Walk up Slievelamagan and Slieve Binnian
A moderately strenuous walk traversing two of the higher Mourne peaks, Slievelamagan (704m) and Slieve Binnian (747m). There is also an opportunity to visit two caves and view several of the area’s natural and manmade water features.
Route Start Location: Carrick Little car park
|16.42 km||1317 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
Toilet facilities for customers of Carrick Cottage Café; pubs and shops in Annalong.
Generally well-defined paths with some steep gradients. Take extra care on the descents from Slievelamagan and Binnian. It is not advisable to explore the caves unaccompanied.
Carrick Little car park BT34 4RW at the junction of Head Road and Oldtown Road near Annalong. In good weather, at weekends and public holidays, the car park can fill up quickly and an early start is advised. Two charged car parks are available further up Oldtown Road. Limited on-road parking is possible, with appropriate consideration for the local community.
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. 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 Slievelamagan and Slieve Binnian
This exhilarating walk affords many superb views of the Mournes with both summits offering wonderful panoramas encompassing most of the higher peaks and extending far into the surrounding countryside. Percy Bysshe and Cove caves are both accessible. Although Cove is the more challenging of the pair, it has an exit route which would appeal to experienced climbers
Walk up Slievelamagan and Slieve Binnian Route Details
1 Carrick Little car park leads seamlessly to Oldtown Road, widely known at this point as Carrick Little track. Continuing up the road, on the left you will pass the excellent Carrick Cottage Café, a couple of charged car parks, a campsite and some glamping pods. About 1km from the car park, a gate leads on to the Annalong Valley, the track narrowing and becoming more rocky with views of the mountains emerging on either side. Carry on straight up the track for 2.5km, negotiating several small streams, passing Annalong Forest and ignoring any paths on your right.
2 Look out for a rocky outcrop with a very faint track leading towards it at J 33050 24851. Follow the track and climb up the footholds through the rocks to reach a point on the right which marks the entrance to Percy Bysshe Cave. It’s a tight squeeze, but worth a look. The cave is named after the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, but there is no evidence that he ever visited the area, let alone the cave, although he did visit Ireland in 1812.
3 Carry on up the short, rocky slope and emerge onto level ground from where it’s a short stroll west to Blue Lough, which nestles in the shade of Slievelamagan. From Blue Lough, retrace your steps in a north-easterly direction to meet a path which comes from the base of Slievelamagan. Head south-east for a short distance before turning left and joining a track that leads north. There are several intersecting paths in this area which can be confusing, but as you make your way past the Lamagan slabs, Lower Cove Mountain and Cove Cave will be visible. In the distance, Slieve Donard rises majestically to the north-east, separated from Cove by the Annalong Valley.
4 From Percy Bysshe to Cove Cave is about 3km. Cove is a tougher proposition than Percy Bysshe, but can be entered with a stretch up a near vertical segment of rock about a metre high. Despite the spacious entrance, the cave is quite small inside. It is rough and boulder-strewn and at its rear is a negotiable gap that leads to a plateau above the cave. For further information on exploring the Cove and Percy Bysshe caves, check out this awesome video https://vimeo.com/39591252 featuring the formidable, Everest-conquering Newryman Terence “Banjo” Bannon.
5 From the cave, make your way down the slope to rejoin the path. After a few metres it veers left towards Binnian before snaking back to the north towards the gap between Lower Cove and Lamagan. Continue through the gap for about 1.5km passing Cove Lough to the east and skirting Lamagan’s slopes to the west until a gradually climb delivers you to the well-defined path towards Lamagan’s summit.
6 The path soon becomes quite indistinct and can be difficult to follow, but just keep going upwards and the 704m summit cairn will inevitably appear. Views of the Mournes to the west gladden the eye as altitude is gained, Bearnagh impressing with its rocky tors, while, to the east, Donard and Chimney Rocky Mountain dominate the skyline.
7 Take in the views to the south and east before making the descent which will require full concentration. The map shows a track, but most walkers would agree that the best you can expect is an interlocking network of sheep tracks wending their way through boulders and heather. The best advice is to take a visible bearing to the crossover of tracks at the col between Lamagan and Binnian and try to maintain as straight a line as possible towards that point.
8 From the col, it’s a straightforward, but pretty tough, slog up Binnian. Try to keep to the designated path, which is step and rocky, and avoid seductive, but unsuitable, environmentally destructive shortcuts. After about 0.5km, one of the classic Mourne scenes comes into view as, to the north-east, the expanse of Ben Crom dam and the surrounding peaks offers a superb photo opportunity. A little further, a vista of Lamagan and Blue Lough presents additional scope for photographic pleasure.
9 The path soon flattens out as the giant lump of granite known as the North Tor comes into sight. Follow the path as it skirts round the right hand side of the tor and continues in a gently undulating, upward trajectory over the crest of the ridge. The entire traverse of the summit ridge offers wonderful views of the superlative Mourne scenery. After pausing to admire Binnian Lough lower down to the east, continue on the clear path, avoiding any subsidiary tracks to the left, as you approach a series of weirdly shaped towers of granite known as the Back Castles.
10 The route to the Summit Tor soon becomes obvious. It is possible, with care, to climb to the top. At 747m, this is the third highest point in the Mourne range.
11 Given reasonable visibility, the view from the summit is spectacular, taking in the sea and the lower altitude Mourne scenery of green fields bounded by stone walls, while to the south-east, the wooded hill of Knockchree draws the gaze further south to Carlingford Lough and the Cooley Mountains with County Louth high peak Slieve Foye prominent. Beneath the summit, the Silent Valley reservoir stretches out with Slievenaglogh rising from its clear waters.
12 The trek back to the car park begins by taking a path to the left (north) of the Summit Tor and heading down to the Carrick Little Track, keeping the wall on your right.
13 About 2km further, the Carrick Little Track appears as something of a relief from the rather tedious downhill journey. A few metres onward and the iron gate leads down to the car park with the possibility of a revitalising stop at Carrick Cottage Café – but check the opening hours on their Facebook page.