Antrim Hills Way over two days

In the summer Rumblebum and I were joined by a few others to complete a 2 day backpack of the Antrim Hills Way. The route is one of the quality long walks on Walk NI (http://www.walkni.com/walks/51/antrim-hills-way/) and is a 22 mile way-marked trail. From memory, in the preparation I found that the walk was a bit longer than that. I think that the change of route on Section 4 between the Sallagh Braes and Old Freehold may have added a bit that may not have been adjusted in the stated distance.

Day one
We began the walk at the shore car park in the village of Glenarm which offers the traveller convenience stores for picking up last minute supplies and the other public amenities that are useful before a backpack. The walk started with a stiff but pleasant pull up out of the village on some quiet roads. Before long the village had disappeared from view as the high ground on the other side of the glen opened up in tandem with our endeavours.

Rising up above Glenarm

15147987007_bf3b38c48e_zAfter a couple of km the pace of ascent eased and before long it was off the roads and onto the hillside.  The weather forecast had told us there would be a splattering of heavy showers moving across the country but so far our only concerns were for getting too much sun as the temperatures rose as the day matured.  

The land laid out before us

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The finish line at Slemish, but for now we were still walking away from it

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Big sky

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The walking was fine on short cropped grass that was comfortable and relatively firm underfoot.

Scawt Hill

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Our route ahead follows the high ground of Scawt Hill, Robin Young’s Hill and Agnew’s Hill 

15311582626_e6ac24d2f1_zLooking west from the trig point on Black Hill

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We were treated to some really extensive and contrasting views.  To our left we had coastal views that extended all the way over to Scotland, whilst on our right the views opened up all the way over to the Sperrins in the west.

The way is clear way ahead

15311583216_e7562aa138_zStanding stone on Ballygilbert Hill

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Rumblebum sets the pace

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The Antrim Hills are often viewed from the west to which they present a more rounded profile.  This walk presents the walker with their sharp eastern edges.

The rugged eastern face of Scawt Hill

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The steep edges of Knockdhu guide the eye down to the Linford car park

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Fine views along the Sallagh Braes

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Agnew’s Hill in some fine weather

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The closer we get to Agnew’s Hill, the bigger it gets!

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We were still blessed with fine weather, although the heavy rain showers were much more evident now.  Fortunately the rain clouds moved to either side and left us alone.
 
A heavy rain shower gives Slemish a good soaking then moves along behind us, retreat was never an option anyway

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Arriving at our half way point we now seemed to be further away from the finish than we were earlier (as the crow flies anyway).

Pitched in time for sunset 

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Day two
After the weather doing it’s absolute best for us on day one, we saw the other side of the coin on day two.  The rain started during the night and kept going, and going and going.  Breakfast was indoors in the tent then there was no hanging about.  One of our party had planned to leave in the morning due to other commitments and the draw of a warm fire and a cup of tea was too strong for another member who jumped at the chance to join him.  That left three of us to continue the next leg, it’s only rain.  

We made quick progress along the Glenhead Road and only paused under the welcome shelter of a porch at the Greenmount Hill Farm for a cuppa and a bit of planning to see how the day might pan out.  It was one of those rainy days where there are no discernible clouds but rather a large sheet covering the entire sky, with no beginning and no end.  Hoods up, drawstrings adjusted and cuffs tightened, it was back to it.

With so much water falling the tracks above the hill farm were very welcome terrain to be on.  As we turned every corner I dreaded the path running out which it eventually did.  As we made our way along the open hillside of Glenhead the ground below was starting get very wet indeed.  Wearing a pair of fabric boots I had long since lost faith in, I just accepted that I was getting wet.  My companions were faring a bit better in their leather boots.

Even with the rain forcing us to be cocooned in the shelter of our wet weather gear and with heads down picking each footstep, I still tried to take the time look up and take in the surroundings.  This section of the walk differs from day one, the dramatic drops and coastal views are replaced with a quiet isolation and a wilderness feel that I really appreciate in the Antrim Hills. 

With the camera safely stowed in a drybag and the weather unlikely to improve, it was only a few phone pics taken through a waterproof cover to show for day two’s journey.

A red raincover accessorizes an otherwise dreary clothing theme

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With thoughts turning to lunch we wanted some respite from the continual rain so we made our way to the corner of Shillanavogy Wood hoping to get some shelter.  Entry to the wood wasn’t easy with barbed wire fences and water-filled sheughs to overcome.  Finding an entry point into a dense forest such as this wasn’t easy either.  Once in though we enjoyed the protection that the canopy afforded us.  Some hot soup recharged the batteries and set us up to face the cold and wet conditions again. 

Slemish in view (just about) and the tip of Shillanavogy Wood

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The area around Douglas Top and the approach to Slemish was seriously wet, so bad in fact it was funny.  At one point a bemused companion was heard shouting “Seriously, how much water does one place need to have?!”  It wasn’t so bad since we were approaching the end of the walking part of our trip however I was glad that I wasn’t pitching again for the night with totally soaking feet.

A bit of pathway broke up the sodden ground for a short but welcome interlude 

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That saying “so near yet so far” was very apt as we got closer to Slemish.  Douglas Burn was in full flow and presented the last but most significant obstacle of the journey.

14939128763_bcf950ec8c_zOur choices were very limited:  
1) Wade across it, which wasn’t a great prospect since it looked easily 3 foot deep.  
2) Take a run and leap. Now it was going to be impossible to clear it, but the hope would be that the landing pad was less deep.
3) Scale a barbed wire fence that really wasn’t tall enough to have your feet on and be able to hold on at a height to maintain balance.

With my boots already filled to the brim or so it felt, I thought our predicament was really quite funny.  Another of a party was really quite concerned at how this was all going to play out.  Rumblebum took the bull by the horns and scaled the fence.  This really was quite hairy with the gap to be covered being about 15 foot wide.  Once committed, to find that the top wire of the fence wasn’t connected to the middle posts was quite concerning and didn’t help.  

My turn on the fence, with only a map case to protect the important bits.  Neil on the other hand prays for another way

15417019499_370e6c4d68_zBack on dry (yeah right) land again we followed the base of Slemish, a mountain I am very acquainted with, but never get bored of, to our finish point.

This walk gave us everything, great weather and testing weather, fine terrain and tougher terrain, good times and well….more good times.  Check it out, it’s a fine wee country we have.

 

This entry was posted in Trip Reviews.

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