As one of Ireland's most scenic regions, the Mourne Mountains in Co. Down is the perfect location for hikers, walkers, and adventurers.
Whether you're a high climber or just looking for a stroll in idyllic surroundings, the ring of twelve mountains will have a route for you.
Rising up to above 2,000ft (600m) above sea level, the range is home to Northern Ireland’s highest mountain peak, Slieve Donard. The more famous summits, such as Donard, Slieve Bearnagh, or Slieve Binnian offer a hike that the experienced among us will enjoy.
Those who don't fancy working up too much of a sweat can take it easy along the banks of the River Shinma in Tollymore Forest Park or take a ramble around the fascinating volcanic landscape of the Ring of Gullion in Co. Armagh.
The Ring of Guillion itself is named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, within which can be found the Kilnasaggart Inscribed Stone (one of Ireland’s earliest Christian monuments) and nearby Moyry Castle
History buffs will enjoy the prehistoric and early-Christian sights among the Ring of Guillion but for nature lovers, the walking trails in Castlewellan Forest Park and Bunkers Hill, home to some of the oldest and rarest existing trees in the British Isles, are a definite treat.
The 4.5 minute film ‘Beyond The Wall’ was created by Ryan Simpson, an amateur photographer/videographer and an architecture student at Queen’s University, Belfast, and the 29 individual clips were recorded between July and December 2015.
The title refers to the 22-mile-long Mourne Wall which traverses 15 different summits and is one of the best-known examples of an Irish dry-stone wall. Taking 18 years to complete, the wall is bound by gravity even as it traverses up the slopes of Slieve Donard.
Such is the beauty of this mountainous area it is said to have inspired C.S. Lewis’ magical world of Narnia. Belfast-born Lewis grew up with the mountains as his playground and is believed to have used memories of his childhood wanderings there when creating the world of "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.
It's easy to see what Lewis was getting at in a recently created time-lapse video of the mountains, which captures the beauty of the region as the seasons change.
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The mountain range has inspired more than C.S. Lewis, however. Irish songwriter Percy French penned a song in tribute entitled "Mountains of Mourne," which has since been sung by the likes of Celtic Thunder, Don McLean, and The Fureys. The song highlights the beauty of the area in contrast to the more artificial beauty that exists in larger cities such as London as an Irish immigrant in England compares the English fashion to his own homeland.
One of the song's most famous lines says "where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea" and the mountains more than live up to this as an adventurer's paradise just waiting to be discovered.
Hiking and walking are not the only activities for adventurers either. Royal County Down, one of the best golf clubs in the world, is just a short distance away; you can go sea kayaking or wet bouldering at the rock slides and plunge pools at Bloody Bridge; or visit any of the towns in the area, such as Newry or Rostrevor, each rich in their own history.
*Originally published in 2016. Updated in 2023.