A Visitors Guide to Newry, Mourne and Gullion
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south armagh

The Ring of Gullion area of South Armagh has a striking landscape with a fascinating history. This, and its varied wildlife and heritage features, reflect the complex physical structure of the rocks. Surviving today is a rich variety of historical monuments and many distinct features which have evolved with time. The area sits astride ancient and modern lines of communication and throughout history, warfare and defence have been recurrent themes. Most buildings of historic interest (farms, mills, rectories and old estate houses and outbuildings) are in private ownership. Many of the traditional single-storey farmhouses however are now derelict. The heather-clad Slieve Gullion mountain towers over farmland minutely divided by dry stone walls and hedgerows. Kilnasaggart The feeling of enclosure is emphasized by the outer ring of rugged hills, their contrasting land use and vegetation closely reflecting the general topography. Overall the area is reminiscent of Ireland's west coast.

Ballymacdermot Court Cairn, Bernish, Newry

One of the most important cultural resources of the area is the Irish language. In the south and west of the area, Irish is still the second language for some local people, particularly in the older age bracket. In recognition of this vital human resource a new summer school has opened recently to introduce visitors to the Irish language and unique culture of the area. The area is also rich in local literature and music. The literature gives a unique insight into the area's social history. This too is closely linked to the local landscape and society, and provides South Armagh with its unique identity. The weekly music sessions in many pubs reflect the dynamic of traditional music here. In addition the vibrant local community organises many events and festivals of traditional music, song and dance. Their number grows annually and their fame has spread far and wide. They now attract participants and visitors from America, Australia, Great Britain, many countries of Europe and of course the Republic of Ireland. Some such are the increasing Clan Reunions, the Winter School at Mullaghbawn, the Lislea Drama Festival and the Forkhill Song Festival. Successful lectures and seminars are held regularly on many topics from Irish history. (See Entertainment)

The Slieve Gullion Courtyard Centre is an attractive quadrangle of listed buildings sited on the former Chambrés' Estate, originally built in 1820 as a farmstead. It is now a Heritage and Education Centre and provides accommodation in self-catering apartments for groups of up to forty people a restaurant and a craft workshop and conference facility. The courtyard stands in the Slieve Gullion Forest Park with magnificent views of the countryside. The idyllic Forest Park setting is further enhanced by its location within the Ring of Gullion, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). For contact information click here.

Tí Chulainn This is an Irish cultural and heritage centre located in Mullaghbawn. This centre also provides accommodation, a restaurant, a craft workshop, a bookshop and an exhibition area.

mourne mountains
View of the Mourne Mountains from just outside Hilltown The Mourne Mountains hold great appeal for the rambler, the climber and the hiker. They are a ring of steeply sloping, granitic mountains. Fourteen of the peaks are higher than 2000 feet. The Mournes sweep down to the sea at several places, most notably at Newcastle which is a large, popular and picturesque seaside resort with a long sandy beach and numerous holiday facilities.

Hilltown Square The rugged nature of the slopes means that only sheep graze here among heathers, bracken and coarse grass, occasionally kept from the marginally better land by old dry-stone walls. The Mournes also sweep seaward at Rostrevor and Kilkeel and on the landward side to the villages of Castlewellan (which has a forest park not to be missed!) and Hilltown.
murlough nature reserve
The Murlough Nature Reserve was the first of its kind in Ireland. It is a dune system situated just north of Newcastle, and provides an excellent opportunity for walking, birdwatching or lying on the beach.
Mysterious stone tombs and monuments are found all over Ireland. These structures are thousands of years old, and many can be found in the Newry area. Examples are Kilnasaggart Cairn (pictured above), Ballykeel Dolmen, Ballymacdermott Court Cairn (pictured above) and Navan Fort.
Kilkeel, the North's premier fishing port lies, like Newcastle, where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea. The town has excellent recreational facilities, including a golf course at Mourne Park. As well as being a resort town, it is home to a large fleet of fishing boats. A 14th Century ruined church is situated in the town centre. A new state-of-the-art swimming pool is under construction.
Cranfield and Greencastle
Cranfield is a beautiful and popular beach with many modern facilities. It is excellent for swimming, picnicing and camping. Just a few miles north of Cranfield is Greencastle - so named because of its tall turretted castle built by the Anglo-Normans in 1261 to complement their fortifications at Carlingford on the opposite shore of the Lough.
Narrowwater Castle, Warrenpoint - Click to EnlargeWarrenpoint is another coastal resort with excellent facilities. People flock to Warrenpoint in the summer months to play golf, tennis and a wide variety of water sports. Some choose to visit the friendly pubs and restaurants while others just stroll along the promenade, or hop on the ferry to Omeath a mile away but in the Irish Republic. Narrow Water Castle (below) is well worth a visit.

Rostrevor is within walking distance of Warrenpoint. It is a picturesque village boasting the pretty Fairy Glen and Kilbroney Forest Park, an excellent starting point for rambling or hiking in the Mourne Mountains. Cloughmore Stone is a glacial erratic situated on top of Slieve Meen overlooking Rostrevor.
Bessbrook is a 'model' village built from Mourne Granite by a wealthy Quaker linen manufacturer named Richardson to house his workers. He imposed a ban on pubs and pawnshops and to this day the village still has neither facility.
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© 1997-2014 Jonny McCullagh
Newry Visitors Guide Online since January 1997
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