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5 Things you didn't know about the Mourne Mountains

Posted on July 20, 2017 @ 4:25 PM in Walking

There is a saying "you learn something new everyday" and we did just that when we caught up with tour guide Peter Rafferety owner of based in the beautiful Mourne Mountains. Peter really is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to interesting facts on this spectacular area and we couldn't wait to share with you these 5 interesting facts you may not have known about the Mournes. 

The Mourne Wall

Mourne Wall

You may find this hard to believe but this 22 mile long, 1.5m high and 0.8m thick wall, which took 18 years to build and crosses 15 mountains was constructed by hand! 

Built using classic dry stone wall techniques (no motar used!) and granite from local quarries, the wall which encloses 9,000 acres of mountainous terrain, was designed to keep farm animals away from the reservoirs and rivers. The wall passes the peak of each mountain except 'Rocky' where it skirts around the summit.

Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous Plants Northern Ireland

Believe it or not the Mournes has 2 types of carnivorous plant the 'Butterwort' and the 'Sudew', but don't panic contrary to what some people had heard, these plants do NOT! eat humans and the sheep are also safe.

As the soil where these plants grow is so poor in nutrients they catch small flies and the dreaded midge to provide their food. Not easily spotted by the untrained eye but the Walk The Mournes guides can usually find some depending on the time of year.

Smugglers Northern Ireland

The Mournes was once a hiding place for some infamous smugglers.You may have seen clues to this if you have been to Bloody Bridge Car Park. 'The Smugglers Head' sculpture by artist Ralf Sander was inspired by the smuggling activitiy that was rife in the Mournes in the 18th & 19th Centuries. 

Ships would dock in Newcastle at the foot of the Mountains with their illegal proudce including coffee, tea, silk, tobaccco and wine before trekking their way through the Mournes on horseback along the Brandy Pad which crosses the top of the two valleys. But did you know they had a secret cave to store and hide their goods from customs men? Peter has lots of stories of their escapades hiding from the customs men and will take you into the hidden 'Smugglers Cave' to see where they hid! Certainly not for those of a nervous disposition you will have the opportunity to enter the cave and crawl along a ledge to a small chamber (hopefully Peter remembers the torch!).

Stone Cutting

Mourne Granite

Most people as they walk through the Mournes think what they see in front of them is the way it was left after the last ice age 10,000 years ago but nothing could be further from the truth. 

The Mourne Men are famous the world over for their great skill in working with stone, a skill that is not just learnt but bred into them. 150 years ago hundreds of men and boys toiled at cutting the Mourne Granite using only hand tools. The granite stone had many uses in the 18th & 19th centuries for buildings, millstones and was even used in cobbled streets, the stones of which were designed in such a way that that when horses hooves wore down the surface the cobble could be taken out, turned and replaced.

World War ll

Mournes World War 2

You may think that the Mournes had no connection with World War 2 but you will be amazed at the evidence you will find yourself walking on. Shrapnel remnants of bombing practice from off-shore American Navy ships from World War ll (70 years ago) still continue to be found here....don't worry though it's unlikely you'll come across any unexploded shells!

The aim of is to help both visitors and locals discover and enjoy all the area has to offer. Some people find it a bit daunting to set out on their own so never actually get to experience the fantastic mountains. This is where Walk The Mournes guided tours are even more beneficial as people have the security of a professional qualified guide to look after them. To find out more about the tours offered check out their website:, phone 028 4176 3297 or email:

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Officer & Active Clubs Coordinator for Walking

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She oversees the marketing and communication on WalkNI, OutdoorNI and Walking in Your Community Project. Most recently she has been working with Parkrun Ireland & UK to introduce the 'Walk @ parkrun' initiative.

1 comment has been posted in reply to this article

Posted by Rodney Magowan on July 28, 2017 @ 10:11 PM

enjoyed this list of 5 - thanks

apart from Americans shelling the Mournes the hills are also the site of many sad wartime crashes by allied aircraft, RAF, commonwealth, Polish etc. You may have come across memorials and parts sof aircraft.

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