1 Welcome to the Mournes

There are few landmarks in Ireland as well-known and well-loved as the Mourne Mountains. Situated in the southeast of Northern Ireland, this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty boasts dozens of rugged peaks sitting cheek by jowl in an area only fifteen miles by eight.

The name Mournes derives from a Gaelic clan called Múghdorna that once inhabited this area. Many of the mountain names are prefaced with the word Slieve, an anglicised version of the Gaelic for mountain. There are six peaks over 700 metres of which Slieve Donard is the highest at 849 metres.

This walk starts and finishes in the seaside town of Newcastle at the eastern edge of the range where, as the Irish songwriter Percy French famously described, ‘the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea’.

On this walk we will explore the beautiful Donard Forest and Glen River in the northeast corner of the Mournes to find out how humans have exploited the various natural resources found here over the centuries. From minerals, rocks and soil to water, timber and beauty, the history of the use of natural resources challenges us to reflect on the boundary between use and abuse of the environment.

This walk was created by Verity Peet who admires the Mournes from afar on the school run during the week, and close up on foot at weekends.


From the harbour carefully cross the busy main road (Kilkeel Road) to the steep grassy slope signposted ‘Granite Trail’. Follow the zigzag path or steps up the hillside to the next road (King Street). Stop here and turn back to face the sea, enjoying the view down to the harbour and across the bay.

2 From fishing village to fashionable resort

From here you can look across the long sweep of the bay to the town. For centuries Newcastle was a small village with its inhabitants living a simple life: animals were grazed in the mountains, crops harvested in the foothills, and fish captured from the sea.

In his topographical dictionary of the period Samuel Lewis noted that it was ‘only an inconsiderable fishing village previous to the year 1822’. The reasons for the town’s development and growth lie in the mountains behind you. In 1824 John Lynn opened a granite quarry in the foothills above Newcastle.

He also built a small railway line to transport the quarried stone straight down the mountainside to the harbour. The large harbour that you can see below was built to accommodate the larger ships needed to export this commodity across the seas. With its abundance of granite and proximity to the sea.

Newcastle had a natural geological and geographical advantage and the new trade flourished. But it was not only an important industrial town. With the coming of the railway, it also became a popular holiday destination.

By 1837 Samuel Lewis declared that Newcastle ‘has made great advances as a fashionable place for sea-bathing and is now nearly a mile in length, containing several large and handsome private dwelling-houses, and numerous comfortable and respectable lodging-houses’.


With your back to the sea cross King Street and follow the path to the left of the terrace of houses signposted ‘Granite Trail’. Go up the steps, through the archway and up more steps. Stop when you reach the first crossing of paths.

3 We love to bogie

The very straight and steep pathway stretching up into the distance is the old ‘bogie line’, the specially-built railway line where trucks (or ‘bogies’) carried the granite down the mountainside from the quarry to the harbour.

The railway was funicular, meaning that the ascending trucks were counterbalanced with the descending ones using cables, so no engine or fuel was needed.

In order for this efficient system to work the tracks had to be as straight as possible so there was one long track from the quarry at the top down to King Street at the bottom. In the latter half of the nineteenth century tens of thousands of tons of granite were produced at the quarry above and ferried down this line to the harbour below every year.

By the 1930s the line had fallen into disuse. Cheaper and easier construction materials had become available such as concrete, macadam and tarmac and granite was no longer the material of choice. During the Second World War the line disappeared completely as all the rails and metal bogies were taken to Belfast for the war effort.

Here you can see a replica of one of the bogies. As you walk up the path look for remaining evidence of the line including stone blocks with holes to which the rails were attached and fragments of rusty rail.

A little further up the path look out for a replica of a ‘slipe’, a sledge-like cart without wheels. Before the bogie line was installed, this was the means of transporting the rock down the mountainside. It’s hard to imagine such practices passing health and safety regulations today


Continue straight on up the steep, straight path. Stop at the next crossing of paths where you will see the replica slipe to the left. Look a little closer at the granite blocks that have been used to construct the steps of the path ahead.

