Mourne Coastal Route

Newry to Strangford

3 Days
  • Coastal Views
  • Family
  • Food & Drink
  • Explore the Mourne Mountains
  • Castle Ward
Must-see

This route encompasses two of Northern Ireland’s most scenic drives and designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the Ring of Gullion and the Mourne Coastal Route. Slieve Gullion’s mysterious reputation arises from its associations with ancient myth and legend, and indeed the wider area’s rich archaeological heritage. Delve deeper into these stories as you explore the many towns and rural villages encircling the heather clad Slieve Gullion Mountain. Follow the brown road signs for the Mourne Coastal Route and enjoy the beauty of this rugged coastline and its many popular coastal towns and villages, as you travel through the heart of the Mourne Mountains.

Day 1

Ring of Gullion

The Ring of Gullion is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and a ring of low, rugged hills which form a ‘rampart’ around the heather-clad Slieve Gullion Mountain.

The Ring of Gullion straddles Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic of Ireland in South Armagh. The land itself shares many similar landscape characteristics with the adjacent Cooley Peninsula and the historic town of Carlingford in County Louth, an area worth taking time to explore.

The Ring of Gullion is alive with history, awash in scenic beauty and bursting with culture. Its mysterious reputation arises from its associations with legends like Cú Chulainn and Fionn mac Cumhaill and today this is celebrated by families throughout the year with the popular Giant’s Lair and Adventure Playpark. Aside from this rich cultural heritage, the area is also popular for outdoor activities including hiking, cycling and angling.

The route begins and ends in Newry before heading towards Warrenpoint to begin the Mourne Coastal Route. As you explore this 10km scenic drive around Slieve Gullion there are a number of areas of interest to stop of and explore.

Slieve Gullion

The jewel in the crown is of course Slieve Gullion Forest Park. If you’re travelling with kids, be sure to explore the parks magical walk around The Giants Lair, which is based on a children’s story book.

The views over South Armagh at the top of the mountain are well worth the hike to the summit. On reaching the summit of Slieve Gullion look out for the Slieve Gullion Passage Tomb, Ireland’s highest surviving passage tomb which is marked with a circular cairn, with a kerb of stones around its perimeter.

Kilnasaggart Inscribed Stone is also located along this route, standing tall on the ancient road south of Jonesborough close to the Moyry Pass. Discover the 13 crosses on its faces, accompanied with Christian inscription.

Look out for Moyry Castle on the outskirts of Jonesborough in South Armagh. The castle dates back to the 17th century when it was built to guard the strategic mountain pass known as the Moyry Pass or the ‘Gap of the North’.

Explore Newry

On your return to Newry take a walk along the city’s Victorian Lock Canal and visit some of the boutique shops along its river banks. In the evening experience Gullion at one of the many local pubs and storytelling houses in Newry or in the rural villages of South Armagh.  Call it a night in Newry and get ready to explore the popular Mourne Coastal Route.

Visit Carlingford

Visit Carlingford

Enjoy beautiful views over Carlingford Lough and across the surrounding Cooley Peninsula.

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Shopping in Newry

Shopping in Newry

If you enjoy shopping you will not be disappointed in Newry with two shopping centres for you to enjoy.

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Cloughmore Stone

Cloughmore Stone

With views over Newry and Mourne the climb to the top of Slieve Martin to the Cloughmore Stone is well worth it.

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Day 2

Warrenpoint to Newcastle

Day two of your travels through Slieve Gullion and the Mourne Mountains will see you explore the stunning Mourne Coastal Route.  Beginning in Warrenpoint and ending in the popular coastal town of Newcastle, this trip will take you through the heart of the Mourne Mountains while also enabling you to explore Northern Ireland’s rugged South East coastline.

Begin in Warrenpoint

Begin the Mourne Coastal Route in the seaside town of Warrenpoint, where the Clanrye River and Newry Canal open into Carlingford Lough. Previously it served as a busy harbour town with a thriving timber port, Warrenpoint has one of the busiest ports in Ireland, while the town itself offers amazing views of the towns of Omeath and Carlingford, and the wider Cooley Peninsula.

