South Down – Mountains and Sea, Castles and Forests.
Nestling in the shadow of Slieve Donard, the highest peak in the Mountains of Mourne, is one of the most beautiful areas of Northern Ireland. Driving towards Newcastle, whether through Ballynahinch or Downpatrick, one will pass through Clough, where on the left hand side of the road is Clough Castle, an ancient Motte, probably dating back to Norman times.
As Dundrum village slips behind, the views of the Mournes and Steve Donard are quite breathtaking, yet as the village of Dundrum is approaches one realises that the Irish Sea is just on the left and side of the road. But after Clough and before Dundrum, the traveller is confronted with an ancient, derelict stately home, prominent on a hill to the right of the road. Mount Panther was once a regal country manor, now completely abandoned.
Another ancient Castle in Dundrum itself, and you can read about that in an earlier post: Dundrum, Co.Down
National Trust’s sandy preserve at Murlough Bay begins at the Twelve Arches Bridge, and meanders through sand dunes to Murlough Beach, with stunning views of the Mournes.
Newcastle town itself once had an actual castle, sited at the mouth of the Shimna River, but that’s long gone now, and the structure at that site is now much more modern affair!
The final castle of the trip requires a drive out of Newcastle and out towards the town of Castlewellan. Much of the northern slopes of Donard are in forest, Tollymore Forest and Castlewellan Forest being the best known. Both are owned and maintained by the Forestry Service, and Castlewellan Forest is particularly beautiful, with its walled garden, its lake and of course its castle!
On a sunny autumnal day in October 2019 I took the Fujifilm X-T30 for a short walk along the side of the lake…