The Mountains Mourne: Granite rocks covered with honeybee inviting heather.

When I first heard about the famous Mountains Mourne, I chuckled to myself “They call this a mountain?” Coming from mountainous and rugged Greece where you are closer to mountains than to the sea, I thought the Mournes to be plain hills.

the mourne mountains

Going up the Mournes however, humbled me. The environment is astonishing, the vicinity is declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the variety of peaks means that climbing the mountains Mourne can be challenging enough for the seasoned hiker and easy enough for the novice hill walker.

Slieve Donard is the crown of the Mournes, standing at 849 metres (2,786 ft) and availing magnificent views.

Read our tips and facts if you planning your climb. You can always read our Slieve Donard climbing story and even have a look at the hiking checklist we prepared for you.

We did climb Slieve Croob too, which is relatively easy to do.

If however, you would rather relax in a park, the heart of the Mourne Mountains instead of sweating hiking them, Silent Valley is the place for you.

Why should you visit mountains Mourne:

It would be a pity not to. Famous as they are from Percy French's old song, popular with hill walkers and and nature lovers, they still remain wild and untamed, teeming with wildlife among the purple heather and the yellow gorge plants.

Going up the mountains Mourne will leave you refreshed in body and mind and you might be witness to nature dramas like the one described by Mourne mountain lover, John Lyons:

An Alfresco Lunch

On a bright summer day Walter and I were out walking in the mountains Mourne. We had chosen Ben Crom as our target that day, not the highest peak in the range, but surrounded by wild and lonely country. From the top there is a grand panorama of mountains around you and not much sign of civilisation except for the reservoir below which satisfies the needs of Belfast, thirty miles to the north.

About mid-day we stopped beside a small stream for a sandwich and a ‘cuppa’, in the warm sunshine. Scanning around to see what else was about, my eye caught sight of a flock of racing pigeons moving up the valley. Maybe released in Wales or even France, they were now heading towards their home lofts as fast as their wings could take them. There, anxious owners would be waiting to clock them in and see who had won this week’s prize.

Suddenly out of a clear blue sky a female Peregrine Falcon hurtled towards the little flock. Too late they saw her coming and scattered in panic. The chosen target never stood a chance as he was taken out by the finest hunter in the bird world. A puff of feathers signaled the successful strike, to be followed by a wild cry of triumph. No government or EC committee could legislate to prevent this kill. Eat or be eaten is the law of nature, and only the fittest survive.

But wait. There was more for the watchers to see, still unobserved by pigeon or falcon occupied with the business of survival. The Peregrine had her offspring in attendance, still reliant on mother to provide. In a mid-air pass worthy of a French rugby forward, she handed the prize to junior. He, or maybe it was she, was not yet strong enough to carry something over half his weight. Doing his best and flapping wildly he lost height until he grounded in the heather of the valley floor. No encouragement from mother in the sky above could help, and she had judged that a safer lunch spot was required. So down she came to recover the carcass, and together they flew to a ledge on the mountain above.

Now with good visibility all around she commenced to pluck the feathers and tear off morsels of pigeon for them both to eat. Junior watched carefully and ate what he was given. No need for plastic toys, soggy baps or even golden arches up here, just good food in a setting few restaurants could equal.

Our own tea had gone cold while we watched something we had only seen before on a David Attenborough TV programme. How much more satisfying to observe it in the wild.

For a while the two birds rested on their ledge while lunch was digested, and we did the same far below. Then with another wild cry, typical of their species, echoing round the mountains, off they flew. Quietly we packed our rucksacks and continued our climb, feeling humble and privileged as we moved towards the peak.


Photo credits: photo no.1: courtesy of John Lyons


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