On our way back to the north of Ireland, after a little mini break in Dublin, we stopped off at the very pretty town/village of Carlingford, County Louth, which looks out over Carlingford Lough, with the Mountains of Mourne in the viewpoint. It is a village that is steeped in history and has its very own castle (King John's) to prove it.
Although we wanted to stop off and see Carlingford, as we had heard many good reports about it,, we also wanted to have a nice walk, since it was beautiful sunny Autumn day.
Carlingford is handily situated between Belfast and Dublin, although closer to Belfast than the latter, but it is easy to get there, and the roads are good. If you continue into the centre of Carlingford, past a large Four Seasons hotel, you will eventually come to a smallish car park, that looks out onto the lough. There is a larger carpark behind, but this smaller one backs on to a children's playground and has the tourist office within it.
My husband picked up a map from the tourist office which gave some basic information about some of the short walks in the area. We left the car in the carpark, and put on our walking gear. Be warned, you will need very sturdy walking shoes/boots as the terrain is not even in the majority of places, and after heavy rain from the previous day, the ground was extremely slippery and muddy. I wore my jeans with my walking boots, and by the end I was sorely disappointed I hadn't put on my proper walking trousers, as it was rather mucky and the terrain was not what I expected.
It is very useful to pick up a map from the tourist office, as with a lot of things in Ireland, signage is not always sufficient and can be rather lacking at times. We exited the carpark at the tourist information area, and walked for a few minutes through some of hte streets of the village, until we came to what we assumed (from the map) was the market square, which is where this walk begins. This walk actually follows some of the Tain Way route and there are plenty of signs for that, however do stick to your map, otherwise you could end up giving yourself a rather long trek, which you may not be prepared for.
For a short time, you will climb up a road, where although there are few cars as it is mainly entrances for housing, you still need to be careful with the twists and turns in the road. Once you get beyong the river land area, you will then be free from the possibility of traffic.
I was not prepared however for the extent of the ascent. I am not unfit, but I am not fond of continual uphill climbing, and be warned that a certain level of fitness is required, as more than half of the walk entails an uphill steep climb on an uneven rocky surface among bracken and shrubery. It was difficult to get any kind of place going at times, as the path was quite slippery and you really do need to watch your footing at all times, or a twisted ankle could easily happen. A walking pole is quite an essential for this walk, and especially for the descent.
At one point in the ascent, the path does straighten out after a gateway, and allows you a rest and to get your first glimpse of the beautiful views that are on offer behind you as you climb. On a beautiful day, it is hard to beat the landscape in this area, with the dark moutains of mourne adding to the backdrop.
This evening out of the path however, is shortlived, and you once again begin the very narrow and rocky ascent, until eventually you reach a grassy area, where the path splits. You can venture beyond this to the golyin pass, towards Slieve Foye, but we were following out map, and decided to turn left and walk through the grassy flat lands, where a few random sheep will keep you company, but you probably won't notice as you will be admiring the views that are now in full display.
The path will then turn for your descent, which brings you back into the bracken and shrubery, with very uneven rocks and stones beneath you, as well as a rather slippery and muddy surface after heavy rain. Not only will you need your walking pole to give you some balance and support, but also to knock away the overhanging wild plants that can block the path in places.
Beyond this however, it is pleasing to see road again, albeit you need to be careful for traffic, as you once again will see housing around you. At this stage it was a welcome change to be able to walk without watching your footing at all times, and really take in the views, although they become less and less the closer you get to the village.
Once you get to the end of the road, you will turn left at the church and this will eventually take you back into the carpark, if you closely follow the map, although it is not a big village, and I doubt you will get lost at this stage.
The walk took us roughly 1 hr and 15 minutes, and we were doing a good pace when we could, when the path was straighter and more even.
All in all, if you want to beautiful views over Carlingford Lough, you are going to have to climb up to see them fully. This is an ideal walk for those wanting the views, without having to walk for hours on end. You should be prepared however for uneven rocky paths, and you will most definitely need walking shoes, otherwise you could easily twist your ankle, particularly on the descent. A good level of fitness is required as well for the ascent up, but it really is worth it for the views, if you can manage this.