My Newcastle & The Mournes STAYCATION

It all started one day over a morning coffee, I said to my wife 'I'd love to go on a road trip, somewhere I don't really get to too often and be there for sunrise to sunset with my camera. After a bit of pondering I thought of the Mournes, so I jumped onto Airbnb found a place in Castlewellan, booked it and began to prepare for my roadtrip to Newcastle at the weekend!

Friday, came round real quick, I got up said goodbye to the kids telling them, I'm going on an adventure this weekend. With a quick coffee and a hearty breakfast, I kissed my wife goodbye and hit the road. It was a bleak and rainy morning but checking the forecast I was in for a promise of good sunny weather.

Arriving into Newcastle, the clouds were heavy and very low, making for some epic shots. I pulled up into Donard carpark and headed for the beach to take a few shots. The beach was littered with debris still from the aftermath of Storm Francis from the previous weekend. I stayed for an hour before making my way to my Airbnb in Castlewellan. It was a modest place, my room had a TV, Kettle and mini fridge. After unpacking I boiled up the kettle poured some coffee into my flask and made plans to trek my first mountain of my trip, destination Slieve Muck.

It was around 5pm when I arrived at the carpark opposite. I didn't waste anytime and began trekking the mountain towards the summit following the Mourne Wall. The terrain was marshy due to the heavy rainfall which made it even harder to climb. After an 1hr 15 I reached the first of the three summits and almost immediately was blasted by the chilling strong winds at the top. I took myself over to the Mourne Wall for some shelter and a coffee break, while I prepared for the sun setting over Spelga Dam.

I can see the appeal and sense of satisfaction climbing these giants of Down and as I sat there drinking my hot coffee, watching the clouds race by above, with only the noise of the wind and a few Rams for company, the catchlight from the sun on landscape changing minute by minute. Approaching 7pm I grabbed my gear and setup my camera for the sunsetting, this was the perfect opportunity to field test my new Manfrotto Befree Advanced Pro tripod. Of the bat I was inconvenienced with Manfrottos decision not to have integrated spike feet and the Arca Swiss Plate, that I had been so used to with the previous Manfrotto Elements travel tripod which recently suffered from a broken leg spring. The catchlight was incredible caressing the landscape below, with beautiful dramatic cloud formations in the distance.

As the sun began to set behind Pigeon Rock I pack up my gear and began my decent back to the carpark. It was a beautiful clear evening and I wanted to stay out more, but I had plans early tomorrow morning and I didn't want to do too much too soon. Getting back to my Airbnb for 11pm I plugged in my batteries for charge, cleaned down my gear and got lunch prepared for a busy day tomorrow.

4.45am, I looked out the window, the conditions where perfect for a sunrise shoot, destination Bloody bridge. Arriving at the carpark the light from the sun was already apparent on the horizon. I quickly grabbed my gear and suited up for what was gonna be a cold and potentially wet wait for the sunrise. When I got down to the coast I discovered a fellow Photographer had already setup perched on a rock splitting the Shimna river as it flow out to sea. This looked to be the best position and it was, as I struggled to find an alternative vantage point, but I was not for giving up and just as I found one a bank of cloud rolled in to cover the sun [Dam]

I took this opportunity to point my camera up towards Bloddy bridge and the surrounding areas as I hoped for the sun to make a brief appearance from behind the clouds. Realising that the clouds where here stay I carefully traversed the rocks heading up underneath Bloody bridge to see if there was anything worth taking from there. The rocks where very slippy under foot and I lost my grip at one point collapsing down on my knee as I prevented my camera from crashing into the rocks. At this point I decided to call it quits and opted for my plan B, Tollymore Forest.

Tollymore was a much better plan, using my ND filters and with the cloudy atmosphere I was able to get some beautiful silky smooth river shots by Foley's bridge and the stepping stones following the red trail. Along the trail there was evidence of the remains from the torrential rainfall of storm Francis as it left a trail of destruction, smashing a few bridges and water logging pathways. After a few hours spent in the forest, I decided to head back to my Airbnb and replenish some batteries while I freshened up in preparation for a bit of sunset/evening shooting at Murlough Bay and Newcastle town.

My intentions were to stay at Murlough Bay and shot some slow shutter water images, but when I got there and discovered the distance to get to the points of interest, I felt it would be better use of my time to get to Newcastle town and walk the beach to find the shots I was after. At this point the sun was setting and producing an amazing red glow in the sky, but when I reached the town it had almost faded away, nevertheless I was able to get some impressive blue hour shots and even stayed out for a bit of experimental astro-photography, using the wash-up debris from the storm as focal points.

As I sat there on the beach, which was now pitch black and only the faint lights from the town behind me, between exposures I checked my weather app for tomorrow, planning a visit to the Silent Valley to capture the sunrise over the reservoir and it was looking good. Having felt I had got enough shots I pack up and travelled back to my Airbnb for the last time of my stay.

The next morning, 4.45am, felt like a Groundhog day I got up pack all my stuff filled my all important coffee cup and headed for Silent Valley. Approaching the reservoir from the South I discovered the the sun was looking like it was going to rise into a wall of cloud, just sitting over the horizon, which was disappointing. I quickly check my Sat Nav for a Plan B and discovered the trail for Slieve Binnian wasn't too far away. Pulling up to Carrick little car park, I grabbed my gear and began my trek to the Summit of Binnian. I took the path past the Blue Lough until it split Left to Slieve Binnian and right Slieve Lamagan. The accent to the top of Binnian was tricky with rocky Tors towards the top. I very quickly discovered the fall to my knee yesterday was starting to become apparent, but I was determined to not let it beat me and boy was I so glad it didn't.

The views at (almost) the top where spectacular, I could't manage the climb around the last Tor as it was it was starting to take its toll on my knee now, the climb took 1 1/2hr at a reasonable pace. I took this opportunity to pour myself a coffee and take in the views of Silent Valley and Ben Crom Reservoir beneath and off course get it some of those all important shots. After an hour I began my decent, my knee was in agony now and I felt every step, on the way down I bumped into a couple of ladies with the cutest we dog and it was a welcome relief chatting as it kept my mind of the pain in my knee. Approaching the carpark I decided to call in to the Carrick Tea Room for a pint of coke and a bacon sandwich, the perfect end to my mini Staycation in the Mournes.

Checkout my vid below. Enjoy :-)

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@2017 by Nick Scott