4 Magma and minerals

This eastern part of the mountain range is known as the High Mournes. It was created about 56 million years ago during a period of time when there was intense volcanic activity.

Magma (molten rock) from inside the earth rose towards the surface. Here it didn’t break through the earth’s crust as lava but rather slowly cooled beneath the existing surface layer of sandstone.

The name granite comes from the Latin ‘granum’ – which means grain – in reference to its coarsegrained structure. It is made up of interlocking crystals of mica, feldspar and quartz and sometimes other minerals.

The particular combination of minerals creates granites that can be white, pink, or grey. The granite here varies in shades from grey to pink with visible quartz. The rusty-brown you can frequently see is a result of the weathering of the mica element in the granite.

The geological processes didn’t just cause the formation of granite. Chemicals in the molten rock created other minerals. These crystallised at different temperatures leaving veins (or ‘lodes’) in the rock. One of the most notable minerals was gold but more on that later.

Once the granite was formed it took some time for it to become visible. Several millennia and at least six Ice Ages occurred before the layer of rock above the granite was eroded away. It is only in more recent geological history (the last two million years) that the latest Ice Ages shaped the landscape into the peaks and valleys that we see today.


Continue straight on up the steep, straight path which is a mixture of steps and stony track. Take care as the rocks and gravel underfoot can be slippery. Stop when you reach a wooden shelter at the top.

5 Are you calling my hut shoddy?

Life for the granite workers, or stone-men as they workers were called, was seriously tough. They worked long hours and often stayed up the mountainside all week.

Once the granite had been quarried from the rock face, the stone-men shaped it into different sized blocks such as plinths or kerbstones using large hammers and chisels.

The surfaces of the stones were then ‘dressed’ meaning that finer chisels were used to carve designs or produce flat surfaces for the finished product before it was carted down the bogie line to the harbour.

This wooden shelter is a replica of a ‘shoddy hut’ which offered protection for the more fortunate of the workers. The name comes from the pieces of granite left after the stone was dressed, known as ‘shoddies’.


Go over the stile or through the gate and continue straight ahead up the mountainside leaving the forest behind. After about 20 metres the path curves around to the right. Here you have a choice. You can stop here and look straight up at the large piles of stones ahead.

Alternatively, you can make your way straight up the path through the grass and heather to the base of the large piles of stones. Carefully clamber up, taking great care as the rocks can be loose. On top of the stones is a plateau area that you can explore and go across to the quarry face. There are also excellent views (on a clear day).

6 Who wants to be a millionaire?

This is Millstone Quarry, the first quarry used to supply granite to the bogie line but was soon abandoned in favour of a richer supply at another quarry that we will see shortly.

Although we have been finding out about the quarrying industry in the nineteenth century, recent scientific investigations have revealed that humans made use of rocks and minerals from the Mournes in prehistoric times.

A significant number of gold objects have been found in Ireland dating to the early Bronze Age (2400-1800 BC).

Scientists have examined more than 400 of these gold objects and analysed the distinct compositional signature of the minerals in each. They have also carried out experiments to extract gold from the rock using fire as prehistoric people would have done. The source of the gold has been identified as here in the Mourne Mountains.

Like the stone-men of the nineteenth century prehistoric workers were skilled craftsmen too. After heating the rock, crushing it and panning the resultant sand the gold extracts were removed, heated again, and fashioned into ornaments and jewellery such as ‘lunula’, crescent-shaped collar-style necklaces.

Other minerals such as emerald, amethyst and topaz can be found here, particularly in streams where running water has eroded away the rock below and exposed mineral lodes near the surface. However, according to the Northern Ireland government, the source for these riches found in sedimentary matter in the streams is still “elusive”. Feel free to look!


