A challenging 20km walk through several diverse landscapes, from the bleak Mourne Mountains to hilly farmland to the dense woodland of Tollymore Forest, before finishing beside the Irish Coast.
The Mourne Mountains are bleak, barren and isolated and the start of today’s walk, a steep uphill climb to Butter Mountain, gives you a good taste of this. The mountains appear almost featureless and with, at best faint paths and sometimes no path at all, it is easy to feel lost; be sure to check the map and refer to the route notes regularly. With these materials to reassure you that you aren’t lost, you will discover something powerful and dramatic in the inhospitality of these mountains.
In total contrast, once you descend from the mountains you will enter a pleasant landscape of rolling hills and farmland that seems so full of life; baby lambs leap around, birds flutter past singing a tune, lizards scatter along the stone walls and flowers and gorse bushes add splashes of colour to the surroundings.
The landscape changes again as you weave through Tollymore Forest and cross the many streams that cascade from the mountains and towards the sea (a very similar journey to your own today). Finish in the seaside town of Newcastle sandwiched between the Irish Sea and the Mourne Mountains.
Enjoy the great diversity of landscapes on this walk; mountains, farmland, forest, seaside – this walk has it all!
Some of today’s route is on roads with no pavement. Walk on the right-hand side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a sharp corner in which case you should cross to the outside edge, to give the drivers the maximum time to see you.
There are several streams to cross today; be careful as you cross and bear in mind that the rocks may be slippery, especially when wet.
The first section of this hike around Butter Mountain can be exceptionally boggy. Stay alert as you walk to ensure you don’t step into a bog unaware. When faced with boggy land take some time to ascertain the safest place to cross. If there has been heavy rainfall recently it might be necessary/advisable to skip this section altogether and to walk on the road towards Spelga Reservoir, taking the first left onto Slievenaman Road. You will join up with this GPS track at Blue Quarry Car Park.
Mountain Biking is very popular in Tollymore Forest. There are generally separate trails for bikers and walkers. Walkers have right of way but it is a good idea to stay alert for mountain bikers around you.
Sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required. The weather can change quickly in the Mourne Mountains so be sure to take all equipment even if the weather looks okay.
This walk is isolated with no opportunities to buy food or water, so be sure to bring enough with you.
Several hiking trails join together on this section and so as well as signposts for St Patrick's Way, you may also find yourself following signs for Mourne Way, Ulster Way and Newcastle Way.
Points of Interest
Just as you enter Tollymore Forest you will pass beside a bronze-age burial mound which is more than 3,000 years old. There isn’t much to see but you can climb up to the top of the mound where you will discover a slight depression dating back to an excavation in 1905.
The vast swathe of Tollymore Forest at the foot of the Mourne Mountains is still used commercially, and you will likely see areas which have been cleared and others which have been replanted. You will walk beside the gentle trickle of the Shimna River surrounded by dense woodland. Tollymore Forest was also a Game of Thrones filiming location.
More information available here: https://discovernorthernireland.com/Tollymore-Forest-Park-Newcastle-P2888/
Food and Drink
There are no opportunities to get food or drink during this hike until you arrive in Newcastle. Be sure to bring all your own food for this hike; there are some pleasant picnic spots provided the weather is good.