places to see in County Down

Walk in the Mourne Mountains

Formation of the Mournes

Walk the Mourne Mountains

The Mourne Mountains were formed 50million years ago, made of granite, an igneous rock. Over a series of ice ages they were carved by glaciers and on its last retreat 11,000yrs ago the ice produced the present day Mourne skyline with its U shaped valleys and corries.

Vast quantities of sand and stone were left on the coastal plain leaving the moraine and drumlin topography of County Down today. Many granite boulders were left isolated on the mountains by the retreating ice. Origionally the area was covered in broad leafed woodland, which was cut down and today the area is farmed lowland with sheep grazed heather hillsides.

Origin of the name of Mourne

Mourne Mountains

In 300AD Ross The Red was King of Ulster. The story tells that Red gave the grazing rights of Mourne to Boirche, and the mountains were then known as Beanna Boirche, the peaks of Boirche. Ben Crom one of the Mourne peaks recalls the name. 1000yrs later the Mughdoma clan from the barony of Cremourne came to the area, bringing their name with them and from this the Mournes derive their name.

From 1170 until the beginning of the 17th century the area was ruled by the clan Magennis. The many ruined castles in the area bare witness to the power and influence of this family who kept the AngloNorman invaders at bay. It is also recorded the the Magennis's made regular forays to harass and pillage settlements along the coast and local stories tell that locals would pray in church that God should protect them from all evil and from the terror of the Magennises.

12 peaks over 2000ft

Mournes above the Silent Valley

There are 12 peaks over 2000ft high and are unusual in that their summits are grouped together in a compact area only 15miles by 8miles. The highest peak in the range is Slieve Donard rising to a height of 2796ft.

The Mourne Walk Challenge takes in 7 of the 10 highest mountains and follows the Mourne Wall built to mark the water catchment area for reservoirs serving Belfast.

Nearly all the names for Mourne summits are derived from Irish. Slieve means mountain.
Here are some mountain names explained.

  • Slieve Donard (850m). Named after Domangard, a holy man who built a prayer cell on the mountain's summit.
  • Slieve Commedagh (767m). Mountain of watching....lookout mountain.
  • Slieve Binnian (747m). Mountain of the little horns. Binnian has a long summit ridge with rocky outcrops that look like horns.
  • Slieve Bernagh (739m). gapped or broken mountain, prbably refering to the gap between Bernagh's twin summits.
  • Slievelamagan (704m).A mountain crawled up using hands and feet, the mountain has a long steep ascent.
  • Slieve Meelbeg (704m), Slieve Meelmore (681m). Mountains of the small (beg) and large (more) animals.
  • Ben Crom (524m). The stooped peak. Ben Crom's summit has a stooped profile from some angles.
  • Slievenaglogh. Two mountains have this name (445m) at the Silent Valley and (586m) east of Hare's Gap.