Sean Mullan Walking Guide and Owner of Walk Talk Ireland
Sean runs Walk Talk Ireland www.walktalkireland.com bringing walkers to the Glens of Antrim and the Causeway Coast and then on to Donegal.
May 13, 2013
May 13, 2013
May 7, 2013
April 29, 2013
April 23, 2013
I had the great privilege and pleasure of hosting Christopher and Jane Somerville on Rathlin Island thanks to a request from Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland.
Christopher and Jane were delightful companions and I learned a lot from them. They are experts on birds, plants and nature in general and are very interested in Irish culture, music and literature – this led to great conversations and even a duet by Chris and myself on a Paul Brady song – Nothing but the same old story!!
Stonechat on Rathlin Island (L), Christopher Somerville and Sean Mullan on Rathlin Island (C), Bird's foot Trefoil on Rathlin Island (R)
Chris, a modest man with great knowledge, has written many books, travel and poetry, and some of them on Ireland. Check him out at www.christophersomerville.co.uk
We spent the day on Rathlin strolling to Rue Point and taking in the Roonivoolin walk developed by the RSPB. It was a dream walk – peaceful and intense in its beauty. We were accompanied by stonechats and watched by hares. We passed several lakes including Ushet Lough where ‘model yacht racing’ regularly takes place.
We picnicked at a roofless kelp store – wonderful stone building – and thought of all the work that had taken place there and the people involved – now so empty and quiet. Oh it wasn’t so quiet – seals were sitting on the rocks and one seemed to be complaining about something according to its moans.
We encountered a ‘winged cow’ on Roonivoolin on our way back and couldn’t come up with any good explanation for this strange apparition.
Greylag geese on Rathlin Island (L), Seal at Ushet Port on Rathlin Island (C), Winged Cow on Ratlin Island (R)
We saw more seals in Mill Bay on our way back to the harbour to get our ferry. We stopped in at the boathouse museum and said hello to Tom McDonnell, an award winning nature photographer, who has produced great pictures and postcards of the wildlife on Rathlin.
Contentedly we returned to Ballycastle on Canna, a ship that had been in use in the Scottish islands and which Chris had been on 25 years before! – somehow it completed a perfect day.
Ushet Port with Fair Head beyond
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.
On the 23rd June 2012 Emma McCann and Pauline McGurk took on not one but six of the highest mountains in Northern Ireland in a unique fundraiser for Cancer Focus Northern Ireland. The intrepid pair certainly lived up to the challenge travelling across all six counties to reach the peaks of Slieve Donard in Co Down (850m), Slieve Gullion in Co Armagh (573m), Cuilcagh in Co Fermanagh (666m), Trostan in Co Antrim (550m), Sawel in Co Derry (678m) and Mullaghcarn in Co Tyrone (542) in just 24hrs.
Emma McCann has kindly written a guest blog for WalkNI.com on her highs and lows – both physical and mental during this inspirational challenge.
It’s the early hours of 23rd June and the wind is howling around the Slieve Donard Hotel. Looking into the blackness, it’s hard to imagine that we will be out there in just 2 hours; heading up the first of 6 mountains to be climbed that day.
The official start of the 6 counties, 6 peaks challenge. Emma McCann (left) and Pauline McGurk
Starting out on Donard at 3am heightened all our senses, especially our hearing. So much so that a donkey braying shook us from the surreal world we were entering from Bloody Bridge. Having a pathfinder with us was reassuring and distracting and, with conversation flowing, the time passes quickly. We soon reach The Saddle and the Mourne Wall. This can be difficult at the best of times but here it acted as a windbreak for the 40mph gusts we experienced. Cold and wet we reached the summit, but there was little time for photos as visibility was poor and the conditions were worsening. The wind blew the mist into our faces so hard that it felt like sand. Heading down was slow going but the dawn light and Molly the Search & Rescue dog lifted our spirits. Back at our support vehicle we were heartened that we were ahead of schedule.
Climbing Slieve Donard (left) and reaching the summit of Slieve Gullion.
Porridge in the back of the car was welcome as we set off for Slieve Gullion in Co. Armagh. This Mountain was the only dry ascent we had, though visibility was very poor. Once again we scrambled up and down and made up valuable time. We were flying as we set out on the 2 ½ hour drive to Cuilcagh Mountain in Co Fermanagh.
Cuilcagh looked like it was beckoning us into Middle Earth’s Mordor. Rain, wind and mist became our companions. On and on, up and up, the rain relentless. We could only imagine how beautiful this summit must be on a clear day. The first feelings of wet socks were worrying as 3 more mountains waited to unleash their wrath on us. Stew, dry clothes and a 3 hour drive to Co. Antrim served us well.
Refuelling en-route and picking up more support team we reached Trostan. It wasn’t raining! However, a swollen river needed to be navigated twice to proceed. The ascent here was slow and steady but at least it wasn’t raining - for now! 300 yards from the car and Trostan or some other celestial being decided we hadn’t suffered enough: the skies opened and the deluge soaked us again. But on the bright side, we had made up time again!
