Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

Take the time to enjoy the Silent treatment ...

By Linda Stewart

This route takes in both the spectacular Carlingford Lough and the heights of Silent Valley Reservoir.

Despite some hilly sections, your efforts will be rewarded with some breathtaking views of the Mournes and the Irish Sea towards the Isle of Man.


If travelling there by bike, use National Route 99, which traverses the Ards peninsula in Co Down, skirts the southern shores of Strangford Lough and down to Newcastle, Co Down.

By car, take the A24 south from Belfast, signposted Carryduff. Continue on this road through Ballynahinch, Seaforde and Clough. Here the main road becomes the A2, the main road to Newcastle. Continue through Newcastle and follow the A2 to Kilkeel.

Stone walls dominate this route, which links the sea at Kilkeel to many of the access points into the Mourne Mountains. In the upland section the walls are skillfully constructed from stones removed from the farmland, while in the area around Cranfield walls were built using blocks of concrete that once formed the hard standings of former military establishments.

Leaving Kilkeel by the Mill and Aughnahoory Roads, you slowly climb past the restored clachan of Hanna’s Close and turn right to keep on the Aughnahorry Road. You will then cross the Kilkeel River and shortly after you will come to a T-Junction — turn left here onto the Carriagenagh Road.

Turn first right, then immediate left down Council Road towards Brackenagh Bridge. After crossing the Brackenagh Bridge, a left turn is made into Sabbath Road before continuing the slow rise towards the Head Road where you turn left towards the Silent Valley reservoir and associated parkland.

From this road cyclists have a magnificent view of the coastal plain, the Irish Sea stretching towards the Isle of Man and the backdrop of the Mourne Mountains. The mountains continue to open up as you swing round the hills before descending on the Attical Road into Attical Village, dominated by its lovely chapel.

From Attical, the route descends again, crosses the main Newry road and reaches the shores of Carlingford Lough at Greencastle. Passing close to the many caravan parks, you return to Kilkeel past the site of a former USAF air base, on the Cranfield and Greencastle roads.

The Backdrop

Kilkeel is located on the south east coast of Co Down, approximately 20 miles north of Newry City. The name comes from the old 13th-century church ruins in the centre of the town, cill-caol (Gaelic) meaning the church of the narrows.

The Silent Valley reservoir was built to gather water from the Mourne Mountains and is the main water supply source for most of Co Down and a large part of Belfast. The 200-acre site below the reservoir is a combination of mountain, moorland and woodlands, making it an ideal setting for flora and fauna.

Silent Valley is surrounded with breathtaking countryside — to the east craggy Binnian, to the west the cliffs of Slievenag Lough, and to the north Doon and Ben Crom.

Nestled between Slieve Foy and the Mourne mountains lies Carlingford Lough. Carlingford Lough is a sea inlet that forms part of the international border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Along with six other airfields in Northern Ireland, Greencastle airfield near Kilkeel was acquired on August 3, 1943, by the 8th Air Force Composite Command, a subordinate of the 8th US Army Air Force.

Built by the British Army during 1942, the 350-acre base had a runway built of 6-inch thick concrete to withstand enemy bombings. Although in the 1960s the runways were all broken up and used by farmers in walls, Greencastle has one of the best preserved instructional sites in Northern Ireland.

Further information

For further information on cycling or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) tel: 028 9030 3930 or

CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

Cycle Name: Kilkeel Cycle Route.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: The Mournes.

Nearest big town to start point: Kilkeel.

Distance: 28 miles circular.

Terrain: All on public road with some slow climbs.

Access Restrictions: Very little traffic on these quiet country roads.

Refreshments: You can purchase refreshments before leaving in Kilkeel. There are toilets also situated in the Square.

Publications: Armagh and Down Cycling Leaflet, available from

Cycle Developed By: Sustrans, Armagh and Down District Councils.

Map: Sheet 29 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (

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