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Mourne Country: More than just a skyline…

15 August 2012

The intriguing and engaging skyline of the Mountains of Mourne is frequently visible from the coast of Red Island in The Skerries….

Image of mountains on the borders of The North of Ireland.

The broken skyline….

Transfixed by the vision of a broken skyline

Transfixed by the vision of a broken skyline, rising like some giant stegosaurus from the evening mist that glazed the Irish Sea; a man lingered on Red Island. Standing, roughly where the Percy French bench now stands, he turned to me and spoke. In an accent that marked him as a visitor, a traveller perhaps, he queried: What hills are those?…  Mountains! I replied. They’re mountains! Never let it be said that the lack of altitude of our finest peaks makes them anything less than mountains. And from left to right I carefully and deliberately named them: Slieve Gullion; Claremont Cairn and Slieve Foy, land of the famed cattle raid of Cooley. And then one by one, the names of the Mountains of Mourne, lingering at the peak of Slieve Donard, the highest mountain in the North, made even more imposing by its majestic sweep into the sea. And finally pointing toward the cow and the calf (Rockabill) and explaining that it was from Mourne that the two of them had made their fateful journey. Leaving him, I thought, with the everlasting impression that those mountains were all of; magical, mysterious and inaccessible. But wholly undaunted he turned once more to me and asked: How do I get there, what else can I see, what is there to do?…

It’s easy of course. In a car from Fingal it’s an hour to Newry, maybe a tad longer from Dublin, and then maybe another 30 minutes to almost any part of Mourne Country. And for the young and adventurous with more time available, you can train to Newry and Ulsterbus to your final destination.

The Silent Valley.

A trip to the Silent Valley gets you into the heart of the mountains. Truly an area of outstanding natural beauty, you can touch this awe-inspiring wilderness with your family in safety. With ample and secure car-parking, you can wander around the planted grounds; amble between the reservoir’s edge and the foot of the imposing mountain slopes; refresh yourself in the cafe or explore the modest visitor centre in comfort to discover tales of the Mourne Wall and the building of the great dam. Even so, if you are looking for solitude you’ll find that once away from the hubbub of the dam and surrounding gardens the place re-wins its name. Though once it echoed with the laughter of Cornish miners prospecting for silver and lead and later rattled to the immense clatter and clanking of engines and machines, railways and diggers, hammers and explosives, it seems it has always been a silent valley, and remains so still. (Car park fee £4.50).

New easy walks in the Silent Valley – Three new low level routes have been created close by and around the reservoir and you can read more about them here : New Silent Valley Walks – note added 9 September 2014.

Tollymore, Kilbroney and more…

Kilbroney Park, nestling close by the town of Rostrevor, moves on a step and offers different adventures; and a chance to get closer to the wildness and wilderness with wide-ranging activities and adventures for young and old. In addition to the woodland and waterside walking and cycling, there’s a popular children’s play area, arboretum, tennis courts, plenty of open spaces, pony and trap rides, cafe and car parking. And notching up the gear still further , close by the Victorian seaside town of Newcastle, there’s plenty of opportunity for ambling around Tollymore and Castlewellan Forest Parks which offer homes to a number of adventure activities including the National Outdoor Centre in Bryansford, archery, combat games, canoeing, bouldering, rock climbing and mountain biking (to list just a few).

Way Marked & Wild Walking

For the ramblers at heart, you should know that over the last 20 years Newry and Mourne District Council have done an amazing job of opening up Mourne Country and the surrounding landscape for walkers. There is a wide range of way-marked walks that cater for a broad range of fitness, ability and experience; and you can find great variety from flat and easy coastal paths to challenging routes up mountains; revealing a great diversity of scenery and heritage.

And if your skills allow and your taste for adventure goads you, there are ancient paths like the Brandy Pad, created by the repetitive tread of smugglers tiny ponies, or the daily plod of cadgers with their creels of fish, and the slipe (sledge) tracks of the granite men, that will guide you through the peaks and help you navigate a safe day ramble. And for the truly adventurous and practically experienced, there are endless opportunities to explore the open mountain, to submerse yourself in the delights of the local flora and fauna and to test your navigation skills.

Playground

Mourne Country is a real, bone fide, genuine playground for all ages and all interests; with mountains and sea and a long history as a tourist venue there’s much to suit young and old, families and teens, sightseers, ramblers, cyclists, drivers and wheelchair users; whether you want to work-off some surplus energy, let the kids do that while you relax, or discover something new about the landscape and the way we use it; it’s all easily available in Mourne.

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Help and information for your adventures…

  1. Phone info on Mourne activities
  2. Other useful web sites about Mourne Country
  3. Links to some walking routes
  4. Getting to Mourne Country by car
  5. Have I earned your “Like”?
  6. Editor looking for a feature?

Phone info on Mourne activities

Callsave: 1950 230 230 – The Northern Ireland Tourist Board for fee information, advice and the free accommodation booking service.

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Web sites with info about Mourne Country

The Silent Valley
48 Hours in The Mournes

Activities in The Mournes – from £2 t0 £245
The Newry & Mourne Museum (Newry)
Discover Northern Ireland 
The Mourne Heritage Trust
Wikipedia on The Mourne Mountains
Visit Newry & Mourne

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Some walking routes

I’ll be putting a broad choice of walks here in the future, so please do come back to see what’s new. Or you can click on the button to the right that says “Follow Walking With David”, or follow me @BestWalks on Twitter, both will give you notice of new entries here.

Spinkwee : Around the yellow crag…
A walk for the experienced rambler

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Getting There

It’s easy enough these days, thought it’s probably best if you decide on your destination for the day before you start your trip.

  1. Take the M1 northwards. If you’ve not been to the North in a good few years, you’ll find it a pleasant experience. No towers overlooking the crossing, no inspection chicane and no soldiers at the border. Instead the M1 slips almost imperceptebly into the A1 and you can leave it on the left at Cloghogue Junction. Then turn right at the traffic island and follow the Dublin Road downhill and into Newry.
  2. From Newry you can take the A2 running east alongside the ship canal and Carlingford Lough, (on your right), running through Warrenpoint and Rostrevor, on to Kilkeel, where it turns northwards to follow the coast toward Newcastle; and so giving you access to the south and east of Mourne Country.
  3. Turning North from Rostrevor and taking the Kilbroney Road toward Hilltown will give you access to the west and north of Mourne country. Alternatively you can follow the signs through Newry, and take the A23, B8 and B180 to Mayobridge, Hillstown to arrive at Bryansford, close by the A50 and by Tullymore Forest Park in the outskirts of Newcastle; and so giving you access to the north and west of Mourne.


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Have I earned your “Like”?

If you find this information entertaining or useful I’d really appreciate your Facebook “Like”. You can click on the Facebook button near the top right of this page or or visit my Facebook Page: Walking With David. Thank you.

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Local News or Magazine Editor?
Looking for a feature?

Working in on the 3rd Edition of Best Walks in Ireland, and a number of other publications, means I’m probably in your area over the next couple of years.  If you’d like a local walking feature for your publication, please just give me a call: 087 631 3088.  Or if you are a book publisher looking to add to your listings, please call me, I have a number of commercially viable book proposals you might find worth discussing: 087 631 3088

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