The Mourne Mountains Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) includes the Mourne Mountains, a granite mountain range in County Down, south east Northern Ireland. The range stretches 24 km (~15 km) from Newcastle to Rostrevor and the highest of the twelve peaks is Slieve Donard at 850 m (~2,789 ft). Designated in 1986, the AONB covers a total area of 580km2 (224 sq mi) and it is under consideration as the first National Park in Northern Ireland.
The primary vegetation is species of heather but other plants in the AONB include Bog Cotton, Roseroot, Harebell, Wood sorrel and Heath spotted Orchids. Many varieties of birds are seen from the common raven to Peregrine falcon, buzzard, stonechat, grey wagtail, wren and snipe.
The Mournes are very popular with hill walkers, cyclists and rock climbers. Climbers come for the large number of granite outcrops and tors dotted throughout the range. One older guidebook lists 26 separate crags with around 900 routes from beginners to the most difficult.
There is a wide variety of walks for all levels of ability and interest through forest, valley or along the coast. Longer distance routes such as the Ulster Way and Lecale Way also pass through the AONB. There are seven formally designated cycle routes, the Mourne and Slieve Croob Cycle Routes, which traverse the spectacular countryside from beaches to hillsides.
Mountain biking, fishing and boating are also available, and there are over 350 ancient monuments in the area.