Refuelling on stew before ascending Trostan
Onwards to the Sperrins. More pathfinders and support team provide motivation and soup. Journeying through the Glenelly Valley we couldn’t see the splendour of Sawel Mountain but knew it was there, somewhere. Number 5 was wet, zero visibility and despite being the Summer Solstice, it was getting unseasonably dark early. Spurned on by everyone we dug deep and made it up and down though we lost some time here. Spirits were low but the determination was high. Yet another set of dry clothes and we were on our way to our final climb: Mullaghcarn Mountain Co. Tyrone. Tired and wet we made the summit at 12.28am.
The 6 Peaks of the 6 Counties threw everything at us on the 23rd June 2012 but we chewed it up, spat it out and fought back to show that we were indeed, ‘Ladies with Altitude’.
If you would like to help Emma and Pauline reach their fundraising target for Cancer Focus NI of £3859, £1 for every metre they climbed on the day, you can make a donation through their justgiving page https://www.justgiving.com/Emma-McCann1
There's some great ideas here but it's a shame you're encouraging peploe to do 3 peaks events. The environmental impact of a 3 peaks is much bigger than any other UK walking challenge due to the huge ... Read more >
Northern Ireland is home to a rich variety of summer walks; from sandy shorelines, to leafy paths and sprawling hills there are a whole host of routes just waiting to be discovered right on our doorsteps! With the longer days to take advantage off, WalkNI.com has put together a list of the top six ‘must do’ walks this summer. From leisurely coastal strolls to more strenuous mountain rambles – its time to get those walking boots on and explore some stunning vistas this summer season!
Nothing says summer like a walk on the beach! Situated in the Causeway Coast & Glens area of outstanding natural beauty, this 3 mile linear walk will take you along golden sands and rocky shoreline. A spectacular secluded sweep of sandy beach looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, White Park Bay forms a white arc between two headlands on the North Antrim Coast and is one of the first settlements of man in Ireland. Its secluded location means that even on a busy day there is plenty of room for quiet relaxation, so you will have no problem enjoying this leisurely walk taking in the treasures of one of the most natural coastlines in Northern Ireland. As you step along the sandy shores make sure to take note of the ancient dune system, a declared area of scientific interest, and the chalk grassland carpeted in rare plants, including many orchids. Keep an eye out for willow warblers, linnets and stonechats as well as the ringed plover – a small wader bird that nests at the bay.
Click here for full route description and detailed maps for White Park Bay
If you’re looking for something more challenging to wile away the hours of a long summers day then this excellent 9 mile circular hill walk in the Sperrins is for you! As you traverse the landscape criss-crossed with hedgerows and miles of old stone walls you will be rewarded with superb views of the Bluestack and Derryveagh Mountains of Donegal, the unspoilt plain of Omagh and the magnificent High Sperrin Mountain range. Many tales are told of highwaymen who rode the post roads across the Sperrins and divided their spoils on the ridge of ‘Robber’s Table’. The good news is this popular Co. Tyrone walk is part of the largest mountain range in Ireland so you can explore the spectacular scenery of the Sperrins again and again from different angles! Check out these other great walks to see what the rest of the Sperrins has to offer.
Click here for full route description and detailed maps for Robbers Table
With 16 glorious miles of coastline to be walked make sure you don’t forget to pack your picnic! Mostly tarmac path, with short rugged sections, the North Down Coastal Path extends from Holywood in the east to Orlock in the west. Beginning at the Esplanade in Holywood this popular route hugs the coastline along to Orlock Point making sure the sea is never far from view. In fact if you look closely you may even spot a seal! As if the impressive coastal views aren’t enough there are also a number of spectacles to distract along the way including Crawfordsburn Country Park on the southern shores of Belfast Lough, the glistening sands of Helen's Bay and Bangor Marina – where it’s time to treat yourself to some fish and chips and enjoy them in the company of the bronze sculpture eating his pastie supper – you never know he might take the bad look off you! If you’re not feeling up to walking the full 16 miles you can choose a section of the coastal path and walk as far as your heart desires…and your feet will take you!
For a shorter walk – but one steeped in history head across to Fermanagh where you can choose between a variety of routes encompassing loughshore and woodland in Castle Archdale Country Park. No matter which one you pick you will be walking on history as the park was once the front line of the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II. Features within the Park include a red deer enclosure, wildfowl ponds, nature trail, butterfly garden and wildflower meadow. To make the most of your visit, be sure not to miss the Archdale Centre, which is in the corner of the main courtyard. Here you can see various exhibitions which will help you to understand the efforts made to conserve this beautiful part of Fermanagh.
