This morning I ventured towards Divis and the Black Mountain. I was on my way back from Belfast International Airport via Hannahstown at 6am and the sun was shining, so I thought it would be a good chance to look at the area now owned by the National Trust. The property contains the peaks of Divis Mountain, Black Mountain, Mount Gilbert and Armstrongs Hill, and also the headwaters of the Clady Water, Forth River, Ballygomartin River, Collin River and the Crumlin River. The landscape is home to a host of wildlife and there are walking trails along a variety of terrain: through heath, on stone tracks, along boardwalks and road surface.
However I was not properly prepared for hill walking so I spent half an hour or so on the road leading up towards the two mountains. Having reached Divis Lodge I turned back. The house and farm was the home of the Dobbin family until the 1950s. The whole site used to be owned by the Ministry of Defence and was out of bounds to the public for over fifty years. The communications centre on the top of Divis Mountain was used during the Cold War and later during the troubles. It was also used by the British Army as a training area. As I walked from the car park, I was on my own enjoying views across towards Lisburn and beyond to the Mourne mountains. The only other occupants were some cattle in a field. It was a beautiful start to the day.
I noticed that a walking festival will be taking place there in a fortnight’s time, organised by the North West Mountain Rescue Team to raise funds for the service. Routes of 10k and 20k are being offered on the day (Saturday June 15th). There will also be a vintage tractor and vehicle extravaganza from 1pm to 3pm with the vehicles making their way to the top of Divis Mountain. More details can be found on the website of the Belfast Hills Partnership.
On a clear day Divis Mountain allows views of Belfast and Belfast Lough, south-west Scotland, the Isle of Man, Antrim Hills, the Mournes, Lough Neagh, Strangford Lough, the Sperrins, Donegal and mid-Ulster. My neighbour, an experienced hillwalker, has often told me about this beauty to be found on our doorstep. From our houses we can see the other side of Divis and White Mountain. I must now take the opportunity to explore further this scenic part of Belfast.
The City Council has produced a useful guide to the different paths. The Black Mountain route is 6km return and can be done in under two hours. The trek to Divis is a further 2.3km. A walk around the perimeter of the National Trust property takes around six hours. For a list of all walking routes in the city, see here.