Tucked away in the middle of the High Mournes is the often overlooked summit of Doan. It may not be the most famous of Mourne Mountains, and, at 593 m, it’s certainly far from the tallest. And yet its very size and location make it one of the most charming mountains a landscape photographer can visit in the area.
For, from the summit of this little peak, you truly find yourself immersed in the heart of the Kingdom of Mourne. To your north, the imposing ragged tors of Slieve Bearnagh rise above you, flanked by Meelmore to the north-west, and by Comedagh and Donard to the distance in the north east. Directly to your east lies a series of ridges and mountain peaks that lead the eye around towards the unmistakeable shape of Slieve Binnian to the south-east, complete with its very own tors to mirror Bearnagh opposite.
In short, from your elevated point of view, you look down over valleys, and then you look up again to a whole series of mountain peaks all around you, with Doan nestling in the middle of it all. As if that isn’t enough, due south from the peak lies the long thin valley in which the Silent Valley Reservoir rests, a beautiful view to lead the eye out towards the Irish Sea in the distance.
But it’s not just the location that gives you choice after choice for framing your photographs. The light here is magical. Whether it’s an early morning sunrise, peaking up over Binnian, or the setting sun disappearing behind the summits to the west, casting long rays of light over valleys that are often draped in faint moody mist, the light here can be magical.
And it changes so much over the course of the year, as the sun moves in its annual cycle. In the heart of the winter, it sets far to the south-west, lighting the far off valleys. In the summer, it sets more due west, allowing you to fit yet another body of water, Lough Shannaghmore, into your shot as the sun paints the sky above.
To cap it all, given its size and location, Doan is one of the most accessible mountains in the Mournes. Parking at Ott carpark, it’s a 20-30 minute hike up to the wall and about another 45 minutes to the summit (surely one of the quickest routes to the wall itself) following a rocky path for most of the way and some bog land for part of it.
Once over the wall, Doan will rise up before you, surrounded by all the other peaks acting as sentinels overlooking their smaller sibling. A short walk along the path brings you level with Doan. At this point, you need to cut right towards the mountain. This is the trickiest part of the walk, as you again need to traverse bog land. Exercise care as you do so – you can find reasonably dry and safe ways across, but some parts of the bog are waiting to gobble up the foot of the unsuspecting hiker!
Once past the short bog, you pick up the route of a dried river bed into which a sandy deposit of eroded granite has been laid mercifully dry and easy to walk on after the bog. The river channels meander up the slope before opening up into a large flat bowl of sandy granite – a veritable moonscape if ever there was one in the Mournes.
From there, it’s a relatively short and gentle ascent up towards the peak. There are some paths that you can follow towards the summit. As you reach the top, you’ll meet a couple of tor outcrops. The first, a lower one, you can by-pass on route to the top. Once you meet the rocky outcrops, you will need to scramble over the rock faces a little bit. No climbing gear is needed – but, as always, care is. Go round the western side of the mountain – looking out for a flat rocky outcrop that is perfect for that rugged landscape photographer action pose photo taken by your mate – and make your way over the rocks for the top. Once there, the view is your oyster! Choose your view, making the most of the rocks and pools of the summit that provide that ever important foreground interest.
If you decide to stay for sunset (which is to be recommended if possible), you can make your way back to the car park in about an hour. The first part of the descent to the wall can be done in twilight if you leave early enough. Bring a torch for the last section from the wall to the car. Going back through the bog, there is no real path, so again you’ll need to be careful.
If you’ve never been up the Mournes, Doan is the perfect little mountain to start with. If you’ve only done Donard and the more famous ones before, then check out this wonderful little sibling. Great things, as they say, come in small packages!
About Alistair Hamill
Alistair Hamill is an amateur landscape photographer from Co Antrim, Northern Ireland. He is often faced with the dilemma as to whether to travel north from where he lives to his beloved Causeway Coast or south to the magical kingdom of the Mountains of Mourne. To be honest, whichever decision he makes, he’s on to a winner. He’s also a bit of a photographic insomniac. An avid aurora chaser and astro photographer, he’ll often be out in the wee small hours craning his neck – and camera – skywards. Alistair also enjoys writing about photography and he maintains and active blog and is the author of some photography eBooks.
Destinations are supplied for information only and are used at your own risk. Always take proper precautions when out in the Mountains and make sure you are equipped for all weathers. It is wise to let someone know your route before you head out. Do you have a favourite photographic location, why not submit your own adventure.