Northern Ireland is a spectacular place. Outside of Belfast, there’s lush green countryside, rolling hills and breathtaking coast. The recent visit I did with my friends was to the Mourne Mountains where we took on the highest peak, Slieve Donard, at 850 metres.
On a bright and clear Saturday morning we headed out of Belfast passing through remote villages and deep green countryside. After about an hour’s drive we arrived at the seaside town of Newcastle – not to be confused with the city by the same name in the North-East of England – then began our journey from the car park.
We trekked up a rocky path that cut through open grassland with rich vegetation. A boulder-strewn river wound its way alongside us and provided a natural water slide for a number of day trippers in wetsuits. Soon, we were about halfway up when the path steepened and the mountains grew in stature.
And that meant one thing…
…My fear of heights kicked in!
On previous mountain explorations nerves had always gotten the better of me. But I was determined for this not to be the case this time. My friends took it in turns to drop back and motivate me to keep going as I tailed off the pace.
As we approached the Mourne Wall – which runs the entire length of the range – we noted the jet black surfaces that occasionally appeared in the side of the mountains. The tin huts dotted to the side of the track confirmed this had once been an area for slate mining.
Around a final corner, and then the final ascent to Slieve Donard presented itself: three hundred metres or so of awesome steepness! We met a man who said it would take us no more than thirty minutes. Secretly, I knew that would mean an hour for me.
Previously, I’d have taken on such a feat by stopping every so often, shutting my eyes and re-centering myself before taking on the next stretch. I’d repeat this as often as I needed. This time I had a few new tactics to battle the heights: I’d count fifty steps then stop for a bit; I’d zigzag up the mountainside instead of going straight up as it was less strenuous on my legs; and instead of melting down as before, I’d deliberately soak in the countryside to absorb it’s calming beauty. Plus, I made full use of the wall by holding onto it to help me climb as I went – making use of whatever is available is important to getting the job done. And my mates did a cracking job of keeping me going with banter and words of encouragement.
My mates waited for me thirty metres from the peak, so that we arrived together. The clouds suddenly formed around us like a thousand misty ghosts come to greet us. We took a few photos, then hastened our exit as conditions became more dense.
The descent was the most enjoyable I’ve had on a mountain. The first section required careful navigation down rock steps. At times my mind went into a vortex where the greens and the greys swirled and merged into one. Once this tricky part was completed, we trod a well used path, skipping over streams and through boggy sections. Before entering the forest path that led back into the town, I took in my surroundings: the powder blue sky had now reappeared; the mountains formed a horseshoe valley that towered over us, cascading waterfalls giving this place a more majestic quality; the chattering river snaking its way down the emerald hillsides. And all this abundant beauty overlooking the town and the Irish Sea below.
Heaven is a place on Earth!
And so was this afterwards…
Thanks for dropping by and reading this. Please feel free to leave a comment – they’re always appreciated. I hope you all have a great weekend filled with adventure 😊