It’s nearly a full moon and it’s very late when a friend from work and I arrive at the cottage.  The steep walk into the hills warms us as we chat.  I suggest that we can switch off our head-torches as the moon is bright enough. Then, as if scripted, my foot slips on a rock and I stumble to recover my footing.

The fire is lit as a matter of priority as the old stone walls are icy cold and ready to suck the heat into themselves.  After the fire has picked itself up, we have settled ourselves down for an evening of sipping wine and talking nonsense.  When he is back in the civilised world of electricity and DVDs, my friend is working his way through box sets of Supernatural.  It has not escaped us both that our situation, remote and on the edge of nowhere, is the perfect setting for such horror stories.  I tell him the story of the big cats that were spotted in the neighbouring valley.  How they might have been caught on camera and how they were constantly being rumoured about among the farmers until the day two separate sightings were reported by hikers.  These sightings prompted the police to have a look about the area, but the monster cats could not be found. The chance of a puma attack is unlikely and irrational, with this in mind the glow of the full moon on the moor outside still sends our minds thinking of things such monsters and of werewolves.  We laugh, but of course, such laughter and over confidence is exactly the setting for the attacks in horror stories.  Eventually the witching hour passes, then another hour or two, before we load the final shovel of coal on the fire and let it warm us as we drift off to sleep.

annalong valley in winter sunlight

Amongst days of rain, wind and storms, we wake to find a rare clear blue sky.  Our route for the day takes us in a large circle around a big valley in the Mourne Mountains.  The highlight, half way through the route, is a scramble up a gully called the Devil’s Coachroad.  It is a scramble over scree until it takes us to the dizzy summit.  The sky stayed clear and the air stayed still and cool for the whole walk.  It was a refreshing first walk in the hills for the New Year; which has forced me to include extra resolutions to my list:

  • To spend more time looking at the world around me; try to let my soul soak it up.
  • To make more opportunities to find myself scrambling to the tops of mountains: out of breath with hands full of crumbling granite and sweat.
  • To spend more time with friends by the fireside; talking about anything and everything deep into the night.

 the devil’s coachroad – the gully through the middle of Slieve Beg

in the devil’s coachroad

the annalong valley as the sun hangs low

Binnian, Lamagan, Cove and Beg

a slow stream as the sun sets

the cottage behind us during the descent

We did not bump into old Nic on his road.  We did not get attacked by big cats or the werewolves of the Mournes.  When we eventually found ourselves heading down the hill with the cottage to our backs, the full moon (January’s Wolf Moon in the Medieval Calender) made another visit to us as it began to rise with a warming deep orange colour.  It was difficult, but we resisted the temptation to begin to howl.

wolf moon rising