Things to do in the Geopark

Geopark Geosites

Our UNESCO Global Geopark encompasses stunning landscapes bound and blessed by their mountain and maritime settings. The foundation for many of our myths and legends, this dramatic place shaped by fire and ice is millions of years in the making – a world apart!

Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Global Geopark Geosites

In 2013, an exhaustive survey of the geological sites across the region was conducted, and subsequently reviewed in 2018 and further updated in 2021. The compilation of potential sites drew from diverse sources, such as the list of Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), entries in the publication ‘A Geological Field Guide to Cooley, Gullion, Mourne, and Slieve Croob’ by Louth County Council, and insights provided by the managers of the three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). The decision was made to narrow down the audit focus to locations already accessible to the public. Emphasis was placed on ensuring a geographical distribution and representation of the region’s geology and geomorphology. The enumerated Geosites within the Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Global Geopark are presented below.

Annalong Geosite

Easily accessible rocky shoreline of Silurian subduction zone vertical metasedimentary sequences showing later boudinage, kink bands and conjugate fault pairs. The adjacent Corn Mill, recently restored by a Geopark partner, Mourne Heritage Trust, has interactive interpretation of millstone extraction, ‘plug and feather’ granite cutting from the local mountain quarries and the river-powered milling of corn.

Coordinates: 54°06’32.2″N 5°53’48.5″W (links to external Google map)

Ardglass Geosite

Easily accessible rocky shoreline of Silurian subduction zone vertical metasedimentary sequences. Built into the rocks are a number of structures that were constructed to draw visitors to the seaside destination in the 1930s including bathing pools and a nearby bathing house.

Coordinates: 54°15’43.1″N 5°36’27.3″W (links to external Google map)

Ballyhornan Geosite

The coastline at Ballyhornan Bay displays excellent examples of glaciogenic sediments formed at the end of the last glaciation. These unlithified sediments have led to slope instability and the cliff is prone to mass movement especially after heavy storm activity.

Coordinates: 54°18’07.5″N 5°33’16.7″W (links to external Google map)

Virtual Education Tour of Ballyhornan Geosite and Killard Point Geosite

Bernish Viewing point Geosite

Public parking and amenity area close the city of Newry and on the Slieve Gullion ringdyke exposure. The site offers views of the Newry valley and the Mourne Mountains. On site interpretation gives information on the geographical position and the local geology.

Coordinates: 54°09’25.6″N 6°21’51.5″W (links to external Google map)

Bloody Bridge Geosite

Of scientific importance due to its location close to the contact between the Silurian metasediments and the Palaeogene granites. Bloody Bridge is on the Mourne Coastal driving route and recent investment has improved the parking, facilities and the interpretation. The site is the start of good access to the Mourne coastal path and the paths into the mountains and is used extensively for geology tours, academic research and fieldtrips, outdoor education and adventure groups and by the general public. A self-guided geology walking tour, developed by the Geopark is available for download from the Geopark and partner websites.

Coordinates: 54°10’27.2″N 5°52’26.0″W (links to external Google map)

Camlough Lake Geosite

Cam Lough from the Irish for ‘Crooked Lake’ is a ribbon lake formed by the movement of a glacier along a fault. The fault dextrally offsets the Slieve Gullion ring-dyke by 2 km and parallels other faults in the region, all of which are thought to be related to the tectonic forces as a result of Alpine compression. The lake is now a reservoir and is used for water sports and competitions. Interpretation at a large parking and amenity site on the lake shore explains its origin and the local geology.

Coordinates: 54°10’20.3″N 6°25’28.3″W (links to external Google map)

Virtual Education Tour of Camlough Quarry Geosite and Camlough Lake Geosite

Camlough quarry Geosite

Disused quarry of great scientific importance as it exposes a cross-section through the Slieve Gullion ring-dyke and therefore is the focus of continued research and published works. It is used for geology-specific tours and along with the nearby Cam Lough lake, is one of ten sites in the Mourne Gullion Strangford education pack. The quarry has Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) designation. please note there is no public access to the quarry, access is by agreement only.

