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
of the Mournes.
It's an area of outstanding natural beauty,
an irresistible draw for ramblers.
And my search for wilderness begins on a wonderful walking route,
on the southern side of the mountains.
From the end of Annalong Wood,
it's gravelly underfoot as you stride towards Blue Lough
on a well-worn trail to Slieve Binnian.
Passing Ben Crom reservoir,
the walk up the ridge to the summit is long and tough.
This is definitely a walk for the fitter rambler.
And Banjo Bannon's going to lead the way.
It's like a water feature, isn't it?
It is. It's a natural feature and follows all the way along the path.
He's climbed his way to the top,
and Banjo's incredible journey to the roof of the world
began right here.
He trained in the Mournes to take on and conquer Mount Everest,
a dream come true for a boy from Newry.
Just do a bit of a hop, skip and a jump.
The first time I went walking in the Mournes
I was about 14 years of age,
and I decided to walk from Newcastle to Rostrevor.
Little did I know it was about 24 miles.
I just followed the wall and eight hours later
I arrived in Rostrevor very tired and exhausted
but I made it and it felt really great,
and it was that sense of exploration and expedition for me then,
and then I knew that's what I really wanted to do with my life.
The hardest thing is getting up out of your bed.
Once you're up and actually doing it...
If you start thinking about it too much...
Just go up and do it and, believe me, you'll thank me for it,
because just look round the scenery here,
it's just gorgeous, even on bad days.
There's never one day the same because, you know,
the heather's purple or else it goes brown,
every day is so different, the cloud formation is different,
and it's just that sense of actually getting out here
and, you know, it's actually good for your health as well.
Maybe that's why ramblers say there's a hill for every ill.
We're about 2,000 feet up here,
making our way towards the North Tor on Slieve Binnian,
but this is not an easy walk.
'There's still a long way to go,
'and up ahead the weather's closing in.
'To make matters worse, I didn't eat enough,
'and I'm running low on energy.
'So make sure you have a big breakfast
'before hitting this trail.'
Ah...and out of the gloom
you begin to see these huge...they look like boulders ahead of us.
-I'll tell you, that...
that climb really takes it out of the legs.
It's slightly surreal, coming out.
Because it's quite featureless for quite a long time up that,
and all of a sudden you're meeting these huge blocks,
with their heads in the clouds.
-It's like two big monsters coming at you.
There's blocks there half the size of a house!
'It's cold and damp at the North Tor,
'but even in the murk it's an extraordinary place.
'Walk a landscape and you'll know it.
'Spend time in its company and you'll share its secrets.'
That looks like a face on that rock.
It does, it's like a big sculpture, isn't it?
-Like one of those Easter Island...
You were telling me this is your favourite place up the Mournes.
Oh, this is my favourite place.
It's more than Donard or any of the rest.
It has that bit of everything -
a wee bit of scrambling up the rockface,
a big long range up it and lovely scenery -
-obviously you'll not get it today.
It's gorgeous scenery here.
How far have we to go to get to the summit?
-About 200-odd metres to go.
-All right. Into the gloom.
Into the gloom...
Binnian's panoramic views are a tantalising prospect,
and my first ascent here will definitely not be my last.
If you've been inspired to put on the walking boots and see it for yourself,
check out the website...
You'll find route maps,
safety advice and links to walking clubs in your area.
Here we are, Banjo, we've left the world behind.
-We've made it!
-Well done! You've done very well.
-Thanks very much.
It's not Everest, but it'll do me.