I knew we were in for a complete treat the minute I rounded the bend in the road towards Newcastle. It was 7.15am on 8th August and the summit of Slieve Donard was visible – an unusual sight in the Mournes as its head is usually hidden in the clouds.
By the time all members of the Wild Women Challenge – Slieve Donard group had arrived at 8am the day had already grown considerably warm and the sun shone brightly in the clear blue sky.
Following brief introductions and the plan for the day ahead, with much excitement we headed off up through Donard Wood, savouring the shelter amid the trees and gearing up for the long slog upwards to the highest summit in Northern Ireland.
Despite not knowing one another well the chat began to flow easily and as we picked out our way upwards over tree roots and at points over boulders in the Glen River it soon became apparent what a super group of women I was hiking with. I knew it was going to be a tough climb due to the increasing temperature of the day and the complete lack of breeze and was grateful for such an easy-going and enthusiastic bunch of women – their energy would of course prove essential to keep the motivation levels high for the push needed from the saddle at the Mourne Wall to reach the summit.
We made sure to take lots of breaks along the route – to enjoy the views, keep hydrated, apply sun cream and simply sit back and savour that time outdoors.
A decent lunch break at the saddle was well-earned and much appreciated. We sat awhile watching the world go by – looking at the far-stretching vista down the mountainside and out towards Murlough Bay. None of us could quite believe what a perfect day it was and were grateful to be able to kick back for half an hour and eat our lunch, refuelling for the final climb alongside the wall to the peak.
There’s no denying it was tough-going. We were absolutely roasting hot and our bodies weary from the draining heat, but not once did the enthusiasm waver; the positivity was so encouraging and uplifting and of course everyone reached the top feeling completely elated! Here we were once again able to rest in the sunshine and simply enjoy the stunning views – a rarity on top of Donard where the norm tends to be a quick 5-minute pause in strong winds before beginning the descent.
Once we were ready to leave we took our time on the steep downward section towards the saddle and marvelled at the panoramic views across the Mourne Mountain range – impressive doesn’t even begin to sum up that scenery!
On the journey from the saddle back to the car we met quite a number of other walkers and were glad we had made an early start to beat the rush. It definitely pays off to set the alarm clock a little earlier and just get out into the hills because on our climb up we had met very few people along the way which is always a nice experience.
Once back in the woods we found the perfect spot to kick-off our boots and sweaty socks and go for a paddle. Sitting alongside the little, rushing waterfall with our feet submerged in the cool, clear pool we were fully able to appreciate what an incredible day we had experienced – it truly was idyllic!
The next Wild Women Wander takes place on 29th August 2020 – these walks are suitable for beginners to hiking in the mountains and those wanting to enjoy walking with a group. Come along and enjoy a leisurely hike, meet like-minded people and enjoy beautiful scenery. Tickets available below.