Slieve Gullion Forest Park
Slieve Gullion Forest Park is a park in County Armagh, near the city of Newry near the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. “Slieve” is an anglicized Celtic word that means “mountain”. Slieve Gullion therefore is a mountain. Its origins are volcanic. It rises to 573 (nearly 1900 feet) meters at its highest point. Its has abundant natural beauty and is a forest park well worth a visit. Unlike other forest parks Slieve Gullion does not have camping/caravaning facilities.
Slieve Gullion Forest Park – Legend Meets History
On the top of the mountain is a small lake and two cairns or stone monuments, one on either side of the lake. The one on the northern side is a circular mound built of stones, while the other is a passage tomb. This suggests human presence from very early times.
In the Irish Annals Slieve Gullion is associated with the hero Cuchulainn who is supposed to have spend some of his childhood in the area. It is also associated with the giant Finn MacCool, famous for being considered the builder of Giants Causeway. Moving from myth to history or at least legend, the mountain has also been associated with Redmond O'Hanlon, the Irish version of Robin Hood. Redmond is supposed to have lived in the 17th century and would rob the rich to give to the poor.
Beware of the Lake
On top of the mountain is a small lake. According to Fenian Cycle Finn MacCool was tricked to jump into the lake and when he came out he had suddenly aged. The sudden aging was eventually reversed except for one aspect – his hair which on jumping in the lake became gray, remained gray forever after. According to the legends, those who venture into the lake their hair will still turn gray. This, of course, has not been verified in real life.
Walks and a Drive
The forest park has a number of walks, the most scenic and demanding of which will take you to the top of the mountain. From there you can enjoy both the views and the touch of history as you visit the cairns. For those less inclined to walk they can tour the park by car and enjoy spectacular vistas of the surrounding countryside as well as of the park itself. The road, however, does not lead all the way to the top. There is plenty of room for parking, pic nic facilities and a coffee shop and gift shop.
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