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Quality Walk

Slieve Gullion

A mountain walk exploring the Slieve Gullion Special Area of Conservation and the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) using mountain paths, forest trails and country roads.

The walk is located within the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The AONB is an area of national landscape importance and is centred on the craggy heather covered hills of a circular ring dyke volcano that erupted over 50 million years ago. The Ring of Gullion is the most famous ring dyke in the world having featured in geological debate and theory over the past 160 years.

Slieve Gullion rising to 573m is the centrepiece of the volcanic landscape and is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) which recognises the importance of the geology and the upland heather moorland. The purples of the heather contrast with the yellow of dwarf gorse and orange of the bracken to create rich mosaics of colours which contrast with the many greens of the agricultural ladder farm landscape.

At the base of the mountains are a network of lowland loughs associated with a diversity of fen, bog and wetland vegetation including bulrush, cotton grass, bilberry and deciduous woodland.

People have lived in the Ring of Gullion for over 6,000 years. The area is renowned for the wealth of Megalithic and early Christian monuments including over twenty large stone tombs. Also close by is the Dorsey, dating from the Iron Age period. This is a massive earth embankment and rampart which sits astride an ancient routeway to Eamhain Macha, the ancient capital of Ulster.

The Ring of Gullion and Slieve Gullion, in particular, have rich associations with Irish legends and myths. In one tale, Finn McCool was bewitched by Miluchra on the summit of Slieve Gullion at the Lough of the Calliagh Bhirra. To this day the superstition survives that if you bathe in the lough your hair will turn white.

County

Armagh

Distance

9.5 miles

OS Map

Sheet 29 + The Gateway to Ulster

Nearest Town

Forkhill, Meigh, Drumintee

Route Shape

Circular

Route Type

Forest, Hill

Terrain

Minor roads and forest tracks

Grid Reference (Start)

J042196

Grid Reference (End)

J042196

Point of Interest

Cairns, Chambered Grave, Killeavy Castle and Killeavy Churches

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Ring of Gullion

Route Description

The walk starts and finishes in the car park adjacent to the Slieve Gullion Courtyard Centre in Slieve Gullion Forest Park. Follow the path uphill fromthe car park, passing the childrens play area on your left. The path continues uphill through deciduous woodland for about 1km until arriving at a log bench opposite a Ring of Gullion Way marker post. Turn right on to the forest drive and continue uphill through a stand of mature beech trees for 800m. Turn right on to a short section of forest track until the upper forest drive is reached. Turn left on the forest drive and continue along the southern slopes of Slieve Gullion for about 2km until an upper car parking area is reached on the left hand side. This section of the trail has magnificent views of the Ring of Gullion peaks of Croslieve, Slievebrack and Mullaghbane Mountain. In the upper parking area are interpretation panels that explain the geology of the area and provide further walking information on the Ring of Gullion Way.

Turn right fifty metres beyond the parking area up an initially steep mountain path. Continue on over a stile until a stone shelter is reached. The views in this section expand to include the peaks of Slievenacapple and the Ring of Gullion to the North. An interpretation panel at the stone shelter illustrates the legends associated with the area and the legendary Finn McCool.

Passing to the right of the stone shelter the path becomes steeper, traversing areas of peaty and rocky ground. After 500m the path arrives at the summit of Slieve Gullion and the Neolithic South Cairn Passage Grave. The tomb can be entered from just below the summit. Panoramic views from the summit take in the Mourne Mountains, Carlingford Lough, The Cooley Peninsula, the Armagh Drumlins and beyond.

The path continues North-West along the summit plateau arriving at Calliagh Berras Lough after 800m. Continue past the lough to the North Cairn which is also a Bronze Age burial chamber.  Veer right after passing the North Cairn and continue on the path. Descend for about 2km down the North side of the mountain until reaching the Ballard Road. Turn right along the country lane and follow it as it undulates through the countryside. Keep right after 2km where the road forks and continue to Killevy Old Churches an ancient convent dating from the 5th Century. St Moninna is buried in the churchyard. St Bline’s Holy Well is on the hillside above.

Continue along the country lane, past Clonlum South Cairn Portal Tomb on the left and Killevy Castle on the right for a further 2km before turning right at a cross roads. Continue through gateposts on to the exit drive from the courtyard centre and the car park.

Please note that this walk is in an upland enviroment, where it may not be appropriate to install waymarkers. Walkers should come prepared with an OSNI map and compass, as visibiliy in all weathers cannot be guaranteed at the top of the mountain. These walks are situated in a working forest environment and may be subject to diversion and closure from time to time.

Up to date information is available on the Forest Service web site - link below.

