I was chatting on the phone an hour ago to our friend and contributor Sally Vandervelden – who is off soon to foreign climes, and I’d have been jealous, except that every day I can, and do stroll through South Armagh (my favourite place in all the world), Newry and South Down. We have here not one but TWO Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Though I wander here all the time, I still, every now and then take a sharp intake of breath at the majesty that confronts me. But why believe me? I will quote from the Guide to Designation 1991.

Killeavy Old Church in Ring of Gullion

There are few small areas in Ireland which retain their local identity as clearly and proudly as the Ring of gullion in South Armagh. The combination of difficult hilly terrain and Ulster‘s ancient frontier explains much of the distinctive culture and landscape.

The huge heather-clad bulk of Sliagh Gullion dominates the neatly divided landscape of walled fields and small farms. The mountain itself is encircled by the lower, rugged hills known as the ring dyke. Between the mountain and the ring lie lowlands of varying width, from a narrow valley at Lislea to a broad plain at Killeen. The southern rim of the ring dyke is a natural boundary of Ulster (now the unnatural border of two jurisdictions – Editor’s addition). 

The Mullaghbane area has a unique cultural identity. The landscape reflects not only the unique physical structure of the rocks (see Geology articles here: Ed) and the natural heath vegetation but also the way in which the land has been farmed for thousands of years. Particularly attractive is the contrast of the rough colourful mountain slopes of rock, heather and whin and bracken with the small rectangular fields of lower slopes and valleys. Stone monuments and remains of buildings illustrate the story of the past and, with the small, traditional farmhouses – with buildings grouped around a yard, they are part of the rich, living heritage.

There’s lots more, but there’s an hour of daylight left and I’m off there to drink in the landscape, the solitude and the silence.  I’ll finish this another time!!  SORRY!!

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