My daughter and her family live in the hamlet of Massford in Dromara, in Northern Ireland – their house being literally at the foot of Sliabh Cruibe – the Mountain Of The Hoof. On a recent visit to see my Irish grandson I looked forward also to a better acquaintance with this beautiful mountain.
One of a range of mountains forming the foothills of The Mournes – the Dromara hill range is some 400 million years older than its southerly cousin. The view from Sliabh Cruibe (Slieve Croob in “English’) towards the Mournes is well worth the 534 meter
ascent. There was once an enormous cairn measuring some 75 x 45 meters here – probably marking an ancient burial place on the summit – now merely a platform for the scattered remains of several smaller cairns – and from this the mountain is known locally as The Twelve Cairns.
Sliabh Cruibe is associated with the celebration of the Celtic Harvest festival of Lughnasa, where dancing, music, games and courtship followed community gathering of blaeberries growing wild on the hillside. The festival was one of the quarterly feasts of the old Irish year. The tradition was followed up until the 1950’s; and is enjoying a revival by the local community in recent years.
The tallest of a group of peaks in County Down between the village of Dromara and the town of Castlewellan on the coast; in an area designated as being of outstanding natural beauty; it is also the source of the River Laggan. Beginning as a spring on the summit of the mountain, it runs past my daughter’s house, continuing through Dromara, County Down, Lisburn and Belfast where it enters Belfast Lough.
The journey to see my daughter and grandson follows the course of the Laggan all the way – beginning when a vast Scandinavian-run Stenaline ferry delivers me from Cairnryan in South-West Scotland into Belfast Lough. I look forward to exploring more of the Laggan on foot in a future trip. Having previously merely driven to within reach of the summit of the Sliabh Cruibe- I set out on foot two sundays past on a truly glorious day for a walk.
I was aiming for the T junction between the Dree Hill and Clonvaraghan/Finnis Roads, and planned to turn left and walk the further half mile to the spot I knew would give me my first sight of the undulating Mourne range. As I climbed the summit was beckoning; but a looming storm over the Mournes deterred me and I cleaved to the original plan. Two of the local residents appeared in agreement.
I’d thought the view to come would be the peak experience of the walk; but I’d not anticipated the wonderful sense of peace that swept through me, gaining a greater hold with every step.
Walking in sunshine, and such a landscape, dispelled any leftover rainy winter discontent.
Sure my bones would be complaining soon, I found instead that the higher I climbed –
the better I felt.
Walking on Air.