Northern Ireland's County High Points
Posted on August 30, 2012 @ 10:43 AM in
Six counties, five peaks, one amazing road trip through Northern Ireland. If this sounds like the walking challenge for you, read this article by Kieron Gribbon, author of Ireland's County High Points - A Walking Guide.
In 1997, just a few months after my first hill walk, I visited the summit of Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains. It was there, at the highest point of County Down (and of Northern Ireland), that I challenged myself to visit every County High Point (CHP) in the whole of Ireland. At that time, I had no specific timeframe to achieve this goal. There was no rush whatsoever, and I wasn't out to set a time for others to beat. In April 2011 - fourteen years later - I completed my challenge.
County High-pointing has established itself as a popular challenge for hill walkers in the UK and Ireland, but what is it that draws people to these special high places? For some, it's the satisfaction of being the 'geographically' highest person in a county. For others, it's the prospect of experiencing the longest and widest views the region has to offer. For most, however, the challenge itself is the biggest draw - often a venture to raise funds for good causes. While every CHP is a worthy goal in its own right, County High-pointers generally set themselves the challenge of completing all CHPs on a specific list. One such challenge comprises the CHPs of Northern Ireland.
Although there are six counties in Northern Ireland, there are only five CHPs. While most will plan to visit the CHPs of Northern Ireland as a series of day walks, it is not beyond the average hill walker's ability to complete the NICHP Challenge over a single weekend. To minimise the amount of travel between CHPs, the recommended sequence is: Cuilcagh; Sawel Mountain; Trostan; Slieve Donard; and Slieve Gullion.
1. Cuilcagh, County Fermanagh
This 665m summit in the Cuilcagh Mountains is the highest place in County Fermanagh. The CHP is clearly marked by a trig pillar over a large cairn on the Fermanagh / Cavan county boundary at grid reference H:123:280. This also marks the CHP of Cavan, and is the highest point on the NI / ROI border.
From the summit of Cuilcagh, the closest higher place is a point on the upper southern slopes of Croaghgorm - a 674m peak in the Bluestack Mountains, County Donegal. This is 64km north-northwest of Cuilcagh summit.
It is worth mentioning that the highest unshared summit lying entirely within County Fermanagh is that of Mullaleam at grid reference H:153:319. Its 424m summit is located in the Cuilcagh Mountains 4.9km northeast of the CHP.
2. Sawel Mountain, Counties Derry & Tyrone
This 678m summit in the Sperrin Mountains is the highest place in Counties Derry & Tyrone. The CHP is clearly marked by a trig pillar over a small stone and earth cairn on the Derry / Tyrone county boundary at grid reference H:618:973.
From the summit of Sawel Mountain, the closest higher place is a point on the southeastern slopes of Errigal Mountain - a 751m peak in the Derryveagh Mountains, County Donegal. This is 72.9km west-northwest of Sawel Mountain summit.
The highest unshared summit lying entirely within County Derry is that of Spelhoagh at grid reference H:708:979. Its 568m summit is located 9km east of the CHP. The highest unshared summit lying entirely within County Tyrone is that of Mullaghclogha at grid reference H:557:957. Its 635m summit is located 6.3km west-southwest of the CHP. Both of these are in the Sperrin Mountains.
3. Trostan, County Antrim
This 550m summit in the Antrim Hills is the highest place in County Antrim. The CHP is clearly marked by a trig pillar over a large stone and earth cairn at grid reference D:179:236.
From the summit of Trostan, the closest higher place is a point on the upper northeastern slopes of Spelhoagh - a 568m peak in the Sperrin Mountains, County Derry. This is 53.7km west-southwest of Trostan summit.
4. Slieve Donard, County Down
This summit in the Mourne Mountains is the highest place in County Down. At grid reference J:358:277, two separate locations qualify as the CHP of Down. The first of these is a trig pillar (853m) built on the roof of a stone hut which forms part of the Mourne Wall. The second location is just a few metres away where a large stone cairn (850m) marks the natural summit of Slieve Donard... For safety reasons, the cairn is the preferred option - the trig pillar may be out of reach for some. Whichever of these two CHPs you chose to visit on Slieve Donard, it also marks the highest place in Northern Ireland and in the province of Ulster.
From the summit of Slieve Donard, the closest higher place is a point on the northern slopes of Lugnaquillia Mountain - a 925m peak in the Wicklow Mountains, County Wicklow. This is 140km south-southwest of Slieve Donard summit.
5. Slieve Gullion, County Armagh
This 573m summit in the Ring of Gullion is the highest place in County Armagh. The CHP is clearly marked by a trig pillar over a large stone cairn at grid reference J:025:203. The stone cairn is said to be the highest surviving passage grave so far discovered in Ireland.
From the summit of Slieve Gullion, the closest higher place is a point on the upper northwestern slopes of Slieve Foye - a 589m peak in the Cooley Mountains, County Louth. This is 16.6km east-southeast of Slieve Gullion summit.
A detailed walking route for each of these CHPs can be found in Ireland's County High Points - A Walking Guide (published by The Collins Press in 2012). This is the first-ever guidebook devoted exclusively to County High-pointing in Ireland, and explains everything you need to know as a walker before setting out on your County High Point adventures. Ireland's County High Points - A Walking Guide is the most talked about Irish walking guidebook in 2012, and is available now in good bookshops, outdoor shops, Amazon, and directly from The Collins Press.