By Paddy Higgins
My name is Patrick Higgins. I’m 48 and live in Warrenpoint, Co.Down. My main hobbies are hiking/photography, watching football (lifelong Tottenham Hotspur fan) and playing snooker.
I consider myself very fortunate to live so close to the Mournes and I try to get into the mountains at least once a week for a hike. Picking my favourite trek from the countless options the Mournes provide is tricky, but I’m going to go with the walk to the summit of Slieve Bearnagh via Hare’s Gap.
My starting point is the car park on the Trassey Road. After a short walk up the hill and through Clonachullion Forest you soon see Slieve Meelmore and the Tors of Slieve Bearnagh behind it. Follow the Trassey Track up along the Trassey River and head for Hare’s Gap (the saddle between Slieve Bearnagh & Slievenaglogh. There are several different paths to the top of Hare’s Gap but my preferred path is straight up the middle.
Once you pass through the gate (or climb over the stile) at the top you treated to your first fantastic views of the Mournes. The granite steps to your right are the start of your trek to the top of Bearnagh. Go up the steps and follow the path on up. The path will take you away from the Mourne Wall for a short time but then takes you back closer to the wall which you can then follow all the way to the top.
When you reach the North Tor of Bearnagh the path will again lead you away from the Mourne Wall for a short stint and you will get your first proper views of the Summit Tor. Keep on the path which will take you back to the wall and then follow the wall again until you arrive at the Summit.
After a little exploration and a cuppa at the top you can then continue to follow the wall down the western face of Bearnagh and get back to the Trassey Track via the Bearnagh Slabs, but I prefer to go back the way I came as it offers much better panoramic views of the Mournes.
I would recommend trying Slieve Bearnagh in the spring/summer if it’s your first attempt as it is a strenuous enough climb and the winter conditions (strong wind/snow/ice) will only add to the difficulty. The view of the Mournes from Hare’s Gap is stunning in itself so even if you think the summit of Bearnagh is beyond you, you will still have been treated to lots of beautiful views. The trek itself usually takes me about 4/5hrs, depending on the weather.
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