If you climbed all the way up to Millstone Quarry, retrace your steps back down the path. At the bend in the path above the top of the bogie line, turn left. Follow the path as it traverses steadily up the hillside with the forest on your right. Stop about halfway along this path.

7 Stone walled

Look below the path to the edge of the forest and you will see a traditional stone wall. In fact there are stone walls all across the Mournes marking out territory and keeping animals in place. Many were built following the Agrarian Revolution of the eighteenth century.

Locals used the stones found scattered across this landscape to build their walls. Quarrying was not necessary as the stones were abundant. For the cost of a shilling a year landlords gave the inhabitants the right to dig two feet down to retrieve more stones to use.

Across the Mournes a variety of techniques are used for building dry stone walls. Construction styles vary from single row depth to double, from solid to gapped, with tops that can be levelled or unlevelled, or even with large stones mirroring those usually found only at the bottom. The most impressive stone wall of the Mournes can be found less than a mile away: the famous Mourne Wall.

It weaves for 22 miles around the higher peaks of the Mournes, passing over fifteen mountains. It is about 1½ metres high and 80 centimetres thick. Built between 1904 and 1922 it was designed by the Belfast Water Commissioners to keep animals out of an area devoted to water capture, but more on that shortly.


Continue along the path. Stop when you reach the stile.

8 Booleying

Watch where you’re walking or you might stand in something unpleasant. If you can’t actually see any animals the chances are that you can see evidence of the fact they’ve been here recently!

Animals have been grazing on the Mournes for millennia. Pottery and flint has been excavated locally and dated to the Neolithic period (4000- 2500 BC) which reveals a culture of small-scale pastoral farming with sheep and cattle.

Until the latter half of the nineteenth century the locals carried out a type of seasonal nomadism called ‘booleying’.

In 1744 the Irish historian Walter Harris noted: ‘In the bosom of the Mourne Mountains, there is a place called the King’s Meadow (because people have their grazing in it for free) extending some miles in breadth and length; to which a great number of poor people resort in the summer months to graze their cattle. They bring with them their wives, children and little wretched furniture, erect huts, and there live for two months, and sometimes more...’

Using the land for grazing was, and to some extent still is, an economic necessity for farmers, and the battles over grazing rights continue to this day. In 2012 when Northern Ireland Water decided to put its land in the Mournes out to open tender for grazing rights there was public outcry. The farmers who currently use the land claimed that their knowledge of the traditional methods of grazing keep the delicate ecosystem in balance. Offering the land to outsiders would lead to the deterioration of the environment insist the locals, as well as their economic ruin.

The grazing of animals in the Mournes brings other controversies. Animals may fertilise the land but they also cause damage to vegetation and soils. This has been heightened in the last century as changes in agricultural practices have favoured sheep over cattle. It is said that four sheep can graze where one cow would but the erosive effect of sixteen hooves is much greater than four. Furthermore while cattle eat grass sheep chew plants into extinction. This change in grazing practices has contributed to visible changes in the landscape of fewer shrubs and greater erosion.


Go over the stile or through the gate. About 20 metres ahead along the path is a viewpoint marked by a granite pillar.

9 Natural beauty

From this viewpoint it’s easy to see why the Mournes and this stretch of the coast are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

To the left, the highest peak that you can see is Slieve Croob, below which is the town of Castlewellan. Directly below us is the town of Newcastle.

If you follow the sweep of the bay to the right you will see the heathland, woodland and sands of Murlough National Nature Reserve, a Special Area of Conservation that is the largest and most important dune heath site in Northern Ireland with a 5,000 year old complex system of shifting sand dunes.

Beyond the estuary mouth is Tyrella Beach with more miles of sand used for recreational purposes. At the far right, The lighthouse at St John’s Point marks the headland. Beyond that in the distance you can see Strangford Lough, and, if it is a very clear day, you can make out the Mull of Galloway in Scotland and the Isle of Man.

