Mourne Mountains2
Mourne Mountains2

Discover the Mourne Mountains Region

Visitors to County Down can’t miss the majestic Mourne Mountains famously written about by the Irish songwriter Percy French.

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But there’s more to see than just the mountains in this beautiful region of Northern Ireland that also inspired Belfast-born C.S. Lewis, the creator of the Narnia series, as well as “The Game of Thrones” and other TV productions and movies.

Two new experiential activities will no doubt attract curious visitors who are interested in Ireland’s old traditions.

They include a lesson in stonewalling and a deep dive into the practice of sean nós Irish dancing.

Both new attractions are part of a tourism initiative called “Unleash the Giant Spirit,” established last year to highlight some of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful and popular attractions.

Mourne Stonewalling – A Granite Kingdom

This new attraction is the brainchild of Jenny Hanna and her husband Mark, who run The Green Holiday Cottages close to the fishing village of Kilkeel in County Down.

Following a woodland walk with Jenny Hanna, see how Mark has restored the original drystone walls of their property with granite from the Mournes that was first used to build the cottages 300 years ago.
A stonewall, part of the Mourne Stonewalling attraction in Northern Ireland that is open to visitors who want to discover the Mourne Mountains region. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

The 5,000-year-old art of dry stonewalling was how the landmark Mourne Wall was built 100 years ago.

two people walking by a long stone wall discover the Mourne Mountains
Hillwalkers discover the Mourne Mountains region, including the Mourne wall Photo: Tourism Ireland.

The wall extends for 22 miles over 15 summits and is Northern Ireland’s biggest building project, originally intended to keep livestock away from the mountain range’s rivers and reservoirs.

The Mourne Stonewalling – A Granite Kingdom attraction will highlight the skill and hard work that went into building the Mourne Wall.

Visitors can work alongside Hanna, building a much smaller stone wall using the tools that he used to restore more than 400 meters (1,300 feet) of the original dry-stone wall at The Green Holiday Cottages.

Sustenance is provided afterward in the form of a Mourne “builder’s lunch” served in a special biscuit tin.

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Dancing at the Crossroads

In Downpatrick, a 30-minute drive away, visitors can join Josephine Brennan King, a former principal Irish dancer of Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, for a unique and lively experience that celebrates the centuries-old story of Irish dancing.

two girls and a man in costume discover the Mourne Mountains
Learn about old-style Irish dance at Dancing at the Crossroads. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

The new Dancing at the Crossroads experience gives participants a window into how the old Irish dance masters taught Irish dancing and how local communities socialized by dancing at the crossroads after the harvest.

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Read The Story of Irish Dance

Participants will learn some steps from the sean nós style, in addition to iconic footwork from Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, leaving with an Irish dance medal and a certificate as special mementos.

The experience culminates in an Irish hooley party, part of a choreographed Irish dance-off, which will take place by the crossroads at the historic Down Cathedral.

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a lake at dusk discover the Mourne Mountains
Sunset over Strangford Lough in the Ards Peninsula. Photo: Johnny Donnan for Getty Images.

Other attractions in the region include Strangford Lough in the Ards Peninsula as well as a multitude of activity trails, adventure parks, artisan food producers, craft breweries, and whiskey distilleries that are also present in the region.

The new experiences are part of Atlantic Culture Scape, a European project designed to highlight authentic, immersive attractions that are driven by storytelling.

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