When Clive Staples Lewis was a young boy growing up in Belfast at the start of the 20th century, the sight of the Mourne Mountains on the southern horizon was enough to transport him to imaginary worlds.
Those mountains later became his inspiration for the fantasy world of Narnia, and it’s alleged that some of the Narnian locations were also based on scenery around the village of Rostrevor – just a few miles down the valley from this walk.
Starting from the information panel in Leitrim Lodge car park, follow the short concrete path. Pass through a gate to join a stony track and cross a bridge over Shanky’s River. This is a tributary of Northern Ireland’s longest river – the Bann – which feeds into the Atlantic about 80 miles north of here.
Continue along the main track as it curves left at the first junction to briefly join the Mourne Way.
Follow the track right and uphill, leaving the Mourne Way. The rocky outcrop of Pierce’s Castle appears on the skyline ahead. Keep to the track, which eventually splits into gravelly paths through Castle Bog. A path to the left brings you around the back of Pierce’s Castle for an approach to its Narnia-like summit.
Descend from the summit of Pierce’s Castle, either by retracing your steps or by finding a safe route off its western side. Follow a path through heather towards Rocky Mountain. You’ll then arrive at a col (a pass between mountain peaks) where you’ll see a grassy path – for a shortcut back to the start, take this path to the left. Otherwise, continue along the worn path to the granite-crowned Tornamrock. Stay to the left edge of this outcrop, bypassing its summit.
Descend along a path to the col between Tornamrock and Rocky Mountain. The Mourne Way crosses here and offers another shortcut option to the left. Otherwise, continue to the stone cairn on the summit of Rocky Mountain for Narnian views.
Follow the path westwards and zigzag down to meet the stony track from where the walk started. Turn right on to this track, cross the concrete bridge, pass through the gate, and follow the path back to the car park.
HOW TO GET THERE
The walk starts at Leitrim Lodge car park on Sandbank Road, about three miles south of Hilltown and six miles north-east of Rostrevor.
FIND OUT MORE
Newry Tourist Information Centre
Bagenal’s Castle, Newry
028 3031 3170
The Balmoral Hotel, Warrenpoint BT34 3NJ
028 4175 3222
An award-winning restaurant offering great food, a warm welcome, and views of Carlingford Lough.
Rostrevor BT34 3BW
028 4173 8965
One of these self-catering, family-run cottages has an open fire; another has a wood burning stove.
Hilltown, County Down
028 4177 2052
Visit Santa at his official Irish residence. Appointments must be booked.