Getting to the Start (by Public Transport)

Translink - journeyplanner.translink.co.uk

Getting to the Start (by Car)

From Newry take the Dublin Road until the Cloghoge Roundabout (2km). Travel on the B113 towards Forkhill, for approximately 5km past Meigh until the sign for Slieve Gullion Forest Park on the right hand side of the road just before Drumintee. Follow the drive past the Courtyard Centre to the car park which is the start and finish of the walk (GR J042196).

Dogs

Dogs are allowed. Dogs must be kept under close control

Accessibility Grade

Grade 5

Accessible Facilities

The following facilities are available for users with limited mobility:

Café (wheelchair accessible) - Open daily 10am-4pm
Disabled toilets

Facilities

Car parking at the Slieve Gullion Courtyard. Village shops in Meigh, Drumintee and Forkhill sell supplies for taking on the walk and for having a picnic. Good food can be had in the restaurant or bar at Murphys in Meigh. The Forge Bar, Larkins and the Welcome Inn in Forkhill, Slieve Gullion Forest Park and The Three Steps in Drumintee also serve liquid refreshments.
Toilets available at Slieve Gullion Forest Park.

Publication

Ring of Gullion Waymarked Way Guide.

Publication Availability

Newry Tourist Office 028 3031 3170, or alternatively available to download on this webpage.

Walk Location
Map of Northern Ireland
 
Image Gallery

Ratings and Comments

★★★★★
Tim Tyler 18 November, 2017 @ 09:51

Did the walk yesterday using the instruction sheet and the printed map and found on the whole it was very accurate.Getting from the Car Park to the South Cairn was straightforward.Traversing the ridge to the North Cairn via the Lough was wet and slippery but easily done.Coming down,I found the path to disappear at times ,the only time my Compass came into play!Great views up there and I will definitely do it again ,perhaps when a good clear day is in the offing.The whole route was done in three hours and fifteen minutes,including a short break for coffee and sambos on the South Cairn and a short exploration of the Portal Tomb.Highly recommend this walk to anyone.

★★★★☆
Malcolm McNally 17 July, 2016 @ 15:49

I have walked to the top of Billion on many occasions and in varying weather conditions. Today was the first time we have walked the full route.

The weather as perfect with stunning views. The path down to Ballard Road is better than I expected and fairly easy to follow. A few more way markers might be useful. Once on Ballard road it is a gentle stroll along quiet country lanes back to the car park.

Overall this walk is really enjoyable and well worth the effort.

★★★☆☆
John Thorp 31 March, 2016 @ 10:08

Parked in the lower car park at the playground and followed the instruction sheet on this site doing the up and over route and back down by the road. Walked around the kiddies fairy area first, good warm up. you can drive to a much higher 2nd car park and also drive on and around a one way system (the Forest Drive). I walked on up to the second car park, an immaculate flat tarred but steep road and then the map instructions are great all the way to the top of Slieve Gulion. not the clearest of days but nice views. some steep but steeped stones very well with a sort of rock stairway in places, very well done. head towards the lake then to go back down, the lake disappears as you start to go towards it but well worth the walk over, a sort of magical little lake on the top of gullion. there are some yellow markings on the way down and an easy enough track to follow, but easy to follow once you follow them until there is a bent yellow marker that someone has bent and vandalised. then the trail goes dead. you enter some boggy ground to the left of a forest which is on your right. I think you need to be well over more to the left of the the marsh and away from the forest and the marshy boggy area to be on a better route down, but this is the area were it all starts to get less steep and level out and you can see the country lane, or at least cars o it from the distance. Then it is a very steep windy country road for 2 kms and another 2 kms on a straighter road.

★★★★★
Derek Flack 8 April, 2015 @ 11:29

Apologies - the additional wording I suggested below should read: "veer right after passing the NORTH cairn"

★★★★★
Derek Flack 5 April, 2015 @ 09:30

Having twice failed to find the path from the summit to Ballard Rd., I did the walk in reverse and very enjoyable it was. I think the addition of "veer right after passing the south cairn" would help as this is where I went wrong both times (weather conditions were poor on both previous attempts). It's essential to wear robust footwear as the path can be slippy and boggy. Allow 4-5 hours.

★★★★★
Tom Oxberry 21 February, 2015 @ 21:46

Yesterday I completed by second hike over Gullion. This time with my Grandson, who is 15. The day was extremely cold with some mist on the summit ridge. However, it cleared just as we reached the lough. There were magnificent sights including wind blown icecles on fence posts and ice and frost visible through the heather. A truly magical moment. I would never attempt to go hiking without map and compass and they both came into play in the high country. A very enjoyable day.

★★★★★
Derek Flacck 14 February, 2015 @ 20:51

Today was my second attempt at completing the walk. The first attempt was foiled by snow and today I was thwarted by thick mist at the summit (must acquire a compass). However , both walks were excellent. Today, after getting lost in the mist and finding my way down to the road via sheep tracks, I just followed the forest drive road most of the way back to the car park. It was good to see so many cars in the car park - there is something for everybody, with lots of activities for children. My only criticism would be the lack of waymarkers. Looking forward to a third-time-lucky experience next visit.

