The Hare’s Gap Walk via Trassey Car Park is a handy trail to follow.
This fairly straightforward walk into the mighty Mourne Mountains finishes with one of Ireland’s most dramatic passes and you’ll get a seriously unique view.
Below, you’ll find info on parking and the trail and there’s also a Google Map outlining the walk.
Some quick need-to-knows about the Hare’s Gap walk
It’s worth taking 20 seconds before you scroll down to read the points below, as they’ll save you time in the long run.
You’ll find the Hare’s Gap in the Mournes in County Down. This stunning mountain pass features in many walks in the area.
The Hare’s Gap walk is one of many Mourne Mountains walks that begins from Trassey Car Park on the northern side of the range. The car park (here on Google Maps) is just a 10-minute drive from the nearby town of Newcastle and an hour’s drive south from Belfast.
This is a linear walk with a total distance there and back of 4.35 miles or around 7 kilometres. It should take around 2.5 hours to complete, depending on pace.
While there are certainly more strenuous walks in this area, this straightforward linear hike shouldn’t be taken lightly as it can get very windy! So wrap up and bring water and snacks. It’s well-signposted too, so navigation on the 267 ascent makes it easy for newcomers to tackle.
Trassey car park isn’t huge but there should be room for your car, although it’ll be busier at weekends. There are a few benches dotted around, but if you want toilets and refreshments then head south to Meelmore Lodge (also known as the Hare’s Gap Bistro). It’s a 10-minute walk or one minute by car.
About the Hare’s Gap
A dramatic mountain pass in the equally dramatic Mourne Mountains, Hare’s Gap is one of those places that it would be a crime not to spend some time at and simply appreciate.
I mean, how many places have you been to with contours and ridges like that? But as pretty as the pass is, it was also home to some fairly shady activities in years gone by too!
It once marked the exit point for smuggled goods which had crossed the hills from the coast along the Brandy Pad, a famous smuggling route used to evade coast guards and revenue men.
Smuggled goods like soap, leather, spices and coffee were often transported on pack ponies via this high mountain route on the way to Hilltown, a favourite distribution centre.
Thankfully, that sort of activity is now a thing of the past and you can enjoy these stunning granite cliffs without worrying about bandits nearby!
Related read: Check out our guide to 8 of the best Mourne Mountain hotels to use as a base camp
An overview of the Hare’s Gap walk
Kick off the walk from Trassey car park and head left from the entrance to reach a combined gate and stile which marks the start of the Trassey Track.
Go through the gates to a gravel forest road and across two stiles taking you along the edge of Clonachullion wood. The gradient slowly rises and the road turns, giving a nice view of Spellack and Slieve Bearnagh ahead.
Towards the Trassey River
After a few hundred feet you’ll reach a second gate and the terrain begins to change from a hard gravel forest road to a looser stone path.
This shouldn’t pose too many problems underfoot, but do make a note along the way and be careful if it’s wet.
A third gate is then passed which leaves Clonachullion wood behind and the wide expanse of the Mournes will begin to open up.
The path continues to gently rise and then turns left, giving off views of the slopes that head up towards Slievenaglogh. Follow the path along, where it begins to track right and leads you to Spellack’s imposing granite walls and the banks of the Trassey River.
Reaching Hare’s Gap
With a point just short of the ford offering a cracking view of Slieve Bearnagh, cross over the river and carry straight on another 100ft or so to a Y-junction.
Follow the level left fork and cross over a second ford. From here you’ll follow a winding track over the bare rock pavement, then through a boulder field and finally onto a 600m track to the Mourne Wall at the Hare’s Gap.
The wall isn’t initially obvious, but when you find it the trek will have been well worth it as you can stand and admire the gorgeous sweeping vistas!
This is actually the start point for several other more strenuous walks, but we’ll talk about them another time.
To return, simply retrace your steps and make your way back to the car park (take care walking over any uneven ground).
Things to do when you finish the Hare’s Gap hike
One of the beauties of this walk is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best things to do in Down.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Gap!
1. Tollymore Forest Park (5-minute drive)
If you’re basing yourself in Newcastle then Tollymore Forest Park is a great nearby spot to check out. Just five minutes from both Newcastle and Trassey car park, the park is right at the base of the Mourne Mountains and is ideal for walking, camping, horse riding and orienteering.
2. Murlough National Nature Reserve (15-minute drive)
A fragile 6000-year-old sand dune system serving as Ireland’s first Nature Reserve since 1967, Murlough National Nature Reserve is a spectacular spot at the edge of Dundrum Bay and is home to more than 600 species of butterfly and moths, rare birds and mammals.
3. Castlewellan Forest Park (15-minute drive)
Did you know that there are giant sequoia trees in Northern Ireland? These famous Californian redwood trees were planted at Castlewellan Forest Park in the 1850s and are still standing tall today. This cracking park is also home to a castle, a maze and a host of cycling, horse riding, fishing and canoeing activities.
4. More Mourne rambles (5 minutes+ drive)
The tallest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland, there are a ton of great rambles to take on in the Mourne Mountains. From the challenge of conquering Slieve Donard to the beautiful circular trail around Slieve Binnian, these walks are packed with gorgeous views and ancient hills.
FAQs about the Hare’s Gap walk
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is it worth doing?’ to ‘Where do you park?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
How long does it take to climb Hare’s Gap?
You’ll want to allow around 2.5 hours in total to get up to the Gap and back down to Trassey car park.
How long is the Hare’s Gap walk?
This is a linear walk with a total distance there and back of 4.35 miles or around 7 kilometres.