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Discovering the Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland

When it comes to mountaineering and walking in the UK, it’s fair to say that Northern Ireland can be somewhat neglected. Though it’s a popular destination in general, with walkers and ramblers favouring the ‘traditional’ three peaks challenge – that’s Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scarfell Pike in England and Snowdon in Wales – the outstanding natural beauty and perfect walking opportunities of the Mourne Mountains in Co. Down often go ignored.

It’s difficult to understand why this region doesn’t receive more attention from walkers: it can’t be for a lack of breath-taking vistas and gorgeous scenery, of which the area can proudly boast as having some of the most stunning in the world. In fact, this granite mountain range in County Down has been proposed as the first National Park of Northern Ireland and is credited as being the inspiration behind C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – easy to understand, if you ever happen to be blessed with the sight of seeing these mountains covered in snow.

Arguably, the best way of exploring the area is on foot. The range is formed by a compact ring of 12 mountains, meaning that there are numerous walks of different intensities, to suit walkers of all capabilities. A popular route is the 26 mile Mourne Way, which takes walkers through the mountains between Newcastle and Rostrevor and provides spectacular views of both the coast and countryside.

In addition to breath-taking scenery, these trails through the mountains are steeped in history and local culture. A section of the Mourne Way, referred to as the Trassey Track, was used in the 18th century by smugglers to travel the mountains at night with cargos of tobacco and silk. What’s more, the woods of the Tollymore Estate, which also form part of the route, was the source of oak wood for the luxurious interior of the ill-fated Titanic.

Although undoubtedly part of the attraction for walkers in search of tranquillity, trails through the mountains are largely devoid of accommodation or facilities. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that anyone exploring the mountains is dressed appropriately in clothing that offers protection from the elements. Check out the range of mountain equipment, available to buy online from White and Bishop, for some examples.

Though it would be difficult for anyone to tire of admiring the beauty of this area of south-east Northern Ireland, travellers in search of a more active experience will also find an abundance of adrenaline rushing activities. With everything from mountain biking and fishing, to kayaking and bouldering (that’s rock climbing minus the safety ropes – perhaps, not for everyone) there’s something to suit every kind of active traveller.

The mountains may be an adventurer’s paradise, but the region is far from limited when it comes to satisfying travellers. Book yourself in for a few classes at the Mourne Seafood Cookery School for an insight into the area’s fantastic local cuisine and love of fresh seafood! Classes are intended to be relaxed and fun, and best of all, you get to enjoy the fruits of labours with the rest of the cooking students at the end of the class.

When it comes to finding accommodation in the Mourne Mountains, you’d be hard pushed to find anything better than a traditional holiday let. If you’re already packing your walking boots with this destination in mind, take a look at mournecountrycottages.com to find available holiday lets in the area. Some of the lets featured on this site form part of the last remaining Clahlans (Medieval settlements) in the whole of Ireland and are in ideal locations for travellers planning to explore the Mourne Mountains.

The next time you’re choosing a holiday destination and you have a passion for walking, beautiful scenery and fascinating culture, dedicate some long overdue attention to the splendour of the Mourne Moutains. ‘Four Peaks’ challenge anyone?

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