This is an interesting circular route between the villages of Rostrevor and Hilltown, passing through pleasant countryside with dramatic views of the Rostrevor and Mourne Mountains and Carlingford Lough.
Distance: 17miles (27 km)
Advice: A long cycle, with some steep sections
Starting in the village of Rostrevor at the junction of Mary Street and Greenpark Road, follow the Kilbroney Road uphill through the village, past the chapel on your right, to the junction with the Newtown Road.
Turn right into the Newtown Road which rises steadily uphill through pleasant countryside between the river and the Forest.
At the Yellow Water picnic table there is an opportunity to take a breather alongside the stream. From here cycle uphill through the forest on the main road.
The road now passes through open moorland. At the next junction, continue on the main Sandbank Road on the right until it meets the New Line Road on the left.
Retrace your journey back to the junction with the New Line Road and turn into it. At the next junction bear right onto the Leitrim Road and follow it until it meets the main Rostrevor to Hilltown Road. Turn right onto it and follow it into Hilltown.
Leave Hilltown on the main road to Newry but after about only 400 metres turn left onto the Yellow Road (just before the speed limit end sign). After 1.25 miles the road climbs steeply again to the lovely picnic area of Glenmore. Pause a while and enjoy the breathtaking views to the north and east.
After 0.5 mile turn left onto the Lower Knockbarragh Road (the second road on your left). After a short distance the road begins to go downhill following the Ghann River. Continue to follow this road until at a T-junction it joins the Upper Knockbarragh Road, turn left onto this road which becomes the Greenpark Road and it will take you back into Rostrevor on the shore of Carlingford Lough.
Points of interest
Rostrevor â€“ historically ‘enjoyed a mild and salubrious climate’ and in the past century became ‘a romantic retreat highly fashionable for the gentry of Ulster’. The Kilbroney Bell (St. Bronach’s Bell), an ancient riveted bell, is now located in the Catholic Church in the village. A local landmark is ‘Cloughmore’ (the Big Stone), a large glacial erratic which can be seen in the clearing on the slope above the forest. Kilbroney Park is situated below Rostrevor Forest with its pleasant walks and a forest drive. The Park has a popular caravan park, camp site and leisure facilities. There is a cafÃ© with beautiful views across Carlingford Lough.
Rostrevor - Kilbroney River Valley - cycle through the pleasant valley past small fields now popular as a location for rearing good quality saddle horses.
Yellow Water Picnic Spot - The Yellow Water, normally a pleasant stream becomes a mountain torrent following heavy rain. A pleasant spot for a rest. With luck you may see red squirrels and various birds including the Tree Creeper whose feet have two claws facing opposite directions to enable it to move with ease on the bark of trees to feed on the insects found there.
Mass Rock - on the ridge to the east, just above the forest edge can be seen a ‘Mass Rock’, a reminder of the repressive penal times when only those who belonged to the established church were allowed to worship.
Rocky River Picnic Spot - rest at the Rocky River Bridge with its wonderful views of Cock and Hen mountains, so called because their shape resembles domestic fowl.
Hilltown - is set on a ridge above the river Bann, Hilltown was laid out by the First Earl of Downshire in 1765. The Downshire family name was Hill, after which the town was named. Famous for the annual ‘tip’ or ‘ram’ fair at which rams of the sturdy local black face mountain sheep are bought and sold. There are a number of historic sites in the area worth further exploration. The town square and the Downshire Arms Hotel have been entirely restored by the local community group.
Glenmore Viewpoint - passing through Grugganskeagh (from the Irish for an ‘area of dark sedges’ to Knockbarragh (the translation from Irish is ‘the hill of the heifers’) where cultivation begins again. Pleasant cycling back to Rostrevor.
Carlingford Lough is a beautiful waterway that links north to south and has wonderful views.