The Slieve Bearnagh walk is well worth tackling.
With its distinctive gap giving the impression of a double peak, Slieve Bearnagh is one of the most recognisable of the Mourne Mountains.
But conquering this unique summit is a serious challenge! You’ll find info on parking, the trail and a map below.
Some quick need-to-knows about the Slieve Bearnagh Hike
Before diving into the guide, it’s worth taking 15 seconds to read the points below as they’ll get you up-to-speed.
Located in the northern Mournes close to the coastal town of Newcastle, Slieve Bearnagh is one of the most dramatic of the country’s peaks and is crossed by the Mourne Wall. The usual departing points are just a handy 10-minute drive from Newcastle.
The route via Hare’s Gap is a long old slog, clocking in at just over 9km. Which means it’ll take between 3.5 to 4 hours to complete, depending on pace. There’s also a not too insignificant elevation gain of 614 metres!
The Slieve Bearnagh Hike is a hard day’s walking and a trek that should not be taken lightly. Full of steady climbs, steep pitches, scrambles and ridges throughout its solid length, this is one for seasoned hikers (or those with a good level of fitness, at the very least!).
There are a few car parks you can begin at, but Meelmore Lodge (here on Google Maps) ticks plenty of boxes for us. It’s a secure spot where you can grab food or coffee and use the bathroom. Parking is £4 / €5 for the day.
About Slieve Bearnagh
Rising to a height of 739 metres (2,425 ft), Slieve Bearnagh isn’t just one of the tallest of the Mournes. The 4th highest of the County Down range is also one of the most unique, as its craggy gap shows!
In fact, its Irish name – ‘Sliabh Bearnach’ – actually means ‘gapped mountain’. Topped by some enormous tors, it’s said that the tallest one must be climbed for purists to say they’ve conquered Bearnagh!
But whether or not you decide to scramble over its imposing tors, there’s no denying that the views that stretch as far as Lough Neagh on a clear day are something special.
Related read: Check out our guide to 8 of the best Mourne Mountain hotels to use as a base camp
An overview of the Slieve Bearnagh hike
From Meelmore Lodge, head south to join the well-worn Trassey Track – a starting point for many of the Mourne Mountains walks.
Following a short walk up the hill and through Clonachullion Forest, you’ll soon come across Slieve Meelmore and the Tors of Slieve Bearnagh peaking behind.
Follow the Trassey Track up along the Trassey River and head for Hare’s Gap (the saddle between Slieve Bearnagh and Slievenaglogh) along the path straight up the middle.
Beyond Hare’s Gap
Pass through the gate (or over the stile) at the top and then the granite steps to your right will be the start of your trek to the top of Bearnagh.
Head up the steps and continue on the path up. This path will take you away from the Mourne Wall for a short while, but then takes you back closer to the wall which you can then follow all the way to the top.
After the summit
After you’ve enjoyed the amazing 360 summit views, continue to follow the wall down the western face of Bearnagh and return to the Trassey Track via the Bearnagh Slabs.
Once you’re on the Trassey Track, it’s an easy ramble back to the car park.
Things to do near Slieve Bearnagh
One of the beauties of the Slieve Bearnagh walk is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Down.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Slieve Bearnagh (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Slieve Donard (15-minute drive)
The mightiest of all the Mournes, Slieve Donard soars to a height of 850 metres (2,790 ft) and is the highest mountain on the island of Ireland. So of course you’ll want to climb it! A 4.6km hike from the car park to the summit, the views are predictably spectacular and is well worth the effort.
2. Tollymore Forest Park (10-minute drive)
If you’d prefer to stay at ground level then the lovely Tollymore Forest Park is a cracking nearby spot to check out. Just a handy ten-minute drive away, the park is right at the base of the Mourne Mountains and is perfect for walking, camping, horse riding and orienteering.
3. Newcastle for lunch (15-minute drive)
This charming little coastal spot is right next to the Mournes and is full of cracking spots for a feed! When you’ve exhausted yourself walking, there’s plenty of hearty pub lunches to be found or classic fish and chips to hit. And if the weather’s good, don’t miss out on an indulgent ice cream from Nugelato!
4. Silent Valley Reservoir (20-minute drive)
Built between 1923 and 1933 by a workforce of over 1,000 men, the Silent Valley Reservoir is a vast body of water next to Slieve Binnian that’s a peaceful spot nestled in amongst the mountains. A 20-minute drive from Slieve Bearnagh, the Binnian Tunnel is located underneath and was opened in 1952.
FAQs about conquering Bearnagh
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Where to park?’ to ‘How tough is it?’.
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.
Is Slieve Bearnagh hard to climb?
Yes. This is a strenuous trail that requires good fitness and decent hiking experience. All in all this isn’t a casual/beginners hike by any means.
How long does the Slieve Bearnagh hike take?
The route via Hare’s Gap is just over 9km and can take between 3.5 to 4 hours to complete, depending on pace.
Andy was once on a glorious worldwide trip on his equally glorious motorcycle. After 4 years, he’d still only made it as far as Eastern Europe, before falling in love with his surroundings and deciding to settle down a while. Nowadays, he spends his time writing about traveling through the places he once explored, normally while sipping a pint.