From here you can appreciate the importance of the proximity of the mountains to the sea. It enabled the transportation of granite by ship up
the coast to Belfast and across the Irish Sea to England and beyond.

Apart from fishing, the sea brought other bounties too. The high tidal range and stony beaches provided an abundance of inter-tidal seaweeds. For many centuries this ‘sea wrack’ was used to fertilise thin soils to produce crops, particularly potatoes.

These days seaweed is a protected species but you can experience its therapeutic effects personally by visiting the Seaweed Baths in Newcastle.


From the viewpoint follow the wide gravel track uphill. Stop when you reach the quarry.

10 Memorial stones and millennium stones

This is Thomas’ Mountain Quarry on Thomas’ Hill - although quite who Thomas was nobody seems to know for sure. This replaced Millstone Quarry that we saw earlier.

Originally the rock was split with hand tools. Look for small holes in neat rows on rock surfaces known as ‘plug and feathers’ marks. These show where chisel-like plugs were hammered into the rock by hand to split it up into a straight line. Also look out for bits of rusty cast iron rails sticking out, all that remains of the bogie line that was extended up to this quarry.

This is still a working quarry, one of the last active granite quarries in the Mournes. These days the rock is split using explosives and you may see electric wires from detonations in some of the rocks.

Mourne granite can be found far and wide. It was used to construct churches, courthouses, hospitals and gaols in Ulster, to build the docks in Belfast and Liverpool, and to pave the streets of Lancashire’s towns and cities. It was also used in the construction of notable structures including the plinths of the Albert Memorial in London and Stormont, home of the Northern Ireland Parliament.

More recently one of the most significant stones taken from here was the 12 metre high and 47 tonne ‘Strangford Stone’. It was placed at Delamont on the edge of Strangford Lough to celebrate the recent millennium. It is the highest standing stone in Northern Ireland.

Today the most common use for granite is gravestones. It is probably its most ancient use by humans too. There is plenty of evidence of
megalithic tombs in this area. Nearby, on top of Slieve Donard, there is the remains of a Bronze Age cairn.


Walk around the left side of the quarry to the waterfall.

11 Plentiful and pure

The greatest of all the natural resources that the Mourne Mountains provides is water. In the eighteenth century the softness of Mourne water – softened by its filtering through acid peats and granite – was recognised as perfect for bleaching linen and utilised by 26 local linen
mills on the River Bann. However, a far more important need for this high quality water was already developing.

During the nineteenth century, industrialisation saw Belfast grow rapidly. The population was around 25,000 in 1808 but had exploded to near 270,000 by 1891. Existing sources of water could not provide enough so the authorities set about finding an additional source.

The higher peaks in this part of the Mournes were identified as having both plentiful and pure water. With its existing rivers and abundant rainfall it could, they estimated, be relied on to provide 30 million gallons of water every day.

An ambitious and complex three-stage project began which included the erection of the Mourne Wall to protect the surrounding catchment area that we found out about earlier. Then a whole valley inside the walled area was transformed into a massive reservoir capable of holding 3,000 million gallons of water, and a vast network of dams, tunnels and pipes was constructed.

Like the granite industry nearly a hundred years before, this exploitation of natural resources provided much-needed jobs for local people. Indeed, so many jobs were created that a small town sprang up in the mountains called, fittingly, Watertown. Silent Valley, as the area is now known, is well worth a visit to appreciate the majestic beauty of the reservoirs amongst the mountains.


From the quarry, go back down the wide gravel track. Follow the bend round to the left and downwards towards the forest. About 150 metres down the first straight section of track inside the forest, look on the left side for a wide gap between the rows of trees.

12 Mind the gap

Forests of ash, oak, holly and hazel once covered nearly all the lower slopes around the Mournes. By the eighteenth century the Agrarian Revolution, in which land was divided up into enclosures, had led to the clearance of most of the woodland.

