Slieve Donard from Bloody Bridge
Area: The Mourne Mountains.
Distance: 3.2 miles (one way) linear.
Map: Sheet 29 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series.
Nearest big town to start:
Facilities: Car park, toilets and picnic facilities are available in Bloody Bridge Car park at the start of the walk. Refreshments available in Newcastle.
Terrain: This walk is on rough forest and mountain tracks which can be steep in places.
Suitability: A strenuous walk suitable for those with a high level of fitness.
Walk description: A lesser-known route up Slieve Donard in the Mournes, at 850m (2,789 ft), Northern Ireland's highest point, this medium-distance walk follows the Bloody Bridge River.
From Newcastle, head south towards Kilkeel; after 1.86 miles, look out for Bloody Bridge car park on the left, the starting point for this walk. Here, you're right on the Irish Sea coast so the route's fantastic views start before you've even begun walking. There's a brand new sculpture by artist Ralf Sander here too. See if you can spot the hidden smuggler's head, inspired by the illegal activity rife in the Mournes in the 19th century. From the car park, cross the main A2 road to reach a gate. Pass through and follow the path on the right hand side of Bloody Bridge River where you will pass the attractive stonework of the original Bloody Bridge - the scene of a massacre of prisoners being escorted from Newry to Newcastle during the 1641 rebellion.
After 750m the path narrows and crosses a wooden footbridge at the meeting of the Bloody Bridge and Glen Fofanny Rivers before (in 50m) reaching a stile. Cross the
stile and continue upstream; after 400m look for an obvious slab of rock inclining towards a narrow section of river - several conveniently placed boulders make this an easy crossing point. Continue upstream along the opposite bank, following the path above the river's course, as it twists back on itself along a broad track where you can enjoy impressive views across the valley. Walk on for 30m before taking a sharp right onto a narrower track which zig-zags uphill to reach an old quarry track. From a vantage point above the quarry the line of a disused railway leading to Carr's Face on the slopes of Chimney Rock Mountain can be seen. Continue beyond the quarry where the path will meet the Mourne Wall at 750m. From here Slieve Donard can be reached by following the Mourne Wall uphill for 1km to the tower on the mountain summit. On a clear day you'll be rewarded with a superb panorama, on a clear day taking in much of the north, the east coast, the Isle of Man and beyond. Return to the car park via the same route.
Responsible walking: Please remember to practice the principles of 'Leave No Trace' when enjoying the outdoors in order to minimise your impact on the environment.
For more information, visit leavenotraceireland.org.
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