The Mourne Mountains for mountain bikers.
Come visit, it is beautiful and you won't be disappointed.
If you have ever heard of the mourne mountains in Northern Ireland then you will know it is an area of outstanding natural beauty and that is not a cliche.
The mournes wouldn't be as big an area as the likes of the "famous" rockies in north America or the alps in France but that is one of the reason why they are so beautiful, around every corner or over every hill you will get a view that will make you go "look at that". Ireland even though a small island has hundreds of miles of wonderful countryside that is just begging to be enjoyed and the mournes being one of the best of them.
Mountain biking in Kilbroney
If you are a bit like myself and love to go mountain biking then the mournes is ideal. You can spend a whole day going over the mournes, taking in it breathtaking secnery and really enjoy yourself.
Kilbroney Park based in Rostrevor is the perfect place to start, on arrival I find it best to park in the lower car park, this will give you access to the many routes and options available. If you are looking for some cross country or the adrenaline rush of downhill then you will be able to do all that from this starting point.
First of all head up the main road and if your a downhill nut just keep going up till you reach cloughmore stone, from there it is all down, so hold on tight. If you prefer the cross country option there are plenty of roads that take you off the beating track as you head up the mountain, my favourite would be the track that leads to the top of slieve martin, from there you can look down on cloughmore stone with views of Carlingford lough, Rostrevor, Cranfield, Warrenpoint, Omeath, Cooley mountains and on a real good day Newry City.
The powers that be have seen there way to making a mountain bike trial in the kilbroney park area of the mournes, though it won't be ready till early 2013, it will be perfect for people who don't know their way about the area. It will fantastic once finished and I for one can't wait to get out on them.
Mountain biking in Castlewellan forest park
Castlewellan forest park is situated north of the the mournes, it is a fantastic place to take the children to see the castle or do the 3km walk around the lake.
If you do go to castlewellan then you will be in for a real treat, although not near as big as the likes of Kilbroney or Tullymore it still has loads of tracks that lead off into the forest. I have spent a good few hours cycling round these tracks, thinking I was lost only to stubble upon a footpath that leads me back to the main road.
If you want somewhere you can spend hours out on the bike but never drift too far from your starting point then this is the place.
Tollymore Forest Park
Tollymore forest park is probably one of the nicest forest parks I have been in.
The tracks in Tollymore are going to be a lot harder than the once in Castlewellan, mainly due to it being very situated at the bottom of Slieve Donard. A lot fo the tracks will be uphill and although hard on the legs, it will be well worth it on the way back down.
A very woody area and well enclosed so if you do happen to be going out on a wet day the chances are you will stay fairly dry.
Although in a way Tollymore is a lot like Castlewellan in that the tracks just appear out of nowhere and you could spend hours going through them, it would be on a grander scale simple due to Tollymore being a lot larger than Castlewellan.
A very big plus to Tollymore is that along the main road, just about a mile up from the exit there is a "mountain centre" which has a small mountain bike course where they can show you how to be a better mountain biker by providing training. If you are a bit unsure of yourself on your bike then this is the perfect place to go to get more confidence.
Plenty of other places to see too.
The great thing about the mournes is that you are not locked down to specific places. You can take your bike out of the back of your car and drive around for half an hour, come across an old track and off you go. What mountain bike trail you choose is going to be good fun no matter what.
A few other places of note are "Bigwood" which is located on the main road between Warrenpoint and Newry, Yellow water which is out the Newtown road in Rostrevor, Annalong wood and of course Silent valley.
A bit further afield you can head over to the Cooley mountains on the other side of Carlingford lough, although not as big and easily accesible as the mournes, it does have a few tracks that can be used for mountain bike nuts.