A walk on the wild side
Experience the Mourne Coastal Route for a family break to remember
Even as winter gets into its stride, Northern Ireland abounds with chances to explore, appreciate and engage with wild and beautiful natural places. So for families for whom closing the curtains and curling up at the fireplace is not an option, it’s still very much game on this January. Why not plan for some family fun around the Mourne Coastal Route? It’s a fabulous place to climb hills, ride bikes, walk the beaches and enjoy nature whatever the weather.
An excellent base for exploring the kingdom of Mourne will be the four-star Green Holiday Cottages. Located just outside the busy fishing town of Kilkeel, this newly renovated 18th-century corn and flax mill offers a choice of three lovely cottages sleeping from four to six. All have top-notch family-friendly facilities, including one built with wheelchair users in mind. With your outstanding place to stay secured, now it’s time to get out and about in this spectacular part of the world.
To get close to nature, it has to be the fantastic Kilbroney Forest Park, which you can enter 20 minutes away in the village of Rostrevor. With miles of good walking trails to try, the family can stroll the easy footpaths along the Kilbroney River and through the Fairy Glen at the lower level, or undertake the worthwhile climb to the Cloughmore Stone, which sits 1,000 ft above Rostrevor. Geologists explain the presence of this 50-tonne stone as a remnant from the last ice age. The locals will tell you it was Finn McCool who threw it over from the other side of Carlingford Lough. Either way, stand beside this massive rock and feel like a giant viewing the waters below, the surrounding Mourne Mountains and the natural world in all its splendour.
Chronicles of Narnia writer CS Lewis spent a lot of holiday time in the Mournes, and Rostrevor in particular, allowing him to imagine, dream and wonder. Perfect for children of all ages, his Narnia stories are brought to life in a short looped family trail through the woodland at Kilbroney. Aptly, the trail begins by stepping through a wardrobe.
Families can also break out the mountain bikes at Kilbroney for some high-octane adventure, allied to the stunning views and scenery. As one of the top spots in Ireland for mountain biking, there will be thrills aplenty for experienced riders. The less experienced can hook up with Cloughmore Extreme Ad- RUGGED BEAUTY: ventures for some tailored MTB coaching sessions, or can also take on some daredevil rock climbing, archery or even horse riding.
For gentler cycling and walking outdoor experiences the family could venture over to Newry and, before or after exploring the town, take in a stretch of the mostly flat and off-road Newry Canal Way.
After a day in nature, you can refuel with a well-earned family meal at the foot of the mountains in Rostrevor, where the Rostrevor Inn will serve up delicious food in a charming traditional bar and stables area. Alternatively, head back to Kilmorey Arms Hotel in Kilkeel.
Slieve Gullion Forest Park
They call Slieve Gullion a ‘mountain of mystery’ and mums, dads and kids will all enjoy the magic of this beautiful forest park complete with giant’s lair and adventure playground. Awash with ancient myth and legend, there is more than enough to keep the children enthralled for hours, while the courtyard and coffee shop will please the adults.
The Mourne Mountains
Families will relish a climb, hike, walk or leisurely amble in this vast natural playground, building memories among the breathtaking views and pristine air. A haven for all kinds With all of its seafood sourced from the town harbour less than a mile away, a truly authentic taste of Co Down awaits.
There is no shortage of things to enjoy on a drive around the Mourne Coastal Route. Look out for Cranfield Beach, great for a crisp January afternoon stroll. Also a few minutes’ drive away is the Silent Valley. Lap up the peace and solitude on the scenic walks around the mountain park, then drop in to the restaurant for a coffee and a look around. Pure natural family fun time. Visit www.discovernorthernireland.com of adventurers and relaxation seekers, the Mournes offer an experience of the great outdoors at its most scenic.
Warrenpoint Golf Club
Golfing members of the family will be drawn like a magnet to this attractive 18-hole parkland course surrounded by the Mourne Mountains on one side and Carlingford Lough on the other. It’s ranked one of the best in Northern Ireland and with three par fives within the first four holes, there are scoring chances early on. The well-stocked restaurant and bar will be a welcome sight after your round.
Not much, I’m afraid. First, a reminder of what the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) provides. The European Union says: “If you fall ill or have an accident during a visit to an EU country, as an EU citizen you have the right to receive the necessary public healthcare in any EU country under the same conditions as people in the host country.”
It also works in Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and plucky Liechtenstein.
Treatment is “at a reduced cost or, in many cases, free of charge”, says the NHS.
From 11pm GMT on March 29, 2019, when the UK ceases to part of the EU, British travellers will have no automatic right to use the EHIC, and there is no certainty about what may replace it.
In the White Paper on the future relationship with Europe, the Government says it wants “UK and EU nationals to continue to be able to use the European Health Insurance Card to receive healthcare”.
Questions and answers in the House of Lords on November 1 provided a few hints about what might happen.
Lord Bates, a junior minister at DfID, said: “The implementation period means that travellers can rely on arrangements currently in place until December 2020.”
So, if the UK exits with a withdrawal deal in place, it appears the EHIC will continue to provide cover for a further 21 months.
What about no deal? As the NHS European Office says, technical notices published by the Government for a no-deal exit do not cover “successor arrangements to the EHIC or arrangements for access to local healthcare for UK expats living or working in an EU member state”.
But Lord Bates said: “The European Commission has hinted that it recognises that it is in its interests that (reciprocal health care agreements) should continue. The only thing missing is a clear statement from the commission that that is its intent, and that is what we want.”
In other words, we don’t know.
the Cloughmore Stone, a 50-tonne granite boulder, lies on the Slieve Martin Mountain Ridge approximately 1,000 ft above Rostrevor village, (below). Below right, the Silent Valley