Mourne Mountains

Mourne Mountains

Mourne Mountains, in Down, Newry, and Mourne dists., SE Northern Ireland. Slieve Donard (2,796 ft/852 m) is the highest peak in Northern Ireland. The district is barren and sparsely populated; there are ruins of sacked castles. Granite and sand and gravel are quarried. Belfast receives its main water supply from the mountains.
The Mourne Mountains or Mournes (Na Beanna Boirche), a granite mountain range located in County Down in the south-east of Northern Ireland, are among the most famous of the mountains in the country. The surrounding area is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is proposed as the first National Park in Northern Ireland. The Mountains of Mourne are partly owned by the National Trust and see a large number of visitors every year. The highest mountain is Slieve Donard at 849 metres (2,786 ft).

The mountains

The Mournes are visited by many tourists, hillwalkers, cyclists and rock climbers. Following a fundraising drive in 1993, the National Trust purchased nearly 1,300 acres (5.26 km²) of land in the Mournes. This included a part of Slieve Donard and nearby Slieve Commedagh, at 767 metres (2,516 ft) the second-highest mountain in the area.

The Mourne Wall is among the more famous features in the Mournes. It is a 35 km (22 mi) dry-stone wall that crosses fifteen summits, constructed to define the boundaries of the 36 km² (9,000 acre) area of land purchased by the Belfast Water Commissioners in the late 1800s. This followed a number of Acts of Parliament allowing the sale, and the establishment of a water supply from the Mournes to the growing industrial city of Belfast. Construction of the Mourne Wall was started in 1904 and was completed in 1922.

Many of the mountains have names beginning Slieve, from the Irish word sliabh, meaning mountain. As well as many of the well-known mountains such as Slieve Donard, Slieve Lamagan and Slieve Muck, there are a number of other curious names: Pigeon Rock; Buzzard's Roost; Brandy Pad; Percy Bysshe; the Devil's Coach Road; and Pollaphuca, which means "hole of the fairies or sprites".

The Mournes are very popular as a destination for many Duke of Edinburgh's Award expeditions.

The Mountains are said to be C.S Lewis' inspiration for the magical world of Narnia.

Vegetation and wildlife

Aside from grasses, the most common plants found in the Mournes are heathers. Of these, three species are found: the cross-leaved heath (erica tetralix), the bell heather (erica cinerea), and the ling (calluna vulgaris). Other plants which grow in the area are: Bog Cotton, Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea), Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), Marsh St John's Wort, Wild Thyme (Thymus serpyllum), Wood sorrel and Heath Spotted Orchids.

Sheep graze high into the mountains, and the range is also home to birds, including the common Raven, Peregrine Falcon, Wren, and Buzzard, and native Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Stonechat and Snipe. The Golden Eagle, a former inhabitant, has not been seen in the Mournes since 1836.

See also


  • 'The Mountaihhns of Mourne, A Celebration of a Place Apart', David Kirk, 2002, Appletree Press Ltd, Belfast

External links

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