The Newry Towpath route stretches from Newry Town Hall to the Bann Bridge in Portadown and is a 20 mile trip on part of route 9 of the National Cycle Network. The route follows the towpath on the western bank of the now non-navigable Newry Canal.
The Canal operated for more than 200 years and provided employment and generated wealth for the many towns and villages nearby. The Canal was the first summit level canal in the British Isles and has 14 locks between its entrance at Carlingford Lough and Lough Neagh. Most of these can be seen along the way.
At the start of the route is Newry Town Hall which was designed by William Batt and constructed in 1893. It was one of the last works of the old Newry Town Commissioners whose crest, dated 1891, can still be seen on the bridge in front of the Town Hall. The style of the building is broadly classical and its most unusual feature is that it is constructed on a three-arched bridge astride the Clanrye River. The reason was, reputedly, to settle the rivalry between the people of Armagh and Down as to which County the Town Hall should be sited (the river is the county boundary).
Dotted along the entire length of the route are historical landmarks, notably around Steenson’s Bridge. This particularly scenic stretch of the Canal has a plethora of wildlife. A short distance from Steenson’s Bridge is Goragh Wood, which was the principal railway station for Newry and also served as a customs post up until the 1960s. This was the last train stop before crossing the border into the Irish Republic.
Art pieces can be seen along the route including some Millenium Mileposts and a series of specially commissioned pieces which reflect the former work and nature of the Newry Canal.
After exploring the town of Newry it is well worth exploring the rest of the district in the Ring of Gullion and Mourne areas. Continuing on route 9 from Newry via the National Trust property at Derramore, it is possible to explore the Camlough and Slieve Gullion areas. A circular route known as the Poet’s Trail follows country lanes and minor roads in the beautiful Ring of Gullion. The Trail, which starts from the village of Mullaghbane and finishes in Creggan, leads you to a tour of the home of the poets of South Armagh, providing an insight into their homeland and the rich inheritance of the areas monuments, history and culture.
In South Down within the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, seven circular routes have been clearly waymarked with brown and white route markers. Laminated route cards are available and provide detailed route descriptions, maps and points of interest along the way.