About our Geopark

The area’s spectacular beauty has been forged by nature, torn apart by volcanic activity and sculpted by ice, providing a stunning backdrop to remarkable people and places. This dramatic and thriving landscape is where people live and work every day.

About our Geopark

The Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the south-east of Northern Ireland, adjacent to the border with the Republic of Ireland. The UNESCO Global Geopark has an area of 1931.62 sq km (1637 sq km on land and 294.12 sq km marine), and a population of 182,074 (2021) with over a quarter of the population living in the city of Newry in the heart of the Geopark. The mean population density is 111.22 (2021) people per square kilometre but this ranges from the sparsely populated upland areas to the urban centres of Newry, Downpatrick, Newcastle and Kilkeel.

The region boasts three discrete upland regions in the Dromara Hills, Mourne Mountains, and Slieve Gullion (and the surrounding ring of hills known as the Ring of Gullion). The highest point in the region is within the Mourne Mountains and is Slieve Donard at 850 metres above sea level but the Mournes have seven peaks over 700 metres. The highest point in Gullion is Slieve Gullion at 573 metres (575m burial cairn). The upland areas are surrounded by sweeping lowlands covered in glacial sediment, much of which is in the form of drumlins. The mountains are dissected by valleys formed by ice during the last glaciation. Carlingford Lough, a drowned glacial valley, lies on the southern edge of the Geopark, and Strangford Lough, the largest sea inlet in the UK and Ireland, lies at the eastern edge of the Geopark, both of which are important to the early human history of the region and later became a major transport routes. Traditionally, manufacturing, agriculture, fishing and the port of Warrenpoint provided much of the industry, and while they continue to the present, local government is also a source of employment in the region. Agriculture has always been and continues to be an important industry in the Mourne Gullion Strangford Geopark. All of the lowland areas surrounding the mountains are suitable for agriculture as they are covered in thick glacially deposited sand and gravels which allows for good drainage and therefore good vegetation growth. Traditionally, sheep were farmed in the mountainous area and still are in certain places.

Being a border region between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the area suffered during the period of conflict known as ‘The Troubles’ particularly in late 1960s to early 1990s. This meant that economic development was often not as strong as in other parts of Northern Ireland. Some of the best development opportunities lie in tourism, with the area’s natural beauty, unspoiled recreational resources and welcoming people. There is a good-quality regional transport infrastructure and it has the potential to be developed further to encourage rural tourism.

The Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Global Geopark is midway between the cities of Belfast and Dublin on the main road and rail network. With the success of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, since the 1998 acceptance of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, and high rates of economic growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the transport infrastructure improved significantly and there is now an excellent motorway/dual carriageway between Dublin and Belfast. Newry City is now bypassed, ensuring less-congested travel within the city and the travel from the motorway to the region relatively easier.

Newry is within one-hour travelling time of two international airports, one regional airport, and two international passenger ferry ports. Belfast City has a population of 345,418 (2021). Newry is 75.4 km from Belfast International Airport that handled 5.9 million passengers in 2017, and 67.5 km from George Best (Belfast City) Airport that handled 2.7 million passengers in 2017. Dublin has a population of 1,346,359 (2018). Newry is 96.8 km (all motorway) from Dublin International Airport that handled 31.5 million passengers in 2018, and is 105 km from Dublin Port (that handled 1.7 million passengers), accessible via Dublin Port Tunnel, a tunnel under Dublin City from close to the airport to the seaport.

Mourne Gullion Strangford – Interpretation Plan