Mourne Mountains

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Mourne Mountains
Na Beanna Boirche
Mournes wiki.jpg
View of the Mournes from St John's Point, County Down
Highest point
PeakSlieve Donard
Elevation850 m (2,790 ft)
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryNorthern Ireland
CountiesCounty Down
Type of rockGranite

The Mourne Mountains (/mɔːrn/ MORN; Irish: na Beanna Boirche), also called the Mournes or Mountains of Mourne, are a granite mountain range in County Down in the south-east of Northern Ireland. It includes the highest mountains in Northern Ireland and the province of Ulster. The highest of these is Slieve Donard at 850 m (2,790 ft). The Mournes is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has been proposed as the first national park in Northern Ireland. The area is partly owned by the National Trust and sees a large number of visitors every year. The name Mourne (historically spelt Morne) is derived from the name of a Gaelic clann or sept called the Múghdhorna.[1][2]

The mountains[edit]

The Mourne Wall, looking towards Hare's Gap

The Mournes are visited by many tourists, hillwalkers, cyclists and rock climbers. Following a fundraising drive in 1993, the National Trust purchased nearly 5.3 km2 (1,300 acres) of land in the Mournes. This included a part of Slieve Donard and nearby Slieve Commedagh, at 767 m (2,516 ft) the second-highest mountain in the area.

Some of the mountains have names beginning "Slieve", from the Irish word sliabh, meaning "mountain". Examples are Slieve Donard, Slieve Lamagan and Slieve Muck. There are also a number of curious names: Pigeon Rock; Buzzard's Roost; Brandy Pad; the Cock and Hen; 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 and those taking part in the Mourne Mountain Challenge.

The Isle of Man, the mountains of the Lake District, and Snowdonia in Wales can sometimes be seen across the Irish Sea from some parts of the Mournes on clear days. The mountains are also visible from parts of Dublin and Galloway on clear days.

