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Mourne Mountains
Beanna Boirche
Mournes wiki.jpg
View of the Mournes from St John's Point, County Down
Highest point
Peak Slieve Donard
Elevation 850 m (2,790 ft)
Geography
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country Northern Ireland
Counties County Down
Range coordinates 54°10′N 6°05′W / 54.167°N 6.083°W / 54.167; -6.083Coordinates: 54°10′N 6°05′W / 54.167°N 6.083°W / 54.167; -6.083
Geology
Type of rock Granite

The Mourne Mountains ( morn; Irish: 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. They include the highest mountains in Northern Ireland, the highest of which is Slieve Donard at 850 m (2,790 ft). The Mournes are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it has been proposed to make the area Northern Ireland's first national park. The area is partly owned by the National Trust and sees many visitors every year. The Mourne Wall crosses fifteen of the summits and was built to enclose the catchment basin of the Silent Valley and Ben Crom reservoirs.

Mountains

Mourne mountains
The Mourne Wall, looking towards Hare's Gap

The name 'Mourne' is derived from the name of a Gaelic clan or sept called the Múghdhorna. The common Irish name for the mountains, na Beanna Boirche, may mean "the peaks of the peak district" or "peaks of Boirche" (a mythical king and cowherd); it was historically Englished as 'Bennyborfy'.

Some of the mountains have names beginning "Slieve", such as Slieve Donard, Slieve Lamagan and Slieve Muck, which is derived from the Irish word sliabh, meaning "mountain". 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 (from poll meaning "hole" and púca meaning "ghost or spirit").

On clear days, the Mourne Mountains can be seen from the Isle of Man and Dublin.

