- 'Where the Mountains - o' Mourne sweep down to the sea'
The popular song has made the Mournes the
best known mountains in Ireland. Distinctive and self-contained, they
are tucked away in the south-east corner of Northern Ireland, with 12
shapely summits rising above 2,000 ft on the eastern side.
The barren peak of Slieve Donard, climbing steeply to 2,796 ft, dominates
the mysterious blue distance of the landscape. It's an afternoon's climb
from the catpark at Bloody Bridge near the holiday resort of Newcastle.
From the top you can see the Isle of Man and the full length of Strangford
Lough. To the north-west lies the pale line of Lough Neagh, a vast inland
sea covering 153 square miles, famous for its eels, an Ulster delicacy.
Hundreds of tons of eels are exported each year.
The coast frorn Newcastle round to Greencastle hamlet was notorious
for smuggling in the 18th century. Old coastguard lookout points recall
the time when liquor and tobacco, tea, silk and soap were landed by boat
from the Isle of Man and spirited away along the Brandy Pad and other
smugglers' trails through the mountains. The two big artificial lakes
in the Silent Valley that supply Belfast's water are surrounded by a
huge dry stone wall over 22 miles long. At Newcastle itself there is
yachting and pleasure fishing from the old harbour, golf at Royal County
Down, and walks in the sand dunes of Murlough.
a very scenic drive to Newcastle, visitors coming north on the Dublin-Belfast
road should turn east at Newry on to the A2 which runs along the north
shore of Carlingsford Lough between the mountains and the sea.
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