Monday, 8 July 2019

Donard Walk

Heaven knows how the poor dogsbody managed to retrieve provisions from Lord Annesley's ice-house.

This beehive-shaped stone structure was built in the late 1830s to serve Donard Lodge (probably by the 3rd Earl Annesley before he died in 1838).

It is built into the north side of Thomas’s Mountain, just above the tree-line, very close to the Glen River.

Click to Enlarge

The National Trust, which owns Slieve Donard, repaired it two decades ago, with a large section of the main dome rebuilt.

As I passed the ice-house on the other side of the river, I couldn't see any trace of a path leading to it.

I even checked a historic map of that era.

The weather forecast was good, and it had been many years since I last ascended Northern Ireland's highest mountain, Slieve Donard, so I packed the rucksack, found the trusty Swiss hiking boots, and motored in a southerly direction to Donard Park, Newcastle, County Down.

Slieve Donard is 2,790 feet high, incidentally.

This is the spot where the Mournes sweep down to the sea.

The Earls Annesley, of Castlewellan Castle, owned all the land from Slieve Donard to Slieve Croob, including Newcastle and Donard Park.

They had a holiday home, rather grandly known as a maritime residence, called Donard Lodge, which afforded a wonderful prospect of the whole area and the sea.

I parked carefully at the park, dressed appropriately, and began the ascent at 9.33am.

It wasn't very busy at this time of the day, so I made good progress.

I even asked another hiker to take my photograph at the spot close to where I thought the Mourne fell-walkers posed for the BBC "Oneness" theme.

En route I encountered many friendly people, including two lovely youngish ladies, one of whom admired my legs; and another my smile!

Eric Morecambe always used to tease Ernie Wise about his "short, fat, hairy legs."

I'm fairly fit for my age: I swim six miles a week, after all.

I reached the summit at about 11.20am, so it took me about one hour and forty-seven minutes.

There were about a dozen people there when I arrived, though many more arrived later.

Having eaten the banana sandwiches with a drink of water, it was time to make the descent.

Belmont the Conqueror, of Donard.

By the time I was leaving there was a constant stream of hikers, of all ages, making their way like a long queue of pilgrims.

The Mourne Mountains are the domain of the noble raven: I saw two today.

Back at Donard Park, it was heaving with cars; in fact there was a tailback into and out of Newcastle.

Despite the temptation to drive over to the Slieve Donard Hotel, I judged it best simply to motor home.

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