Whatever the criticisms of the landed gentry, one benefits was that they preserved some natural habitats in grand estates. This included the Annesley family who purchased this land in 1747.

When the state bought the land in the early twentieth century they continued the reforestation process, evident here in the straight rows of trees. Predominantly coniferous, these are Corsican pine, Scots pine, douglas fir and larch with occasional deciduous broad-leaved trees such as oak and birch on the lower slopes.

Commercial forestry is allowed but regulations require careful integration with the surrounding hills for example with irregular edges to the patches of deforestation and planting a mixture of coniferous and broadleaf trees.

Here you can see a wide gap between the rows of trees. This is a firebreak designed to slow the progress of fire. With the high rainfall that the Mournes are notorious for this may seem unlikely but both wildfires and arson are common. In 2011 fires were started deliberately at more than 12 locations on the same day, and in 2012 large gorse fires raged on Slieve Donard less than a mile from here.

Fires do more than burn down surface vegetation. The roots and seeds of plants can be destroyed resulting in very slow regeneration. Birds and other wildlife lose their habitat and sometimes their lives. The impact is felt by people too, as the quality of the water suffers.


Continue on the track down through the forest. After the first long straight downhill section, the track bears to the left and flattens out. It then rises up a small hill. About 50 metres after the brow of that hill look on the left side for a large round stone construction about 10 metres back from the track.

13 Going underground

This stone construction is an access point to one of the tunnels deep underground that carries water from the Silent Valley reservoir to supply the surrounding areas as well as Belfast. The most famous water tunnel created in the Mournes was driven through Binnian Mountain about three miles south of here.

The two metre high and 2½ mile long tunnel through a granite mountain was an impressive feat of engineering. Even more challenging was
creating a perfect gradient in the tunnel for the water to flow at the right rate.

Equally importantly, they had to make sure that the teams starting at either side of the mountain met in the middle in the correct place! It took four years and a workforce of 150 men to complete the tunnel. When the two sides met in 1951 they were only five centimetres apart.

The Binnian Tunnel completed the third stage of the transformation of the Mournes into the main supplier of water for Northern Ireland’s biggest city. The ambitious Victorian scheme had taken decades to build, faced a series of complex engineering issues and cost the lives of nine men in construction accidents.

While there is a visible impact on the natural landscape in terms of the reservoirs, much of the infrastructure is hidden from sight. The finished scheme is one of great ingenuity as well as incredible design. Not only does it provide the most essential element for life but it also skilfully manages to balance our immediate human need for resources with the longer term preservation of this beautiful landscape.


Continue on the track which undulates and bends through the forest. Stop when you reach a bridge over the Glen River.

14 Invisible enemies

We have seen the visible impact of the exploitation of natural resources on this landscape but there are other less visible human activities that have disturbed the natural balance of the environment. One invisible cause of damage is the pollutants carried in rainwater that makes its way into the soil and streams. The main chemicals that cause the problem are sulphur released from power stations and volcanoes and nitrogen from vehicle exhausts.

When these gases mix with water in the air they become different chemicals – sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. These can have a significant impact on the health of different habitats and on biodiversity.

Government policies introduced in the 1980s have reduced emissions of pollutants from power stations and industrial processes. But some forests in the UK, including this one, have not been able to fully neutralise the acidic effects of polluted rain because of the particular geological composition already existing: due to the granite, the soil here is already fairly acidic.

When the acid-alkali balance in streams and rivers is altered some fish manage to adapt but some species cannot and dwindle. For example, until the early twentieth century wild salmon leaping upstream was said to be a common sight in the Mournes. Today wild salmon numbers have fallen so much it has been designated a Species of Conservation Concern.

The effect of pollution can also be seen on plants. For example, the juniper shrub with its distinctive blue-black berries is one of only three conifers native to the Mournes and so rare in the UK it is classified as a Priority Species. But since 1986 the number of sites with native juniper has declined by over 50 per cent.

