We woke at sunrise in a massive and deserted carpark tucked away up high between the Mourne Mountains in County Down, Northern Ireland. Such a great free place to park up, one of our best finds yet, it had stunning views, picnic tables, bins and various signposted routes to follow through the forrest.
We walked up the short but steep distance to Cloughmore Stone, a huge granite stone standing alone on the side of a mountain about 1000ft above Rostrevor Town. The 50 tonne boulder is thought to have come from the Strathclyde Bay area in Scotland, deposited by a glacier during the last ice age. Local legend has a better story though, that the giant Fionn MacCumhaill threw the stone from the other side of the lake 🤔☘ That ancient stone has one amazing view of the valley!
A local man stopped to talk to us at the stone and, not being ones to turn down a chance to discuss the history of an area we are visiting, when he invited us to keep him company on his “walk over the hills”, we gladly accepted. A Newry man, pensioner, retired teacher and geologist, so there was plenty of interesting conversation to be had. His version of a walk over the hills though? Very vertical paths, scrambling up scary scree slopes and climbing up the side of Slieve Martin to the highest viewpoint. The old man was hopping like a caffeinated mountain goat up the hills, talking away and forging a path in the muck for us two unprepared hikers 😂
A random encounter, it turned out the man knew every path on the mountain intimately, he took us all the way up to the summit of Slieve Muck (640 metres, a lot higher than we would have walked without him!) and told us countless tales and local tidbits, it was much like taking a guided tour. Halfway back down he pointed us in the direction of a flat route back to Dixie and we said our goodbyes and descended, rather worn out from our impromptu hike!
We had a cup of coffee in the carpark before cross checking to ensure Dixies interior was secure and safe to drive. After only 20 minutes on the road though, the rain that had threatened all day began to come down in sheets and so we pulled over on the side of the A2 to eat an early dinner and wait for driving conditions to clear up. As it happened, we stopped right by Narrow Water Keep, a ruined little castle-looking building, which in 1979 was the site of the Warren Point Ambush, the Provisional IRAs deadliest attack on British forces during the Troubles. 18 died and 6 were injured when two bombs exploded by the gate house opposite the castle. Lord Mountbatten was assassinated that day too making it one of the darkest in modern Irish history, not to be forgotten.
When the rain abated, we headed (via Maud’s Icecreams in Newry, a great local ice cream chain here up North 🍦) to find our next spot to overnight. With an orange weather alert for wind and rain tonight country-wide (aka Storm Georgina), we chose to move inland. After a bit of Irish border hopping (and being sadly denied our first choice overnighting spot due to Dixies height 😞) we ended up in the County Monaghan town of Castleblaney. Imagine our surprise to accidentally roll into a specially designed campervan carpark on the edge of town! Deserted on this cold January evening but well lit, clean, free and safe. Great work installing and maintaining these spaces for campers and MoHos Ireland ❤☘🚐It has been a long and funny kind of day, we have seen so much. Currently tucked up warm and dry, listening to the rain bouncing off Dixies roof and the music it makes. We usually seek out amazing views to wake up to but tonight we are grateful for a flat surface, a quiet space and some shelter from the storm 😊🚐🌒☔🌧☘