Eagle Mountain Western Mournes Circular Walk
A looped walk over several of the western Mourne Mountains, Pierce’s Castle (465m), Shanlieve (626m), Eagle Mountain (638m), Slievemoughanmore (559m) and Rocky Mountain (405m). The route entails a challenging hike over Castle Bog between Pierce’s Castle and Shanlieve.
Route Start Location: Leitrim Lodge Car Park
|13.65 km||1007 m|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Activivity Type: Hard Walk
Summits and Places on this Route
The attractive seaside town of Rostrevor is 5 miles away with several cafés and restaurants including The Old School House Bistro and T: +44 28 4173 8211 and Synge and Byrne in nearby Kilbroney Forest Park T: +44 28 4173 7705.
This is a strenuous walk involving steep ascents and some tricky terrain. The route between Pierce’s Castle and Shanlieve traverses Castle Bog, a wet, soggy stretch of about 500m. Gaiters are essential for comfortable onward progress. There is also a small, very boggy area in the col between Eagle Mountain and Slievemoughanmore. The descent from Slievemoughanmore is steep and can be slippy in parts. There are several sections without paths and navigation can be challenging. This is not a walk for beginners or those of less than average fitness levels.
Parking : BT34 4RL
Leitrim Lodge Car Park, BT34 5XX. A spacious car park with picnic tables, waste bins and information panels but no other facilities.
Public transport is not feasible. The Black Sheep Mournes Hiker/Biker Uplift, formerly known as AIMSS (Activities in Mourne Shuttle Service), operates a flexible year round service for walkers and cyclists, weekends only in winter, mainly in the eastern Mournes. However, it may be possible to arrange a drop-off/pick-up in the western Mournes. Contact them via https://facebook.com/AIMSS2013/ or to book: T: 0751 6412076
Eagle Mountain Western Mournes Circular Walk
This is a superb walk in some of the quietest and least explored parts of the Mournes. Outstanding views greet the walker at every turn, the highlight being the summit of Eagle Mountain, from which it is possible to view most of the peaks in the Mourne range. Indeed it is hard to think of any of the Mourne Mountains that do not make an appearance at some point along this route. The ascent of Shanlieve is tough and comes after an energy-sapping encounter with Castle Bog, but the determined walker is rewarded by the lavish views offered by Shanlieve and Eagle Mountain, the two highest peaks of the western Mournes. After Slievemoughanmore the walk continues over rough, flattish ground, crossing the Rowan Tree River before the ascent of Rocky Mountain and the return to Leitrim Lodge.
Eagle Mountain Route Description
1 Leave the car park through the gate at its south-eastern end and take the obvious path towards the mountains. Ignore the offshoot to the right after about 200m and follow the path as it veers left making its way round the foot of Rocky Mountain and then begins to gain height with the surrounding peaks gradually coming into view. After about 2.5kms, as the ground flattens out, turn left at a junction.
2 Continue on this path for a further 300m before turning left and heading straight ahead for Pearce’s Castle. The views from the rocky summit are excellent, the high eastern peaks rising in the distance above their closer western cousins. In the far south, the Cooley Mountains of County Louth catch the eye while Slieve Gullion and Camlough Mountain dominate the view to the far south-west.
3 Leave the summit by the same path that brought you there. As the path levels, ignore a track that leads south-east. Instead, take the next path on the left heading south. The path dissects a bog but comes to an end in less than a kilometre. It’s time to don the gaiters unless you’re a fan of the bogwater foot bath. The going gets increasingly soggy and sinky and keeping dry below the knees is an art that requires deft manoeuvres. However, it is possible, if difficult, to remain dry when adorned with gaiters. Make for the fence which you should be able to see as you make progress across the bog.
