A wonderful, traffic free day following woodland trails and mountain tracks at the foothills of the mountains.
Leaving Rostrevor with a short stroll past the shores of Carlingford Lough you then turn inland to head through Kilbroney Park. The park then gives way to Rostrevor Forest where a wonderfully well maintained trail leads you through, and along the edge of this large forest. It's a popular spot with mountain bikers due to the numerous, purpose built, tracks criss-crossing the land. On leaving the forest you pick up the Mourne Mountain Way which takes you on a much rougher trail heading across open bog land, alongside frothing rivers and over mountain cols. If you're lucky you may share part of the trail with wild ponies that can sometimes be spotted grazing on gorse bushes along the hillsides.
If you are into mushrooms, there are a huge amount to be spotted whilst walking through Rostrevor Forest, if you're here in the right season (late summer/autumn)
The second half of this route follows mountain trails across open, boggy land with river crossings and rocky sections. Pay attention to water levels and find the safest way to cross, even if that means heading off route slightly.
As you're crossing land which is very exposed to the elements, with little to no phone signal, make sure you check the weather forecasts here: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/mountain-forecasts/mourne-mountains and listen to any advice the locals may give you before setting out.
It's advisable to wear high ankled, waterproof hiking boots as you cross rocky and boggy land for much of the day. Along with the rest of your usual gear for a day outdoors. Remember to pack a wind/waterproof and an extra layer.
Food & Drink
There is nowhere en route to stop for food or drink so be sure to stock up on any supplies you may need before you leave Rostrevor.
Points of interest
Spanning just over 40km (26 miles) from Rostrevor to Newcastle, you will follow the majority of this off road route which shares it's trails with the St Patrick's Way as it traverses the foothills of the Mourne Mountains. The Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a unique, largely granite landscape shaped by ice and man, with stunning vistas of coast, sea and countryside.
Spelga Dam & Reservoir
If you have time to spare before your transfer at the end of todays walk, you may want to take a short stroll (approx 750m) up the road from your pick up point to Spelga Dam. The dam is clearly visibly as you cross the last bridge over the Upper Bann River.
Built in the 1950's it flooded an area known as Deer's Meadow with the plan for the reservoir to supply the counties of Down and Armagh with fresh water. A small road and bridge dating back to the early 1800's used to divide the meadow as it passed between the mountains, connecting Hilltown village on one side of the Mournes with the fishing town of Kilkeel on the other. Although now fully submerged, during particulary dry summers (the last being 2018) the water level can drop low enough to reveal the road to the point it's possible to walk right across it.