South Down & Mournes

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South County Down boasts spectacular sea and mountain scenery, pretty villages and moorland dotted with small farms. The main traditional industries now are farming, fishing, stone masonry and building. The lower pastures of the Mournes are criss-crossed like a large undulating quilt with miles and miles of dry stone wall.

The Mountains of Mourne are a product of the Ice Age and were formed over 50 million years ago. These mostly rounded mountain peaks and dramatic granite outcrops are popular with walkers and hikers from all over the world. The range consists of peaks which are unusual in that their summits are grouped together in a compact area only seven miles wide. Ireland’s answer to the Great Wall of China is the Mourne Wall which stretches 22 miles long and was built between 1904 and 1922, linking over 15 peaks and is on average 8 feet high and 3 feet wide. In places the wall runs vertically up the side of a mountain and is a monument to the skill of the men who built it.

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SILENT VALLEY

Head Road , Kilkeel Tel: 028 9074 1166

The Silent Valley was formed during the ice-age 10,000 years ago. It was chosen by the Belfast Water Commissioners, as the site for their dam, as it was free from industry and pollution and it also had around 70 inches of rain each year. The project began in 1923 and finally finished in 1933. The Silent Valley provides about 400,000 people with up to 30 million gallons of water a day. The following facilities are available — seasonal cafe, information centre, craft shop, interperative centre, conference facilities, nature trail and a shuttle bus from car park to Ben Crom dam. There are many woodland walks within the vicinity of the valley.

THE MOURNE MOUNTAINS.

The Mourne Mountains were formed 65 million years ago. They are made of granite which is an igneous rock, a rock which is formed because of a volcano. Granite produces a poor acidic soil and for this reason, crops are not grown and the Mournes are mainly used for grazing sheep. Granite is a hard wearing rock which is found at the base or bottom of the earths crust. It cools, solidifies and then becomes granite. There are 12 peaks all over 2000feet high and includes Northern Ireland’s highest Mountain, Slieve Donard. The Mournes are unusual in that their summits are grouped together in a compact area only 7 miles in breadth. The Mourne Mountains — Ireland’s best loved mountain range is famous the world over through Percy French’s song ‘Where the Mountains of Mourne Sweep Down to the Sea’.

KILBRONEY FOREST PARK

The forest drive leads to a car park from where walkers have the opportunity to climb to ‘Cloughmore’ the big stone, a 30ton erratic, which sits at approx 1000ft above Rostrevor. Geologists explain its presence here as having being deposited during the ice age. Local Folklore claims it was thrown here by Finn Mac Cool during a fight with a Scottish Giant. During the same battle, the Scottish Giant allegedly tore out a handful of earth and flung it back at Finn, which missed. The earth landed in the sea and became the Isle of Man while the divot he made, filled up with water and became Lough Neagh. Rostrevor Oak wood is a relic of a much larger forest. The woodland contains Oak, Ash, Sycamore, Haze; to name but a few. There are lots of ferns and flowers like wild garlic, primroses and bluebells. It is home to Jays and Squirrels and hosts a number of rare plants like wood avens and hard shield fern.

BURREN HERITAGE CENTRE

Tel. 028 4177 3378 Opening times: Tue-Fri 9.00 am — 5.00 pm, Sat/Sun 1.00 pm — 5.00 pm

Burren Heritage Centre, housed in the converted National school built in 1839, is situated in the picturesque Drumlin area above Carlingford Lough at the entrance to the famous Mountains of Mourne. The superb scaled models of historic sights in the area, as well as showcases displaying artifacts relating to the social history of the area and a local map identifies the location of these sites.

GREENCASTLE CASTLE

Tel. Newry Tourist Information 028 3031 3170 for Summer Opening times.

The castle was built in the mid 13th century, replacing a still existant earthen motte to the West. Together with Carlingford Castle on the opposite shore, it commanded the narrow entrance to the lough. It was initially held by the de Burghs, Earls of Ulster. After an eventful History, it was granted to Sir Nicholas Bagnal in 1552, along with most of Mourne. The castle is a typical Norman Castle with towers and a curtain wall.

