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Making the Most of the Magical Mournes

Posted on March 30, 2015 @ 5:02 PM in Walking

Dramatic Tors, breath-taking reservoirs, rugged landscape and barely another sole in sight; you can expect to find this and more in the Mourne Mountains, Co. Down.  The highest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland, its summits are crowned by granite tors with a network of paths and tracks, providing incredible opportunities for exploration.

The beloved inspiration for CS Lewis’s fictional land of Narnia with all mountains situated within a relatively small geographical area the beauty of the Mournes is that you can conquer and explore a vast variety of the hills all within a matter of days and all from one base.  With this in mind, we have designed a variety of walking itineraries coupled with some great offers in nearby walker friendly accommodation to enable you to get the best out of a short break in the Mourne Mountains. Two of our favourites are below however for even more itineraries download the free ‘Mourne Mountains Walker’s Guide’. 

Conquer the Peaks

A challenging 3 day itinerary climbing the 6 highest peaks in the Mournes including Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland’s highest summit at 853m / 2,798ft.  As the name would suggest this itinerary requires a high level of fitness but rewards walker’s efforts with breath-taking views out over the Irish Sea and beyond!

Day 1: Slieve Donard, Commedagh and Bearnagh 17.5 km (10.9 miles)
A challenging circular walk with some strenuous ascents, this route takes in 3 of the highest peaks in the Mourne Mountains (Slieve Donard 853m, Slieve Commedagh 765m, Slieve Bearnagh 739m) with wonderful views out to the Irish Sea and back into the High Mournes.  The route follows part of “The Brandy Pad”, a track created by the boots of smugglers and the hooves of heavily laden ponies, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries.  

Walker Review : “This walk is a gem, the long walk in from Trassey ensures the modern world is left behind, and it's just you, your companions and the Mournes. Each mountain has it's own magic, and the views are a treasure.” Posted on WalkNI.com by Tom

Slieve Commedagh
Image: Slieve Commedagh

Day 2: Slieve Binnian 7 miles (11 km)

This fantastic circular walking route follows the Mourne Wall to the summit of Slieve Binnian (747m). It then traverses between the spectacular South and North Tors with stunning views of Silent Valley and Ben Crom Reservoirs before descending along a track past the Blue Lough, Annalong Forest and back to Carrick Little car park near Annalong village.  Between 1904 - 1922 many skilled people were employed seasonally to build the Mourne Wall which stands up to 8ft high and 3ft wide and took 18 years to complete. 22 miles (35.5km) in length it connects the summits of no less than 15 mountains, including Slieve Donard.

Walker Review: “The castles at the top are well worth the climb and the view from the top of Binnian must be the best you will get anywhere in the Mournes.” Posted on WalkNI.com by Trevor Greer

Slieve Binnian
Image: Ben Crom Reservoir viewed from Slieve Binnian Loop

Day 3: Meelmore and Meelbeg 5.5 miles (9 km)

This is a moderate circular walk in the Mournes, summiting 2 of the 7 highest peaks in the region, Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Meelbeg. The walk starts and finishes from Ott car park ascending to the col between Slieve Loughshannagh and Carn Mountain before following the Mourne Wall to the summits of Slieve Loughshannagh (619m) and Slieve Meelbeg (708m) and up to the summit of Slieve Meelmore (687m). Once at the bottom of the valley, the route picks up the Ulster Way, passing Fofanny Dam.

Walker Review: “This is a perfect short walk - warm up on the walk up Ott, stretch out on Loughshannagh and Meelbeg and then rise to the challenge of Meelmore.” Posted on WalkNI.com by Georgina Milne

Meelmore

Image: Mourne Wall ascending Slieve Meelmore

The 'Best of the Mournes’

For those only in the Mournes for the weekend, these 2 invigorating days are perfect to fit in some of the highlights of this spectacular range. This itinerary summits Slieve Binnian and Bearnagh with the option of scaling Slieve Donard, all of which will reward walkers with breath-taking views over the South Down and County Armagh landscapes.

Day 1: Reservoir Views 9.3 miles (15 km)

A strenuous linear walk linking the southern end of the High Mournes to Newcastle via Slieve Binnian, Slievelamagan and the Glen River. Impressive views of Silent Valley Reservoir can be enjoyed from Slieve Binnian and of Ben Crom Reservoir from Slievelamagan, both of which supply Belfast with piped water. The walk starts near Annalong and finishes in Newcastle. From the top of Slieve Donard, on a clear day, walkers can see out over to England’s Lake District, Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland, Snaefell on the Isle of Man, the Scottish island monolith of Ailsa Craig and the Isle of Arran.

Silent ValleyImage: Silent Valley

Day 2: Bearnagh and Meelmore 6 miles (9.6 km)

A strenuous walk in the Mournes taking in the peaks of Slieve Bearnagh and Slieve Meelmore, finishing by walking down Happy Valley and along a section of the Ulster Way. This is a circular walk using the Trassey Track as the gateway to the core of the High Mournes.

Walker Review: “This walk has breath-taking views from the top of Bearnagh out to Spelga Dam, down into Kilkeel and out across Newcastle into the deep blue sea... A must for those seeking beautiful scenery and a good leg workout” Posted on WalkNI.com by Claire and Mark

Slieve Bearnagh

Transport

Activities in the Mournes Shuttle Services (AIMSS) provide a shuttle service to walkers in the Mourne Area. Contact 07516 412076 to book. Translink operate a dedicated “rambler” bus service through the Mournes from May-September; Tuesday to Sunday. 

Places to Stay – Up to 50% Off for walkers

There are a number of small towns and villages dotted around the foothills of the Mourne Mountains all which make a great base for walkers. Newcastle, a coastal resort around 31 miles (50km) from Belfast and 87 miles (140km) from Dublin, is probably the most popular town located at the foot of Slieve Donard. 

Get up to 50% off accommodation for your next walking break in the Mournes –simply contact the accommodation providers listed below directly and quote ‘WalkNI’ when booking. All offers are valid from 1st March 2015 – 31st May 2015. For full T&Cs and a full list of all walker-friendly accommodation offers across Northern Ireland visit WalkNI.com 

Accommodation Mourne Mountains

Newcastle

Burrendale Country Club & Spa, Newcastle, Co. Down50% Off 4* Hotel
Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, Newcastle, Co. Down15% Off 4* Hotel
The Views Apartments, Newcastle. Co. Down3 nights for the price of 2, self-catering 
Donard Hotel, Newcastle, Co. Down20% Off Hotel
Mourne Heights, Newcastle Co. Down15% Off self-catering
Waterfoot Apartment, Newcastle, Co. Down3 nights for the price of 2, 4* self-catering

Castlewellan

Hillyard House B&B, Castlewellan, Co. Down£28pp for walking groups
Mourne Haven, Castlewellan, Co. Down15% Off self-catering

Dundrum

Dundrum Bay Holiday Cottages, Dundrum, Co. Down15% Off 4* self-catering
Downshire Manor Apartment, Dundrum, Co. Down £100 Off 4* self-catering 

Other Places to Stay

Kribben Cottages, Annalong, Co. Down - 3 nights for the price of 2, 4* Self-catering
The Mourne Lodge, Attical, Co. Down - £30pp B&B plus packed lunch
Tory Bush Cottages, Bryansford, Co. Down20% Off 3* self catering 
Mountains of Mourne Country Cottages, Kilkeel, Co. Down3 nights for the price of 2, 3* self-catering
Graceys Barn, Rathfriland, Co. Down3 nights for the price of 2, 4* self-catering

Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

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