This self-guided walking holiday along the Mourne Way, starts in Castlewellan, just 42km from Belfast. From day one on this week long adventure, you are immersed in some of the island of Ireland’s most stunning mountain landscapes, the Mourne Mountains. A range of 12 peaks over 600m, with the historic Mourne Wall traversing them, this Northern Ireland walking holiday is a slow and spectacular way to explore its natural highlights, with never-ending panoramas of both summits and sea.
The Mourne Mountains translate into Irish as Beanna Boirche, and they are a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As you walk through the likes of the Shimna River valley, Castlewellan Forest Park, Tollymore Forest or across the sands of Dundrum Bay, you will see that the area has earned its name. You won’t be short of fantastic foodie spots on the Mourne Way either, with traditional seafood chowder, oysters or fish pie, along with a pint of Guinness of course, just a few of the local specialties.
- Castlewellan Forest Park – paradise for tree enthusiasts from around the world
- Murlough National Nature Reserve and its Its 6.000-year-old sand dune system
- Slieve Donard – the highest mountain in Northern Ireland
- The Mourne Wall
- The Game of Thrones ‘Haunted Woods’ of Tollymore Forest
Click to view map
Day 1: Arrival Castlewellan
You will arrive in the small County Down market town of Castlewellan, famed for its market square, wide chestnut tree-lined streets, and adjoining castle and Forest Park.
- Accommodation: Kings Inn Castlewellan or similar
Day 2: Castlewellan to Dundrum village | 17km
You will begin your self-guided Mourne Way walk in the 140 hectares of Castlewellan Forest Park. With Castlewellan Lake at its heart and the 19th century castle, Castlewellan Forest Park also boasts one of the world’s largest peace mazes. In the afternoon, you will meander along country roads and farm tracks to the peaceful and charming village of Maghera, arriving at your overnight accommodation in Dundrum Village.
- Walking for the day: 4-5h, 17km ↑270m
- Accommodation: Arley House Dundrum or similar
Day 3: Dundrum to Newcastle | 12km – 19km
Today you will continue your walking holiday in Northern Ireland in the seaside village of Dundrum with its 13th century Norman castle and where you can enjoy superb views of Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains. Stroll to the shores of Dundrum Bay and continue walking to the Murlough National Nature Reserve with its 6000-year-old sand dune system. Your walking trail will take you along the beaches of Dundrum Bay to the seaside town of Newcastle, where you will stay overnight. You may choose a 12 or 19km route for this day, depending on your own preferences.
- Walking for the day Option 1: 4-5h, 12km ↑100m
- Walking for the day Option 2: 6-7h, 19km ↑588m
- Accommodation: Conlyn House B&B or similar
Day 4: Rest day in Newcastle| 15km
Newcastle is a seaside town in the shadows of Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland’s highest peak. It is home to the world-famous Royal County Down Golf Course, and its granite promenade stretches the full length of the town. Here you can spend the day relaxing by the sea in one of the UK’s last remaining natural rock pools. Enjoy the glory of the surroundings or, if the weather is right, you can attempt to climb Slieve Donard, rising 850m up from the sea.
- Accommodation: Conlyn House B&B or similar
Day 5: Newcastle to Happy Valley | 15km
From your accommodation in Newcastle, you will make your way to The Game of Thrones ‘Haunted Woods’ of Tollymore Forest along the banks of the Shimna River and through Tipperary Wood. You will walk along the south bank of Tollymore Forest on the slopes of Slieve Commedagh to the banks of the Spinkwee River. From there, you will join the Trassey track to finish in Happy Valley between Slieve Meelmore & Slieve Meelbeg.
- Walking for the day: 4-5h, 15km ↑250m
- Accommodation: Conlyn House B&B or similar
Day 6: Happy Valley to Leitrim Lodge | 14km
Setting off from Happy Valley today, you will continue around the north-west base of Slieve Meelbeg past Fofanny Reservoir. Your walking trail will then take you through Spelga Pass and over Butter Mountain, the highest point on the walking trail at 500m. Following the Rowan Tree River & Rocky River, you will descend to Leitrim Lodge and your accommodation in Hilltown.
- Walking for the day: 5-6h, 14km ↑500m
- Accommodation: Clonmurr Bed & Breakfast Hilltown or similar
Day 7: Leitrim Lodge to Rostrevor | 11km
On your final day of walking in the Mourne Mountains, you will follow a mixture of country and forest tracks. Firstly, you will walk along the base of Altaggart Mountain. After a brief climb on the slopes of Tievedockaragh, you will descend into Rostrevor Forest and into the Kilbroney River Valley, passing the 6th century convent of St. Bronagh. Finally, you’ll walk to the shores of Carlingford Lough and into Rostrevor, where you will stay overnight.
- Walking for the day: 4-5h, 11km ↑200m
- Accommodation: The Rostrevor Inn or similar
Day 8: Departure
Your tour ends after a hearty breakfast, and you begin your onward journey.
What to expect
Accommodation on this tour includes a mix of small, locally-owned hotels, B&Bs and traditional guesthouses. They have been carefully selected based on a variety of criteria including their location, warm hospitality, fine local food and commitment to responsible tourism. All rooms have en-suite or private bathrooms.
Click to view default hotels
- The Rostrevor Inn
- Kings Inn Castlewellan
- Arley House Dundrum
- Conlyn House B&B
- Clonmurr Bed & Breakfast Hilltown
*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal or higher value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
Breakfast is included on all days. When no restaurant location is available on the route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or packed lunch can be pre-ordered from your hotel the night before. You can have dinner at the guesthouse you are staying at or at the village inns and restaurants.
Difficulty and terrain
The routes are clearly way-marked, and the itinerary is easy to follow. The route covers varied topography, from rolling hills to canal towpaths. (read more about difficulty grades). We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to go
This trip is available from early April till the end of October.
The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season.
Up-to-date travel advice on the United Kingdom is available here (for Canadian citizens) and here (for US citizens).
Click to view travel options
- From Dublin airport, take the direct bus X1 towards Newry (1h 10mins). From there, hop on 240 towards Castlewellan Upper Square (45 mins).
- You can also travel by train from Newry – the journey will be approx. 1h 12 mins.
- Ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast: Sail between Scotland and Northern Ireland 6 times daily in a crossing time of only 2 hours 15 minutes, so you can travel when it suits you.
- Ferry from Liverpool to Belfast: Twice daily direct link from the heart of England to Northern Ireland with a crossing time of approximately 8 hours with a choice of both day and night sailings.
- For more information, please visit StenaLine, Translink for public transport in Northern Ireland, Irish Rail for train travel from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland, or use the Omio planner above.
- 7 nights in private en-suite rooms (B&Bs and guesthouses)
- 7 breakfasts
- Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days (up to 20kg per person)
- Detailed journey documentation and practical information (maps and waterproof route notes, details of restaurants and places of interest along the way, information on trains or buses needed to get to your first accommodation and back at the end of the tour)
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and supplements
- A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
- Extra nights along the trail are bookable upon request