The Mournes is not only one of Ireland's most scenic areas, it is also an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Hugging the County Down coastline, the Mournes structure is made up of 12 peaks that extend into an area only 15 miles by 8 miles (24 x 13 kilometres), each mountain rising above 600m with the highest being Slieve Donard which towers above 852 metres.
The highest and most spectacular mountain range in Northern Ireland, its popularity is evident by the hordes of walkers even in the depth of winter. The climb to Slieve Donard Summit can be strenuous but worth it for breathtaking views of the County Down Coast, Newcastle town, Murlough dunes and on a clear day Scrabo Tower to the north and the Isle of Man to the East.
The National Trust cares for and maintains 526 hectares of the Mournes, which takes in part of Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh and forms a very important part of the Eastern Mournes Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Noted for its biological and earth science interests, the extent and quality of the habitats represented is particularly notable.
You could walk in the Mournes for years and still discover new walks and many different aspects to their structure. The network of paths and tracks that cross over this mountain range, some of which are not for the faint-hearted, would take years to complete but the views of the valleys, lakes, rivers and reservoirs make it well worth the climb.
Last active quarry
One of the last active granite quarries in the Mournes is Thomas's Quarry. It is from here that 47 tonne, 40 feet (12 metre) long Delamont Millennium stone was quarried, the highest modern standing stone in Northern Ireland.
Another place to explore is Bloody Bridge. The name refers to a massacre at the site during the 1641 rebellion, when the bodies of slain prisoners were thrown over the bridge into the river turning the water red.