Mournes
Image caption The Mournes are Northern Ireland’s highest mountains – are those rain clouds in the distance?

Enjoying the splendour of Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains is a year-round activity.

On a fine day, even in wintertime, the mountains can be an exhilarating place to be.

However, even on a good day, a sense of jeopardy remains as the weather can change within a few steps.

But now walkers will be able to take to the hills having studied a new website introduced by the Met Office.

The Mournes now have their own dedicated five-day weather forecast with details on weather conditions and advice.

Alan McFarland, of the Ulster Federation of Rambling Clubs, said it was “fantastic news” for local walkers and tourists.

The federation has had to do its own data crunching up until now.

“We’ve been doing it ad-hoc using some of the local weather stations. It’ll take some of the guesswork out of it,” he said.

Experienced hill walkers from Northern Ireland are well used to similar Met Office forecasts in their forays to the Lake District or Scotland, and Mr McFarland says they were always a bit jealous of them.

“You can have four seasons in one day on the Mournes,” he says, but with the right weather advice you can be sure to have the correct equipment for the conditions.

Image copyright Coastguard
Image caption Conditions in the Mournes can change very quickly – this rescue took place in August

Richard Orrell, from the Met Office, says the new Mournes forecast should help visitors make decisions that may affect their safety.

They also answer the vital question: “Will I get a view from the mountain top?”

“These forecasts are compiled by specially-trained meteorologists who often spend time in the hills and mountains and know the ins and outs of mountain weather,” he says.

The Mournes are the 10th area of the UK to have a dedicated Met Office weather forecast service for walkers and climbers.

They range from the Brecon Beacons in Wales to the Northwest Highlands of Scotland.

Image caption The Mourne Wall snakes across the tops of 15 mountains

Martin McMullan, from the Mourne Rescue Team, says traditional regional forecasts do not take into account the differences altitude can make to weather – temperatures can be lower, rain heavier, and winds can be stronger.

“It can give less-experienced walkers an understanding of what the mountains mean for weather and what to expect up there,” he says.

At this time of year, conditions can be much colder and darkness falls earlier. If the forecast looks very poor, Mr McMullan suggests taking a low-level walk.

“The mountains will still be there another day,” he says, adding that the mountains can be “absolutely stunning” when it has been snowing.

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