Highest Peaks and Points (MountainViews Online Database , October 2018)
Rank Name Irish name Translation Elevation Prominence
1 Slieve Donard
Highest in Ulster
Sliabh Dónairt Domhanghart's mountain 850 m (2,790 ft) 822 m (2,697 ft)
2 Slieve Commedagh Sliabh Coimhéideach guarding/watching mountain 767 m (2,516 ft) 180 m (590 ft)
3 Slieve Binnian Sliabh Binneáin mountain of the little peaks 746 m (2,448 ft) 282 m (925 ft)
4 Slieve Bearnagh Sliabh Bearnach gapped mountain 739 m (2,425 ft) 304 m (997 ft)
5 Slieve Lamagan Sliabh Lámhagáin crawling/creeping mountain 704 m (2,310 ft) 197 m (646 ft)
6 Slieve Meelbeg Sliabh Míol Beag small mountain of the ants 708 m (2,323 ft) 193 m (633 ft)
7 Slieve Meelmore Sliabh Míol Mór great mountain of the ants 680 m (2,230 ft) 109 m (358 ft)
8 Slieve Muck Sliabh Muc pig mountain 670 m (2,200 ft) 155 m (509 ft)
9 Chimney Rock Mtn/Slieve Neir Sliabh an Aoire shepherd mountain 656 m (2,152 ft) 131 m (430 ft)
10 Cove Mountain Unknown Unknown 655 m (2,149 ft) 100 m (330 ft)
11 Slieve Corragh Sliabh Corrach rugged/pointed mountain 640 m (2,100 ft) 15 m (49 ft)
12 Eagle Mountain Sliabh an Iolair eagle mountain 638 m (2,093 ft) 263 m (863 ft)
13 Shanlieve Seanshliabh old mountain 626 m (2,054 ft) 31 m (102 ft)
14 Slieve Loughshannagh Sliabh Loch Seannach fox lake mountain 617 m (2,024 ft) 104 m (341 ft)
15 Slieve Beg Sliabh Beag little mountain 596 m (1,955 ft) 41 m (135 ft)
16 Doan Dún Maol Chobha Maol Cobha's fort 593 m (1,946 ft) 119 m (390 ft)
17 Slievenaglogh (Northern) Sliabh na gCloch mountain of the stones 586 m (1,923 ft) 41 m (135 ft)
18 Carn Mountain Sliabh an Chairn mountain of the cairn 585 m (1,919 ft) 50 m (160 ft)
19 Finlieve Finnshliabh white mountain 579 m (1,900 ft) 20 m (66 ft)
20 Slievemoughanmore Unknown Unknown 560 m (1,840 ft) 154 m (505 ft)
21 Crossone Cros Eoghain Owen's cross 540 m (1,770 ft) 12 m (39 ft)
22 Pigeon Rock Mtn/Drumlee Droim Lao ridge of the calf 534 m (1,752 ft) 139 m (456 ft)
23 Annalong Buttress Unknown Unknown 530 m (1,740 ft) Unknown
24 Ott Mountain Ucht mountain-breast 527 m (1,729 ft) 32 m (105 ft)
25 Ben Crom Binn Chrom stooped/curved peak 526 m (1,726 ft) 81 m (266 ft)
26 Rocky Mountain (Eastern) Sliabh na gCloch mountain of the stones 524 m (1,719 ft) 60 m (200 ft)
27 Blaeberry Mountain Unknown Unknown 520 m (1,710 ft) Unknown
28 Spences Mountain Unknown Unknown 517 m (1,696 ft) Unknown
29 Cock Mountain/Slievahilly Sliabh an Choiligh cock mountain 504 m (1,654 ft) 130 m (430 ft)
30 Butter Mountain Sliabh an Ime butter mountain 500 m (1,600 ft) 95 m (312 ft)
Lesser mountains and hills
31 Slievemartin Sliabh Mártain Martin's mountain 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 Taobh Docrach difficult hillside 473 m (1,552 ft) Unknown
35 Spelga Speilgeach place of pointed rocks 472 m (1,549 ft) Unknown
36 Slievemeen Sliabh Mín smooth mountain 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 Broinn Bhinneáin breast of (Slieve) Binnian 459 m (1,506 ft) Unknown
41 Slievenagarragh Unknown Unknown 450 m (1,480 ft) Unknown
42 Slievenamaddy Sliabh na Madaidh dog mountain 450 m (1,480 ft) Unknown
43 Altaggart Mountain Unknown Unknown 445 m (1,460 ft) Unknown
44 Slievenaglogh (Southern) Sliabh na gCloch mountain of the stones 445 m (1,460 ft) Unknown
45 Slievenamiskan Sliabh Meascáin butter lump mountain 444 m (1,457 ft) Unknown
46 Slievenabrock Sliabh na mBroc badger mountain 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 Sliabh Diarmuid Dermot's mountain 425 m (1,394 ft) Unknown
51 Slievemeel Sliabh Maol bald mountain 420 m (1,380 ft) Unknown
52 Leganabruchan Unknown Unknown 410 m (1,350 ft) Unknown
53 Craigdoo Creag Dubh black rock 408 m (1,339 ft) Unknown
54 Rocky Mountain (Western) Unknown Unknown 405 m (1,329 ft) Unknown
55 Slieve Ban Sliabh Bán white mountain 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 Torr na mBroc Torr of the Badgers 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 Sliabh Ruadh red mountain 364 m (1,194 ft) Unknown
66 Slieve Roosley Unknown Unknown 362 m (1,188 ft) Unknown
67 Hen Mountain/Slievenakirk Sliabh na Circe hen mountain 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 Crotshliabh hump-mountain 347 m (1,138 ft) Unknown
75 Knockshee Cnoc Sidhe fairy hill 346 m (1,135 ft) Unknown
76 Long Seefin Suidhe Finn Finn's seat 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

Other features

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

The Mourne Wall

By the Mourne Wall on Slieve Bearnagh - geograph.org.uk - 103631
Mourne Wall on Slieve Bearnagh

The Mourne Wall is a dry stone wall measuring 31.4 km (19.5-mile) long that crosses fifteen summits and was constructed to define and protect the 36 km2 (8,900-acre) catchment area purchased by Belfast Water Commissioners in 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.

