Scaling Sleve Donard
One of the “bonus” parts of traveling that I try to take advantage of – whenever possible – is hanging out with locals. I think hearing what locals think about their turf (as well as their perspective on events in the USA) is illuminating and helps break me out of my assumptions.
In Newcastle County Down, it was incredible to have Joe’s local family members giving us tips on where to go and what to try. At one point, we had the opportunity to hike the tallest peak in the area called Sleve Donard.
Although it started as a lovely tromp up a simple trail lined by wildflowers and babbling brooks, once we reached the top, things took a turn.
Our friend Joe is a great guy. Scrappy, great sense of humor, and always up for an adventure (as well as a pint). His father Colin is similar in personality but with more experience in the Newcastle area. Colin kindly offered to take us up Sleve Donard on a morning hike.
We slowly made our way up the mountain on a well-maintained trail lined by rocks and local foliage. A steep climb along an old-school stone fence led to the top, overlooking all of Newcastle and the nearby ocean.
After a break for a snack (and a beer – surprise surprise) at the top, Colin decided to forgo the original path and instead lead us down the steepest face of the whole darn mountain which he claimed was a “shortcut.”
This would have been fine, except for the surprise holes along the entire way down. And the fact that it was 80% mud, covered in patches of long, camouflage-y grass. Oh, and that it started to rain as we made our descent.
With Lauren (Joe’s wife) bringing up the rear uttering a steady chant of “I’m going to die,” we all made our way slowly down this creative excuse for a slip-and-slide which took easily three times longer than the original path up.
The bottom of the treacherous path was conveniently located near the best pub in town, the Anchor Bar, where we stopped for a pint (or in my cold-and-wet-and-muddy case, a hot toddy).
…It’s just occurring to me that this whole “shortcut” may have had a very specific objective: beer.
All-in-all, it was an adventure that I’m glad we had. Or maybe that’s just the whiskey talking… 😉