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Hare's Gap

The Hare's Gap is the most dramatic mountain pass in the Mournes. Its sharply defined outline indicates that ice once passed this way; using the Gap's convenient north-south alignment to advance and retreat over the entire Mournes range. In more recent times the Hare's Gap marked the exit point for smuggled goods which had crossed the hills from the coast along the Brandy Pad. The contraband (which included soap, leather, spices and coffee) was carried through the mountains on the backs of small ponies which descended by the Hare's Gap to the valley of the Trassey River and on to Hilltown (a favourite distribution centre). Nowadays, the Gap's easily reached central location on the rim of the High Mournes makes it a popular starting point for routes scaling adjoining peaks, or simply for a walk along the gentle contours of the Brandy Pad.

County

Down

Distance

2.1 (One Way) miles

OS Map

Sheet 29 + Mourne Outdoor Pursuits Map (1:25,000)

Nearest Town

Newcastle

Route Shape

Linear

Route Type

Mountain

Terrain

Unsurfaced off road paths

Grid Reference (Start)

J311314

Grid Reference (End)

J322287

Point of Interest

Mountain views, Mourne Wall

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Mournes

Route Description

Walk left from the car park entrance to reach a combined gate and stile marking the start of the Trassey Track (75m).

PLEASE USE THE STILE AND KEEP THE GATE CLOSED.

Cross two further stiles to arrive at the forest edge and the beginning of open mountainside (1km). Beyond the third stile the track continues 1.5km to a ford.

Threading its way uphill, the track approaches the Trassey River along the left hand side. At this point the cliffs of Spellack, the north-east shoulder of Slieve Meelmore flank the opposite bank of the river.

Spellack is reputed to owe its present form to the erosive power of glaciers which swept across an older rock face to leave the granite cliffs freshly steepened. Today its sheer precipices provide challenging rock-climbs.

A point just short of the ford provides a comprehensive view of Slieve Bearnagh: seen here between its neighbouring peaks of Slievenaglogh and Slieve Meelmore, from which the cols at Hare’s Gap and Pollaphuca separate it. Slieve Bearnagh is one of the most picturesque Mourne summits with its combination of height (739m), crags, summit tors and smooth rock slabs.

The mechanised quarry workings on Bearnagh’s north face stem from a temporary post-war revival in the demand for foundation blocks and monumental stone.

Cross the river and continue 100m to a ‘Y’ junction. Follow the level left fork (right fork climbs to the quarry) and cross a second ford. From here a winding track, commencing over the bare rock pavement and then through a boulder field, leads   to the Mourne Wall at the Hare’s Gap (ca 600m).

En route, note the tell-tale wedge marks around the edges of many granite stones. Such evidence of the stone-men’s ‘plug-and-feathers’ method of cutting stone can be seen on boulders large and small throughout the Mournes. The plug (a small iron wedge) was inserted between two thin pieces of steel (feathers) to split the stone along a line of roughly-prepared holes.

From the Hare’s Gap a range of routes can be followed, exploring in a number of directions:

Right - a stiff climb leads up Slieve Bearnagh, considered by some to be the grandest of all Mourne summits.

Left - a continuation of the walk follows the Brandy Pad, passing beneath the Diamond Rocks (in 500m) on the side of Commedagh, great weathered granite pillars – likened to a ‘Giant’s Causeway’ high in the mountains.

Whichever option is taken, the views from Bearnagh and along the Brandy Pad are spectacular.

To complete your walk, retrace your steps back to the start.

Please be aware - Although, there are numerous walking routes in the Mournes, the majority of these popular walks are not formally designated public rights of way. Most routes have developed over time due to traditional use. Below 600 feet (180m) most land is privately owned and is farmed or grazed. Many of the traditional access routes cross this land or pass along farm lanes and quarry tracks. Walkers are advised to respect that they may be walking on private land and are encouraged to make themselves aware of and adhere to the principles of 'Leave No Trace' - www.leavenotraceireland.org"

Please remember that much of the land you will cross is private property and access is only available through the goodwill of the landowners. Although some areas of the countryside have been traditionally used for recreation, the public have no general rights to access such land and are only walking with the tolerance of the landowner.

Getting to the Start

The walk begins from the council car park along Trassey Road at the northern foot of Clonachullion Hill.

Dogs

Dogs are allowed. Dogs must be kept on leads

Accessibility Grade

Grade 5

Facilities

Formal car parking area. Further car parking, cafe, toilets, camping and accommodation available at Meelmore Lodge located near Trassey Car Park.

Publication

Route 10 in a pack of walks titled - 'Mourne Mountain Walks' produced by Mourne Heritage Trust.

Publication Availability

This pack of route cards is available to purchase from a range of outlets including: Mourne Heritage Trust - 028 4372 4059 Newcastle Tourist Information Centre - 028 4372 2222

Walk Location
Map of Northern Ireland
 
Image Gallery
Maps and Downloads

Ratings and Comments

★★★★★
Alison 19 December, 2014 @ 13:31

Did this walk in August 2014 with 3 children, aged 5, 7 and 8, a Granny aged 65 and two mums. All made it to the top comfortably, despite not being regular walkers. A nice introduction to the Mournes, with a bit of a scramble up through the boulder field at the end. Shame there was horizontal driving rain when we got to the top! Would advise extra layers and waterproofs, whatever time of year, just in case.

★★★★☆
Eamonn 5 May, 2013 @ 19:37

A pleasant walk up to Hares Gap featuring changing terrain types. Sensible footwear and clothing a must as the valley can be a natural funnel for high winds and rain. The more adventurous can use this location to explore the surrounding mountains and hills. Fantastic views from the style at Hares Gap entice the hikers lust for more. A great walk for beginners compass and map reading skills. Plenty of features, handrails and catching points to hone those important skills. Suitable for all the family on pleasant days. :-)

★★★★☆
Georgina Milne 14 August, 2011 @ 20:21

Hare's Gap is a great introduction to the Eastern Mournes, a bit more rugged and wild than the tourist trek up Donard yet not too challenging. This walk has a range of terrain - rock, bog and meadow and will teach you a great deal about where to walk as most people end up in a river or one of the many small bogs of you venture off the trail. Hare's Gap proper is a window into the mainstay of the Mournes and the more adventurous hiker will ascend the less challenging Slievenaglogh for a better view. Take care of your footing in the wet. Main disadvantage of this walk is the doubling back, which is where an ascent of Bernagh will create a circular route.

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