Blown away in the hills above the city

Today Andrea and I made the first of what I imagine will be many trips to Black Mountain and Divis, the hills above Belfast.

  I’m ashamed to say it’s the first time we’ve ever ventured up, despite much talk over the last couple of years. Of all the days to choose, today was typical of Northern Ireland – blowing a gale and with intense showers glittering through bright sunshine.

  It’s hard to imagine such massive open moorland within 20 minutes of the city centre – it’s primal, raw landscape in its extremity, lashed today by the revolving door of Ulster weather.

  There are a number of major broadcasting masts up there, so most of the journey is made on a well-finished concrete pathway that leads up as far as the antennae. From there on, it’s a combination of boardwalk across the marshland, and a carpet of plastic grip surface – it looks like old milk crates have been sunk into the soil.

  We came up over the brow of Divis and there was a spectacular view of the city, with the Hardland and Wolff yellow cranes standing out gleaming in the sunshine and huge towers of rain marching across the distant east of the city. The wind was buffeting us madly, so we took a couple of quick snaps and turned back, thinking of cappuccino at the end of the rainbow. 

  On the way back down, the rain came on and the sun retreated to an angry white spot in the midst of a bruised sky. You could still see the sunshine glinting off cars coming in on the M1 in the distance, while the gusts peppered the sides of our faces with stinging rain.

  We made our way back past the antennae and towards the car where we shook off our rain gear and made our way back down the Springfield Road and into town, watching the traffic lights through steamed up glasses.