With the traditional festive indulgences just about behind us, it was time to brave the elements and get down to one of our favourite places in Northern Ireland: Slieve Donard.

Not the hotel & spa, but the highest peak in Northern Ireland, nestled among the Mourne Mountains at the edge of Newcaslte, Co. Down.

After only about an hour from Belfast, we arrived in Newcastle, at the foot of the Mournes.  

From here you can start the trek up Slieve Donard from Donard Car Park, but for a change we headed on out of Newcastle, another 10 minutes round the coast to 'Bloody Bridge' car park.

The scenery is phenomenal even after just 25 minutes of walking.

With a bit of rainfall in the days prior, the river was booming and made for a great stopping point for a couple of pics and some fluids.  As you'll no doubt see in the posts which follow this, Max isn't really a water dog - so no fear of him heading too close to the river.  

If you're bringing your own canine up, do keep a close eye as the river edge can be quite steep in places - never mind some of the waterfalls and rocks that they'll experience on the way down to the Irish Sea. 

ALSO - we had Max on the lead nearly all the time; letting him off for a quick lookabout or photo opp. There are sheep all round, so even if you’ve a friendly pooch, you don’t want to take the risk of danger to either party.

For the next hour of ascent, visibility was poor.  Fog and light rain were constant and we could only see about 5 metres in front.  Despite being up that path several times before, we ended up totally off track and in no time were on hands and knees climbing up unfamiliar rocky outcrops.

Lonely rams and sheep had great pleasure in scaring the absolute crap out of us, appearing out of nowhere and disappearing at the same speed.

Deciding to venture on, figuring if we just keep climbing we're bound to come across the the wall, we thankfully arrived at The Wall with only soggy feet to worry about.  Lesson learnt - buy hiking shoes - gym trainers just don't cut it outside of summertime. 

Snow had long-disappeared down at sea level from the early December fall, but as we made the final, semi-steep climb to the summit, patches of white grew larger. 

Not like us, we only took a few photos at the top - partly due to instantly-freezing hands and also the dense fog.  

Definitely have to get back down this winter and bring some proper gear.  See you there?