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Murlough Beach And Nature Reserve: Parking, Trails + History

Murlough Beach And Nature Reserve: Parking, Trails + History

Murlough Beach is arguably one of the best beaches in Down.

Watched over by the Mourne Mountains, this five-mile stretch of stunning coastline on Dundrum Bay is also home to Murlough National Nature Reserve – a gorgeous 6000-year-old sand dune system!

Below, you’ll find info on the various walks at Murlough Bay, the history of the area and what to do nearby.

Some quick need-to-knows about Murlough Beach

Murlough Bay

Photo via Shutterstock

Although a visit to Murlough Bay is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Murlough Beach is located on Dundrum Bay a couple of miles north of the cracking seaside town of Newcastle in southern County Down. As well as Newcastle, the other significant town in the area is Downpatrick which is around a 20-minute drive.

2. Parking

There is parking at Murlough National Nature Reserve Car Park, located next to Lazy BJ Ranch and Mourneview Caravan Parks. The car park gate closes at 5pm (the reserve stays open until 7pm) and opens again at 8am, and there are toilet facilities on-site. To access the beach, visitors must walk a few hundred meters through the nature reserve.

3. Swimming

While walking is the biggest draw at Murlough Beach, you might fancy a dip in the water if you’re here in the warm summer months! And between July and August, there are lifeguards on duty daily from 10am until 6pm.

4. A walkers paradise

Offering the best and most extensive example of dune heath within Ireland, Murlough Nature Reserve’s network of paths and boardwalks are a true walkers paradise. Throw in the stunning views across the bay towards the Mourne Mountains and you have yourself one of the best coastal landscapes in the country! 

About Murlough Nature Reserve

Murlough Nature Reserve

Photo by Bernie Brown via Ireland’s Content Pool

As you can probably already tell, Murlough Beach is a pretty special location! The beach is five miles long and plenty of watersports take place out in the Bay too.

In fact, since the winds can get very strong around here, it’s become a popular spot for surfing, kite surfing and windsurfing. 

But, of course, the main attraction here is walking and with 1300 acres of upland – comprised principally of dry and wet heath and acid grasslands – there’s a seemingly endless amount of trails and views to enjoy. 

Murlough National Nature Reserve is owned by the National Trust and managed as Ireland’s first Nature Reserve since 1967.

It’s also home to over 720 species of butterflies and moths, one of which, the Marsh Fritillary butterfly, is of European importance.

On top of that, the reserve is internationally important for wintering wildfowl and waders.

Things to do at Murlough Beach

Murlough Nature Reserve

Photos via Shutterstock

There’s plenty to see and do around Murlough National Nature Reserve. Here are a few suggestions for you:

1. Grab a coffee (probably from Newcastle!)

But since Newcastle and its many cafes are literally just a five-minute drive down the road, there’s no harm in grabbing a coffee there and making the short ride up to Murlough National Nature Reserve Car Park. 

There are plenty of places here to choose from, with the Savoy Cafe and the Shimna Cafe two of the best but we’d go with Maud’s Cafe as the pick of the bunch. 

From its unique exterior to its cracking range of coffee and food, there’s loads to love about Maud’s and it’s the spot we’d choose. 

2. Go for a ramble on a beach with epic views

Once you’ve sorted yourself for coffee, hit the beach and soak up some of the finest views in Northern Ireland. And with five miles of space, there’s a ton of room to enjoy so take your time.

Don’t hesitate to kick your sandals off and head for a paddle either, while taking in some deadly views of the Mourne Mountains!

If you’re here in the winter, their peaks look pretty awesome dusted in white snow (definitely don’t bother with a paddle at this time of year though!). 

3. Or hit one of the nature trails

You can’t visit Murlough Bay without making the most of being next to one of Ireland’s most spectacular nature reserves! 

There are a few trails to choose from. The Murlough Nature Reserve North Point Trail is a 2 ½-mile (4km) walk taking you through a variety of scenery and habitats in this part of the Reserve, and provides views in all directions, as well as an opportunity to see a ton of wildlife.

The 3-mile (4.8km) South End Trail covers a wide range of habitats including heathland, species-rich grassland, lichen-rich hollows, gorse and bracken scrub, and woodland.

Finally, the 1-1.5-miles (1.6 – 2.4 km) Woodland Walk is a lovely little trail amid enchanting forest and some interesting species of tree.

Places to visit near Murlough Bay

One of the beauties of Murlough National Nature Reserve is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Down.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Murlough Beach (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Food in Newcastle (10-minute drive)

Nikis Kitchen Cafe

Photos via Nikis Kitchen Cafe on FB

There’s some excellent restaurants in Newcastle for those of you in need of a feed after your ramble at Murlough Nature Reserve. From cosy cafes to fine dining, you’ll find something to tickle most tastebuds.

2. Many Mourne Walks (5-20 minute drive, depending on start)

mourne mountains

Photos via Shutterstock

The Mourne Mountains offer some of Ireland’s greatest hikes and there are a bunch of different trails to take on. From the underrated Slieve Doan walk to tackling the mighty Slieve Donard, these mountains are a unique and satisfying challenge. 

3. Castlewellan Forest Park (20-minute drive)

Castlewellan Forest

Photos via Shutterstock

Packed to the brim with activities and beauty, Castlewellan Forest Park is a gorgeous park nestled into the countryside north of the Mournes (it has great views of them too!). With a mile-long lake, an outstanding tree and shrub collection and a garden featuring terraces, fountains, ornamental gates and flower borders, it’s a beautifully peaceful spot to stroll. 

FAQs about Murlough National Nature Reserve

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is it worth seeing?’ to ‘Can you swim here?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Can you swim at Murlough beach?

Please note that lifeguards are only on duty here during the summer months, so you should check locally to see if it’s safe before entering the water.

Is Murlough Nature Reserve worth visiting?

Yes. Murlough National Nature Reserve is a gorgeous spot for a stroll and there’s plenty of trails for you to tackle here.

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