The County Tops – Number 1: Slieve Foye, County Louth

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series The County Tops of Ireland

For anyone looking for an excuse to visit a selection of the hills and mountains of Ireland, walking the County Tops might just be what you are looking for. The County Tops of Ireland afford you not only the opportunity of visiting the four corners of Ireland but also give you the chance to take a step off the beaten track and visit some of the lesser known mountains and hills that the country has to offer. Indeed, each of the tops has a character all of it’s own and is surrounded by folklore and legend.

Most understandably assume that there are 32 County Tops, one for each county in Ireland but it’s an incorrect assumption with the actual number being 26 due to the fact that a number of counties share a top. For example, the summit of Galtymore is shared between Tipperary and Limerick while Arderin in the Slieve Blooms represents the highest point of counties Laois and Offaly.

Walking Holidays and Accommodation in Carlingford, County Louth

Hill Walking In The Cooley Mountains – View over Carlingford from Golyin Pass

Being from the wee county, I choose Slieve Foye in the Cooley Mountains for the first article in the series. The Cooley Mountains and Slieve Foye are steeped in Irish folklore with the mountain said to resemble the resting place of Fionn McCumhaill. Locals will tell you that the shape of his head can be seen in the mountain. Slieve Foye provides a spectacular backdrop to the medieval coastal town of Carlingford, one of Ireland’s best kept secrets. The town sits on one side of Carlingford Lough with the magnificent Mountains of Mourne facing it on the other and it’s little wonder that the area is considered by many to be one of the most scenic in Ireland. Carlingford itself is the perfect spot for a weekend away with seemingly as many pubs and restaurants as houses! It also has a rich history spanning several centuries which can be seen in the 13th century King John’s Castle as well as the 15th century Mint and 16th century Taaffe’s Castle.

Hill Walker on Slieve Foye, Cooley Mountains

Walking along the Golyin pass with the Mournes in the background

Getting There
Carlingford is easily reached from Dublin and is clearly signposted from the M1 motorway north of Dundalk.

Where To Stay
If you  provide walker friendly accommodation in Carlingford or around the Cooley Mountains, why not Contact Us to advertise your business on this page.

The Route
Start off from the carpark at the Tourist Information Office close to the pier and follow the waymarks of the Tain Way through the town. The waymarks lead past a church and up a laneway until you reach the open hillside. From here, a well maintained track leads up to The Golyin Pass, the crest of the ridge which once served as a trading route. To the left is the minor summit of Barnavave while the Tain Way continues straight on down the other side of the ridge. To reach the summit of Foye however, we need to swing right and follow the ridge on up the mountain. Aim for the obvious rocky gap then veer slightly right climbing another 300 metres uphill to the summit which is adorned by a trig point.

Hill Walker on Slieve Foye in the Cooley Mountains

At the summit of Slieve Foye in the Cooley Mountains

The view from the summit of Slieve Foye is quite simply stunning on a clear day. On my visit, Carlingford Lough glistened below while tiny sailboats criss-crossed the waters below the impressive slopes of the Mourne Mountains. The view leads out the Lough to the Irish Sea where Greenore Point reaches out towards Greencastle on the other side. On the other side of the mountain, the highest point in County Armagh, Slieve Gullion, is visble while the Hill of Howth can be seen to the South.

From the summit, you have the choice of continuing on north-west along the ridge. This is on unmarked open ground and after just over a kilometre, you will reach an obvious point at which you turn right down towards the forest from which a road leads back down to the village. It should be noted that the descent down towards the forest is very steep and extremely slippy in places. The other option (and in light of recent information, probably the best) is to retrace your steps back down the ridge and back to Carlingford.

View of Carlingford Lough from Foye

View of Carlingford Lough from Foye

A superb ‘wee mountain’, superior to many others of far greater height. Foye provides a perfect walk for young children and the views from the summit across to the Mournes are quite simply stunning.

A superb ‘wee mountain’, superior to many others of far greater height. Slieve Foye provides a perfect walk for children and the views from the summit across to the Mourne Mountains are quite simply stunning. Foye is not a mountain that gets a mention in the walking guides but it’s an ideal shorter walk for the winter days and of course, a great way to bag a county top!

County Top Rating: 7.5/10

Useful Information
Height: 589 metres
OS Map: 29
Nearest Pub: Take your pick, Carlingford is full of them! We popped into P.J’s, an ‘Irish pub of distinction’ who offer a fine pint of Guinness and decent pub-grub to boot.

Recommended Reading
Ireland’s County High Points: A Walking Guide (Walking Guides)
A great guide to the County High-Points from Kieron Gribbon and an essential read if you are planning to do the County Tops.

This is the first article in the series on Ireland’s County Tops.
Click here to see all articles from the series