Coordinates to nearest carpark: 54°09’20.3″N 6°24’46.3″W (links to external Google map)

Virtual Education Tour of Camlough Quarry Geosite and Camlough Lake Geosite

Cloughmore Glacial Erratic Geosite

Granite erratic of Scottish origin deposited on a mountain top overlooking Carlingford Lough. It is a well-known landmark in the region and is associated with local mythology. As part of a research grant awarded by the Geopark to Queens University Belfast, the erratic was 3-D scanned and its mass calculated on social media at 50 metric tonnes.

Coordinates: 54°05’26.6″N 6°10’46.9″W (links to external Google map)

Cranfield Beach Geosite

Situated on the northern side of the mouth of Carlingford Lough, Cranfield Beach hosts the only exposure of Carboniferous limestone in the Northern Ireland part of the geopark. The limestone is intruded by two dykes which form natural groynes and form a point known as Soldiers Point. The exposure has well preserved tropical marine fossils, evidence of storm deposits and later structural features. The sandy beach has a huge diversity of pebbles from the northeastern part of Northern Ireland and western Scotland, deposited there by ice during the last glaciation.

Coordinates: 54°01’49.5″N 6°04’18.6″W (links to external Google map)

Virtual Education Tour of Cranfield Beach Geosite

Dundrum Inner Bay Geosite

The Dundrum Bay complex includes four units of which Dundrum Inner Bays is one. Dundrum Inner Bay is a medium sized estuary with extensive tidal mud and sand flats, fed by four small rivers. It lies to the landward side of the Murlough and Ballykinler dune fields, which in the past formed across Dundrum Bay confining an area of inter- tidal estuary. The former extent of the estuary under higher sea levels is unconfirmed.

Coordinates: 54°15’38.8″N 5°50’24.9″W (links to external Google map)

Flagstaff Geosite

Council-maintained parking and picnic location on an elevated site with views of the Mourne and Cooley mountains and the glacially formed Carlingford Lough.

Coordinates: 54°07’07.1″N 6°18’34.2″W (links to external Google map)

Granite Trail Geosite

Granite quarrying in the Mournes is a very important aspect of its industrial heritage and Mourne granite was shipped in large quantities across the Irish Sea to build the cities of Liverpool and Manchester in the north of England. Evidence of this industry is seen in the quarry faces still exposed, the partially worked millstones, kerbs and setts found on the mountain sides and in the remains of the bogie transport method for taking stone from the quarries to the port villages.

Coordinates: 54°11’48.2″N 5°53’16.0″W (links to external Google map)

Killard Point Geosite

A stunning section of glaciogenic sedimetnts that provides evidence of a rapidly flowing ice sheet entering a tidal sea. This is the only site in the Irish Sea with a spread of sub-glacial sediments that discharged directly and extensively into a marine environment. The evidence it provides has been used to argue that the rapid flow of ice in the area was due to its unconfined access to the sea which has an accelerating effect on the rates of flow.

Coordinates: 54°18’42.7″N 5°32’05.7″W (links to external Google map)

Virtual Education Tour of Ballyhornan Geosite and Killard Point Geosite

Lighthouse Road Geosite

Interpreted views of the Mourne Mountains and the glacial deposits known as drumlins to the west of the mountains. There are good exposures of the Caledonian Newry granodiorite at the parking and amenity site.

Coordinates: 54°17’48.1″N 6°02’12.0″W (links to external Google map)

Newry Canal Geosite

Geoengineering works immediately north of Newry. The canal was built in 1741 to connect transport coal from Tyrone via Carlingford Lough. It was the first summit level canal in the UK or Ireland.

