For our first family hike post-lockdown we took to the Mournes for an epic 3-peak adventure. We planned out our route the night before and hit the trails with plenty of enthusiasm and rucksacks jam-packed with snacks, sun screen and water, knowing full well that our ambitions would need a positive mental attitude and lots of good fuel to keep us going. We hadn’t been hiking as a family for around 4 months and weren’t quite sure how we would fare; our minds were definitely willing but the bodies hadn’t been quite so active as we are accustomed to and we wondered if we might struggle a little!
Naturally, the first half-hour of trekking uphill was accompanied by much puffing and panting as well as plenty of pauses to catch our breath and take a sip of water. Surprisingly though, there wasn’t a single moment of moaning, merely the odd comment about how unfit we were feeling, and onwards we journeyed, buzzing to be back in one of our favourite spots together and eager to reach the summits of Meelbeg, Bearnagh and Meelmore.
Once Slieve Bearnagh was within sight there was no stopping us, looking magnificent and inviting from the summit of Meelbeg we descended into the valley, where we paused for half an hour to enjoy a little sheltered sweet spot out of the breeze, have lunch and take in the views. Hidden on the slopes among the rocks we were able to relax awhile undisturbed and chatted about how great it felt to be back in the hills doing the thing we love.
Once refuelled we were ready to get moving again and followed the trail downwards to the base of Bearnagh and then followed the zigzag trail around the side of the mountain before climbing the final steep section to the majestic summit. I always describe Bearnagh as the jewel in the crown of the Mournes and once back on top of the rocky peak it’s not hard to remember why – it is a beautiful place to stand and appreciate the far-reaching views and simply be alive and in the moment.
The rocky torrs are great to spend a little time exploring if it’s not too windy and of course the ideal location to capture a few impressive snapshots.
We then followed the extremely steep slope back down to the base of Bearnagh alongside the Mourne Wall. This section is a lot of fun but must be taken slowly as it is quite crumbly and slippery in places. Once at the foot of the mountain we caught our breaths once more and looked back up from where we had come, amazed at the sharp incline we had just descended.
We then continued alongside the wall up the side of Meelmore, turning every now and then to look back at Bearnagh, her sharp and fierce beauty seeming to become more apparent as we climbed her neighbour. We collectively agreed that our legs were definitely beginning to feel the exertion now and the chit chat simmered down into a contented hush as we made our way to the final summit of the day – Slieve Meelmore.
Here we stopped to have a cuppa and look back across the landscape we had just traversed – it never ceases to amaze me what my kids are capable of and their adventurous spirit is inspiring. As a family we have been hiking regularly for over 10 years now and we simply love it – the time together, the challenges, the views, learning and increasing our skills together in beautiful wild settings – I feel incredibly grateful as we snuggle up alongside the Mourne Wall, sipping hot drinks, exhausted but fulfilled, and I make a mental note of the abundant joy I feel right in that second. I look at my 3 boys as they talk about the day and know that these experiences will last them well into adulthood, that the resilience and determination mountains encourage can never be taught in a classroom – hills are the ultimate wild education!
We tackle the final downward slope, by now ready to kick-off our muddy boots and stinky socks and offload our backpacks. A final hop across the stream and we are back at the car park feeling wonderfully weary and ready for a bag of chips by the seaside! A 3-peak hike definitely deserves a little reward I think, don’t you?!
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