I was quite enthusiastic about doing my next peak, but time and circumstances meant that a trip to the Mournes would have to wait a little longer. Instead, I decided to walk up Cave Hill, which was closer to home, and while it wasn’t a mountain, it was still a steep climb. Our destination was Napoleon’s Nose, a promontory that jutted out from the cliff face and offered fantastic views over Belfast. So, basically, I picked a nose and not a peak!
We parked at Belfast Castle, which has lovely gardens and a café! Under normal circumstances we could’ve had a coffee after our climb, but sadly, we weren’t living in normal circumstances. We were living in a lockdown and the café was closed.
Lionel had never done the walk before, so after layering up, I led the way. We walked through black, wrought iron gates and took the gravel path to the left. In the winter months, or after any rain, the path can be very muddy in places. I was glad of my boots! The first part rose steeply, and I had to dig deep into my lungs to haul myself up it. As I slowly dragged myself up, other walkers, small children and dogs, strode past me, barely breaking breath!
I suggested we stop for a photo op, after a stepped incline.
‘But there’s no view,’ Lionel pointed out, as I leaned on my poles, panting.
‘There’s trees. I love trees!’ I couldn’t go any further until I’d gotten my breath back.
I knew there was worse to come and the rest helped prepare me for the brutal climb through trees that took us to the first vantage point. I wanted to collapse onto one of the four stone seats, but it had been raining and the bum shaped indentations on top of the columns had filled with water. Instead, Lionel took in the views and I took in much needed oxygen!
The wind was really getting up and I struggled to take a photograph with both the phone and the Polaroid camera.
This was a much more gradual climb around the Devil’s Punchbowl. We walked up a narrow path that circled the deep hollow, stepping up onto the bank to give way to sure-footed runners coming down from the top. Another short flight of steps led us up to the second vantage point. Cave Hill rose up behind us and below us, the city was spread out. A hazy morning light falling on the iconic landmarks that we were able to pick out from our lofty viewpoint. But there was still higher to go.
A flight of waterlogged muddy steps took us up to the top, where we turned left and followed the path that continued to climb along the cliffs. The wind was howling now, and my eyes and nose were streaming. My neck warmer prevented me from doing up the top button of my coat, so my hood wouldn’t stay up. My cashmere woollen hat did nothing to prevent the wind chill. So, by the time we fought our way to McArt’s Fort (Napoleon’s Nose) I couldn’t hear, see or breathe!
Unfortunately, the wind continued to pummel and punch us, preventing us from appreciating the panoramic views of Belfast, that can be enjoyed on a good day. It goes without saying that no Polaroid was taken. The camera as well as the photo, would have been blown away!
With the wind now thankfully at our backs, we retraced our footsteps and made our way back down. The path along the cliff top is quite rocky, so we took our time. I didn’t want to slip and land on my bottom. As naturally padded as it is, it still would hurt falling on sharp stones.
Even in the inclement conditions, there was a steady flow of walkers and excited dogs making their way to the top. Cave Hill is a popular walk, all year round and in all weathers.
We squelched our way through muck and like the stones, I took care and tried not to slip. I didn’t want a wet bum, any more than I wanted a sore one, thank you very much! My lovely grey boots had turned a muddy brown colour, but my feet were still dry, so I knew they were waterproof. Yay!
Before long we were walking through the trees again and shortly after that, we arrived back at the car, windswept but victorious. Another peak/promontory had been scaled and I would celebrate later with a glass of Prosecco. Right now, all I wanted was a coffee!
Although I had walked Cave Hill before, today’s venture up made me realise the importance of dressing appropriately. If I was going to pursue my mountaineering adventures, then I would definitely have to think about what I was wearing. Nothing I owned was designed for a hill walk, let alone a mountain. So, I was going to have to go somewhere I had never been before, an outdoor shop!
I have only ever owned one piece of outdoor clothing, a North Face fleece and that was a present from my brother, years ago. I remember it well because I was horrified when I opened it. I had no earthly use for it back then but now, I wish I’d kept it. It would be one less thing I’d have to buy before my next expedition. Maybe I should have a glass of Prosecco, in preparation for my shopping trip because right now, that was a much more intimidating prospect than any peak in the Mournes!
Wish me luck, I’ll keep you posted!
Peaks: 1 (2 in total)
Polaroids: 2 today
Prosecco: 1 glass
Join me next time…
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