The Mourne Mountains

Percy French sang how “the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea”... and they do. But they do a whole lot more

The Mourne Mountains in County Down are famous for a lot of things. Challenging peaks, gentle slopes and crystalline lakes.

Beauty comes easily to the Mournes, but there’s also a childish joy about the place. Think of the 28 peaks as a natural playground.

Rising highest above its siblings at around 850 metres, Slieve Donard is the tallest peak. Yes, it’s a tough climb, but the views out over Murlough Bay and the small town of Newcastle are worth the effort.

But the Mournes are a sweet trial for walkers, too. Butter Mountain, Slieve Binnian, Slieve Lamagan and Slieve Corragh offer standout strolls. Oh, and do pack a camera.

Slieve Binnian, County Down
Slieve Binnian, County Down

The Silent Valley

Take Ben Crom for instance. A hike up its russet sides through the mountain heather and floating bog cotton is an experience in itself, but it’s at the summit where the magic really happens.

Spread out at the mountain’s foot below is the Silent Valley; and looking down on the Ben Crom Reservoir is where the scale of the Mournes hits you. Photographs from the peak here can’t fail to be epic, so snap away.

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The Narnia connection

One man felt the magic of the Mournes more than most. For Belfast-born Clive Staples Lewis, or CS Lewis as we know him better, the Mournes were a pleasure ground. The author was reared on the clean Mourne air, while his mind was inspired by these surroundings to create the world of Narnia from his masterpiece The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

“I have seen landscapes (in the Mourne Mountains) which, under a particular light, made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge,” wrote Lewis.

We know how he feels.

The Mourne Wall

The dry-stone wall is an iconic image of Ireland, and one of the most impressive examples of it is the Mourne Wall. Bound only by gravity, the wall snakes its way over 15 mountains and took 18 years to complete. Pick your way to the top of Slieve Donard and survey its stately progress as it stretches for 35 miles into the undulating distance.

Unlike the Great Wall of China, you won’t spot the Mourne Wall from your spaceship. Your view will, however, be in for a treat.

To paraphrase Roscommon-born songwriter Percy French, the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the Irish Sea via the sleepy seaside town of Newcastle. Take residence in the Slieve Donard Hotel and deck your table with afternoon tea.

A fitting end to a day in the Mournes and a perfect toast to many more.

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