Walk up Chimney Rock Mountain via Carr’s Face Quarry
An interesting and exhilarating circular walk to the summit of Chimney Rock Mountain via Carr’s Face Quarry, returning by the Mourne Wall and Crannoge Quarry to Bloody Bridge car park.
Route Start Location: Bloody Bridge car park
|11.21 km||771 m||4 hours|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Activivity Type: Hard Walk
Summits and Places on this Route
Public toilets are available without charge at Bloody Bridge car park. There is also a picnic area with great sea views.
Full range of facilities in Newcastle, including pubs, restaurants and many accommodation options. The Harbour House is located beside the harbour on the way back into Newcastle, BT33 0EX; it offers bar meals, drinks and accommodation T: 028 4372 3445. The Railway Street Café and Brew Bar in Railway Street, BT33 0AL, offers a good variety of dishes in bright, modern surroundings, T: 028 4372 3337 , T: 028 4372 5620. The excellent Brunel’s restaurant in Downs Road, BT33 0AG, offers a range of menus from quick snacks to fine dining. T028 4372 3951.
There are plentiful accommodation options, with a wide range of B&Bs, small family run hotels or, for a touch of luxury, the historic Slieve Donard Hotel
The ascent from Carr’s Face to the summit is mostly unmarked. It also involves a scramble over the rocky slabs of the quarry edged by steep slopes. The Bog of Donard is as soggy and squelchy as its name suggests and gaiters would be a help. The weather is fickle and mist can descend without warning so compass and map are essential and other navigational aids, such as GPS, would give an added level of security.
Parking : BT34 4RL
Bloody Bridge car park, BT33 0LA, about 2 miles outside Newcastle on the road to Kilkeel.
Regular bus service from Newcastle to Kilkeel with a stop at Bloody Bridge run by www.translink.co.uk
The Mourne Rambler service www.translink.co.uk operates in July and August and stops at Bloody Bridge.
The AIMSS (Activities in Mourne Shuttle Service) also known as The Black Sheep Mournes Shuttle operates a pick-up/set-down year-round booking service for walkers and bikers, weekends only in winter. Contact them via https://www.facebook.com/AIMSS2013/ or to book: T: 0751 6412076.
Walk up Chimney Rock Mountain via Carr’s Face Quarry
At 656m, Chimney Rock Mountain comes in at No 9 in the top ten Mourne peaks by height. Its altitude and its proximity to Slieve Donard should ensure its popularity with walkers, but, paradoxically, it is one of the quieter Mourne locations with a footfall that pales into insignificance when compared to its near neighbour. This walk is probably the most challenging of the alternative circular routes to the summit as it involves a steep and tricky ascent via the disused Carr’s Face quarry on the north-eastern slopes of Chimney Rock. However, it is a very interesting route offering a glimpse of the industrial history of the Mournes with the return journey passing Crannoge Quarry. The route would suit reasonably experienced hikers with good navigational skills.
Chimney Rock Mountain via Carr’s Face Quarry Route Details
1 Cross the road from the car park and go through the gate beside the National Trust sign onto the Bloody Bridge track. Pass through a squeeze stile and continue up the track which follows the course of the Bloody Bridge River. About 80m up the track the first of several signs points the way and distance to the Mourne Wall. Soon, a wooden footbridge guides the way across the gurgling Glen Fofanny River on its way to a meeting with the Bloody Bridge River. Nearby, two pipelines carrying water from the Silent Valley intersect the river en route to the thirsty citizens of Belfast. Further ahead Crossone and, behind it, Slieve Donard come into view.
2 After a few metres, cross a step stile and continue up the increasingly rocky path until a sign directs left across the Bloody Bridge River. On the other side of the river, a sign points to the left and the path soon leads to a step stile. Cross the stile and take the path to the left which leads to the Quarry Track. After a few twists and turns, the track follows the course of the river in the direction of the Mourne Wall. In spate conditions, if the river is impassable, keep on the right hand side and cross at the first fording opportunity.
3 The quarry track is wide and fairly flat underfoot with views of Crossone and Millstone Mountain to the right (north), Donard to the north-west and Chimney Rock to the south. The rocky slabs of Carr’s Face Quarry sit below the summit on the northern slopes of Chimney Rock.
4 Ignore the first faint track to the left which seems to lead to Carr’s Face, but in reality fades out halfway up. Instead, continue on the Quarry Track to the next path to the left at Grid Ref IG J 364266. The path leads to the old funicular railway that was used to convey stone from quarry to track. As the path rises, the abandoned artefacts of the quarrying enterprise begin to appear. A glance back down to the Quarry Track illustrates the arduous but scenic journey to work of the hardy stone-men.
5 Take care as you progress up the railway track as some of the decaying sleepers are slippy and conditions underfoot can be quite boggy and unstable. It’s possible to use the rail tracks as a handhold at the risk of looking ungainly. Towards the top of the track several relics of quarrying activity hold on to a rusting existence, their long-departed operatives at eternal peace, commemorated by the very stones they helped extract and shape.