4 Head slowly and carefully along the fence towards Shanlieve. The ground is still very marshy and improves only a little as you reach a stone wall. Follow the wall as it leads up the slopes of Shanlieve. There is a fairly clear track which sticks close to the wall except for a few deviations to avoid awkward stretches. The steep climb is mitigated by the dryer conditions underfoot as upward progress is achieved; the views are also increasingly expansive as height is gained with Hen Mountain and distant Slieve Croob to the north, a glimpse of Carlingford Lough emerging to the south-west, while further west, Slieve Gullion commands the horizon.
5 As the wall levels off and turns to the left, cross over and walk the few metres to the summit cairn of Shanlieve. The vistas north and east reveal several Mourne peaks with Binnian prominent, while looking south-west, Slieve Martin leads the eye to the distant Cooleys with County Louth high point, Slieve Foye displaying its rugged summit. Not far away towards the north-east, the summit cairn of Eagle Mountain is just about discernible. If preferred, you can observe the cairn without climbing the wall and proceed straight towards Eagle Mountain on the left side of the wall.
6 It’s a straightforward amble from Shanlieve to Eagle Mountain whichever side of the wall you choose. If walking on the left of the wall, a stile leads you to Eagle’s summit. Eagle is a peak that appeals to those who appreciate a sense of solitude, far from the madding crowd of charity walkers, selfie seekers and challenge chasers. It has that unique atmosphere shared by those slightly out of the way places that get little publicity and live contentedly in the shadow of their more illustrious neighbours. The prospect from the summit is unrivalled with the majority of the loftier peaks on view.
7 The journey from Eagle to Slievemoughanmore is superb from a scenic perspective and relatively comfortable from a walking standpoint in spite of its steepness. A faint path meanders down towards the col snaking between boulders and clumps of heather. Cross the stile on the left at the junction of walls.
8 After arriving at the well-named Windy Gap, a short boggy stretch beside the wall introduces Slievemoughanmore, so it’s advisable to keep the gaiters on for the moment. The ascent of Slievemoughanmore should be reasonably straightforward with a clear path leading the way close to the wall. The slopes are covered in boulders and rocky outcrops and it’s a popular spot for the sheep who seem completely unbothered by walkers.
9 As the gradient levels off take a left turn to seek out the two cairns of the summit. After about 200m, the smaller of the cairns should appear (Grid Ref IG J 2941 24070). It’s quite easy to miss as it’s perched on top of a rocky outcrop. The larger summit cairn is visible a few metres to the north-east and is worth a closer look for the magnificent views it offers.
10 Take care on the descent of Slievemoughanmore as it is steep and can be slippy. When you reach the bottom cross over the Rowan Tree River and turn left along a faint path running parallel to the river. Keep the river on your left as you negotiate the boggy path which gradually peters out and disappears. Continue through the rough grassy terrain always within sight, or hearing, of the river. After about a kilometre you reach a clear track.
11 You are now on the Mourne Way, a linear 42km walk from Newcastle to Rostrevor . Continue on the Way for a further kilometre or so before leaving it for a faint grassy track on the left (Grid Ref IG J 246256). This turning is easy to miss and if you find that the path is veering north, you’ve missed it. However, if you have passed the turn-off (as I did on this walk), just walk west towards the river and make your way upstream until you find a suitable crossing place.
12 After crossing the river, join an indistinct path through the grass which takes you downstream to a footbridge over the Rocky River. Head for the col between Tornamrock on the left and Rocky Mountain on the right. As the path passes the rocky ridge on Tornamrock, look out for a faint path on your right. Viewed from above, the path up Rocky is a continuation of its course from the top of Tornamrock.
13 The climb to the summit of Rocky Mountain is straightforward and quite gentle. This is one of three identically named mountains in the Mourne range; this one occupies the middle ground in terms of position and height. The summit vistas are excellent with the high Mournes to the north, the hills rolling down to Carlingford Lough to the south and Slieve Gullion in the distance to the west.
14 The descent from Rocky Mountain is grassy and smooth and soon joins the path leading back to Leitrim Lodge car park.