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Quality Walk

Glen River

This walk follows a popular route leading to the summit of Slieve Donard (850m), Northern Ireland highest mountain. From Newcastle it ascends through the woods along the Glen River and climbs 3km to the head of the river valley, high on the slopes below Slieve Donard ad Slieve Commedagh (765m). From here the path continues to the Saddle (the col between Donard and Commedagh) from which point either summit can be reached.




9 (total) miles

OS Map

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

Nearest Town


Route Shape


Route Type

Mountain, Riverside, Woodland


Off road unsurfaced paths

Grid Reference (Start)


Grid Reference (End)


Point of Interest

Slieve Donard (N. Ireland's highest mountain), Glen River, Ice House

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty


Route Description

Begin in Donard Park, walk to the rear of the car park, keeping to the right of the Glen River to enter Donard Wood (300m). Once in the wood the path ascends for 150m until it meets Donard Bridge.

Cross the bridge onto the rivers left side. After 400m arrive a second bridge. Recross the river into its right hand side and continue upstream

After a further 400m a third bridge is reached. Remain on the right bank and continue 150m to a stile marking the beginning of the open mountainside. Follow obvious track above course of the Glen River for 2km.

Perched on the opposite bank of the river is an igloo-like stone structure. This was an ‘ice house’ built by the Annesley Family (former owners of Donard Park) and functioned as a primitive fridge. Below the ice house a tributary joins the Glen River after cascading down a dark rocky cleft (known as the Black Stairs) on the side of the nearby Thomas’s Mountain. .

Cross the river at a narrow point. From here the path climbs more steeply to reach a saddle (and the Mourne Wall) after 500m. This has recently undergone extensive path repair by stone pitching. Please keep to the path.

From the saddle, both Donard and Commedagh can be reached by following the Mourne Wall uphill to either peak.

Slieve Donard dominates the whole of south –east Ulster. On a clear day the view from its summit extends beyond the sweeping arc of Dundrum bay as far as the Mountains of southwest Scotland, northwest England and the Isle of Man and Snowdonia in Wales. The mountain is named after Domangard, a local chieftain who became a disciple of St Patrick and is believed to have built a stone prayer cell on the summit.

Next in stature to Donard, Slieve Commedagh lacks its sister’s peak commanding coastal position, but offers a magnificent view south over the wilderness of the Annalong Valley and a panorama across the entire range of Mourne peaks.

You have now reached the highest point of the walk.

After pausing and enjoying the view, turn and retrace your steps back downhill to Donard Car Park.

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 (by Public Transport)

Translink - journeyplanner.translink.co.uk

Getting to the Start (by Car)

Donard Car park lies at the southern end of the town of Newcastle.


Dogs are allowed. Dogs must be kept on leads

Accessibility Grade

Grade 5

Accessible Facilities

The following facilities are available for users with limited mobility:

Disabled parking
Disabled toilets


Car park has toilets. There are a range of places to eat and shop in the town of Newcastle.


Route 1 in a pack of walks titled - 'Mourne Mountain Walks' produced by Mourne Heritage Trust

Publication Availability

This pack of route cards costs £5.95 and is available from - 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

Eamon McEltoy 23 May, 2015 @ 23:55

Hi, My wife and I have just returned from a treking holiday from Portugal to Santiago {Camino} , which we found challenging but worth while,we have started walking alot since are return and i am itching to get on top of the Mournes we live in East Antrim but i pass the Mournes regular its a lovely spot and i find your write ups very helpfull ,I will be contacting the Heritage trust for a pack of route cards.Cheers and Regards Eamon.

Georgina Milne 14 August, 2011 @ 20:12

This is the most common and accessible route to Donard. It is most people's first introduction to the Mournes and sadly, is very far removed from the rest of the Mourne walks. The walk along the Glen river is rocky and can get tedious and the ascent up Donard is a straight up and down along a well worn track beside the wall. Although it demands fitness for the amateur hiker, it does not teach much in the way of mountaincraft and won't deliver for someone looking more of a rugged trek.There are great views from the summit although you have to double back on yourself on the descent which is less appealing than the circular routes. If you get the chance, do walk up Commedagh. It's all too often ignored by the hoards ascending Donard and is a little more isolated. Enjoy!

Sheona 12 August, 2010 @ 11:08

Last wekk I walked the Glen River path to the top of Slieve Donard with my husband and 2 teenage sons. (We were on holiday in the area and the boys talked me into it) I started out intending to only go halfway as I consider myself to be unfit and I have never attempted anything like this before, but we all made it to the top! the scenery is beautiful and it was a lovely day for it. The path is rather rough and a good stout pair of boots is essential. Also, I was very glad we heeded the advice we were given and took warm clothing as when you stop at the top you get very cold very quickly. This was a great achievement for me and I am now looking into hill walking as a more regular pastime. If like us you get to the forest on the way back down and dont fancy anymore rough walking, there is a forest road that leads you back into Donard Park.

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