7 min read

The Dromara Hills - Slieve Croob

Black and white photo of the mountain Slieve Croob
Slieve Croob

Slieve in Irish is Mountain (sliabh), Croob (Crúibe) being hoof. The Mountain of the Hoof. It's also the source of the River Lagan and probably one of the shortest, easiest walks to a 360 view that is up there as one of the best in Ireland.

Panorama of Slieve Croob
Panorama of Slieve Croob from around the start of the walk

It's only about a 40 minute drive from Belfast and heading up Dree hill itself is worth the trip. The Dromara hills are beautiful. Of course, as with most trips I'm always left to wonder what the shape of the land would look like if there were trees.   When you think of the history of the names of places, agriculture and grazing animals have been a staple of the Countryside for thousands of years. So I guess it just is what it is, though I'd love to see a real initiative to rewild Ireland.

Interesting aside that is related to place names and how livestock was valued - the river Lagan has it's source at the Mountain of the Hoof and ends it's journey at Belfast Lough, also known historically as Loch Laigh meaning "sea inlet of the calf".

Not on the walk but a short drive away, at the foot of Slieve Croob, is Legananny Dolmen. It's a Neolithic passage tomb, five thousand years old or thereabouts. The name Legananny is derived from Liagán Áine meaning "Áine's standing stone". Áine being the Irish Godess of Summer.

Black and white photograph of a passage tomb in Ireland, Legananny Dolmen
Legananny Dolmen

You head up the side of a farm to get to the Dolmen. Not much else here to see, though there's always the views.

View from Legananny Dolmen
View from Legananny Dolmen

Back in the car and head to the car park at the start of the walk. As I said it's a very straightforward walk up a tarmac path to the summit.  You are free to wander anywhere once through the gate.

So this is pretty much the route you take, up and back;

black and white photograph of a path leading to the summit of a mountain
The path leading up to the summit

From the start of the walk up imagination gets fired. Groups of stone here and there along with mounds give a real sense of history. This mountain has been used for thousands of years by communities and was obviously very active in Neolithic times. The dolmen points to this and it is clear that this mountain was of importance to people of the time. Apart from the views, a reason I visited was to see the remains of the burial mound at the summit.

Theres a mound that juts out and standing there you think back to when there was perhaps a homestead of sorts, it's a pefect location for it. Easy to keep an eye out for your flock and see any visitors coming.

looking across as you climb Slieve Croob

About halfway up things start to get a fair bit steeper. I say it's an easy walk but you are going up a Mountain, small as it may be. Looking back down and those views! Last couple of times I've been up I just march up to the top not looking around, then leisurely make my way back down and take it all in.

view looking west of Slieve Croob across County Down
Looking back down from around the halfway point

From this point looking down, move off the path to the right and down the slope to find the source of the river Lagan. It's not much to look at but the Lagan by Belfast is another favourite walk so it's nice to get a look at the trickle here and think on how it shapes the land down to the Lough.

Back to the path and on up. Starts to get a little tougher but more the reason to slow down and just take in the views.

On a warm summers day it's all very pleasant, but being Ireland, this is a rare enough occasion. Expect wind, clouds and all the types of rain you can imagine. Regardless of the weather it's worth it.

I love the anticipation as you head up a hill. It's never the same view. The weather paints a pretty picture and unique every time. Heading on up you start to get glimpses of what's over the top.

The path continues up until you get to the antennaes. Some might complain about how it spoils the landscape but you know, here I am writing an article on the web. A station and it's associated gear is the least of the worlds problems right now.

Head round the side of this and you forget it even exists. If the wind isn't blowing you sideways your breath will be taken by what's ahead of you.

Just awe inspiring. To illustrate what I mean about the weather painting the picture. Pretty much the same spot on what's a more likely day on Croob;

Short climb up to the top now, steep walk up and over a stile to the cairn at the top.  It is believed to be the remains of a burial mound. In the 19th century it was recorded to be 77 yards (70 m) around and 18 yards (16 m) in "conical height", with forty-two "pillar stones" or kerbstones around the edge. Sadly with time and possibly people, it has collapsed.

Some stones have been piled onto other mounds over the years giving the summit the nickname of "The twelve cairns". Traditionally, people would gather on the summit at Lughnasadh where they would add a stone to one of the cairns.

Folk still climb the mountain on the first Sunday in August (referred to as Cairn Sunday or Blaeberry Sunday), and carry a stone up the mountain to help bury the twelve Kings, who are said to be buried at the top.

The view from the cairn, south to the Mourne Mountains

Beside the cairns is the trig. Achievement unlocked!

Looking east across County Down to the Irish Sea

On a good day the views really are exceptional. Based on effort/reward ratio it's a must walk. The mountain of the hoof does not disappoint!