Walk up Slieve Muck, Slievenaglogh and Doan
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A circular walk starting and finishing at Spelga Dam, visiting Slieve Muck, Slievenaglogh and Doan, three peaks with some of the finest views in the Mourne range.
Route Start Location: Car park on Slievenaman Road (Grid Ref: IJ 277269)
|15.45 km||1121 m||6 hours|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Activivity Type: Hard Walk
Summits and Places on this Route
The starting point is located in the middle of the Mourne Mountains in a beautiful but desolate landscape. There are two adjacent car parks at the north end of the reservoir, one of which has toilet facilities. Meelmore Lodge is about 3 miles away; its Hare’s Gap Bistro is open every Saturday and Sunday, 8:30am to 6:00pm and daily during Christmas, Easter and summer holidays. It also offers hostel accommodation. http://www.meelmorelodge.co.uk/ For urgent food and drink needs, the small village of Attical, about 4 miles south along the B27, has a Costcutter store, open 8am to 9pm. For other services, Newcastle to the north or Kilkeel to the south, both less than 10 miles away, are the obvious choices, with many pubs, restaurants and accommodation options.
The usual precautions and equipment for a mountain hike should suffice with the addition of gaiters, as there are a few boggy areas. The descent from Slieve Muck is steep and should be tackled with care. Two small rivers need to be crossed in the area between Slievenaglogh and Doan. These could prove impassable in adverse conditions necessitating alternative route planning. The path that descends Slievenaglogh runs close to the cliff edge and extreme care is advised especially in poor visibility.
Ott car park on Slievenaman Rd, BT34 5XL would be the usual parking place, but on busy days like the day of this walk, the main Spelga Dam car parks, BT34 5XL, will usually have spaces but will add about 4 kilometres to the walk. There is also a small car park to the left of Slievenaman Rd just before its junction with the B27 Kilkeel Rd which was used on this walk (Grid Ref: IJ 277269)
The Mourne Rambler service run by www.translink.co.uk operates in July and August and stops at Ott car park and Spelga. No bus service at other times. The Black Sheep Mournes Hiker/Biker Uplift, formerly known as AIMSS (Activities in Mourne Shuttle Service), operates a flexible all-year, seven days a week service for walkers and bikers (but weekends only in winter). The idea is that you park at your intended finish point; you are then shuttled to your preferred start point from where you walk back to your vehicle. Costs are between £3 and £5 per person. Contact them via https://www.facebook.com/AIMSS2013/ or to book: T: 0751 6412076
Walk up Slieve Muck, Slievenaglogh and Doan
This is a strenuous walk climbing to the summits of Slieve Muck (673m), Slievenaglogh (445m) and Doan (593m). It also involves crossing two small rivers, the reward being a visit to an attractive waterfall on the Shannagh River. Some of the walk covers very tough, unpredictable terrain. However, the views make the walk worthwhile. The spectacular clifftop walk overlooking the Silent Valley reservoir on the descent from Slievenaglogh is a particular highlight.
Walk up Slieve Muck, Slievenaglogh and Doan Route Details
1 Cross the stile to the left of the small car park at IJ 277269. Follow a course roughly east in the direction of the Mourne Wall which you will be unable to see at this stage. After just over a kilometre, you should have the wall in clear view as you approach a rocky outcrop on the slopes of Carn Mountain.
If you park at Ott car park, cross the stile and take the path to the Mourne Wall, veering right at the first fork in the track. On reaching the wall, turn right and follow the course of the wall to Carn Mountain and on to Slieve Muck.
2 Stick by the wall as it makes its gradual ascent towards Slieve Muck. It’s a fairly easy walk of about a kilometre to reach the summit from where, on a good day, the views are unrivalled.
3 The descent from Slieve Muck banishes any false sense of comfort inspired by the undemanding ascent. Relying on the wall to guide the way is not recommended as it is interrupted by a series of crags. Instead, move well over to the right of the wall and use a grassy gully to begin the drop down to the Banns Road, which appears at the foot of Muck running roughly south to north in the direction of Lough Shannagh. With no clear path as a guide, care is needed on the steep and often tricky descent. However, it’s very pretty with many of the Mourne wildflowers favouring its mainly southerly aspect.
4 Towards the end of the descent you can return close to the wall to avoid any boggy areas as the ground flattens out and a stony path delivers you to the stile on Banns Road.
