Completing the main line of the former Belfast and County Down Railway, there is potential to open a 10-mile dedicated cycle and walking path from Downpatrick to Newcastle. Opening access to the Mourne countryside can help to encourage active tourism and encourage healthier lifestyles in Northern Ireland.
Starting from the working heritage railway in Downpatrick, the track bed heads out following near the line of the Ballydugan Road towards Clough. As the proposed pathway crosses the A25, there is potential for linkages to Clough, Seaforde and its Gardens and Tropical Butterfly House. The line then turns South West towards Dundrum Bay, beginning one of the most spectacular walkways Northern Ireland could boast. The old line hugs the coast, extending into the bay at one point (see picture). Dundrum Bay lies at the edge of the Murlough Bay Nature reserve, lending some wonderful tourism potential to the route.
The route passes into Dundrum town, a wonderful stop off for lunch on a day trip down the Greenway. Leaving the village, the line crosses the bay by bridge, with beautiful scenery as the Mourne Mountains begin to loom large. Continuing its winding path South West, the landscape changes to grassy sand dunes as it approaches the outskirts of Newcastle. Murlough Bay is a popular beach for locals and tourists alike, and the nearby caravan park would benefit from direct traffic-free access to Newcastle town centre.
The line follows on between Royal County Down Golf Club, originally developed with the assistance of the Belfast and County Down Railway, and more recent residential streets. On approach to the recently renewed town centre of Newcastle, the Slieve Donard hotel is perched on the shoreline, and the old Train Station still stands at the terminus of the line.
Newcastle and the surrounding area is a wonderful leisure location for short breaks by tourists and ‘staycationers’ alike. Short stay accommodation availability lends itself well to a stop-off on a cycling tour holiday of the type Northern Ireland could successfully promote with a fully traffic-free path network. The complementary outdoor activity market is rich in the area, with the Mourne Mountains providing hiking and mountain biking trails.
Beautiful scenery, fantastic leisure activities within reach, great restaurants and world class accommodation – building a Greenway from Downpatrick to Newcastle is a signature project to promote the best of Northern Ireland.
*Note for readers – click into the Google Map above, switch to Satellite, and you can explore the route close up. Many road crossings have Streetview available to see the route in greater detail.