Lecale Way Walk

It was Spud that first suggested the Lecale way to me on one of our Annalong valley camps & with so many days in mountains it was time for a multi day road & trek adventure.last weekends coastal trek was over a section of the Lecale way.

The Lecale way extends over 40 miles of the county Down coast taking in beaches,roads,country parks & rugged coast line.With the objective of walking at least twenty miles each day we discussed our options about all the kit we would need over two days,ie food,tents,stoves etc.As neither Spud,ed or myself have never trekked that distance before we quickly rested with the desicion to spend our overnight at my brothers beach house  which he allowed me to use near Kilief,which is just over the halfway point.This also meant we could arrange any gear we needed could be there when we arrived after our first day on our trek.

Now I know the true romantics out there will be saying that’s cheating not carrying all our kit & not spending the night under canvas but those of that have followed our previous adventures will know we’re no strangers to spending the night under the stairs & roughing it.This also allowed us to walk with only the essentials which we could easily carry in a day sac.Again having never done such a long walk before
I reckon we made the right desicion over hauling our gear. According to the official guide on the Lecale way the route begins in Newcastle & finishes in Downpatrick but we decided it made more sense for us to walk home along the coast to Downpatrick.

Our journey began at Newcastle library located on the main street beside the  Shimna river,from here we made our onto the promenade with spectacular views along Newcastles golden sands,passing the award winning slieve donard hotel we ventured into the darkness with  the sound of crashing waves to remind us where we were.these first few miles would be along the shoreline of Murlough bay which is a popular walking spot for families.most of the ground here is cared for by the natural trust,leaving the shore weventured inland towards the Downshire bridge leading us towards the sleeping village of Dundrum or in Irish ,Dun Droma which means ridge fort after its circular keep,walking through the village  i began to wonder about what adventures lay ahead.I was hoping as a group we could walk at 3 KL an hour this pace would allow time for  breaks & should get us to our halfway point around tea time .

Leaving dundrum we turned on coastal path & took the oppourtuniy to have some coffee,this part of the Lecale way is on the old Newcastle railway line which made an interesting part of the walk,nearing our turn off for ballykinlar there was lots of black thorn bushes which ideal for walking sticks.back on the road now we were nearing ballykinlar & i cramping up big style,stopping at local & only garage,shop we bought a few provisions &  i took the chance to take some Ibrobrufen which I would not normally take, but with at least 12 miles ahead of us I was anticipating been in a world of pain. Spud took the lead & increased the pace to about 6 kph which really helped us get some distance behind us.finally reaching st Johns point we rested in the ruins of an old church .

Next we covered the ground between st Johns lighthouse   & kill lough,from here we followed the costal road round to Ardglass were we stopped at Doc’s chippy for,wait for fish & chips which was one of the most welcoming meals we’ve ever had,nearing the point of being totally exchaused we more or less collapsed into our seats,when the food arrived it was nearly an emotional moment for us,with the first mouthful we glanced at each other & gave back ” that look ” of thank you god.

Turning onto the sheep land section we followed the trek along the headland in failing light we could hear the crashing waves as they bashed the rocks below..It took about an hour to trek this section with increasing wind & rain we reached  Ballyhoran beach we could see the white horses pounding down on the sands,having walked through some rough weather & cover over twenty two miles  we  dam well deserved a pint,entering the Cable bar all the local turned to glance at these tired strangers in their bar,but nothing was going to stop us ‘ three pints of cider & ice please,’really felt like such a goal for us,too sum it up the best I can,it was bloody great!

Now at my brotheirs house we met up with spuds good wife who kindly dropped off our kit,we quickly lit the wood burning stove then took it in turn to shower,never smelled as bad in my life,with fresh rags on & the house warm it was time to eat again,  sirloin steak with chips & pepper sauce washed down with tea & a bottle of Belfast finest ale.after this we sat around chatting about our day & planing tomorrow,soon after the sandman was calling us,so we retired for the  night. We needed an early start on Saturday morning in order to put some kilometres under our belts,so after a quick breakfast we were back on the Tarmac heading towards the shore road,just a few hundred metres off Ballyhoran is Guns island which can waded over to on a Summers low tide.Walking on Tarmac for hours on end really is hard on the feet and by this stage I had at least three blisters,thoughts came to mind of typoons TGO & how well he did considering his injuries,also he was carrying all his kit.

Most of all I was looking forward to the Castleward section of the Lecale way,it was at Castleward nearly twenty years ago that I had my first job as a general ” dogs body ” my duties included gardening ,forestry,litter picking,basically anything asked of me,most of all I enjoyed assisting the gamekeeper in raising the young pheasants.Castlewards jewel in the Crown is its 18th century mansion set in a 820 acre estate,also within the estate can be found  Audleys castle,a 15th tower house & more recently the film set of, A game of thrones ” . As children my parents would often take us to Castleward were we would let our adventures run wild building huts  &  playing Robin hood,now as an adult i’am back on the same treks.

Coming away from the coast we ventured into the ancient place named Raholp
With its round tower church & home of Ireland’s largest St Patrick statue  on slieve Patrick which marks
Commentates the 1500 th  anniversary  of St Patricks landing in Ireland.The Lecale way  now borders around lough Money before ascending up slieve Patrick.when we finally reached the top we got our first glimpse of Downpatrick,by this stage as long I kept going then the discomfort was not to bad,but when I stopped & reachstarted I was reminded me  of every blister I had.We had the old Downshire hospital wall & the glow of the towns street lights were now drawing us in,walking down the Gallows hill we could also smell the finish,i’am sure we were a strange sight to behold,we were walking like John Wayne into a saloon.

In my youth I was involved  in any adventures going,firstly as a scout then with the Down youth council were I was involved in many different exchanges,camps,kayaking courses & of course days in the Mournes,now as an adult I belief it was my sense of adventure as a child that  inspires me still  to sling my backpack on & head off into the great  outdoors.I’ve always really enjoyed looked forward to outings,wondering what mysteries laid just around  the next corner & the Lecale way was indeed a great adventure with a super bunch of lads.

Some of the many photos i have & here’s the movie : http://youtu.be/AK_2jtg5PhU

This entry was posted in Trip Reviews.

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