Monitoring levels of pollution across water, soil and wildlife is a complex and on-going operation carried out by Northern Ireland’s Forest Service, Water Service, Rivers Agency, Department of Agricultural and Rural Development, Environmental and Heritage Service, and Environment Agency.

Together these agencies not only monitor existing levels of pollution but have also created a system for identifying and managing the effect of human activities on the natural world through a process called Strategic Environmental Assessment. This means that any plans for development of any kind in protected areas such as the Mournes must be checked for potential negative impacts on the environment before being carried out.

Optional walk extension – If you are feeling energetic and want to climb Slieve Donard cross the bridge, turn left and follow the riverside path uphill. Be warned: this is the highest peak in the Mournes and will add about another two hours to your walk.


Cross the bridge and follow the gravel track as it bears round to the right (do not take the rock steps immediately to the right of the bridge which just lead to a viewpoint of the waterfall). After about 30 metres where the main track bears to the left, take the narrower path on the right which leads down into the woods. Follow this path downhill always keeping the river on your right. Stop when you reach the next bridge.

15 Pleasure gardens

As we have already discovered, the local aristocracy in this area was the Annersley family. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they owned and cared for much of the land around Newcastle including the beautiful nearby estates of Tollymore and Castlewellan (now public parks).

The Annersley’s main residence was in Castlewellan but they wanted a seaside home too and in 1837 decided to build Donard Lodge here in the sparsely-wooded foothills of the Mournes. This was no beach hut but rather a mansion of Classical style with Doric colonnades and an enormous semicircular conservatory. Sadly it was demolished in 1966 but we can still enjoy the elegant paths and exotic gardens that were part of the estate.

For over a century the landed gentry had made use of the natural landscape around their country estates. In some cases they created ways to access and enjoy the natural landscape; in other cases they artificially created a landscape to highlight magnificent views and vistas. This was done partly for the purposes of engaging in pleasurable activities and partly to show off. 

Here the Annersley family engaged in a combination of showcasing natural beauty and deliberately manipulating it. The Glen River descends over two miles down the mountain to the sea. They enhanced the river’s twists and turns with a charming series of waterfalls and cascades. Then they created pathways, platforms and bridges to enjoy it.

Care was taken to conserve native wildlife such as the sweet gale that grows in boggy hollows and the diverse mosses. Bright green mosses can be found in abundance but sometimes pink and red sphagnum moss can be spotted too.

New species and ornamental plants were introduced reflecting the travels of the wealthy landowners to the Americas, Australia and Asia. These included rhododendrons, redwoods and monkey puzzle trees.


Cross the bridge and turn left to continue downhill on the riverside path, this time keeping the river on your left. This path is rocky and steep so take great care. When you reach the next bridge (Donard Bridge), do not cross it but turn right and follow the main track away from the river which leads through a woodland known as Annersley Demesne. Stop part way along this path.

16 The pursuit of leisure

The landed gentry in Victorian times may have been the first to devote time and effort to the pursuit of leisure in the Mournes but they certainly weren’t the last. Today visitors come from all over the world, drawn here for a host of reasons. The juxtaposition of sea and rugged mountains makes for a dramatic landscape, said to have inspired C S Lewis’ world of Narnia, and a few thousand amateur writers and artists beside!

Bouldering, climbing, fishing, golf, hiking, horse riding, kayaking and mountain biking, as well as just walking, are all ways to enjoy the landscape of peaks, parks and forests. Irish hospitality pulls in the punters too: seafood, Guinness, traditional music and banter are all part of the ‘craic’.

Today tourism in the Mournes generates an estimated £55 million each year making it the largest source of industry and employment in the region. Like farming or quarrying before it, though, growth in an industry that makes use of the land’s natural resources brings with it the challenge of balancing public access with conservation needs. Paths, roads, car parks and cafes are undeniably useful in providing access for recreational purposes but they may not be best option for preserving it as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Since plans were first put forward in 1946 government agencies and locals have argued over the pros and cons of making the Mournes a National Park. Those in favour compare the economic advantages that have resulted for comparable areas in England such as the Peak District.

