Mourne Mountains Walk – Slieve Binnian (from Carrick Little car park) County Down, Annalong

There are so many amazing walks through the Mourne mountain range in County Down, and sometimes its just hard to fathom how such a vast area even exists in Northern Ireland given the country is so small. When you’re in middle of any of these walks you can see for miles (sometimes without a person, or particularly any sign of civilization, in sight). Which is a fantastic feeling when you just want to get away from it all.

For this route, make your way to the Carrick Little car park which is at the junction of the Head Road and Oldtown Road near Annalong. The Mourne Rambler bus departs from Newcastle Bus station on a regular basis during the summer months for here.

 

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From the Carrick Little car park, follow a clear, stony track that rises gently between the fields. Note the boulder walls alongside. You’ll soon see this old cottage in the middle of a field to your left. I wonder who lived here?

 

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At this point leave the wide trail here and go over to your left following the stone wall that takes you upward to Slieve Binnian (thats it ahead in the picture).

 

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We were lucky with the weather as the Mournes can be unpredictable (bring some suitable gear anytime you visit outside the Summer months). Its not long before you’re treated to a stunning view like this. Thats Slieve Donard in the distance here (just right of center of the picture) the highest peak not only of the Mournes but in the whole of Northern Ireland.

 

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About half way up the climb we veered right (following the wall cutting diagonally right across the second photo above here) as we hadn’t been up this way before, there was a still a reasonable climb (as you can see from the height of the pics) but it wasn’t as exhausting as the climb to the very top of Binnian. We followed the direction of the old stone wall (to the top of THIS climb) and looked across the valley below…

 

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Climbing down from here you’ll come to a massive boulder ahead (dropped by the glacial ice retreat thousands of years ago). And on one edge of a rock you might see this……I shall name him….. Dragonstone haha 🙂

 

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Just below you (beyond the big rock above) you should be able to see this small lake. We descended down to it and admired its peaceful tranquility…

 

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A final look across the landscape of this part of the Mourne Mountains. You could easily spend a week hiking through here. For more information on walking this area see here:   http://www.walkni.com/walks/67/slieve-binnian/

 

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Rathlin Island (and even Scotland)

Ahh June, the sparkling dawn of Summer, although Summer wasn’t too great for us this year, yet September (so far) has been really lovely (an “Indian Summer” as they say here). We were driving along the Antrim coast road between Ballintoy and Ballycastle and stopped off at a little roadside car park that overlooks Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This is a pretty popular stop off for tour coaches as the view from here is wonderful. You can also see Rathlin island, Fair Head, and Scotland just 20 miles away in the distance.

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They’re not kidding here as you’re pretty high up at this point and all might not be apparent until you get closer to the edge. There’s a fence separating you from admiring the view from the top, and seeing it as you crash to the bottom 🙂

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What a stunning sight. Below you Carrick-a-Rede can be seen in all its full glory, with Sheep Island behind it to the left. Sheep Island has an area of 3.5 hectares, and its located 0.5km off the shore. Its designated as a Special Protection Area and an Area of Special Scientific Interest. This is because it contains a number of a particular species of cormorant, whose population amounts to more than 5% of the population of the whole of Ireland just on this tiny island. The island also contains numerous other birds including shag, fulmar, kittiwake, greater black-backed gull, razorbill, black guillemot and guillemot. Access to the island is restricted during the breeding season. If you look to the extreme right of the picture you might just be able to see the Mull of OA on the Isle of Islay in Scotland!

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Something in every direction (no, you cant see Iceland from here sadly).

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Such a beautiful day and looking in the opposite direction from Carrick-a-Rede  you can see Fair Head (check my earlier post of that), Rathlin Island, and in the distance to the left is the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland made famous by Paul McCartney & Wings in their huge hit song.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcZVRiB9AQk

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Carrick-a-Rede. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carrick-a-rede/

The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. It spans 20 metres (66 ft) and is 30 metres (98 ft) above the rocks below. The bridge is a huge tourist attraction and is owned and maintained by the National Trust. It is thought salmon fishermen have been building bridges to the island for over 350 years and it has taken many forms over those years. The current wire rope and Douglas fir bridge was made by Heyn Construction in Belfast and raised early in 2008 at a cost of over £16,000. There have been many instances where visitors, unable to face the walk back across the bridge, have had to be taken off the island by boat.

It is no longer used by fishermen during the salmon season, which used to last from June until September, as there are now very few salmon left. The site and surrounding area is designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest for its unique geology, flora, and fauna. Underneath there are large caves, which once served as a home for boat builders and as shelter during stormy weather. Carrickarede island is the best example of a volcanic plug in Northern Ireland. Marine erosion has exposed a section through the neck of an old volcano whose eruptions about 60 million years ago punched molten rock through chalk.

Along the coast of this area, as with much of the Antrim plateau, the cliffs are of basalt with the characteristic Ulster chalk underneath. At Carrickarede, the ancient volcanic pipe has left dolerite, a tougher rock than basalt, which erodes more slowly. The combination of the hard rock out front and the softer rock behind, with long term erosion by the waves, has eventually left this small island.

If you are visiting Carrick-a-Rede be sure to bring your camera (and a head for heights) and even the walk from the entrance to the bridge itself is stunning.