5 incredible hikes and walks in scenic County Down

Here are 5 incredible hikes and walks in scenic County Down

County Down may not be the best-known county in Ireland, but it deserves far more attention—especially when it comes to walks and hikes with amazing views.

The Mourne mountains and their Blue Flag beaches are the most obvious choices for walks—and rightly so. No matter the season, these areas never disappoint. But they only scratch the surface of this northern county of Ireland. Explore further inland, and you will be rewarded with magnificent views from quiet country lanes. 

Got your walking shoes ready? Here are the top 5 incredible hikes and walks in County Down to suit all abilities.

5. Lough Shannagh – for Mourne magnificence

Lough Shannagh is one of 5 incredible hikes and walks in scenic County Down

This hike begins near Crocknafeola Forest between Kilkeel and Spelga Dam.
The track starts next to an equestrian centre, where a few car parking spaces are available. Cross the Miners Hole River, and then it’s an uphill climb to Lough Shannagh sited on a plateau, granting views of the entire interior of the Mourne Mountains.

The shore is reached by branching off slightly to the left. There is a legend of a drowned princess haunting the lake shore in the form of a fox, hence the name Lough Shannagh (The Fox’s Lake).

The white granite and sand form delightful beaches to rest at before retracing your steps. Nice views of Carlingford Narrows can be seen on the return journey.

Location: Lough Shannagh, Newry, Co. Down

4. Slieve Croob – for ancient cairns

Slieve Croob is one of 5 incredible hikes and walks in scenic County Down
Credit: Instagram / @ciarancurry

Located two miles south of Dromara, this small mountain (1,756 ft) lies in the heart of County Down. At the top are 12 cairns of stone dating back to pre-Christian times. Traditionally, the first Sunday of August was known as Cairn Sunday, when locals made their way to the top, where they picked up a stone and placed it on one of the cairns.

As recently as 1920, dancing to the music of fiddle and accordion took place on a flat area near the summit. On a clear day, ramblers can enjoy majestic views of counties Armagh, Tyrone, Derry, and Antrim.

The summit can be approached from all sides. Take note that there is a car park at Dree Hill off Finnis Road.

Location: Slieve Croob, Castlewellan, Co. Down

3. Adder’s Loanin’ and Moat Pad – for magnificent mountain views

Credit: Eric Jones

Begin from the Lighthouse Road car park in the townland of Ballyward. Turning left, walk down the road until reaching a sign for The Moat Pad Footpath taking you onto a concrete lane.

As you reach the farm, ignore a stile on the left and cross the field to another stile onto Adder’s Loanin’. The grassy track gives magnificent views of the Mournes, Slieve Foy, Cooley Hills and Slieve Gullion. 

On meeting Millvale Road, turn right into the Ballymackilreiny Road until the B7 Dromara Rathfriland Road. At Lowtown, turn right past Turley’s shop and continue uphill to the Moat Pad signpost on the right.

Continue on towards a wooden gate at the end of the concrete lane. Turn left on to Rooney’s Lane to meet the main road and turn right uphill to the finish.

Location: Ballyward, Castlewellan, Co. Down

2. Castlewellan Forest Park and Leitrim – for breathtaking landscapes

Castlewellan Forest Park and Leitrim offer breathtaking landscapes for a stroll
Credit: Instagram / @rachellinton123

Leaving the Castlewellan Forest Park car park, head to the beautifully restored arboretum. Go past the duck pond and then Mitchell’s Lake, turning right to exit through a gate on to the Bannonstown Road.

A quarter of a mile up the road, stop to enjoy views of the Slieve Croob as well as Leitrim and Backaderry in the valley below. The landscape looks like something from The Hobbit.

Walk on until the road joins the Leitrim Road, turn left and then shortly left again into an unnamed road to re-enter the Forest Park at the gate with a stile. Proceed past the Cypress Pond to the main lake, turning right for the long walk back to the entrance.

Location: Castlewellan Forest Park, Forest Park View, Castlewellan, Co. Down

1. Lackan Bog, Ballyroney – for Alice-in-Wonderland vibes

Credit: Claire Mc Laughlin

Seasoned walkers, if you haven’t been here yet, you’re missing out. There are variations on this 6-mile ramble situated near the hamlet of Ballyroney.

Based in an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), it takes in one of the largest areas of lowland peat left in County Down.

The highlight is “The Green Road”—a raised pathway surrounded on either side by lowlands of birch and moss. The mile-long path is dotted with rabbit holes and, depending on the time of year, giant red toadstools.

It’s like something from Alice in Wonderland—you’re half expecting to see the Cheshire Cat looking down from a tree. Truly magical!

Location: Ballyroney, Banbridge, Co. Down

By Claire Mc Laughlin

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