The Mourne Wall is a listed building since 1996 and 600 repairs were completed in 2018 by Geda Construction.

Forests

Mourne country near Bryansford (2) - geograph.org.uk - 830551
Tollymore forest and the Mournes

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.

Reservoirs

Silent Valley and Ben Crom from Slievenaglogh - geograph.org.uk - 1205677
Silent Valley and Ben Crom reservoirs seen from the south

All water reservoirs are owned 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 via the Aquarius pipeline. 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 2 km north-east of Spelga Dam and is a much smaller site.

Flora and fauna

Aside from grasses, the most common plants found in the Mournes are heathers and gorse. Of the former, three species are found: cross-leaved heath, bell heather, and common heather. Of the latter, two species are found: common gorse and western gorse. Other plants which grow in the area are: common cottongrass, roseroot, harebell, marsh St John's-wort, wild thyme, wood sorrel and heath spotted orchid.

Sheep graze high into the mountains, and the range is also home to birds, including the raven, peregrine falcon, wren, buzzard, meadow pipit, grey wagtail, stonechat and snipe. The golden eagle, a former inhabitant, has not been seen in the Mournes since 1836.

Conservation

Mourne country near Spelga Dam - geograph.org.uk - 1141416
Mourne country near Spelga Dam, the slopes of Slieve Loughshannagh and Ott Mountain with a stream in spate after some recent heavy rain

Following a fundraising drive in 1993, the National Trust purchased nearly 5.3 km2 (1,300 acres) of land in the Mournes, which included a part of Slieve Donard (at 850 m (2,790 ft)) and nearby Slieve Commedagh (at 767 m (2,516 ft)), the second-highest mountain in the area.

It has been proposed that the Mourne Mountains be made Northern Ireland's first national park. 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, and also because of fears over the impact on local communities, bureaucracy and house prices.

Recreation

Granite boulders on North Tor - geograph.org.uk - 103314
Tors on Slieve Binnian

"Discover Northern Ireland", a website operated by Tourism NI, aids to promote the Mourne Mountains as a popular destination for hiking and taking in views of the surrounding landscape, including local forests and the coastline. The Mournes offer a range of activities for visitors. These include hiking, forest and beach walks, cycling and rock climbing, with nearly three quarters of visitors choosing the Mournes to go walking and hiking.

The Mournes are very popular as a destination for completing expeditions as required for completing the Duke of Edinburgh's Award. However, there are also a number of walking challenges which take place in the Mournes. The Mourne Wall challenge, which is also referred to as the 7-peak challenge because it takes into account 7 of the 10 highest Mourne mountains, is advertised by WalkNI. The Mourne six peak challenge is advertised by DiscoverNI and takes hikers up Slieve Donard, Commedagh, Bearnagh, Slieve Binnian, Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Meelbeg across three days of hiking.

Information and statistics on tourism to the Mournes was gathered by TourismNI in 2014. On a survey of leisure visitors, 79% were found to come from Northern Ireland itself, 15% were from the remaining areas of the British Isles and Republic of Ireland, leaving 5-6% accounting for international visitors. Of all visitors, two thirds usually visit the Mournes on a single day trip rather than choosing an overnight trip and party sizes have averaged between 3 - 4 people.

There are many 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.

Wind farm proposal

Since 2015, German-owned company ABO Wind has applied to build a wind farm at Gruggandoo in the western Mourne Mountains. Its first two applications were turned down, and its revised application is to build eight turbines standing 142 metres (466 ft) high, along with a network of access tracks, substations and a control building. The turbines would be among the tallest structures in Ireland. The company claims they could power 37% of homes in the district. There is opposition, as the wind farm would be in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and would impact wildlife and habitats. Local protest group, Mourne AONB Against Windfarms, warn it would open the door for further wind farms to be built in the Mournes and other protected areas. Planning officers for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council deem the wind farm "unacceptable" and recommended the council reject it. In 2020, councillors instead voted to ask for a public inquiry.

Helicopter crash

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.

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