Categories: Walking & Hiking

You could search high and low for a better spot in which to discover the joys of walking in Northern Ireland. Though you’re not likely to find one more inviting than the dramatic Mourne Mountains. With a winning combination of challenging peaks and gentle foothill strolls, this is a paradise for walkers of all levels. It’s a tempting area for foodies too with some fantastic restaurants along the way.  

Slieve Donard, Newcastle 

Enthusiastic walkers will find buckets to explore along this 2.9 mile route to the summit of  Slieve Donard. Northern Ireland’s highest peak, it stands at 853m - with the remaining peaks which form this famous ring of mountains all rising above 600m. As you’d expect, the views - sweeping down to the sea and across to the Isle of Man, Wales and Scotland – are utterly breath-taking. All the more for you to enjoy on the return 2.9 mile stretch then. 

Bearnagh and Meelmore, Trassey  

This 6-mile circular walk takes in not one, but two mountain peaks – Slieve Bearnagh (739m) with its distinctive granite tors, and Slieve Meelmore (704m). At times strenuous going, it finishes with a walk down through Happy Valley and along a section of the famous Ulster Way. 

Slieve Binnian, Carrick Little 

At 747m, reaching Slieve Binnian’s summit is no mean feat, but just think of the views when you get there. This fantastic 7-mile circular walking route begins at Carrick Little Car Park and follows the Mourne Wall to the top of Slieve Binnian, Northern Ireland’s 3rd highest peak. It then crosses the spectacular South and North Tors, before descending past the Blue Lough and Annalong Forest. 

A well-earned rest 

Now that you’ve seen the sweeping mountains of Mourne, it’s time to learn a little about the man who made them famous in song. The Percy French, in the grounds of the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, is named after the composer of the classic “The Mountains of Mourne” and a wonderfully tasty spot to stop for a meal and a cosy log fire. 

Tollymore Forest Park 

Find your way across rope bridges, tunnels, spider webs and basket swings – don’t forget the castle turret and folly tower - to the giant Deer! (Hint: He’s actually a super-sized ‘Big Deer’ slide.) Tollymore Forest Park is a fantastic adventure playground for children. Plus there are four wonderful circular walking trails, with bridges, grottos and photo-friendly stepping stones for the adults. Well, why should kids have all the fun? 

Castlewellan Forest Park 

It’s this way to Animal Wood. Situated beside one of the world’s largest hedge mazes, it’s a play-fest of wild woodland animals, including a badger, a red squirrel and a giant spider. There’s also a fully signposted 7.5 mile trail network with jaw-dropping views to the Mourne Mountains. And a spectacular – and beautifully flat – mile-long lakeside walk where kids can cycle alongside the grown-ups.  

Castlewellan is also home to a Scottish Baronial Castle and some of the most outstanding tree and shrub collections in Europe. So it’s a good spot for a family stroll too. Don’t miss Castlewellan’s best kept secret, the hauntingly beautiful Annesley Gardens and arboretum. It’s full of secluded areas to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet – with a wondrous walking trail that leads past the duck pond, around hidden lakes and fountains.  

Dundrum Coastal Path 

Just 4 miles from the seaside town of Newcastle, Dundrum Coastal Path runs along a 1.6 mile stretch of disused railway with exceptional views over Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains. And a glimpse of the ruined medieval Dundrum Castle on the nearby hill. 

Mourne Seafood Bar 

Now you can’t leave without a visit to the Mourne Seafood Bar. Over half of Northern Ireland’s fishing fleet is based in nearby Kilkeel harbour, so it’s no wonder some of the finest local seafood turns up as the culinary star of dishes here.  

Cloughmore Stone, Rostrevor 

This is Narnia country where Belfast-born C. S. Lewis was inspired to create his famous Chronicles. A short uphill walk – just 0.4 miles each way – brings you to a breath-taking vantage point overlooking Carlingford Lough. And who knows what that might inspire? 

Murlough National Nature Reserve, Newcastle 

At the edge of Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains, the Murlough National Nature Reserve is a fragile 6,000 year-old sand dune system, owned by the National Trust. 2.5 miles of paths and boardwalks take you through dunes, woodland and heath. Look out for butterflies, wild flowers, wintering wildfowl and common and grey seals. The best sort of travelling companions.  

Whether you’re taking your tentative first steps along a mountain trail or fast-tracking your way to the summit, the Mourne Mountains have a walk or a hike just made for you. So it’s time to pack those boots and start your adventure.