Annalong Valley Off the Beaten Track


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Annalong Valley

Darryl Grimason explores some of the most stunning walks around the mountains and coastline of Northern Ireland. In this episode, he hikes along the Annalong Valley.


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The music of the mountains pulses lightly through the granite heart

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of the Mournes.

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It's an area of outstanding natural beauty,

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an irresistible draw for ramblers.

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And my search for wilderness begins on a wonderful walking route,

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on the southern side of the mountains.

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From the end of Annalong Wood,

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it's gravelly underfoot as you stride towards Blue Lough

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on a well-worn trail to Slieve Binnian.

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Passing Ben Crom reservoir,

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the walk up the ridge to the summit is long and tough.

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This is definitely a walk for the fitter rambler.

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And Banjo Bannon's going to lead the way.

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It's like a water feature, isn't it?

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It is. It's a natural feature and follows all the way along the path.

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He's climbed his way to the top,

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and Banjo's incredible journey to the roof of the world

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began right here.

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He trained in the Mournes to take on and conquer Mount Everest,

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a dream come true for a boy from Newry.

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Just do a bit of a hop, skip and a jump.

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The first time I went walking in the Mournes

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I was about 14 years of age,

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and I decided to walk from Newcastle to Rostrevor.

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Little did I know it was about 24 miles.

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I just followed the wall and eight hours later

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I arrived in Rostrevor very tired and exhausted

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but I made it and it felt really great,

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and it was that sense of exploration and expedition for me then,

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and then I knew that's what I really wanted to do with my life.

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The hardest thing is getting up out of your bed.

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Once you're up and actually doing it...

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If you start thinking about it too much...

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Just go up and do it and, believe me, you'll thank me for it,

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because just look round the scenery here,

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it's just gorgeous, even on bad days.

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There's never one day the same because, you know,

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the heather's purple or else it goes brown,

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every day is so different, the cloud formation is different,

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and it's just that sense of actually getting out here

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and, you know, it's actually good for your health as well.

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Maybe that's why ramblers say there's a hill for every ill.

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We're about 2,000 feet up here,

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making our way towards the North Tor on Slieve Binnian,

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but this is not an easy walk.

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HE GRUNTS

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'There's still a long way to go,

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'and up ahead the weather's closing in.

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'To make matters worse, I didn't eat enough,

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'and I'm running low on energy.

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'So make sure you have a big breakfast

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'before hitting this trail.'

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Ah...and out of the gloom

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you begin to see these huge...they look like boulders ahead of us.

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-HE PANTS

-I'll tell you, that...

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that climb really takes it out of the legs.

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It's slightly surreal, coming out.

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Because it's quite featureless for quite a long time up that,

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and all of a sudden you're meeting these huge blocks,

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with their heads in the clouds.

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-It's like two big monsters coming at you.

-Yeah!

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There's blocks there half the size of a house!

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'It's cold and damp at the North Tor,

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'but even in the murk it's an extraordinary place.

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'Walk a landscape and you'll know it.

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'Spend time in its company and you'll share its secrets.'

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That looks like a face on that rock.

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It does, it's like a big sculpture, isn't it?

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-Like one of those Easter Island...

-Yes!

-..statues.

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You were telling me this is your favourite place up the Mournes.

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Oh, this is my favourite place.

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It's more than Donard or any of the rest.

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It has that bit of everything -

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a wee bit of scrambling up the rockface,

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a big long range up it and lovely scenery -

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-obviously you'll not get it today.

-Definitely not!

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It's gorgeous scenery here.

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How far have we to go to get to the summit?

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-About 200-odd metres to go.

-All right. Into the gloom.

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Into the gloom...

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Binnian's panoramic views are a tantalising prospect,

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and my first ascent here will definitely not be my last.

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If you've been inspired to put on the walking boots and see it for yourself,

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check out the website...

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You'll find route maps,

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safety advice and links to walking clubs in your area.

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Here we are, Banjo, we've left the world behind.

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-We've made it!

-Well done! You've done very well.

-Thanks very much.

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It's not Everest, but it'll do me.

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