The Mourne Mountains[3][4][4] (MountainViews Online Database[a], October 2018)
Rank Name Irish name Translation[b] Height Prom.
1 Slieve Donard*
Highest in Ulster
Sliabh Dónairt peak (St.) Domhangart 850 m (2,790 ft) 822 m (2,697 ft)
2 Slieve Commedagh* Sliabh Coimhéideach guarding mountain 767 m (2,516 ft) 180 m (590 ft)
3 Slieve Binnian* Sliabh Binneáin mountain of small peak 747 m (2,451 ft) 282 m (925 ft)
4 Slieve Bearnagh* Sliabh Bearnach gapped mountain 739 m (2,425 ft) 304 m (997 ft)
5 Slieve Meelbeg* Sliabh Míol Beag mountain of ants 708 m (2,323 ft) 193 m (633 ft)
6 Slievelamagan* Sliabh Lámhagáin creeping mountain 704 m (2,310 ft) 197 m (646 ft)
7 Slieve Meelmore* Sliabh Míol Mór mountain of ants 704 m (2,310 ft) 109 m (358 ft)
8 Slieve Muck* Unknown Unknown 673 m (2,208 ft) Unknown
9 Slieve Muck* Sliabh Muc mountain of the pigs 670 m (2,200 ft) 155 m (509 ft)
10 Chimney Rock Mtn* Sliabh an Aoire Shepherd mountain 656 m (2,152 ft) 131 m (430 ft)
11 Cove Mountain Unknown Unknown 655 m (2,149 ft) Unknown
12 Slieve Corragh Unknown Unknown 640 m (2,100 ft) Unknown
13 Eagle Mountain Unknown Unknown 638 m (2,093 ft) Unknown
14 Shanlieve Unknown Unknown 627 m (2,057 ft) Unknown
15 Slieve Loughshannagh Unknown Unknown 620 m (2,030 ft) Unknown
16 Slieve Beg Unknown Unknown 595 m (1,952 ft) Unknown
17 Doan Unknown Unknown 593 m (1,946 ft) Unknown
18 Carn Mountain Unknown Unknown 588 m (1,929 ft) Unknown
19 Slievenaglogh II Unknown Unknown 586 m (1,923 ft) Unknown
20 Finlieve Unknown Unknown 579 m (1,900 ft) Unknown
21 Slievemoughanmore Unknown Unknown 560 m (1,840 ft) Unknown
22 Crossone Unknown Unknown 544 m (1,785 ft) Unknown
23 Pigeon Rock Mountain Unknown Unknown 536 m (1,759 ft) Unknown
24 Annalong Buttress Unknown Unknown 530 m (1,740 ft) Unknown
25 Ben Crom Unknown Unknown 526 m (1,726 ft) Unknown
26 Ott Mountain Unknown Unknown 525 m (1,722 ft) Unknown
27 Blaeberry Mountain Unknown Unknown 520 m (1,710 ft) Unknown
28 Spences Mountain Unknown Unknown 517 m (1,696 ft) Unknown
29 Butter Mountain Unknown Unknown 505 m (1,657 ft) Unknown
30 Cock Mountain Unknown Unknown 504 m (1,654 ft) Unknown
31 Slievemartin Unknown Unknown 485 m (1,591 ft) Unknown
32 Spaltha Unknown Unknown 479 m (1,572 ft) Unknown
33 Thomas Mountain Unknown Unknown 475 m (1,558 ft) Unknown
34 Tievedockdarragh Unknown Unknown 473 m (1,552 ft) Unknown
35 Spelga Unknown Unknown 472 m (1,549 ft) Unknown
36 Slievemeen Unknown Unknown 471 m (1,545 ft) Unknown
37 Pierces Castle Unknown Unknown 465 m (1,526 ft) Unknown
38 Crenville Unknown Unknown 460 m (1,510 ft) Unknown
39 Millstone Mountain Unknown Unknown 459 m (1,506 ft) Unknown
40 Wee Binnian Unknown Unknown 459 m (1,506 ft) Unknown
41 Slievenagarragh Unknown Unknown 450 m (1,480 ft) Unknown
42 Slievenamaddy Unknown Unknown 450 m (1,480 ft) Unknown
43 Altaggart Mountain Unknown Unknown 445 m (1,460 ft) Unknown
44 Slievenaglogh I Unknown Unknown 445 m (1,460 ft) Unknown
45 Slievenamiskan Unknown Unknown 444 m (1,457 ft) Unknown
46 Slievenabrock Unknown Unknown 438 m (1,437 ft) Unknown
47 Hares Gap Unknown Unknown 435 m (1,427 ft) Unknown
48 Hares Castle Unknown Unknown 430 m (1,410 ft) Unknown
49 Wee Slievemoughan Unknown Unknown 428 m (1,404 ft) Unknown
50 Slievedermot Unknown Unknown 425 m (1,394 ft) Unknown
51 Slievemeel Unknown Unknown 420 m (1,380 ft) Unknown
52 Leganabruchan Unknown Unknown 410 m (1,350 ft) Unknown
53 Craigdoo Unknown Unknown 408 m (1,339 ft) Unknown
54 Rocky Mountain Unknown Unknown 405 m (1,329 ft) Unknown
55 Slieveban Unknown Unknown 395 m (1,296 ft) Unknown
56 Windy Gap Unknown Unknown 395 m (1,296 ft) Unknown
57 Lukes Mountain Unknown Unknown 391 m (1,283 ft) Unknown
58 Slievebane Unknown Unknown 390 m (1,280 ft) Unknown
59 Tornamrock Unknown Unknown 390 m (1,280 ft) Unknown
60 Slievenamuck Unknown Unknown 390 m (1,280 ft) Unknown
61 Gruggandoo Unknown Unknown 380 m (1,250 ft) Unknown
62 Black Stairs Unknown Unknown 370 m (1,210 ft) Unknown
63 Deers Meadow Unknown Unknown 370 m (1,210 ft) Unknown
64 Carnadranna Unknown Unknown 365 m (1,198 ft) Unknown
65 Slieve Roe Unknown Unknown 364 m (1,194 ft) Unknown
66 Slieve Roosley Unknown Unknown 362 m (1,188 ft) Unknown
67 Hen Mountain Unknown Unknown 360 m (1,180 ft) Unknown
68 Trainors Rocks Unknown Unknown 360 m (1,180 ft) Unknown
69 Lugagour Unknown Unknown 360 m (1,180 ft) Unknown
70 Leckan More Unknown Unknown 355 m (1,165 ft) Unknown
71 Percy Bysshe Unknown Unknown 355 m (1,165 ft) Unknown
72 Crannoge Unknown Unknown 350 m (1,150 ft) Unknown
73 The Fallow Unknown Unknown 350 m (1,150 ft) Unknown
74 Crotlieve Mountain Unknown Unknown 347 m (1,138 ft) Unknown
75 Knockshee Unknown Unknown 346 m (1,135 ft) Unknown
76 Long Seefin Unknown Unknown 345 m (1,132 ft) Unknown
77 Glen Fofanny Unknown Unknown 340 m (1,120 ft) Unknown
78 Slievenagore Unknown Unknown 335 m (1,099 ft) Unknown
79 Moolieve Unknown Unknown 332 m (1,089 ft) Unknown
80 Mullagharve Unknown Unknown 330 m (1,080 ft) Unknown
81 Slievenaman Unknown Unknown 323 m (1,060 ft) Unknown
82 Ardglash Unknown Unknown 320 m (1,050 ft) Unknown
83 Wee Roosley Unknown Unknown 320 m (1,050 ft) Unknown
84 Slievemageogh Unknown Unknown 316 m (1,037 ft) Unknown
85 Slievemiskan Unknown Unknown 310 m (1,020 ft) Unknown
86 Carmeen Unknown Unknown 310 m (1,020 ft) Unknown
87 Grugganskeagh Unknown Unknown 310 m (1,020 ft) Unknown
88 Knockchree Unknown Unknown 305 m (1,001 ft) Unknown
89 Ballyvally Mountain Unknown Unknown 300 m (980 ft) Unknown
90 Cloghmore Glen Unknown Unknown 300 m (980 ft) Unknown
91 Glenmore Unknown Unknown 300 m (980 ft) Unknown
92 The Creats Unknown Unknown 300 m (980 ft) Unknown
93 The Rowans Unknown Unknown 300 m (980 ft) Unknown