Opponents insist that National Park status would deter big businesses from investing in the region and bring nothing but bureaucracy and house price rises for residents. In 2012 the Northern Ireland Environment Minister said that ‘the voice of opposition in the Mournes is greater than the voice of support’ and put plans on hold. Again.

Recent controversial plans to boost tourism include an aerial cable car that would transport people from Donard Park at the edge of Newcastle up the hillside to Thomas’s Quarry. Watch this space!


Follow the path until you reach King Street. Go right (effectively straight ahead) onto King Street. Look on the left for a sign for Bath Lane. Follow the steps down to the lane. At the end, cross over the main road and turn right onto the promenade path. This takes you back past the Harbour House Inn to the harbour.

17 Use or abuse?

We have now come full circle back to the harbour. We hope that you’ve enjoyed this walk that has explored how people have used – and some might say abused – the natural resources of this beautiful place in different ways through the centuries.

This has encompassed the underlying rock, the soils and vegetation, the abundant rainfall and streams, and the natural beauty of the landscape. The granite rock and the veins of precious minerals were exploited in prehistoric times, the industrial era and modern times.

We have seen two granite quarries and found out how the rock was extracted. We saw some stone in use on the mountain in the form of dry stone walls but also found about that which was transported down the mountain by bogie line and exported. This hard rock was turned into hard cash and brought wealth to the town of Newcastle but left a very visible impact on the landscape. 

We have seen hillsides cleared of natural woodland to be grazed by livestock. While cattle and sheep provided a livelihood for local farmers they also trampled the ground and degraded its fertility.

Some of the slopes have been reforested and we found out about a mixed planting strategy that seeks to avoid the mono-species plantations found elsewhere and create a more diverse habitat for wildlife. However the trees, soils and streams are affected by pollution carried by rain from distant industrial areas.

We found out how engineers solved the problem of a growing city by turning to an area of high mountains. In the forest we discovered surface evidence of an underground network of infrastructure for water distribution. It is easy to take the plentiful rainfall and pure water found here for granted but we must take care to safeguard this most precious of natural resources.

We have also seen how the natural beauty of the landscape has been appreciated. We admired the design work done by an aristocratic family for their ‘pleasure grounds’ and found out about recreational enjoyment of the landscape today. We also reflected on the line to be trod between conservation and public access of natural landscapes.

Nature’s bounty

Mournes from Dundrum Inner Bay © Howard Lunn

Mournes walk

A circular walk in the Mourne Mountains

The landscape around the Donard Forest, where "the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea", has been used and abused for centuries.

This fascinating route explores how, taking in a forest, moorland and a river glen along the way. 

Enjoy some spectacular views of the coastline and surrounding mountains, and think about how we balance conservation with public access.

Follow the walk by clicking on the map pins
or downloading the guides below

Location: Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland
Start and finish point: Newcastle harbour, South Promenade BT33 0EZ

Mournes walk credits

Thank you to - 

Verity Peet for researching and writing the walk materials, taking photos and providing the audio commentary

Michael, Cathal and Saoirse for help with testing the walk

Jenny Lunn for editing the walk resources, providing photos and acting as narrator

Howard Lunn for testing the walk route and taking photos

Caroline Millar for editing the audio 

Lesley Simpson and Victoria Millar for help with archive images and Down County Museum for kind permission to reproduce them

National Museums Northern Ireland for kind permission to reproduce images from their collections

Albert Bridge, b.gliwa, Joe Mabel, Mark83, MPF, Mr Norman Ervine, Nipik, Notafly, Paul McIlroy, PD-USGOV, Peter Lyons, robertpaulyoung and Ross for images reproduced under Creative Commons Licenses

Every landscape has a story to tell