Why you should visit the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland

I've been going to Ireland for the past decade and feel like I'm pretty well traveled in the north. But there was one place where I hadn't been and now I'm gutted I haven't been sooner. The Mourne Mountains in County Down. County Down is one of the six counties of Northern Ireland in the south-east of the country. Home to the highest points in the country, the Mourne Mountain range is spectacular. It's said to have influenced C.S Lewis to write The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. You'll spend your entire trip marvelling at the serene beauty and wondering why on earth its not more popular. But you'll be secretly glad it's not as too many people would spoil it. 

Things to do

Take the high Mourne Mountains scenic route

If you only have time to do one thing, make sure it is this as you'll be blown away. Driving to the top of a mountain is both absolutely terrifying and probably the coolest thing you'll do. We picked it up from Newcastle and it finishes just before Annalong. It will take you past Tollymore Forest Park - see more about this below. Along the drive you'll find various points to spot off with car parking spaces and picnic benches. Definitely don't be shy to stop and snap some pictures or have a wander around. The majority of the time we only had sheep for company. We declined a trek up the mountains this time but we did spot a few more adventurous people than ourselves. On a clear day you'll even be able to see the Isle of Man or the Lake District in England. 

Take the Mourne Mountain coastal route

Nowhere quite has a coastline as beautiful as Northern Ireland. It's wonderfully rugged, delightfully wild and thankfully untouched. The route from Newcastle will take you through the peaks of the east Mournes and past the Bloody Bridge (named after an Irish massacre in the 1600s). Once again you'll pass so many lay-bys and picnic areas where you can stop. Be sure to park the car at the Bloody Bridge and go for a wander along the well-known former smugglers paradise. 

Visit Tollymore Forest Park

If you're a fan of Game of Thrones then you definitely know about Tollymore. You will have seen it! You'll past the place where the Starks found the direwolves, where the Night's Watch found bodies in the snow and where Tyrion and Jon chat on their way to the wall. It really is a beautiful place and you'll need at least half a day to explore. We could only spend an hour and it wasn't long enough. Take a picnic with you and enjoy the scenery.

Stroll along Murlough Nature Reserve

Don't be too alarmed if you hear gunshots. The beach backs onto an army shooting range so you'll be able to hear them practising. There's signs in the sea to warn you not to go too far out just in case. But if you carry on strolling the gunshots gradually due away and you'll be able to swim until your heart's content. Surrounded by the mountains, the nature reserve is a great place to blow away the cobwebs. Pack some comfortable shoes and go for a wander. Follow the wooden broadway to get down to the sea. Wrap up warm as that sea air does get chilly!


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