Mourne Features[edit]

The below sub-headings detail other features and vistor attractions found in the Mourne Mountains

The Mourne Wall[edit]

The Mourne Wall is among the more famous features in the Mournes. It is a 35 km (22-mile) dry-stone wall that crosses fifteen summits, constructed to define the boundaries of the 36 km2 (8,900-acre) area of land purchased by the Belfast Water Commissioners in the late nineteenth century. 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.

Notable Forests[edit]

Tollymore Forest Park is located at Bryansford, near the town of Newcastle in the Mourne and Slieve Croob Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It covers an area of 630 hectares (1,600 acres) at the foot of the Mourne Mountains and has views of the surrounding mountains and the sea at nearby [Newcastle]. The Shimna River flows through the park where it is crossed by 16 bridges, the earliest dating to 1726. The river is a spawning ground for salmon and trout and is an Area of Special Scientific Interest due to its geology, flora and fauna. The forest has four walking trails signposted by different coloured arrows, the longest being the "long haul trail" at 8 miles (13 km) long. The Forest Park has been managed by the Forest Service since they purchased it from the Roden Estate in 1941.

Donard Forest is located near Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland. It borders Donard Park at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. The Glen River flows through the forest where it is crossed by three stone bridges.

Rostrevor Forest is located near the village of Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies between the Mourne Mountains and Carlingford Lough, in the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The first trees, primarily sitka spruce, douglas fir and pine, were planted in 1931.


All water reservoirs are own and maintained by Northern Ireland Water (NIW).

Silent Valley Reservoir is a reservoir located in the Mourne Mountains near Kilkeel, County Down in Northern Ireland. It supplies most of the water for County Down, surrounding counties and most of Belfast. The reservoir was built between 1923 and 1933 by a workforce of over one thousand men, nine of whom died during construction. The catchment area is 9,000-acres (3,600 ha / 36 sq. km).

Ben Crom Reservoir is a reservoir located upstream of Silent Valley near Kilkeel, County Down, Northern Ireland. Along with Silent Valley Reservoir, which is situated further down the Kilkeel River valley, it supplies water for County Down, surrounding counties and most of Belfast. It was constructed between 1953 and 1957.

Spelga Reservoir is a reservoir in the townland of Spelga (Irish: Speilgeach) located close to Hilltown in the North West of the Mourne Mountains . It was formed by construction of Spelga Dam and sits at over 1,200 ft (370 m) above sea level. The dam was constructed between 1953 and 1957. It has a volume of 2,700,000 cubic metres and a catchment area of 1,340-acres (542 ha / 5.423 sq. km).