On the outskirts of Warrenpoint you will find Narrow Water Castle dating back to 1568. Take a walk along the towns promenade finishing up in the town square a popular place for markets in the past. Head deeper into Mourne country as you enter the town Rostrevor next, home of Kilbroney Forest Park.

Entering the Mournes at Rostrevor

Situated along the shores of Carlingford Lough is the quiet village of Rostrevor. There is no shortage of walks to stop off and enjoy as you drive along the Mourne Coastal Route, with Rostrevor Forest and Kilbroney Park both worth visiting.  Indeed, Kilbroney Park is home to Northern Ireland’s biggest and best mountain bike trails, and attracts adrenaline junkies and mountain bike enthusiasts across the year.  The highlight of the calendar is the annual Red Bull Fox Chase, so if you’re into your mountain biking, be sure to stop by at Kilbroney.  You can hire bikes and cycling equipment in the forest.

Other highlights in Rostrevor include the Cloughmore Stone situated high up in Kilbroney Forest, St Bronagh’s church which dates back to the 6th century and Giant Murphy’s Cave.  From Rostrevor, you can drive through part of the Mournes and head to the small village of Hilltown, or continue along the coastal road towards the town of Kilkeel.

The fishing town of Kilkeel

The busy fishing town of Kilkeel is worth a visit, especially if you can get along early in the morning to watch the freshly caught fish being unloaded of the local fishing trawlers. While in Kilkeel look out for Kilfeaghan Dolman a Neolithic portal tomb believed to be 5000 years old. Its capstone is said to be the biggest in Ireland.

If you wish to learn more about the local fishing industry then call into The Nautilus Centre and Mourne Maritime Visitor Centre located nearby.

Located around the Mourne Mountains, granite plays a big part in another popular industry within the town. The coastal route and Mourne Wall (in the Mourne Mountains) have been crafted over the years by skilled stonemasons, showcasing the wonderful granite synonymous with the Mourne area. The stone ditches along the coastal and country roads provide a great backdrop for many wonderful photo opportunities as you drive the Mourne Coastal Route.

When leaving Kilkeel look out for Cranfield beach, a great spot for an afternoon stroll with views overlooking the neighbouring Greencastle. There is also an 18 hole golf course situated in gorgeous parkland grounds in Kilkeel. Next stop, the popular village of Annalong.

Stop off in Annalong

Annalong is a picturesque village, and like Kilkeel has a deep heritage as a local fishing hotspot. Enjoy the stunning coastal and mountainous scenery as you enjoy this beautiful part of Northern Ireland countryside. The villages Marine Park offers a unique combination of facilities to enable visitors to have a comfortable and relaxing day out. Annalong’s Cornmill is now central to the village’s thriving tourist offering with tours and sessions at various stages of the week.

The Cornmill was built in the early 1800s and operated until the 1960s. Before closing, it was one of the last working watermills in Northern Ireland. The building contains many of the original features and components and is open to the public to view the inner workings that benefited many farmers at the time.

Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down by the sea

The day ends in Newcastle at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. Famous in a song from Percy French, the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea in the popular seaside town of Newcastle. Whether you want to take some time exploring the Mourne Mountains and climbing Slieve Donard (Northern Ireland’s highest mountain), or teeing off at one of the worlds best golf courses at Royal Co. Down, Newcastle is a hub of activity and events across the year.  One of the tourist hotspots in County Down, Newcastle is home to many popular events across the year, so be sure to check out what’s on before planning your trip.

Take a walk along the towns promenade as you walk up towards the harbour. You’ll have plenty of opportunities along the way to stop in for food and drink, and Newcastle is also a town with a bustling nightlife. A great way to call it a night with views of the Mourne Mountains and the sun setting over the Isle of Man as you look out at the Irish Sea.

Silent Valley Reservoir

Silent Valley Reservoir

Located in the Mourne Mountains outside of Kilkeel is Silent Valley Reservoir.

