In June we booked a night away in Carlingford to celebrate our anniversary. The plan was to have a walk around town, climb Slieve Foye and grab a meal in the evening. However, the weather wasn’t exactly playing ball. When we arrived in the afternoon, Slieve Foye was covered in heavy cloud and it didn’t look like it was going anywhere.

So we figured we might have to put the climb off till the following morning and hope it would be ok then. We took a wander around town, enjoyed some lunch and then headed to our accommodation, a B&B about ten minutes away from Carlingford in Riverstown.

One of the best things about staying with locals is getting the inside info, right! When we told our host, Mark, about our plans to climb Slieve Foye he advised us that rather than starting our climb from town, as we had planned, it was best to take an alternate route from the south west.  He explained that it cuts out the steep start you have from Carlingford town, offers great views and that the start of the trail was conveniently only up the road from the B&B. Sounded good to us on all counts! We assessed the weather again. The cloud wasn’t lingering, just coming and going now and so we decided that we would try to climb Slieve Foye that afternoon after all.

Slieve Foye – Vital Stats!

Rising majestically above the town of Carlingford, Slieve Foye (or Slieve Foy) is the highest peak on the Cooley Peninsula and within county Louth. It’s elevation is 589 metres but coming from this direction you’ll be starting your hike at 148m so you’ve got a pretty decent head start! The return hike is approx 7 km in total. Allow 3 – 4 hours if you like to stop frequently and fully appreciate the views. 

Slieve Foye almost totally covered in cloud as we set out on our hike.

Slieve Foye almost totally covered in cloud as we set out on our hike.

Stunning views from the start of the hike.

Start Point and Route

Our start point was maybe half a km or so north of Mullaghbuoy School in Riverstown (zoom in on the map below for exact position). You’ll see a junction and a signpost for the Táin Way. There’s a clear track and a grass verge with room for maybe three or four cars to pull up and park. Starting from here you’ll follow part of the Táin Way up until the pass. Then you change course for the summit. 

The trail is pretty straightforward from this route and right from the get-go, the views are stunning. We found ourselves stopping a lot to take them in and enjoyed the gradual climb up towards Golyin Pass from this side. Once you reach the pass, you can start to enjoy the views over Carlingford town and lough. As you continue on, the views only get better.

Enjoy a more gradual ascent of Slieve Foye from this trail.

Curious sheep in front of a cloud covered Slieve Foye.

From the pass we headed north-west for the summit of Slieve Foye, which at that moment was covered in cloud. We met two hikers on their way back down. They’d gone up until they hit the clouds and were now going to head to Barnavave opposite, as it was clear. Hopeful that the conditions would change again, we kept aiming for the summit and the cloud did seem to be lifting a little as we approached.

From the pass you can start to see the views out to Carlingford Lough and beyond.

From the pass you can start to see the views out to Carlingford Lough and beyond.

Looking back towards Barnavave.

Looking back towards Barnavave as you climb towards the summit.

Bog cotton and a cloud covered summit of Slieve Foye.

Taking in the views before the final climb to the summit of Slieve Foye.

Taking in the views before the final climb.

We finished the last stretch of the climb and made it to the top. It’s a little strenuous but not super tough and those who hate scree will be happy as that’s not a problem here! Luckily for us, the clouds had cleared and so we were able to enjoy the views. They are stunning in all directions and take in the Mourne Mountains and Carlingford Lough, Dundalk Bay and even as far off as the Wicklow Mountains. It’s a bit of fun up top too with lots of larger rocks to climb and scramble over as you explore.

We went to check out the north facing slope. It was overcast at first but then there was a break in the cloud and we were suddenly surrounded by beautiful golden light. We found a spot to rest a bit and enjoy the stunning views over the Mourne Mountains, gratefully tucking into the Tayto crisps and cookies that had been provided in our B&B room. We had originally planned to pick up some supplies in town before starting our walk there but plans changed so we went with whatever we could get our hands on!

Clouds and golden light over the Mourne Mountains as a ship sails through Carlingford Lough.

Looking across to the Mourne Mountains

Golden Light across the Mourne Mountains viewed from Slieve Foye.

Did I mention the stunning views!!

Views of Carlingford Lough from the summit of Slieve Foye

The Struggle is Real

It was so beautiful we found it hard to leave. We eventually dragged ourselves away as the sun was setting so that we wouldn’t be finishing in the dark! But we had spent so long on Slieve Foye, we had no chance of getting a meal back in town. It was well after 10pm when we got there. The restaurants were no longer serving and the pubs were now packed out. 

Hazy mountains layers as the sun sets over Slieve Foye

Watching clouds rolling by from the summit of Slieve Foye

View of patchwork fields from Slieve Foye

Enjoying the last of the light as we started to make our way down.

Après Climb!

It seems people come to Carlingford either to party, or adventure. Or if they’re young enough, to do both! It’s a popular spot for hen and stag parties anyway and the fact it was a bank holiday weekend too meant the town was in full-on party mode. We’d seen the bus loads arrive that afternoon and some people were clearly displaying the ill effects of a day of drinking. Definitely not interested in joining the party, we settled for our only option at that point, some food from the chipper. We went to a bench by the waterfront to tuck into our grub, escaping the madness in town and enjoying the sound of the water lapping close by instead.

So there you have it. A picnic of Tayto crisps and cookies on top of Slieve Foye followed by a bag of chips and a burger by the waterfront…it doesn’t get more romantic (or unhealthy) than that! Definitely a cheap date but a most enjoyable day overall. Here’s to many more mountain-top anniversaries!   

Phone selfie on Slieve Foye

Phone selfie on the summit!

Where to stay

The B&B we stayed at was called Mark’s Place. It’s in Riverstown, about ten minutes from Carlingford. If you have your own transport and don’t need to be in the centre of town then this is a great option. Mark is a fantastic host. He even offers free drop-in to Carlingford until 9pm if you want to head out for a while and if you need a later return service you can arrange it with him for an additional fee.

The free snacks in the room were a nice touch and kept us going for our hike! There are other walks to enjoy locally too. The icing on the cake though was the fantastic breakfast including the best three-cheese omelette we’ve tasted! Highly recommended. Check prices and availability here.

 

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