[RWD version 1 ]
A grand walk through sweeping forest, open hillside, streams and reservoir with classic views over swathes of Ulster.
Starting point is the entrance to the old anglers car park (there is a shiny new one close by), which also doubles as a service road to Altnahinch reservoir/dam.
Forestry work was taking place and a thoughtful forest service sign highlighted the open access policy coupled with need for care. The stiff wind brought a smelling salts strength breath of newly cut pine to clear the nasal passages.
Walk down the service road to the base of the impressive dam holding back the waters of Altnahinch dam. The wind was blowing small skiffs of water down the high overflow chute and a lone fisherman was chancing his luck for fish that might have been tempted to take the slide. A steep climb up grassy banks brings the top of the dam and the waters of the reservoir.
A lovely body of water with plenty of fish judging by the numbers of fishermen spaced out around the shore. Follow the dam (with blooms of primroses on its grassy flank) to the forest edge and negotiate way through the boundary between new and older planting. Forest proper with its brown carpet soon appears and continuing NW brings a wide grassy forest ride. This soon joins a forest track at a height of 300m which continues NW. Pass a couple of small fire dams and a stream at a fairly steady height hemmed in by the high firs and a lush grass verge.
There was plenty of shelter from the high winds at ground level whilst the tops of the trees contorted wildly. Fallen trees brought to mind the film Troll Hunter as I strained to hear the sound of giant footsteps over the roar of the wind.
Cross Altmore Burn and come to an area of clear fell with a crossroads of forest tracks. Turn right (NE) and head back into the trees and a steady uphill climb. A concrete post at 400m clears trees from one side and further steady climbing clears the trees from the other side. Views really open out to the west and south - across Lough Neagh to the Sperrins, the bigger and smaller Antrim Hills and those of Belfast.
The masts at the summit are in view and soon reached. A circular cairn sits to the side but the national nature reserve at the summit is dominated by the communications masts and associated buildings. Views now extended north over Knocklayd and Rathlin Island to the Scottish coast. There is a great perspective on some of the Antrim Glens making their way to the coast. The steep headlands of the North Antrim coast and Donegal were also in view.
Closing my eyes I could picture myself on the runway of an airport with aeroplanes taking off above my head as the roaring wind blasted my ears and had me walking at a sharp angle. The obtrusive buildings did provide a relative calm to eat lunch and savour the views and the shades of grey as a weather front made its way closer.
Return by way of the Moyle/Ulster Way which drops off the SE of the summit soon picking up maker posts and a wide raised track. This is pretty wet in places with plenty of hopping about as cross the open hillside making for the forest edge again. A grouse broke cover a few feet away as I entered a wide forest ride which reaches a forest track over a wooden bridge. Follow SW and pick up the Altnahich Burn to the reservoir edge – an easy walk along its shore brings the dam and starting point.