Sunday 11 August 2019

Divis and the Black Mountain

I read somewhere that Divis is a favourite place of Hilary McGrady, the Director General of the National Trust. So I have her to thank for me being buffeted and blown about on an August Sunday morning.

If you need to see evidence that this was taken in August, I can provide it

I'm joking. It was actually a very pleasant walk, especially as I had been forced to invest £39.99 in an emergency raincoat the day before and was delighted with myself when the rain lashed down on me halfway up the mountain.

I had arrived at 9.45am expecting to be literally the only person there, but the car park was full. I could not believe my eyes - joggers, couples, families, dogs; they were all parking up and setting off up the mountain as if they'd been waiting all their lives for this moment. I honestly thought there must be a parkrun or a music festival going on - but no. Just a Sunday stroll on your usual freezing, rainy, misty August morning. 

Divis over Belfast

Hilary lives in Belfast and chose Divis as a great spot for running; "Divis is one of my favourite places in Northern Ireland. When I was growing up, it was home to an army base and it was totally off limits. When the National Trust bought it, almost overnight, it became a neutral space. Somewhere where everyone could go to refresh and recharge. The sense of freedom when I run there now is such a stark contrast, and something I never take for granted."

In fact, the area had been leased to the Ministry of Defence from 1953 and they bought it outright in 1986 as a vantage point over Belfast during the Troubles. They sold it to the NT in 1999 and it was opened to the public in 2005.

The Divis and Black Mountain property actually contains the Divis Mountain, Black Mountain, Mount Gilbert and Armstrongs Hill, as well as the headwaters of Clady Water and the Forth River, Ballygomartin River, Collin River and Crumlin River.

At one point I passed a group of elderly walkers, one of whom was singing On Raglan Road. I thought this was lovely, until what I assume was his daughter said wearily; "That's all very nice but shall we get a cup of tea?" I felt for her when we all trooped into the Ranger's Station only to be told that they don't serve refreshments until 11am. Desperate as I was for warm sustenance, I wasn't sure if any scones would be available and I had to hit the road to The Argory in County Armagh, so I headed off.

Divis and the Black Mountain: 4 out of 5 - great for cob-web clearing
Scones: Not sure if they had any and tea facilities weren't open
Chance of me running up Divis, even if it had been a sunny day: 0 out of 5

Other stops on my tour of Northern Ireland: Carrick-a-Rede, CromCastle CooleCushendunThe ArgoryWhite Park BaySpringhill

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