6 A faint path leads from the end of the rail tracks underneath the granite slabs of Chimney Rock and heads at first in the direction of Slievenagarragh and the coast. The beginning of the path, where it skirts the slabs, is the most precarious section of the walk because of the sharp incline of the slopes beneath the quarry slabs. Some stretching may be necessary to gain secure footholds. The path soon disappears as the ground flattens out. Veer gradually to the right until you are moving parallel to the coast in a southerly direction. After about 30m veer further right until you are moving west and upwards towards the summit (Grid Ref IG J 364257). The summit cairn appears just before the rock feature that gives the mountain its name.
7 The views from the summit are excellent. Facing south, a clockwise 360˚ panorama begins with Spence’s Mountain, sweeping round through distant Slieve Foye in the Cooley range, followed by Slieves Binnian, Muck, Lamagan, Meelbeg, Bearnagh, Cove, Slievenaglogh, Corragh, Commedagh and Donard, with Dundrum Bay and the golden sands of Murlough Nature Reserve completing a satisfying canvas.
8 A clear path emerges to the west of the summit making its way gradually downhill to the Mourne Wall. About 400m from the summit, it passes through a series of spectacular granite tors, known locally as The Horsemen. Several of the tors have circular potholes full of water; these have the reputation of holding water even in the driest seasons. The views west and north are again superb. The intervention of a flurry of mist can create a surreal, unearthly atmosphere around the tors.
9 As the path leaves the tors, the Mourne Wall appears to the west and, behind it, a vista of the Central Mourne peaks of Lamagan, Cove and Beg with the tors of Bearnagh lurking behind. The notorious Devil’s Coachroad appears like a livid scar down the side of Beg. To the south, nearby Rocky Mountain and, beyond it, Slieve Binnian dominate the eyeline.
10 The terrain becomes steadily more boggy as the wall gets closer; the area is known as the Bog of Donard and it is well named. If you have them, get the gaiters on well in advance – you’ll be needing them later as well. Pick your way north through the bog, making for the stile at the foot of Slieve Donard.
11 From the stile, take the path heading east towards Crannoge Quarry. This path is very badly eroded largely because of its popularity with walkers – this is one of the main routes to and from the ever-popular Donard. Heavy footfall has led to trampling and destruction of vegetation and ground cover, the degradation exacerbated by ground and surface water. The result is a boggy, rough and rather unattractive track stretching for about 750m until it arrives at the quarry. Newry, Mourne and Down Council and Mourne Heritage Trust are aware of these issues and recommendations for amelioration have been made.
12 On arrival at Crannoge Quarry, cross to the other side of the Bloody Bridge River. Some remnants of quarry workings survive, including a partially intact shed which is handy for a snack break or a respite from the elements. Many of the chunks of discarded granite show signs of the plug and feathers method of splitting rock which involved drilling a line of holes in the rock. Each hole was fitted with two thin steel pieces (feathers) into which an iron plug was inserted. The plugs were then hammered in sequence until the rock split.
13 After leaving Crannoge, rejoin the quarry track and, after passing the junction for Carr’s Face, retrace your steps down the track, cross the stile, ford the river and take the Bloody Bridge track to the car park. The original Bloody Bridge is worth a look for its attractive stonework; it lies about 200m upstream from the present crossing.
Granite quarrying in Mourne
The history of Mourne granite extraction stretches back centuries. A Mourne millstone used in a tidal mill at Nendrum Monastery in the Strangford area dates back to the eighth century. Some of the kerbstones surrounding the 5000-year-old Newgrange Stone Age passage tomb in County Meath are believed to have originated in the Mournes.
In the medieval period, granite was used extensively in the building of castles and churches and from the seventeenth century it was also in demand for gravestones. The eighteenth century saw splendid granite residences and public buildings appearing in County Down and in the early nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church, liberated from years of penal repression, approved the building of large Gothic chapels in the local dioceses.
The nineteenth century saw the greatest expansion of the Mourne granite industry and with it came the opportunity for local subsistence farmers and fishermen to supplement their meagre livelihoods with reliable income. The growth of Belfast spurred a demand for roadways, pavements and new buildings, with County Down the nearest supplier of granite, while the burgeoning wealth of industrial towns and cities in Britain called for improved transport and civic infrastructure. The harbours at Newcastle and Annalong afforded ready access to granite and at the beginning of the 20th century an average of eighteen boatloads of granite sailed to Britain every month from Annalong.
As mechanisation increased in the 20th century, and trade with other stone producing countries opened up, the skills of the stone-men were in declining demand and the Mourne granite industry began a gradual decline.
The Mourne Mountains: the 30 best hikes, hand-picked by a County Down local, by Andrew McCluggage. Knife Edge, 2019. ISBN 978-1-912933-03-7
Walk No 28 in Andrew’s book describes an alternative route to Chimney Rock from Rourke’s Park on Head Road via the Seefins, returning by Spence’s Mountain.
The Mournes Walks by Paddy Dillon. O’Brien Press, Dublin. Updated edition. Revised 2009. ISBN 978-1-84717-761-2
Walk No 14 describes another alternative route to Chimney Rock starting and finishing at Bloody Bridge with a return by the Mourne Coastal Path. However, there are access issues with the final section of the suggested route from Chimney Rock to the coast and it would be unwise to follow the return route at present (January 2021).