Places to see in County Down

Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland

Newcastle is a small town with a long beach to the Irish Sea and bordered by the Mourne Mountains. The area has a special beauty, painted by artists and written about by poets. Known worldwide for the popular song by Percy French 1954-1920 "The Mountains of Mourne".

The name Newcastle is thought to come from a castle built by Felix Magennis cited in the centre of the town beside the Shimna river on what today is the Newcastle Centre.

Newcastle at the foot of the Mournes

Harbour

In 1820's the harbour pier was created as a loading point for the famous Mourne granite extracted from the hills above. Blocks of Mourne granite were used to build the docks at Belfast and Liverpool. One of the most famous pieces of stone is the Albert Memorial in London. At one time the harbour was the centre focus of the town exporting not only granite but potatoes and timber and landing coal and fish. Today it is used mainly for recreational purposes.

The Granite Trail

In 1824 John Lynn opened a quarry on Millstone Mountain with a mineral railway line to King Street. By 1859 production was moved to Thomas's Mountain and the granite trail follows the route of its funicular railway known locally as the Bogie Line. In 1800's thousands of tonnes of granite were produced here every year but by the time of the second world war the line had fallen into disuse and was dismantled. The trail has stunning views over Newcastle town and harbour.

Slieve Donard the hihest peak of the Mournes

Donard Park and Forest

Starting point for Mourne peak walks. The Glen river runs along one side of the park and can be used as a walkway to the many sign posted treks along the lower slopes and ascent of Slieve Donard. Alternatively from the Bloody Bridge follow the Brandy Pad called after the trade of illegal brandy smuggled down this route in the dead of night to Hilltown.

Slieve Donard

Slieve Donard at 850m (2789ft) is the highest of the Mourne Mountains. The walk to its summit is mainly on forest and mountain paths that are rough and sometimes wet. Parts of the mountain section have been paved and the last part of the climb follows the Mourne Wall. The views from the summit are extensive and on a good day it may be possible to see the Isle of Mann, Wicklow, Wales, Scotland and Donegal.

The Beach

Newcastle Beach

In 1910 Harry Ferguson flew a small plane across Newcastle Beach in one of the first engine powered flights in Ireland. The event is recorded by a plaque on the promenade and by a yearly Festival of Flight in August with a special display by the Red Arrows.

Murlough National Nature Reserve

Situated on the coast below the Mourne Mountains with a 5000yr old sand dune system, heathland and woodland surrounded by an estuary and the sea. It is owned by the National Trust and has been managed as a nature reserve since 1967. A great area for bird watching and walking. There are paths and board walks through the dunes and on to the beautiful beach. Over 600 species of bird, butterfly and moth can be seen with wildfowl and waders wintering here.