Slieve Bearnagh Hike: best route, distance, when to visit, and more

Set in the stunning surroundings of the Mourne Mountains, the Slieve Bearnagh Hike is a must-do for any adventure lovers or hiking enthusiasts. So, here is all you need to know about hiking Slieve Bearnagh.

Located in the Mourne Mountains, an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ in County Down, Northern Ireland, the Slieve Bearnagh walk is a must-visit for lovers of the great outdoors.

The Mourne Mountains are recognised for their unrivalled natural beauty as the mountains that sweep down to the sea and punctuate the skyline above Newcastle and the surrounding South Down towns.

One of the more challenging hikes in the range, Slieve Bearnagh stands at an impressive 739 m tall and requires a relatively good fitness level. However, the climb will be more than worth it when you get to enjoy the incredible 360-degree views from the summit.

So, if you find yourself in County Down and want to take on a challenge, here is everything you need to know about the Slieve Bearnagh hike from the best route to take to the distance to the summit, when to visit, and more.

Basic overview – all you need to know

  • Distance: 10 km (6.2 miles return)
  • Start point: Meelmore Lodge or Trassey Car Park
  • Parking: Meelmore Lodge or Trassey Car Park
  • Difficulty: Strenuous. Rough terrain and a steep climb at various points
  • Duration: Five plus hours

Best route – how to reach the top

Two great places to start your hike that offer safe and reliable parking are the Trassey Car Park and Meelmore Lodge.

From both of these car parks, you will take the straight and well-defined path leading towards the mountains.

Once you reach the end of these paths, you will meet a stone wall. If you started at the Trassey Car Park, you will have to pass through a gate, and if you started at Meelmore Lodge, you will cross over a style.

If coming from Trassey Car Park, you will continue straight after passing through the gate and if coming from Meelmore Lodge, you will turn left after crossing the style until you meet the path that leads from Trassey Car Park.

From here, you will follow a clearly defined path up towards Hare’s Gap where you will reach the Mourne Wall between Slievenaglogh to the left and Slieve Bearnagh to the right.

From here, the hike gets a little more steep and tricky. Once you’ve reached Hare’s Gap and crossed the Mourne Wall, take the granite steps that start your ascent to the summit.

Once you reach the end of the steps, it is time to follow the wall and head up the rocky slope to your left that leads to the summit of Slieve Bearnagh.

Instead of staying by the wall the whole time, as you would do if you were doing the Slieve Donard hike, it is much more manageable to follow the natural path that veers off to the left.

You will first hike to the North Tor, from which you can enjoy the stunning surrounding views, before taking on Bearnagh’s other peak, the South Tor.

Distance – how long it will take

The distance of the Slieve Bearnagh walk.

From Meelmore Lodge, the Slieve Bearnagh hike is around a 10 km (6.2 miles) round trip and will take around five hours to complete.

However, we would recommend leaving sufficient time to enjoy the views from both Hare’s Gap and the summit of Slieve Bearnagh.

When to visit – weather and crowds

When to do the Slieve Bearnagh hike.
Credit: / Rossographer

Due to the terrain and challenging nature of the Slieve Bearnagh walk, it is best to head during the spring, summer, and early autumn to get the best weather conditions.

Days that are mild and dry will be the best as extreme conditions will only make this hike much more difficult.

A much quieter hike than Slieve Donard, Slieve Bearnagh does not attract the same crowds as Northern Ireland’s highest peak.

However, that being said, on days with good weather during the summer, it is often difficult to get parked in the small car parks at Meelmore Lodge and Trassey Car Park, so to avoid having to park at the side of the road, its best to head on a weekday in the spring or early autumn.

What to bring – come prepared

Come prepared for the Slieve Bearnagh walk.

Make sure to wear a decent pair of walking boots or sturdy trainers on the Slieve Bearnagh hike the as terrain is very rocky, so you want to make sure you have good footwear.

No matter the time of year, the weather in the Mourne region can be very changeable and thus, it is important to pack light layers and rain gear that you can put on and take off as you feel.

As the Slieve Bearnagh walk will last around five hours, we recommend you also bring an adequate supply of food and water to keep your energy levels up as you make your way to the summit.

What to see – stunning views

Once you reach the summit of Slieve Bearnagh, you will feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale as you take in the incredible exposed rocks and boulders that sit atop the mountain.

The views from the Slieve Bearnagh walk are arguably some of the best in the range as they offer 360-degree views of the surrounding Mourne Mountains, including Ben Crom Reservoir and Silent Valley.

On a clear day, you can enjoy views that stretch out over County Down and as far as the Sperrins, Lough Neagh, and Strangford Lough.

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