Click here for full route description and detailed maps for Castle Archdale
No top summer walking shortlist would be complete without including a walk in the Mourne Mountains. At 747 metres, Slieve Binnian is the third highest mountain in Northern Ireland and it’s high, tor-capped summit dominates the countryside, overlooking both the Silent Valley and Ben Crom reservoirs. If you are looking for breath taking views then Slieve Binnian will not disappoint! This fantastic 7 mile circular walking route follows the Mourne Wall to the summit of Slieve Binnian, traversing between the spectacular South and North Tors before descending along a track past the beautiful Blue Lough, Annalong Forest and back to the car park. Be prepared for a steep ascent and an even steeper one if you want to reach the summit – which involves using your hands and taking care on the rock. Once you make it to the top however you will be rewarded with an exceedingly fine panorama of the surrounding mountains. On a clear summers day it's possible to see the Isle of Man out to sea and the Wicklow Mountains beyond Dublin. If this is your first time walking this route – it certainly won’t be your last!
Click here for full route description and detailed maps for Slieve Binnian. This isn’t the only walk which takes in this magnificent mountain, be sure to check out alternative walks incorporating Slieve Binnian
Cave Hill is a familiar sight to many in Belfast, with its visible outline stretching for miles. Often referred to as Napoleon’s Nose – due to its silhouette in the sky resembling a gigantic profile staring upwards, Cave Hill is undeniably impressive to look at from the city. There are few views more striking, that is of course until you are standing on the hill itself looking down on the spectacular panoramic views of Belfast. Rising to 368 metres above sea level, climbing to the summit of Cave Hill you can experience the wilderness of the mountain, yet look out over the busy but silent city below. Dominating the urban landscape are Samson and Goliath, the mighty cranes of the shipyard, one of Belfast’s most famous landmarks. On a clear day, you can see Strangford Lough, Scrabo Tower, the Mourne Mountains, Slemish, the coast of Scotland and the Isle of Man. A challenging 4.5 mile route, over unsurfaced paths, past the caves (which the hill is named after) to McArt’s Fort, and crossing moorland, heath and meadows you will discover much of what the park has to offer from archaeological sites and wildlife to panoramic views. Late summer is an ideal time to visit with purple heather injecting colour on the hill and meadow pipits and skylarks providing a chorus over the open moorland on warm summer days.
Click here for full route description and detailed maps for Cave Hill
Nice Blog I've seen 2 complete ones in my times in the hills, both hewevor without camera's in hand though so you will just have to take my word on that one Same sorta area as you were describing, ... Read more >
With summer just around the corner, many Irish walkers are already planning how they may spend this year’s holidays. In an attempt to gauge general opinions of the walking fraternity, WalkNI.com recently caught up with Dublin-based Patrick Harraghy to find out what makes him tick and to see if a walking break to Northern Ireland would be high up his agenda this summer.
Have you always lived in Dublin?
No. I lived in South Donegal/North Leitrim up to 1975. I then moved to Co. Monaghan and lived there for around 3 years. I finally moved to Dublin in 1978 and have lived here ever since. If I’m honest I feel more at home now in Dublin but love going back to Donegal.
Have you always enjoyed hill walking or is this a pastime you’ve taken up in recently?
I grew up on a farm and have always had a love of nature. When you move to a city environment you begin to appreciate the countryside and the freedom of the hills even more than when you lived there. I would say that I have had a real interest in hill walking for about the last fifteen years. It’s the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and just get back to the basics of nature.
What is it that keeps you hooked on walking?
For me, hill walking is all about experiencing true freedom and enjoying nature and I would say that I’m kept hooked by being able to share these experiences with other like-minded walkers.
Is there a particular walk which best showcases the landscape on your doorstep?
If I am going local I would generally take in the area around Lough Dan in Wicklow. There are some great walking routes here with fabulous views.
Compass or GPS?
If I was heading on a long-distance walk I would generally reach for my map and compass although I sometimes would put my GPS in the rucksack as a backup.
How often do you walk with your local club?
We would generally get together at least once a week and then would probably take a trip away within Ireland every bank holiday weekend. The club tries to travel abroad for walking trips around twice a year.
Do you ever walk in Northern Ireland? If so, do you have a favourite area?
I would say that I take day trips up to the Mourne Mountains about ten times a year and would generally spend about two weekends there every year. It is a stunning mountain range with unique rock formations and spectacular views. Underfoot is nice and solid and the entire range is so easily accessible from Dublin, so it would be an easy favourite for me.
Have you ever attended any walking festivals in Northern Ireland? How did you get on?
I have done The Mournes Seven Sevens for the last 4 years. This event summits seven peaks over seven hundred metres in the Mourne Mountains and so is quite a challenge but it is so well organized and there is always a great festive atmosphere in the area.
How do you normally find out about new walking routes, events and festivals?
I participate in most of the challenge walks in Ireland and I mark the dates in my diary at the beginning of the year. I find out the dates from chatting to other walkers, from websites such as WalkNI.com and of course from Walking World Ireland.
What would you say to those who have never before been walking in Northern Ireland?
You don’t know what you’re missing.
What does the future hold?
Our club is planning on bringing twenty-five walkers up to the North Coast of Northern Ireland for the weekend soon and some of us are also planning to partake in a local challenge walk while we’re there. I’m also organising a trip to the Mournes for the weekend of the Seven Sevens again this year.
Visit www.walkni.com for detailed route descriptions, images and maps for over 300 quality walks across Northern Ireland.
very nice place to visit.. Read more >