Greencastle is only a few minutes drive from Cranfield Beach, and was once known as the capital of Mourne. Greencastle castle is a medieval fortress, which was built in the 13th century, and is well worth a visit.

KILFEAGHAN DOLMEN

Kilfeaghan Dolmen is situated on the main Kilkeel to Newry Road approximately three miles from Rostrevor. It is a prehistoric dolmen and the site is dated between 2000 and 1000 B.C. The capstone is believed to be one of the biggest in Ireland and is estimated to weigh between 35 and 40 tons. Excavations at the site earlier this century unearthed various bones and pottery.

ROSS’ MONUMENT.

Ross’ Monument is found on the A2 between Warrenpoint and Rostrevor. There is a lay-by opposite with a terrific view down the Lough. This commanding position was chosen as the place to honour Major General Robert Ross who fought both in Europe and the American War of Independence. His monument erected in 1826, celebrates his victory over the American forces in Bladensburg in 1814 and his entry into the capital, Washington. He is reputed to have burnt down all the public buildings including the presidential mansion and to have eaten the presidents’ breakfast having left in a hurry.

THE MOURNE WALL

It took over 18 years to complete this granite masterpiece. Between 1904 — 1922 many skilled people were employed seasonally to build the wall which stands up to 8ft. high and 3ft. wide. It is 22miles in length and connects the summits of no less than 15 mountains including Slieve Donard. The wall is still intact and is often used as a marker for walkers.

NARROW WATER KEEP

Tel. Newry Tourist Information 028 3031 3170 for Summer Opening times.

The Narrow Water Castle Keep was originally built in the 13th Century. Narrow Water Castle guards the narrowest point on Carlingford Lough. You can reach it from the Dual Carriageway between Warrenpoint and Newry. Parking is permitted on the hard shoulder outside the castle. The Castle is situated one mile outside Warrenpoint on the road to Newry. It was probably used as a fortified site since the arrival of the Vikings in 794 A.D. The present building was built in the 1560’s at a cost of £361-4s-2d, and was home to British Garrison. The Hall family purchased the land, including the Keep, in 1670. The Hall’s retained possession until recently when the keep was handed to the D.O.E Ancient Monuments Branch.

CRANFIELD BEACH

Ameracam Lane , Cranfield Tel: 028 417 64321

Cranfield beach is set in an idyllic location at the mouth of Carlingford Lough, with the majestic Mourne Mountains as a dramatic backdrop. The long south facing beach offers excellent facilities for all visitors whether it be a gentle stroll or for more strenuous water based activities and provides the perfect setting for the family with a wide expanse of sand and clean bathing water. Cranfield has been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag, which is given to beaches and marinas across Europe that meet strict criteria for both water quality and environmental management. It was introduced in 1987 and sets common standards of good management across Europe.

ANNALONG CORNMILL & HARBOUR

Annalong Tel: 028 4376 8736

Annalong Cornmill is situated beside Annalong Harbour. It was built in the early 1800’s and operated until the 1960’s. This meant that Annalong Cornmill was one of Ulster’s last working water mills. The complex contains a grain drying kiln and 3 pairs of millstones. It is powered by a 15ft water wheel,(a form of technology over 2000 years old) and a 1920’s marshall ‘hot bulb’ 20hp engine. The Cornmill is owned by Newry and Mourne District Council and restoration began in 1983. The Cornmill re-opened in 1985.

THE CORONATION STONE

Bridal Loanan, Warrenpoint

The stone of destiny or coronation stone of the Magennis Clan is preserved on its original site. Legend tells how the Magennis Clan and all of the sub-clans, who owned allegiance to ‘The Magennis’, would fill the surrounding countryside while the Chieftan of the Clan was inaugurated by placing his foot and staff of power into slots in the stone.

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