Northern Ireland is rapidly becoming a must see destination on the world map with some incredible landscapes suitable for a wide range of hikers of all abilities and age groups. From the rugged cliffs of the North Antrim Coast to the summits of the Mourne Mountains Northern Ireland has plenty to offer.
The Mourne Mountains are the highest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland, its summits are crowned by granite tors. The mountains themselves are criss-crossed by an unrivaled network of paths and tracks, providing hikers with incredible opportunities for exploration. Visitors to the Mournes often leave amazed at the variety of landscapes and views throughout this area of outstanding natural beauty.
The Mountains are located near the seaside town of Newcastle in co down. This is a popular seaside resort with the aforementioned mountains above you and, in front, three miles of white golden sand cupped round nearby Dundrum Bay. A multi million-pound new seafront is helping to reposition the place as an activity resort, appealing to the more hyperactive mountaineering type.
The world famous Royal County Down Golf Club is also located in the town ensuring a steady stream of international visitors to play these famous links. Newcastle has a wide selection of hotels and B&BS to choose from, check out travel sites like Expedia and research Trip Advisor to make sure you get the best deal and most accommodating to hikers.
There is no shortage of hiking routes in the Mournes with excellent views and breath taking hills to climb here is a selection of routes each with a mixture of terrain along the way that we feel you have to try.
A Smuggler’s Haven
During the 18th and 19th Centuries illegal cargo ships stocked full of illicit packages of tobacco, wine, spirits, leather, silk and spices docked at the foot of the Mournes in Newcastle. Smugglers then loaded ponies with these illegal products and trekked through the Mourne Mountains to Hilltown. Trade was so popular and the route so widely used that a track was soon created by the hooves of the heavily laden ponies. This old smugglers track still exists today and is used as a popular walking route, aptly known as “The Brandy Pad”.
The Mourne Mountains Wall
The Mourne Wall is a famous landmark running throughout the Mournes. The wall was originally built in an effort to keep cattle and sheep out of the water catchment area of the nearby Silent Valley reservoir. Completed in 1922 by skilled locals seasonally employed to build this stone wall which still stands up to 8ft high and 3ft wide.
Leave one day for this hiking challenge that follows the 22 miles (35 km) of the historic Mourne Wall, a highly strenuous route which incorporates the ascents and descents of the 15 peaks including the highest of them all, Slieve Donard. This hike is not for the fainthearted but it is sure to reward you with a truly unique experience and probably represents the best way to explore this fantastic mountain range.
No list of top walks in the Mournes would be complete without including Northern Ireland’s highest summit, Slieve Donard (850m (2,789 ft). The most popular route to the top begins in Donard Park and follows the Glen River to the saddle a section of the mountain that bridges the gap between Donard and Commmedagh before meeting the Mourne Wall for the final ascent to the summit. Views over Newcastle below await and on a clear day expect to see Scotland and the Isle of Man in the distance.
Bearnagh and Meelmore
A strenuous hiking route encompassing the peaks of Slieve Bearnagh described as one of the most distinctive mountains in the Mournes recognized by the granite tors on its summit and Slieve Meelmore. The hike finishes down Happy Valley and along a section of the Ulster Way.
If you are visiting Ireland any time soon, be sure to take a trip north to Newcastle in Co. Down and enjoy a hike in the Mourne Mountains. There are two hiking festivals that take place every year in the Mourne Mountains. A great opportunity to socialize and meet hikers from all over Ireland and afar as you hike through this breath taking mountain range.
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