Sitting amid the stunning Mourne Mountains, the Silent Valley Reservoir is an amazing example of human engineering and ingenuity.
But far more than that, the incredible surroundings provide a wealth of breathtaking views. With several walks to enjoy in the area, as well as a cafe and visitor centre, it makes for a spectacular day out.
Below, you’ll find info on everything from the Silent Valley car park and a map of the walks to plenty more.
Some quick need-to-knows about Silent Valley Reservoir
Before we delve deeper into the Silent Valley Reservoir, let’s go over some of the basics.
Situated in the Silent Valley Park amid the Mourne Mountains, the reservoir provides much of the water for County Down. It’s around 50 miles south of Belfast and the closest large town is Kilkeel. The reservoir is surrounded by mountain peaks and woodlands and boasts spectacular views.
The Silent Valley car park seems to cause some confusion. There’s a large car park at Silent Valley Reservoir, and it’s from here that the walking trails begin. Access to the park is charged per vehicle:
- Car: £5
- Coach: £35
- Minibus: £13
- Motorcycle: £2.50
- On foot: £1.60 per adult and £0.60 per child
3. Opening hours
The park is open daily between 10 am and 6:30 pm.
4. Part of the Mournes
The Mourne Mountain range includes some of the highest peaks in Northern Ireland. There are just under 100 sizable peaks in the range, which incorporates some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. The Silent Valley Reservoir lies between some of these majestic mountains.
5. Visitor centre and cafe
The onsite visitor centre at Silent Valley Mountain Park is an educational hub that is packed full of fascinating exhibitions and interactive displays. Meanwhile, the attached cafe is a top spot to grab a coffee and a bite to eat after exploring the region.
About Silent Valley Park
Built between 1922 and 1932, it took a mighty workforce of over 1,000 men to construct Silent Valley Reservoir.
It was ideally placed to capture the water flowing from the Mourne Mountains, in an uninhabited, sparse region ringed by mountains.
This bold endeavour paid off, with the reservoir now supplying the water for all of County Down and a sizable chunk of Belfast.
A varied landscape
Despite the modern world encroaching on the rugged, raw beauty of the Silent Valley, it remains a place of stunning tranquillity.
The varied landscape that takes in mountains, forests, lakes, and wide-open plains, is a fantastic place to wander. Home to diverse wildlife, it’s a top spot for kids and adults alike.
Visitors can indulge in the peaceful scenery by following one of the three walks that criss-cross the area. Varying in length and difficulty, there’s something for everyone.
The Mourne Wall
No visit to the Silent Valley Reservoir would be complete without checking out the Mourne Wall. This impressive dry-stone wall stretches for more than 35 km (22 miles), passing over 15 summits.
It circles the catchment area and was under construction from 1904 until 1922.
The Silent Valley walks
There are many Silent Valley walks, but I’m going to show you three of our favourites.
For the longer walks, make sure to dress accordingly and plan your trip in advance.
1. Silent Valley Ben Crom Dam Walk (10.5 km/3.5 – 4.5 hours)
At 10.5 km, this linear walk to the Ben Crom Dam is the longest of all the trails in Silent Valley Mountain Park. Despite this, it’s also generally considered among the easiest, with mostly flat ground and a tarmac path for much of the way.
The walk offers peace and tranquillity, with pleasant views of the mountains and of course, the impressive lake. Wildflowers dot the grassy areas, while sheep roam around at random.
The immense dam walls eventually loom up before you, and though the climb up may seem tough, the zig-zagging steps make it fairly easy going. From the top, the views are fantastic and it’s a nice place to soak in the scenery.
2. Heritage Trail (3km/1-hour)
This looped trail offers is one of the handier Silent Valley walks. This is a fairly easy-going trail that takes in a number of historic landmarks linked with the Silent Valley.
It takes you up to the lower dam wall, where you’ll be treated to stunning views with the reservoir ringed by mountains one way, and rolling green fields, dotted with historic buildings the other.
Along the way you’ll pass a fascinating Watertown House, art sculptures like the Mourne Hand, and a memorial commemorating the nine men who lost their lives during the construction of the reservoir.
A slightly hilly walk, the path takes you through park and grasslands. Just follow the yellow arrows.
Related read: Check out our guide to 13 of the best Mourne Mountain walks
3. Silent Valley Mountain Trail (3km/1.5-2.5 hours)
One of the more challenging Silent Valley walks, the mountain trail is a looped route that climbs some of the slopes surrounding the lake. You’ll arrive at the mighty Mourne Wall as you tackle this short but slopey trek.
From here you’ll be rewarded with some superb views over the reservoir and surrounding area.
The well-laid trail is easy to navigate, just follow the black arrows. Along the way, you’ll pass through the now-abandoned village that was built for the construction workers, Watertown.
The trail also takes you through woodlands, grassy slopes, and along the banks of gurgling streams.
Things to do near Silent Valley Reservoir
One of the beauties of Silent Valley Mountain Park 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 the Silent Valley!
1. Slieve Donard (20-minute drive)
At a towering 850 metres (2,790 ft), Slieve Donard is the highest mountain in Northern Ireland. It’s one of the Mourne Mountains, and it’s easy to reach from Silent Valley. In fact, you could try and follow the Mourne Wall, which runs up and over the summit. Steeped in ancient history and myth, it also offers up some incredible views, extending to the Isle of Man, Scotland, Wales, and the Wicklow Mountains on a clear day.
2. Kilbroney Park (25-minute drive)
Set amid stunning scenery, the gorgeous Kilbroney Park is well worth a visit. It comprises riverside walks, ancient woodlands, an amazing arboretum, sports facilities, and plenty of places for a picnic. A number of walks traverse the park, including the magical Narnia trail and the Cloughmore trail. The latter takes in ‘Kodak Corner’, a viewpoint that boasts some of the best views in the country.
3. Newcastle (30-minute drive)
Newcastle is a fabulous seaside town, home to the popular Newcastle Beach. Stretching 2.5 km in length, it offers a mix of sandy stretches, rock pools, and pebbles. It’s a top place to relax, with great views of the mountains making a superb backdrop. The town is awash with great places to eat, amusement arcades, and some smashing pubs.
4. Tollymore Forest Park (45-minute drive)
Sitting at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, Tollymore Forest Park covers more than 630-hectares and enjoys stunning surroundings. Four trails of varying lengths take in much of the scenery, though visitors can also enjoy horse riding, camping, and many other outdoor activities. Local wildlife includes red squirrels, otters, kingfishers, and dippers.
FAQs about Silent Valley Mountain Park
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the Glenveagh Castle Gardens to the tour.
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 walk around Silent Valley Reservoir?
Yes, there are plenty of walks that take you up and along the water, like the Silent Valley Ben Crom Dam Walk.
How much is the Silent Valley car park?
Prices for the Silent Valley car park vary: Car: £5, Coach: £35, Minibus: £13, Motorcycle: £2.50, On foot: £1.60 per adult and £0.60 per child.
Andy was once on a glorious worldwide trip on his equally glorious motorcycle. After 4 years, he’d still only made it as far as Eastern Europe, before falling in love with his surroundings and deciding to settle down a while. Nowadays, he spends his time writing about traveling through the places he once explored, normally while sipping a pint.