This mountain is very easy to get to and find from Dublin. It took me 1hr 45 minutes from Cabinteely on the southside, taking the M50 / N1. You take the B113 “Forkhill” exit off the N1 motorway near Newry and left again at the next roundabout. It is well sign posted from then on to “Slieve Gullion” National Park.
There are good car parking facilities here but be aware this is a popular spot, as there is a children`s playground and a Café situated in the old farm buildings.
Take the road to the right of the playground and follow it gentle ascent upwards for about 1 hour. I really enjoyed this section with a mixture of broad leafed forest then Conifer. There was beautiful heather and Rosebay Willowherb (Firewatch) in bloom. I was surprised to see only 3 cars on my ascent. I think England were playing a match in the world cup that day !!!
There are great views as you ascend of the countryside below. You then come to a small car park and this is your cue to look for a track way about 20m to your right onto “Slieve Gullion”. You then ascend rapidly to a viewing point looking down over the car park to left and the countryside to the sea beyond. It`s a nice view but spoilt a little for me by the encroaching urbanisation.
The track starts to rise sharply to a man- made stone “wind / rain” shelter. Following the path upwards to the left you come to a ridge pathway which winds to the right which at the time of writing had wonderful “bog cotton” growing either side.
There is then a short climb to a Neolithic passage grave and Bronze age “cairn”. This is known locally as “Cailliagh Berra`s House”. This is reputed to be the home of a wicked witch who under the guise of a sexy young maiden tricked the legendary hero “Finn McCool”. She told him she had lost a golden ring in the waters of the small lake nearby. He of course dived in and on emerging found he was now a feeble old man with white hair. Though he was able to defeat the spell and regain his strength, his once “golden locks” remained “snowy” white. That’s women for you !!!
There is supposed to be a millstone that sticks ½ in and out of the water here. Local legend says a miller “pinched” it from the “Cailliagh Berra`s House. He had such bad luck that he decided to return it. However on the way back his donkey died and he abandoned it here. Its local name is the “Lake of Sorrows”.
The lake is to the right of the “cairn” and if you follow paths down you will quickly find it. There is also another small “cairn” here. If you are not going to retrace your steps the circular loop back to your start point is best taken to the left of the lake. There is a small track way that descends from here.
As you descend down the steep embankments you will see a green conifer forest below. You will also see a white house to the left of it. The house is on a small road that gradually swings back to “Slieve Gullion”. If you keep the house as a reference point, you will come to a gate that allows you access to the road.
This road gradually descends downwards and I stopped to take some photos of some happy cows and beautiful “Foxgloves”.
I then stopped to look at the remains of St Killevy church. This was one of the first convents in Ireland and had been set up by St Monnina (435-518AD), a daughter of King Machta of Armagh / Louth. It is said she had been baptised by St Patrick as a child and is also known by the pet name “Blinne” or “Moblinne” meaning baby.
St Monnina was instrumental in building a number of convents in Scotland. The names Edinburgh and Dunedin are supposed to derive from the local dialects for her name. She is said to be buried in St Killevy church.
There is a Holy Well associated with St Monnina attached to this church and it can be accessed to the right of the graveyard. Follow the track upwards and to the left and it`s about 400m. It is quite well maintained, and of course has a Hawthorn tree with ribbons, and religious artefacts to its right. The water is clean and drinkable.
Once the road levels off, it swings to the right, passing through nice forest and a lovely avenue of Beech. To your right you will pass a white gate lodge, which has been newly built, and then on the right the exit road from “Slieve Gullion” National Park. Follow this keeping left and you will end back at your start point in the car park.
I think this is a lovely walk with nice views, lots to see and a sense of history. It took me 5 hours with a “gammy” ankle and lots of stops.