Categories: WalkingadventurefamilyFunActivity

Mourne Mountains, County Down

Northern Ireland is home to the beautiful Mourne Mountains and Ring of Gullion, located in the Mourne Gullion Strangford Geopark, it offers a stunning range of Mountain peaks. The famous Slieve Donard is Northern Irelands highest mountain peak towering above the seaside town of Newcastle, County Down. There are 6 peaks over 700 metres high, with Donard the highest at 850m. The area is recognised as an area of outstanding natural beauty and it is not hard to see why, with an immense amount of granite peaks squeezed into an area only 15 miles by 8 miles giving magnificent views. 

Stretching 22 miles over the Mournes is the historical Mourne Wall, this interesting staple piece is made up of natural granite stone,  standing 1.5m high and 0.8m thick.  It was constructed by the Belfast Water Commissioners to prevent livestock from contaminating the reservoirs. The Mourne wall passes over fifteen of the mountain areas, you can't ever miss it!  

Rivers, forests, lakes, and reservoirs make up some of the area and there are amazing scenic spots and viewpoints to visit scattered throughout the alluring Mourne Mountains. 

In the last century, dams have been built to provide the main water supply to Northern Ireland's capital city, Belfast.  Silent Valley, located in the Mournes, is a great parkland for hikers and families with lots of walking trails which are easy to access.  You will be treated to spectacular views. For a fun experience, when leaving Silent Valley turn right and take an excursion to Spegla Dam, park on the Electric Brae, otherwise known as the “Magic Hill”, let your parking brake off and experience the "magic" of your car rolling up hill, how strange! 

Parts of the Mournes feature stunning forest areas, Tollymore Forest Park and Mourne Park, just to name a few. Tollymore Forest Park located in Newcastle County Down, is a stunning place at the foot of the Mournes with walking trails, rivers and spectacular views of the mountains.  Mourne Park in Kilkeel, County Down, has one of the largest expanses of ancient woodland in Northern Ireland.  It has riverside walks and iconic wildlife, such as otters, pine martens and red squirrels! 

Take a Hike! 

No matter what the weather is, people flock from all over the world, this is a must visit destination for explorers who enjoy the outdoors. One of the most popular activities in our fascinating Mountains is hiking.  There are a high variety of trails throughout the Mournes to choose from, ranging from easy walks to challenging hikes. On any weekend the forests are filled with energetic walkers, campers and eager daredevils doing some rock climbing.  

There are various signature mountain walks other than Slieve Donard. Slieve Binnian, which sits at 747m high, is well known for its rocky peaks and for taking in exquisite sites including an abandoned quarrying village, and a viewpoint over the glassy Ben Crom Reservoir. Another popular hiking trek is Slieve Commedagh, known as the guarding or watching Mountain, it is the second highest peak at 767m, a challenging, strenuous hike for all you adventurers which showcases some fascinating historical features on the way.  

For an easier stroll through the mountain area follow the Granite Trail, begin the walk adjacent to Newcastle harbour and follow the forest path taking you on the ascent to explore the quarry and finally follow the Glen River back to your finish destination in Donard Park.  

A trip to the Blue Lough is suitable for a family friendly walk. It begins at Carrick Little Car Park, this walk is an easy introduction to the Mountains of Mourne giving a mountain atmosphere whilst following gentle gradients and making use of distinct tracks and pathways. Stop of at the picturesque lake and find the perfect space for a picnic. 

Top Tips for Safety in the Mournes 

  • Always check the weather forecast and prepare for changing conditions. 
  • Plan your route and let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. 
  • Bring enough food, water and do not forget to pack your map, compass and first aid kit. 
  • Wear suitable clothing, appropriate footwear, and bring extra clothing incase of weather changes. 
  • Stay on designated trails, avoid shortcuts, and off trail routes. 
  • Be aware of your surroundings. 
  • Pack your fully charged mobile phone. 
  • If part of a walking group always stay together and watch out for each other. 
  • If you are lost or injured stay put, do not try to navigate yourself out, wait for help to arrive. 
  • Finally respect the environment and leave no trace, take all your rubbish home with you, and avoid disturbing wildlife and ecosystem. 