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Granite Trail

Granite Trail

Walk the Bogie line to the quarry like the men of Mourne and Newcastle did many times before.

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Newcastle County Down

Newcastle County Down

Visit the seaside town where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

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Day 3

Newcastle to Strangford

Your final day exploring the Mourne Coastal Route will see you make the journey from Newcastle to Strangford, and the picturesque area of Strangford Lough.

Marvel at Murlough Nature Reserve

Explore the links to Percy French in Newcastle as you enjoy a leisurely stroll along the promenade and grab a morning coffee before leaving Newcastle to head towards Dundrum and the popular Dundrum Bay. A short drive from Newcastle, Dundrum is a small village with some amazing restaurants and treks to enjoy. On route, you will pass Murlough Nature Reserve, a must see on a good day (and even sometimes on a bad day).

A 6000 year old sand dune system, Murlough National Nature Reserve is believed to be Ireland’s first nature reserve. It is a popular area for walking and bird watching due to its spectacular location on the edge of Dundrum Bay, with the Mourne Mountains providing the perfect backdrop any time of day, and any time of the year.

Historic Dundrum

From Murlough Nature Reserve, make your way to Dundrum, and make your first stop the historic Dundrum Castle. Believed to have been built in or around 1177, Dundrum Castle was built by John De Courcy as part of his coastal defence after he invaded Ulster. It was also a sight for channel 4’s Time Team and offers amazing views overlooking the famous Dundrum Bay.

Leave Dundrum and head towards Strangford, stopping by at Tyrella Beach along the way. Follow the route around the coast to the picturesque fishing village of Ardglass.

Onwards to Ardglass

Ardglass derives its name of the Irish ‘Ard Ghlais’; the green height, a reference to the conical elevation, now known as The Ward, which lies to the west of the village. A beautiful fishing village overlooking the Irish Sea, Ardglass has been a fishing port for over two thousand years. The village once had seven castles but now only one stands tall; Jordan’s Castle, which was restored by antiquarian QC Francis Joseph Biggar when he bought it in 1911. The remains of Ardglass Castle, Cowds Castle and Margaret’s Castle can also be seen as you explore the village.

Ardglass Golf Course is another popular links golf course in Northern Ireland, with views of the beautiful coast line from every hole set against the backdrop of the Mourne Mountains. One of Northern Ireland’s best courses, a round at Ardglass Golf Course is a must for the golfing enthusiasts among you.

Last Stop Strangford and Winterfell

Your last stop along the Mourne Coastal Route will see you take in the sites and sounds of Strangford a quiet village at the heart of Strangford Lough. Take time to explore the town on foot before heading to the National Trust property at Castle Ward. Made famous recently as the home of Winterfell in hit TV show Game of Thrones, archery, cycling, hiking and horse-riding are among the activities on offer at Castle Ward. It’s here where you will find the Whispering Wood and key scenes including Robb Stark’s Camp making it a popular visitor attraction for fans of the hit TV show.

Spend the night in Strangford and if you have time the next day, make the short trip across Strangford Lough to the Ards Peninsula and explore the towns of Portaferry, Newtownards, Ballywalter and Bangor.  Highlights here include Portaferry Aquarium, Scrabo Tower, Kiltonga Nature Reserve, Burr Point (most Easterly point in Ireland) and Mount Stewart.  Should you want to go West, the nearby town of Downpatrick (famous for its ties with St. Patrick), and the Quoile Estuary provide plenty for you to see and do as you explore Strangford Lough and the surrounding area at your own leisure.

 

Explore the Mourne Mountains

Explore the Mourne Mountains

Spend the day walking in the Mourne Mountains with the highest mountain in Northern Ireland Slieve Donard included in its range.

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Dundrum Castle

Dundrum Castle

One of the finest Norman Castles in Northern Ireland.

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Castle Ward

Castle Ward

Visit Castleward a beautiful area with lovely walking paths alongside Strangford Lough.

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Downpatrick

Downpatrick

Pick up the St Patrick's Trail and explore some of the sites linked to the patron Saint of Ireland.

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