Over the Christmas holidays, one of our club members Niall Twamley went walking to Slieve Gullion in County Armagh.
It was a very quick trip up the M1 from Dublin to the border and from there it was only another 10 minutes to the car park of the Slieve Gullion Forest Park in the south of County Armagh. The park was very well appointed – lots of parking, a restaurant/coffee shop, a basketball court, a big playground and a tourist information booth with lots of literature and maps!
On went the boots and off we went! The route we took was mostly forest tracks and minor roads – the kind barely wide enough for a single car. We started through a fairy forest – perfect for curious young minds – fairy doors on trees and the like with loads of potential photo opportunities. This took us on to the track which lead higher up the mountain.
The weather was clear and the views got better the higher we went – thankfully there weren’t that many cars. The landscape changed from rolling countryside into something a bit more rugged:
There is a circular trail starting and ending at the Forest Park which goes over the mountain summit and down again – maps are available in the Forest Park or PDFs can be downloaded from the WalkNI website. We would only have time to sample a portion of the total route, so in hindsight, it might have been better to have started at the higher car park, but the start of the route was still very rewarding.
The way up to the South Cairn was by way of a well-trodden path – and for a lot of it a roughly paved path with stone steps up towards the summit. Midway up, there wa a small shelter underneath the path as it went higher – a nice spot to catch a breath, especially if the weather was detiorating!
As we got higher, we met a couple of groups on the way up and down – it seemed to be a popular spot for the locals. A group of what looked like scouts told us to be careful of the wind at the top – I wasnt sure what to expect, but we found out soon enough. It soon became quite murky which brought the Lord of the Rinfs movies to mind – I expected an orc to jump out at me any minute!
The stone steps lead higher towards the South Cairn. Once we got there, it had quite an otherworldly look. The warning from the scouts was right – the wind was very strong! It was hard to stand up at the top – we lingered a few minutes at the top to take some photos and to fortify ourselves with some chocolate for the trip down.
The walk down was a lot more challenging than the walk up – the steps were greasy in places and high, so we had to be careful. As we got further down, the skies cleared and we had a good view out over the countryside again. as we traced our steps back towards the road and back to the carpark. It was an enjoyable day out which was finished off with a trip to Sainsbury’s in Newry, only a short drive away. The route was just over 10 km.
I would definitely return to Slieve Gullion in the future to traverse the summit and to enjoy the varied landscapes as I’m sure it would be a different experience on a sunny Summer’s day. It is also within striking distance of Carlingford and the hills of the Cooley Peninsula, both of which are well worth a visit too!
Based on my own experience, boots were a must for the walk with the usual items we’re advised to take with us on Cork Backpackers club walks! More information about Slieve Gullion is available on the WalkNI website including downloadable PDF guides.