MOUNTAIN RESCUE – EMERGENCIES  

If you find yourself in an emergency during your mountain journeys always contact The Mourne Mountains Rescue team, this group is a brilliant volunteer organisation that provides rescue emergency services in the Mournes, operating 7 days a week 365 days a year. The team is made up of highly skilled local mountaineers who undergo extensive training to provide the best rescue services during all weather conditions, offering their services through the Mourne Mountains, from Slieve Croob to the Cooley's in the south of Ireland. The team is funded entirely by donations and relies on the generosity of the public to provide funds to supply the equipment and training for the hard-working team. Overall, this great team is an essential part of the Mourne Mountains and Ring of Gullion area, their dedication to providing the best emergency rescue services in the Mountains shows their true commitment to the local area. 

MOURNE MOUNTAIN DRIVES 

If you would like a scenic drive around the mountain area, there are driving routes such as the High Mournes Scenic Loop, Slieve Roosley Scenic Loop, Whitewater Scenic Loop and the Mourne Coastal Route. Enjoy a picturesque drive exploring in and around the mountain area that offers breath taking views of the sea and mountains. 

So You Know:     

Central Mournes
Walking & Hiking
Central Mournes

A circular route in the central Mournes taking in sites such as Annalong Wood, Slievelamagan, Ben Crom Reservoir, Cove Mountain and Annalong Valley, with views over the Irish Sea and to the Isle of Man.

The Mourne Wall
Walking
Mourne Wall in the Mourne Mountains

The Mourne Wall is 22 miles long and consists of natural granite stone which was constructed using traditional dry stone walling techniques.  It was built from 1904 to 1922 and was overseen by the Belfast City and District Water Commissioners.  The wall was built to keep livestock (cattle and sheep) from contaminating the water supplies and took 18 years to complete.  It passes over fifteen of the highest mountains in the area - Slieve Bearnagh (727 m), Slieve Meelmore (684 m), Slieve Meelbeg (708 m), Slieve Loughshannagh (619 m), Carn Mountain (587 m), Slieve Muck (674 m), Slievenaglogh (445 m), Moolieve (332 m), Wee Binnian (460 m), Slieve Binnian (747 m), Rocky Mountain (525 m), Slieve Donard (850 m), Slieve Commedagh (765 m), Slieve Cor

Silent Valley Mountain Park
Lake / Reservoir
Image of Silent Valley

The Silent Valley Reservoir was built to gather water from the Mourne Mountains and is the main water supply source for most of County Down and a large part of Belfast. The famous Mourne Wall was constructed to enclose the reservoir's catchment area.

Tollymore Forest Park
Forest Parks
Tollymore Forest Park

Tollymore Forest Park has panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the sea at Newcastle and is open to the public all year. Tollymore Forest covers an area of almost 630 hectares at the foot of the Mourne Mountains.

Kilkeel, County Down
Town
Boats in Kilkeel Harbour at Night

Kilkeel is situated in the heart of the Kingdom of Mourne. It is renowned for its thriving fishing industry, which can be experienced through a visit down to the harbour. It is home to one of the largest and best equipped fishing fleets in Ireland, with fresh fish available all year round. The Nautilus Centre and Mourne Maritime Visitor Centre provide visitors with the opportunity to learn about the local fishing and maritime heritage, see how nets and boats are mended and also sample some of the local catch, which is mainly king prawns.

Granite Trail (Bogie Line & Drinneevar Loop)
Walking & Hiking
Granite Trail (Bogie Line & Drinneevar Loop)

The Granite Trail to Thomas’s Mountain is just over 1,100 metres

Granite Trail (Donard Loop & Bogie Line)
Walking & Hiking
Granite Trail (Donard Loop & Bogie Line)

The Granite Trail to Thomas’s Mountain is just over 1,100 metres

Newcastle, County Down
Town
Newcastle town

Newcastle (An Caisleán Nua) is a seaside resort located in County Down at the foot of the Mountains of Mourne and made famous by the Percy French song "Where the Mountains of Mourne Sweep Down to the Sea".  It has high wild mountain passes and curving sandy beaches. Whether you have packed the kids’ bucket and spade or a pair of stout hiking boots, Newcastle will bring you the holiday of a lifetime. Natural environment and stunning scenery are not the only features of Newcastle. The town has been redeveloped and refurbished. It has so much to offer its visitors, whether for specialist activity or for all round family holidays, Newcastle is renowned for the variety of visitor accommodation from family run guesthouses and bed and breakfasts t

The Granite Trail
Walking Holiday
The Granite Trail, Newcastle

The Granite Trail covers a relatively short distance from coast to open moorland, the Granite Trail in Newcastle offers the opportunity to see artifacts from the once thriving granite industry of Mourne. Differing natural habitats can be enjoyed as you walk through coniferous forest and mature woodland beside mountain streams and rivers.