5 The prospect of Slievenaglogh from Slieve Muck is quite daunting, but it’s not as tough as it looks. Although there is no definite path, there are plenty of suitably sited rocks to assist progress with footholds close to the wall for a large part of the steep ascent.
6 Cross the stile at the top of the wall, turn left and walk a few metres to the underwhelming cairn marking the summit of Slievenaglogh. It’s time for a photo or two and an appreciation of the grandeur of Binnian and Wee Binnian as they rise magisterially from the far shore of the reservoir.
7 Look out for a faint path that follows a north-northeast course roughly parallel to the Silent Valley. This path has an unfortunate tendency to vanish, then reappear, but if you lose sight of it, just keep the reservoir on your right and head in the direction of Ben Crom Mountain and Ben Crom Reservoir.
8 The path soon turns slightly to the east towards the edge of the cliffs overhanging the Silent Valley. Keep on the lookout for a large stone perched near the cliff edge (Grid Ref IJ 300237) which is a great vantage point from which to contemplate the beauty of the valley.
9 The route proceeds on a downward course towards the Miner’s Hole River gorge. The ground conditions become increasingly rough with thick heather concealing some well hidden holes. The Miner’s Hole River soon comes into view along with the Shannagh River further ahead. Crossing the river should not be problematical unless it is in full flow. There are several fairly convenient spots with well-placed stepping stones. If in doubt, seek out the bank at Grid Ref IJ 302243 which is one of the easier points to attempt a crossing. Once across, the bank is quite steep and may require a bit of scrambling to make progress.
10 Once back on level terrain, make your way over to the lower reaches of the Shannagh River but watch out for random boggy patches. Walk up the near bank of the river over quite rough ground, made worse by recent fire damage, for about 600m until you reach the waterfall (Grid Ref IJ 300249). Note the surrounding rock formations which look like escapees from the Giant’s Causeway. Unfortunately, the dry weather conditions had reduced the flow to a trickle on the day of this walk.
11 As the conical peak of Doan makes an appearance above the waterfall, stay on the left bank of the Shannagh for another 200m as the route gains height, before fording the river and making for Doan over rough ground until reaching a path that skirts the southern slopes of the mountain and advances towards Lough Shannagh. As the track nears the lough, head north-west, trudging over undulating terrain to meet the path that approaches Doan from the north. Doan is one of the more popular peaks in the Mourne range and you are likely to meet others on this path which is well-trodden and easily negotiated.
12 It’s not difficult to understand why just about everyone who climbs Doan seems to rank it as one of their favourite peaks. It’s not too challenging – in fact it’s one of the easiest climbs in the Mournes; there are lots of sheltered spots for a rest and a bite to eat and the views are exceptional with a good proportion of the major Mourne peaks visible, as well as both Silent Valley and Lough Shannagh to add diversity.
13 After the straightforward descent from Doan, carry on through a series of peat hags to meet a track that overlooks Lough Shannagh and continues north-west to the col between Slieve Loughshannagh and Carn Mountain. If you are still fresh and want to bag an extra peak, head north-west to the col between Meelbeg and Slieve Loughshannagh and reach the same destination via the summit of Slieve Loughshannagh.
14 Cross the stile at the col and walk west for a few metres to pick up a peaty track that descends gradually for 1.5km to Ott car park. The track slowly but surely becomes more delineated and eventually transforms into a stony path that traces a very attractive route offering excellent views to the north over Fofanny Dam, Lough Island Reavy and distant Slieve Croob.
15 If you managed to get parked at Ott car park, you’re ready for the off. If not, a short walk awaits along Slievenaman Road with pleasant views of Spelga Dam.
Spelga Dam and Electric Brae (Magic Road)
The building of Spelga Dam began in 1953 with the massive project completed by John Laing & Son Ltd in 1957. Sitting at over 1,200 feet above sea level, the reservoir supplies the Portadown and Banbridge areas with their water needs. A peculiar feature near the dam appears to defy Newton’s law of gravity. The Electric Brae is a hill at which a parked car with its handbrake off appears to run backwards uphill. To experience this phenomenon, drive past the dam wall on the road towards Hilltown and start to descend the steep hill. Just beyond a house there is a little road to the left leading towards the dam (Grid Ref IJ 275265). Park in front of the gates at the end of this road, put your car in neutral with the hand brake off and see what happens.