John McCullagh October 24, 2005
downshirearms.jpg

The nineteenth century Parliamentary Gazetter – looking back on the previous century – recorded that in 1766 the first significant building in Hilltown – the Episcopalian Church – was erected near Eight Mile Bridge  ‘at the joint expense of Wills, Earl of Hillsborough, and the late Board of First Fruits’. 
 

The site chosen for the building was at that time completely surrounded by heather and furze and there was only a bridle path to the spot, so that the lime required for the work had to be carried on the backs of horses (yes, across the Square from this spot today!).

At that recorded time Hilltown had a population of more than three hundred. There was (the Gazetter recorded) a high class hotel with several excellent boarding houses. The object clearly was to enhance Hilltown as a tourist destination.  And indeed, why not?

The village, it boasted, had many modern conveniences: excellent postal and telephone facilities, newsagents, regular bus service, motor cars for hire, photographer, hairdresser and well-regulated shops to meet every need.

There were two Catholic Churches in close proximity to the village: an Episcopalian Church and a Presbyterian Church. In regard to hygiene and sanitation Hilltown, it said, was beyond reproach. It had a first-class water supply from the newly-constructed reservoir in the Mourne Mountains: the streets and premises were kept in spotless condition: there was a good drainage system.

These circumstances, coupled with its situation at the base of the Mournes and its proximity to the sea, made the village one of the healthiest spots in Ireland.



Though we may smile now at those ‘facilities’ that may – or may not – have impressed the potential tourist, we should remark that
such basic services remain absolutely necessary.  We simply have acquired more exacting standards.  Such that Hilltown more than adequately meets!

Hilltown today correctly promotes itself as the Gateway to the Mournes.  Our photos show the excellent hostelry Downshire Arms now under the management of the Clonduff Development Association. 

Having eaten and stayed here recently, I could not recommend it highly enough.

This whole area is a hiker’s paradise!

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