That morning, we climbed a mountain.

The time for a holiday has hit once more. February half term has always been welcomed by me; even more so this year after a hectic January! Whilst there is still a mountain of revision to get through, it's been nice to be able to relax and take things in my own time.

Northern Ireland is brilliant because you can drive anywhere in less than two hours and still get a total change of scenery. We usually nip up to the North Coast, spending a few days on the beach or in seaside-y towns; but this week, we decided to head in the opposite direction to Newcastle. (No, not the one in England.)

I'd only been to Newcastle a couple of times before and even then, it had only been for a few hours at most. This time it was for just under three days - Monday afternoon to Wednesday morning. We certainly got a feel for the town. Packed with charity shops, tiny independent boutiques and plenty of cafés, restaurants and pubs, we could see why, when the sun shone, it is a popular tourist destination. Newcastle sits under the shadow of Slieve Donard, the highest mountain in Northern Ireland. It certainly made for a breathtaking morning view! 

We were staying in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, which is a beautiful old building. It was opened in 1898 - yes, I did read the welcome folder - and is rather impressive, especially with its shiny white floors and glass lift. (You can tell I don't stay in hotels often, can't you?)

After a lovely breakfast of nutty granola with yoghurt and buttery wheaten bread, we were ready to embark on our adventure.  Suitably wrapped in scarves and rainproof coats, cameras in side pockets and equipped with a packet of mints, we set off.

Unlike Divis Mountain or Slemish Mountain, Donard is covered with trees at its base. As you enter into the forest it feels almost like another world - perhaps Middle Earth, as you approach Rivendell. We followed the river up the side of the mountain, ducking under branches and picking our way over the rocky path carpented with pine-needles. 

There were lots of opportunities for photos. 

Look who we met!

A clear, cool drink of fresh water stopped us from getting too hot. 
(Don't try this at home. Water here is pretty clean but you never know....)

Dad and I had hoped to clear the trees, at least, but after about an hour of walking we decided to turn at the tributary that had crossed in front of our path. It was nothing we couldn't jump, but we decided to leave it for another day, when we'd be better equipped for mountaineering. 

On the way down we took a detour and began to follow a gravel track, winding down the side of the mountain. We were a bit unsure as to where we'd end up, but we persevered and, after a few tumbles on my part, we reached the bridge where we'd begun. 

Flushed with the exhilaration of so much beautiful scenery, yet cold from the chill air, we nipped into Niki's Kitchen Café - a gorgeous little café serving soups, panini and all manner of cheesecakes, traybakes and cakes. We chose sweet potato soup, a chicken wrap and celeriac soup, rushing to take photos before the camera batteries ran out. Warming and filling, they were just what we needed. 

A wander through the shops resulted in a newspaper, a short sleeved polo neck (à la Chloe from 'My Mad Fat Diary') and aching feet. We slowly made our way back up to the hotel and pulled our shoes off before heading down to the spa, where a bubbling jacuzzi awaited us with stunning views of the coastal scenery.