Fofanny Dam Reservoir is located approximately 2km north-east of Spelga Dam and is a much smaller site.

Vegetation and wildlife[edit]

Panorama of Silent Valley Reservoir in the Mournes

Aside from grasses, the most common plants found in the Mournes are heathers and gorse. Of the former, three species are found: the cross-leaved heath (Erica tetralix), the bell heather (Erica cinerea), and the ling (Calluna vulgaris). Of the latter, two species are found: common gorse (Ulex europaeus) and western gorse (Ulex gallii). 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, 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.

Possible national park status[edit]

Mourne country near Spelga Dam, the slopes of Slieve Loughshannagh and Ott Mountain with a stream in spate after some recent heavy rain
Craigmore Viaduct with the Mournes in the distance, seen from Bessbrook near Newry station.

It has been proposed that the Mourne Mountains be made Northern Ireland's first national park.[5][6] The plan has been subject to controversy because of the area's status as private property, with over 1,000 farmers based in the proposed park,[6] and also because of fears over the impact on local communities, bureaucracy and house prices.[7]

Popular culture[edit]

The mountains are immortalised in a song written by Percy French in 1896, "The Mountains of Mourne". The song has been recorded by many artists, including Don McLean, and was quoted in Irish group Thin Lizzy's 1979 song 'Roisin Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend.'

The Mourne Mountains also influenced C.S. Lewis to write The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.[8]

"The Mountains of Mourne" are also mentioned in John Lennon's song "The Luck of the Irish" on the album Some Time in New York City.

The scenery of the Mourne Mountains have also provided the backdrop for a number of productions, including Philomena and Game of Thrones.


The Mournes are a very popular area for hiking, the Wall providing a convenient navigation aid.

There are a large number of granite cliffs, in the form of outcrops and tors, scattered throughout the range, making the Mournes one of Northern Ireland's major rock-climbing areas since the first recorded ascents in the 1930s. The rock forms are generally quite rounded, thus often depending on cams for protection, but with good friction. The 1998 guidebook lists 26 separate crags, with a total of about 900 routes of all grades.[9][10]

Railway access[edit]

The Northern Ireland Railways service and the Enterprise link into Newry railway station.

Helicopter crash[edit]

On 23 October 2010 an AgustaWestland AW109 (tail number: N2NR) was operating a VFR flight from Enniskillen Airport to Caernarfon Airport, Wales. While en route the helicopter crashed into the western side of Shanlieve, killing all three passengers and crew on board. The cause of the accident was determined to be pilot error in heavy fog.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference mvs was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ In all cases this is the "Name Origin and Meaning" column from Paul Tempan's Irish Hill and Mountain Names (2010).[4]


  1. ^ Joyce, Patrick (1869). The origin and history of Irish names of places. p. 128.
  2. ^ "Placenames Database of Ireland". 13 December 2010. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  3. ^ "Irish Highest 100: The highest 100 Irish mountains with a prominence of +100m". September 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Paul Tempan (February 2012). "Irish Hill and Mountain Names" (PDF). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "peak" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  5. ^ "Minister paves the way for national park in the Mournes". Northern Ireland Planning Service. 25 September 2002. Retrieved 11 October 2009.
  6. ^ a b Peterkin, Tom (29 August 2007). "Mourne Mountains national park status row". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 October 2009.
  7. ^ Cassidy, Martin (23 February 2007). "Community split over national park". BBC News. Retrieved 11 October 2009.
  8. ^ "Mourne Mountains Page". Discover Northern Ireland. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  9. ^ "Irish Climbing Online Wiki – Co. Down". Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  10. ^ Robert Bankhead, ed. (1998), Mournes: MCI Guide, Mountaineering Ireland, ISBN 0-902940-14-7
  11. ^ "Agusta A109A II, N2NR, 23 October 2010" (PDF). Retrieved 23 October 2010.
  • Kirk, David (2002). The Mountains of Mourne: A Celebration of a Place Apart. Belfast: Appletree Press. ISBN 0-86281-846-X.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°10′N 6°05′W / 54.167°N 6.083°W / 54.167; -6.083