Murlough south end nature trail
Murlough National Nature Reserve, Keel Point, Dundrum, BT33 0NQRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Welcome to Murlough National Nature Reserve, a fragile 6000 year old sand dune system cared for by the National Trust and managed as Ireland’s first nature reserve since 1967. Murlough is home to a wide range of habitats including heathland, species-rich grassland, lichen-rich hollows, gorse and bracken scrub, and woodland.
The trail initially follows the main visitor walkway, Slidderyford Path, to the beach. After a short walk along the beach you enter the central reserve via the Archaeology Path. From here the trail loops back to the car park by way of the back track. The trail is marked with yellow-topped posts and has a number of points of interest along it.
- Bus stop
Start: Murlough Car Park, grid ref: J394338
Start at the main Murlough Car Park at The Cottage Café. Enter the Reserve through the pedestrian gate in the center of the car park. Turn left and follow the boardwalk.
Follow the boardwalk to spaghetti junction, where the boardwalks meet.
Continue down the boardwalks until you reach a gap in the dunes to the south which you can take in a great view of the Mournes Mountains.
This walk offers some great sights and beautiful scenery. You can look out over both Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh which are both mountains cared for by the National Trust. In the opposite direction you can see Dundrum Castle which dates back from the late 12th century and was a fortress built by John de Courcy. The woods you can see around this Castle are now managed by the National Trust.
This brings you out onto Murlough beach. To find 'stop five' go onto the beach and turn left. Follow on past a black marker post until you reach the next yellow post.
Turn left back onto the Reserve from the beach.
You have found yourself on the aptly named Archaeology Path, follow this path until you reach the next yellow post.
Stop seven, brings you to the area that is home to colonies of the endangered marsh fritillary butterfly.
The marsh fritillary butterfly is a beautiful little fritillary which can be seen in flight from late May and June and spends the winter as a caterpillar. Sadly its numbers are declining all over Europe; the UK is considered a stronghold for this butterfly and it's a priority species in Northern Ireland. The caterpillar feeds on devil’s bit scabious, a tall purple flowered plant in full bloom in late August and September. Devil’s bit scabious also provides a very valuable nectar source for other butterflies, particularly in late summer.
When you reach the yellow post marked 8, you'll find 'Tomorrow’s Heathland Heritage' site with its vast array of bell and ling heather.
August is the month to appreciate the Murlough heathland in its full glory. Look for the two species of heather; bell heather and common heather or ling. Bell heather’s flower heads are purple and flower slightly earlier than the pink ling heather, making for an attractive contrast. Thousands of years of rain have washed out the calcium from the sand allowing for more acid loving plants to flourish. Bell and ling heather both grow on the older dunes and this unusual dune heathland is a priority habitat to preserve.
Turn left and follow the path to get good views of Dundrum Castle and the farmland that used to be a satellite landing ground for bombers during the Second World War.
Continue on the path that curves to the right to bring you to the Exmoor Kraal. On reaching the gravel lane, turn left (south) and return to the car park - 0.75 miles (1.2 km).
End: Murlough Car Park, grid ref: J394338
In partnership with
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 2.5 miles (4 km)
- Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- OS Map: Discoverer 29 Sheet 4
Please keep to the paths to avoid disturbance to wildlife and please note that there may be some access restrictions at certain times of year. Dogs on leads are welcome. Please be advised that only parts of this walk are suitable for people with restricted mobility.
- How to get here:
By Bike: NCN99 (Belfast to Newry) passes entrance
By Car: From Dundrum Village head northeast on Dundrum Road A2, toward Old Road. Continue to follow A2 for 2.1 miles (3.4 km). From Newcastle, head northwest on the Belfast Road, A2, for 1.6 miles (2.6 km).
- Toilets situated in main car park
- Refreshments available at The Cottage Café
- National Trust car park (free to members)
- Contact us