★★★★★
Alexis Hyde 15 October, 2013 @ 21:14

I loved the walk up the mountain, it was a clear day and you could see the whole country from the top, which when you reach it, is amazing!! It really makes you see what you can achieve in life if you put your mind to it, a great sense of achievement. It shows you how beautiful our country really is and you do not need to go far to see such beauty, as its on your doorstep! Now every day I drive past it to work and look over and say , I was at the very top of that mountain!! its such an enormous sense of well being and makes you glad to be alive!!!

★★★★★
maz markey 31 May, 2013 @ 19:17

fantastic park fantastic views and the mountain climb is hard going but so worth while

John 18 December, 2012 @ 15:52

i enjoyed this walk. unfortunately it was cloudy at the top of gullion so i didn't see a lot. you arrive at the summit very quickly. then there is a boggy walk along the plateau and down through some fields. the longest part of the walk is back to the visitor center by road. make sure you enter the church and have a look around. the visitor center is great for a cuppa afterwards. took me roughly 4hrs.

★★★★☆
Migligs 16 February, 2010 @ 00:13

I found that all levels were catered for at slieve gullion: a novice hillwalker could walk the Hawthorn Hill area, someone with more experience could walk the area around the summit, (by driving up and parking there). We actually missed this entrance to the summit path on the "drive" route.

If you had the whole day and started very early, an experienced person could probably walk the "drive" in a day? The views were really beautiful. The drive is a one-way route, so it's not so stressful, because you're not expecting oncoming vehicles on the narrow road

There was a lovely coffee shop on the grounds which closed at 4pm, which we weren't expecting and there were areas around it with picnic tables too. A really nice day out.

Tí Chulainn 19 October, 2009 @ 12:52

For anyone doing this walk there is also the option of entering from the Longfield Road side (see the Ring of Gullion Way) The Tí Chulainn Centre (Slieve Gullion Lodge) are currently offering en-suite accommodation for £25/€27 per night, we are right beside Slieve Gullion.

See http://www.tichulainn.com

Also, walkers are more than welcome to park in Tí Chulainn at any time.

Andy Gray 27 June, 2009 @ 16:26

Hi maeve, coming to the end of our hols we managed the Slieve Gullion walk this week.

A different sort of walk entirely from Castlewellan but far more remote and dramatic. We followed the instructions and I think by and large we passed all the pointers mentioned on the print out. It was a very enjoyable afternoon out with some 3.5 hrs allowing for stops.

All the views were outstanding.

The only advise we could give to novice walkers is make sure the right footwear is worn and adequate water supply is taken. You could be caught out on a very hot day. The other thing, although cafe at the courtyard was v.nice and one of the members spoke Irish which was intepreted by her colleague, the car park itself looked like a joy riders paradise with lots of tyre impressions. Infact rocks had been put in place on the secondary park to stop access. The picnic tables were in poor condition but there was a CCTV camera which might help if people are concerned about leaving cars. On the lovely descent from the summit you hit Ballard Rd, the whole area is so pretty but sadly people have been using it for fly tipping which is such a shame. All in all once you are in and above the car park it is really unspoilt and lovely. It's also a shame they do not charge, have some sort of gatehouse with security and it would be a much better place to visit. Kind regards. Andy G

Michael 16 March, 2009 @ 19:06

Walked it today, and we really enjoyed it! My GPS reckoned it was a touch over 9 miles, though. Highly recommended.

Mark Nicholson 30 November, 2008 @ 21:14

This walk is stuning, we had a great day so the views were spectacular. I highly recomend this walk but it is not to be undertaken lightly, we didn't quite judge it right and nearly got locked in the car park. allow plenty of time. apart from that i can't wait to do it again !

Ron Murray 25 September, 2008 @ 16:14

The first gate is 350m from the Ballard Road, continue straight on through the gate. The second gate is at the Ballard Road at the end of the section. Both gates open. Please close after.

The porters 21 September, 2008 @ 17:43

50 metres past the carpark there is a white marker, this is where to begin the path to the summit. Do not miss this marker! Agree with previous walker, there are 2 gates to go over before getting onto the road. A great walk with superb views but very boggy in parts after rain.

M McAlinden 8 September, 2008 @ 11:31

This was a thoroughly enjoyable though at times tough going walk. The route description here was generally helpful though I did end up a little offcourse at times. On the descent there were two gates to be climbed before reaching the country road and I think it would've been helpful if you had mentioned this. I had assumed those fields were private property and so had walked some distance each side of the first gate thinking the path skirted around. But apart from this the description was useful, especially how it signposts the historical sites towards the end of the walk.

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