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Walk up Slieve Commedagh via Glen River

By Derek Flack   

on June 11, 2020    5/5 (2)

Posted as a walk in – Europe, Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland

Walk up Slieve Commedagh via Glen River

Further Details

Route Summary:

A circular walk up the Glen River valley to the second highest peak in the Mourne range, returning via its eastern slopes, Shan Slieve and the Slievenamaddy Ridge.

This walk includes the Hewitt of Slieve Commedagh [Sliabh Coimheideach]

Route Start Location: Donard car park, Newcastle

8.99 km 768 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


Full range of facilities in Newcastle, including pubs, restaurants and many accommodation options. The nearest café to the car park is Niki’s Kitchen Café https://www.facebook.com/NikisKitchenCafe/ and if you fancy a beer, Hugh McCann’s https://www.hughmccanns.com/ or The Anchor Bar https://www.anchorbar.co.uk/ are both within a few metres of the car park. The excellent Brunel’s restaurant https://www.brunelsrestaurant.co.uk/ offers a range of menus from quick snacks to fine dining. 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 https://www.hastingshotels.com/slieve-donard-resort-and-spa/


The usual precautions and equipment for a mountain hike should suffice. The steep, grassy descent from Commedagh can pose minor problems as there is no definite track and the route passes close to some steep cliffs. Not a trek to be attempted in poor visibility.

Remember that we cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent. Read up on Mountain Safety , Navigation and what equipment you’ll need.

Parking : BT33 0HL

Donard car park, BT33 0HL. A large, free car park with overspill parking when necessary.

Public Transport:

Regular bus service from Belfast to Newcastle run by www.translink.co.uk

Traveline for UK Public Transport

Recommended Maps


Walk up Slieve Commedagh via Glen River Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download

Download the GPX File

Walk up Slieve Commedagh via Glen River

This is a moderately strenuous walk to Slieve Commedagh, which, at 767m, is the second highest peak in the Mournes. The walk returns via Shan Slieve (671m) and Slievenamaddy (450m) which along with Slievenabrock and Slieve Corragh make up the Commedagh massif. The approach via the Glen River can be busy at weekends as it is also used by many of those heading for its big sister, Slieve Donard. However, the remainder of the walk is usually sparsely populated, with Shan Slieve and Slievenamaddy in particular offering splendid isolation.

Slieve Commedagh via Glen River Route Details

1 From the south side of the car park, head towards the mountains passing round two metal vehicle barriers onto a gravel path with parkland and picnic tables on the right. The path narrows after about 200m, then widens as it enters deciduous woodland beside the attractive Glen River. A150m walk takes you to Donard Bridge.

Walk up Slieve Commedagh via Glen River

2 Cross the bridge before turning right and following the course of the river on your right. The path for the next 600m is a mixture of exposed tree roots, rocks and a short set of steps. This is probably the most challenging surface you will experience on the walk. However, it is fairly easily managed, although care is advised in wet weather. When you reach a large bridge, cross it, turn left and carry on uphill with the river now on your left.

3 The path makes its way through an area of cleared forestry with tree roots and rocks underfoot. Some of the timber waste has been used to delineate the path as it gradually enters mature forestry before reaching another bridge after about 500m. An adjacent information board describes the Ice House and outlines the history of the Annesley demesne.  About 250m further, keeping the river to your left, you’ll see the ice house on the far bank. Ice houses were the forerunners of the fridge/freezer, being used to store ice gathered from the river. This beautifully sited example was built in the 1840s by the Annesley family and restored by the National Trust in 1996.

4 About 750m further, the landscape opens out, leaving the trees behind as the col between Commedagh and Donard appears ahead. A look over the shoulder will reveal outstanding Irish Sea views.

5 Another 1.5km of gradual, but relentless, upward travel on the well maintained paved path takes you to the stile on the Mourne Wall at the point where it crosses the saddle between Donard and Commedagh.

6 The walk up Commedagh is a bit of a slog with a dispiriting false summit to overcome, but the views all round compensate for the effort. Slieves Beg, Cove and Lamagan dominate the southern vista, while to the north-east the splendid south County Down coastline unfolds.

7 The shelter at the top of Commedagh comes as a welcome sight and serves as an ideal spot for rest, recuperation and a bite to eat. It’s usually unoccupied as Commedagh is nowhere near as popular a venue as its more illustrious neighbour, Donard. Only two other peaks, Donard and Meelmore, are graced with shelters.

8 Cross the stile just past the shelter and walk in a north-easterly direction for about 250m until you reach the summit cairn. Then head north, taking care as you approach the cliff edge and the corrie known as the Pot of Pulgarve. Looking west, the peaks of Slievenaglogh, Bearnagh and Meelmore capture the eye.

9 Carry on northwards until you arrive at the summit cairn of Shan Slieve (683m), taking time to enjoy the panoramic views.

10 Take a north-easterly course on a faint path towards Slievenamaddy Ridge. The vistas on the descent are impressive, with Slieve Croob to the north-west, the extensive dunes of Murlough Nature Reserve to the north-east and Slieve Donard to the south.

11 The track disappears and reappears several times as you make your way towards the ridge and the many sheep tracks masquerading as paths can make for confusion. However, just continue north-east making for the right of the crest of Slievenamaddy Ridge. Then follow the bend of the ridge to the right taking an east bearing towards the line of rather scruffy conifers. When you are about 400m from the trees look out for a path on your left and follow it north-east, roughly parallel to the line of trees. Passing the end of the tree line, look out for a small rocky outcrop which marks the start of a gully (Grid Ref J359296) which descends steeply towards Donard Forest below.

12 At the foot of the gully, an ageing stile leads into the forest (Grid Ref J362296). Cross the stile, and almost immediately turn right through a gap in fencing. Head east through the trees for 100m, then turn left and continue for another 100m taking care on what is a mountain bikers’ track until you meet a patchy stone wall. Turn right and after a few metres you should meet the path you followed at the beginning of the walk at a point just downstream of the ice house.

13 Unless you wish to cross the river and have a closer look at the ice house, turn left and follow the obvious route back to Donard car park and the attractive seaside resort of Newcastle (where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea).

Supplementary Information


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

Excellent up-to-date collection of varied walks. One of its key features is the strategy of reproducing OS maps and relating the route descriptions to numbered waypoints on the maps. This strategy provides a critical failsafe in case of any confusion. The production values are superb for a book that fits your pocket, with fabulous colour photographs illustrating the walk locations. The walk described here is similar to Walk No 3 in the book except for the final part of the return journey

The Mourne Wall

The Mourne Wall was constructed by the Belfast Water Commissioners to enclose the 9,000 acres of land forming the catchment area of the Silent Valley Reservoir. The wall is 22 miles long and took 18 years to build starting in 1904. It crosses 15 mountains and is constructed entirely of granite from local Mourne quarries using traditional dry stone wall techniques.

Derek lives in Ballynahinch, County Down. He is a frequent visitor to the nearby Mourne Mountains and often travels further afield throughout Ireland in search of superior walking venues with a preference for quiet, unspoilt areas. He is a volunteer ranger with Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland and audits several walks listed on WalkNI.

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