Coordinates: 54°07’27.7″N 6°18’20.8″W (links to external Google map)

Murlough National Nature Reserve Geosite

The Murlough dune system is based on a complex area of raised marine gravel barrier ridges formed across Dundrum Bay, from reworked glacial material, in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. Interpretations of the development of the marine gravel features of Murlough have been used in the elucidation of sea-level changes in the north of Ireland.

Coordinates: 54°14’01.6″N 5°51’45.8″W (links to external Google map)

Quoile Estuary Geosite

The present freshwater lake was created by the construction of a tidal barrier across the estuary of the River Quoile in 1957. The resulting dramatic change from salt water to fresh water is illustrated by the succession of developing habitats rich in wildlife.

Coordinates: 54°20’58.7″N 5°41’59.0″W (links to external Google map)

Slieve Croob Geosite

Part of the Dromara Hills, Slieve Croob reaches a height of 534 metres above sea level. Although the summit is of Silurian metasedimentary lithologies, the slopes and the rest of the Dromara Hills are of Devonian igneous bodies, part of the Newry Igneous Complex. The Lagan, the river that flows through the City of Belfast, rises on Slieve Croob.

Coordinates: 54°20’24.2″N 5°58’24.2″W (links to external Google map)

Slieve Donard (Donard Car Park) Geosite

At 850 metres above sea level, Slieve Donard is the highest mountain in Northern Ireland and the highest mountain in the northern half of Ireland. Its rounded inverted cone shape stands proud over the seaside town of Newcastle, Co. Down. As part of the Mourne mountains, it is composed of Palaeogene granite intruded into Silurian sedimentary rocks over 56 million years ago due to the opening of the North Atlantic.

Coordinates: 54°12’21.0″N 5°53’49.5″W (links to external Google map)

Slieve Gullion Geosite

A Palaeogene layered igneous intrustion related in origin and time to the Slieve Gullion ring-dyke. At 575 metres above sea level, it is a notable feature in the landscape and associated with Irish mythology including the tales of Finn and the Caileach Beara.

Coordinates: 54°06’58.2″N 6°24’31.6″W (links to external Google map)

Slieve Gullion Ring Dyke Geosite

First named in 1932, the Slieve Gullion ring-dyke is the first ring-dyke ever described in scientific literature and therefore of international geological importance. The ring-dyke is 12 km in diameter and offset by a dextral strike-slip fault by 2 km. Dated at approximately 60 Ma, the structure is similar in age to the nearby Carlingford Complex and slightly pre-dated but related to Slieve Gullion, the layered igneous intrusion it encircles. The ring-dyke is predominately felsic in composition, mainly intrusive brecciated rocks with some minor mafic intrusions. The southwest quadrant of the ring-dyke shows extrusive felsic lithologies. It intruded within the Devonian (Caledonian) Newry granodiorite but the outer rim is bounded by Silurian metasedimentary sequence.

Coordinates for best view of Geosite: 54°07’09.8″N 6°26’37.1″W (links to external Google map)

Spelga Dam Geosite

This site between the eastern and western Mournes is close to the roof of the granite intrusion, adjacent to a reservoir, one of many in the Mournes, and is a site associated with booleying, the practice of bringing animals to higher ground during the summer months for feeding. The River Bann, the largest river in Northern Ireland rises here and the site was an ice centre during the last glaciation.

Coordinates: 54°10’45.2″N 6°03’31.4″W (links to external Google map)

Tollymore Forest Park / Shimna River Geosite

The Shimna River is controlled by the underlying Silurian metasedimentary sequences and the later dykes as it flows through Tollymore Forest Park, part of the Annesley Estate.

Coordinates: 54°13’28.4″N 5°56’25.0″W (links to external Google map)

Windy Gap Geosite

Interpreted views of the Mourne Mountains and the glacial deposits known as drumlins to the west of the mountains. There are good exposures of the Caledonian Newry granodiorite at the parking and amenity site.

Coordinates: 54°19’13.0″N 6°02’33.7“W (links to external Google map)

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