Central to the magic of Mourne landscape is the characteristic immortalised in the Percy French song the Mountains of Mourne immortalised – the spectacular convergence of mountain and sea. In this section of our website we aim to give you an overview of the landscape characteristics that make this a special place, as well as whetting your appetite for learning more.

How the Mournes were Formed?

Have you ever wondered why the Mourne Mountains and Slieve Croob rise over a beautiful landscape of hills and drumlins, rocky shore and sandy beach.  The answer lies deep in the prehistory of the earth, beginning when this place – and indeed the surface of the earth – looked very, very different.  If you stand in the Deer’s Meadow near Spelga Dam in the heart of the High Mournes, you are standing not on Mourne Granite but on the sedimentary rock formed in the earth’s ancient oceans that once covered ‘hid’ the iconic peaks we see today. It took, over millennia, the shifting of continents, volcanic activity and the effects of the various Ice Ages to shape what we now appreciate as the Mourne AONB.

For an Overview of this ancient story see here

Appreciating our Varied Landscape

To help you explore and appreciate all the characteristics of the Mourne AONB, not just mountain and sea, we have identified five ‘vistas’ – in the very widest sense – that we feel showcase the very essence of what this wonderful landscape has to offer and five viewpoints from which to appreciate these. We could of course have selected many more, such is the diversity and quality of the landforms and seascapes in this area.  But we hope the chosen spots give you at least a good flavour of what the Mourne AONB is all about. Please click on the links to explore in word and picture:

Defining the Mourne AONB Landscape Today

While the landscape of the Mournes has evolved over millennia, it of course continues to do so. As well as being defined by its nature as a ‘living, working’ landscape the AONB is characterised by its diversity. The character of the landscape – or rather landscapes - we see today has been described in the Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) of Northern Ireland, produced by the Department of Environment. Of the 130 distinctive areas identified in Northern Ireland, eight fall within the Mourne AONB boundary, these are: Mourne Mountains; Slieve Roosley; Slieve Croob Massif; Newcastle Valleys; Murlough and Ballykinlar dunes; Kingdom of Mourne; Kilkeel Coast and Mourne Foothills. 

The classification is a result of the sub-division of the countryside according to local patterns of geology, land form, land use, cultural and ecological features. It recognises the importance of sustaining local identity and highlights those characteristics and features which should be celebrated as part of Northern Ireland’s natural and cultural heritage. 

For an overview of the Landscape Character Areas that make up the beautiful mosaic that is the Mourne AONB see here.