the youngest child with us is just 3-years old, and with the exception of a couple of piggy-back rides, he walked the entire route without complaint. When someone was tired or struggling little, the others stepped in to encourage or distract by way of telling jokes or making up a game to play. So, with much effort all on sides, by 2 o’clock we were at the summit, the exposed terrain meaning we were once again blown about by the wind.
Remarkably though, it wasn’t cold and we were able to spend an hour or so exploring the tors, chatting and having a well-earned hot cuppa and some chocolate. Check out the video below to see the epic views:
We knew that it would soon begin to get dark and did not want to be descending the mountainside in the dark with kids so we packed-up and headed reluctantly on our way, choosing a different route down the back of Slieve Bearnagh, alongside the wall to the trail below, which meets the base of Slieve Meelmore. The large boulders on the way down proved to be a great source of entertainment as the kids used them as slides, meaning there were by the end a few rips in the bottoms of trousers!
Once on the trail we crossed over the stile and followed the path back to the Trassey Track which led us back to our starting position in time for the moon to peek its head over the top of Slievenaglogh.
We wandered back towards the car park, everyone quiet from exhaustion, but well-pleased with their achievement. Never underestimate kids’ abilities…or your own for that matter! I have never spent a day outside that I have regretted and I always feel the benefit of time spent hiking well into the days that follow.
If you fancy getting started hiking in the Mournes with your family, I am happy to answer any questions as best I can, so please feel free to get in touch.