The Knockchree Route

A beautiful circular cycle route between Kilkeel and Attical, passing through some lovely countryside with dramatic view of the Mourne Mountains.

Distance: 18 miles (28 km)

Advice: Strenuous, with steep ascent on the Glenloughan Road

Begin at Lower Square, Kilkeel Town Centre. Head west out of the square straight across the traffic lights onto Greencastle Street, you pass the Kilmorey Arms Hotel on your left. Keep to this road, it takes you through the town land of Dunnaval. After about 2 miles note the large house on your left called Eastwood, shortly afterwards the road divides. Take the right fork and proceed to a T-junction, turn right. Note the many sunken fields which are old sand extractions (high quality building sand) restored to agricultural and recreational use. At the next junction turn left to pass Grange School and Chapel on your left. The road now meanders through the marshy flood plain of the Whitewater River.

You come to a staggered crossroads, turn left. About a mile straight ahead is the Blue Flag Beach of Cranfield with its caravan sites. However your route turns immediately right following the directions to Greencastle about 1.7 miles.

The quiet seaside hamlet of Greencastle offers peace, tranquillity and several interesting features:

  • A notable Anglo-Norman castle built circa 1260
  • The ruins of the old Norman Church
  • The old Irish Ferry Pier
  • A row of fine coastguard and lighthouse keeper’s houses
  • The Irish Lights Base at the north quay which services all the navigation lights in Carlingford Lough and further south (including the picturesque Haulbowline Lighthouse)

The hamlet offers magnificent views of Mill Bay, the Eastern Mournes, Carlingford Lough and across the water, Greenore and Carlingford on the Cooley peninsula.

Retrace your route back to Greencastle crossroads and turn left to cross the old bridge over the Whitewater river (a fine game fish river). The reed marshes on your left are a nature reserve for wild fowl and are known locally as the "Bents". Further along the route you come to Mill Bay with fine views up Carlingford Lough. Follow the Benagh Road along the shore for about 1.75 miles until you come to the Millbay Road on your right. Tour route turns right onto the Millbay road but if you are interested you can carry straight for about 0.75 miles to Tamlaght (Plaque Monument) Graveyard, which you will find on the left side of the road. If you visited Tamlaght retrace your route to the Millbay Road and turn left onto it. This road runs straight up the hill to a T-junction and turn left onto the Newry Road. After about 300 metres turn right onto the Glenloughan Road. This road again climbs steeply with wonderful views of the mountains ahead and of Knockchree on your right. Follow this road until you come to the T-junction at the end and turn left.

The Whitewater Brewery is immediately on your left. The small brewery is the only producer of ‘Real Beer’ in this area, it is highly recommended. Further up this road you again cross the Whitewater River and then note the new Attical Community Centre on you left. Carry on to the centre of Attical village and at the chapel turn left onto to the Attical Road. Note the wonderful panorama of mountains and countryside around you.

At the end of this road turn right onto the Moyadd Road and after about 0.75 miles turn left onto the Head Road. Again this gives you another wonderful panoramic views of the mountains, countryside and the sea. After about 1 mile turn onto the Leitrim Road. The route is now mostly downhill and takes you through a beautiful, yet intensively cultivated, countryside. After about 0.75 miles you cross straight over a crossroads but within 50 metres you need to turn left onto the Aughnaloopy Road. This road takes you downhill to the Ballinran crossroads at which you go straight across once again.

Within 0.5 miles you will see a signpost to Hanna’s Close down a lane to your left. It is well worth a visit. After your visit retrace your route back to the road and turn left down the Aughnahoory Road. This takes you back into the town of Kilkeel ant at the T-junction at the road end you turn left onto the Mill Road. Down the hill to another T-junction and turn right onto Newcastle Street. This takes you back to the lower square in the town centre. You pass the ancient ruined church on your right which gives the town its name – Kilkeel (the Church of the Narrow Place). There are some very interesting gravestones in the associated graveyard.

Points of interest

Dunnaval (Greencastle Airfield) – Along the road are the former World War II airfield remains. Officially called Greencastle Airfield, it was built in the early part of the war and accommodated American Airmen. Parts of the dispersals and the remains of the control tower are still visible on the seaward side, while some of the billets are visible on the other side of the road. This airfield was abandoned after the war and the land returned to local farmers. Most of the runways and parking bays were broken up and used to build walls around the fields.

Cranfield Beach is a blue flag beach and also boasts the warmest water temperature in Northern Ireland. It is a favourite for stationary and touring caravans.

Greencastle Castle is on the right hand side of the Greencastle Pier Road located on high ground overlooking Carlingford Bay, you will see Greencastle Castle which dates back to the 13th century. The Castle is open to the public at certain times of the year, mainly Easter and the summer. South of the Castle the ruins of the original Anglo-Norman Church are visible and are much older than the Castle itself.

Millbay is a designated area of Special Scientific Interest which is rich in wildlife, flora and fauna unique to the Mourne area. It is an internationally important migratory wildfowl wintering area. It is a RAMSAR site and a European candidate Special Protection Area.

Tamlaght Graveyard (Plaque Monument) is the oldest Christian site in Mourne. There is only one headstone and no evidence remains of the church founded in the 5th Century by St Tuan. It is accessible to the public.

Hanna’s Close is one of the last remaining clachans or medieval style settlements in Ireland and one of only two in Northern Ireland to hold a statutory listing. The cottages have been beautifully refurbished retaining many of the old features.

Church of the Narrow Place is the historic monument from which Kilkeel takes its name. Kilkeel is the anglicised version of Gaelic ‘Cill Chaol’ which means ‘ Church of the Narrow Place’ and its location on an elevated narrow site would confirm this.