Explore Historical Silent Valley and the Mourne Mountains

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Explore Historical Silent Valley and the Mourne Mountains

Silent Valley Dam looking at the Mourne Mountains
Looking at Silent Valley Dam. https://www.instagram.com/caoimhetakesphotos/ Credit Caoimhe Clements

The Silent Valley Reservoir is situated in the Mourne Mountains, a short drive from Kilkeel, Co. Down. Owned by Northern Ireland Water, the reservoir is the main supply for water in Belfast City, which is approximately 45 miles north of the valley.

In the 19th century, Belfast witnessed an increased demand for water as the city’s industries, including shipbuilding, engineering, and linen, became more popular. The local engineer, Luke Livingstone Macassey, informed Belfast City Commissioners (BCDWC) to investigate the Mourne Mountains as a potential future water source for Belfast City. 

The Belfast Water Commissioners later purchased nine thousand acres of high mournes in Slieve Binnian and Ben Crom. 

Visitor buildings at Silent Valley Credit Caoimhe Clements https://www.instagram.com/caoimhetakesphotos/

History of the Silent Valley

The construction of the Silent Valley Reservoir would have taken place in four stages. 

The Mourne Wall (1904-1922) was established to keep out sheep and cattle and act as a ‘barrier’ around the 9,000 acres. The wall is an impressive 22 miles (35km) and spans over 15 peaks in the Mourne Mountains. The Silent Valley Reservoir (1922 -1933) construction became a storage vessel with 3,000 million gallons (13,620 million litres).

Binnian Tunnel (1949-1958) was a 4km tunnel through Slieve Binnian Mountain, which diverted the water from the Annalong river to the Silent Valley. Annalong is a town situated east of the valley. Ben Crom Dam (1954 -1957/58) is located 5km upstream from Silent Valley. Taking around 3 – 4 years to complete. This step marks the end of the Mourne Scheme providing water to Belfast.

Opened to the public in 1984, the Silent Valley reflects skilful engineers and a monument to the individuals who lost their lives during the construction. 

Mourne Mountains at Silent Valley Credit Caoimhe Clements https://www.instagram.com/caoimhetakesphotos/


The Silent Valley is not only steeped in history but a place of outstanding natural beauty. Witness the historical ruins of Watertown House, enjoy a visit to the valley’s cafe or embark on an adventurous day out. 

The Silent Valley accommodates every individual, whether you are an advanced hiker, a young family or wish to walk an easier route. There are six routes in total – continue below for more depth information on each route. Everyone can fully experience the Silent Valley Reservoir. 

The Nature Trail 


Green arrows will guide you on stone waymarkers. Beginning at the main car park, continue on this path to the right, which will take you over a bridge. Along the way, you will see the Kilkeel River. The trail then follows onto a boardwalk over an area of lowland heath. 

The path walk loops around, joining the footpath, taking you back to the main car park, where you first began. The trail is approximately 1.1 miles. 

Points of Interest

The Nature Trail was formerly the old railway line that connected Annalong to the Silent Valley. The purpose was to transport men and machinery during the construction of the valley. 

Today, the area is an exciting location to spot wildlife, wildflowers, and bird watching along the route. You will come across varieties of information boards giving additional information about these sightings. 

Ben Crom Dam Walk 


Ben Crom is marked out with red arrows, which will guide you along the path. The linear route will guide you alongside the Silent Valley Reservoir towards the spectacular Ben Crom Dam, starting at the main car park. This route is the longest walk and takes around six miles to complete. The path is long but flat; however, appropriate shoes are advised to be worn.  

Points of Interest

Ben Crom is located upstream from the Silent Valley, which allows you to walk past the Silent Valley Dam, passing the Binnian Tunnel and other reminders of the engineering required to help fulfil the water needs for Belfast—enjoying views of the Mourne Mountains as they guard the path. 

Heritage Walk 


You will follow the yellow arrows to complete the Heritage Walk. This path is not overly difficult and is around 2 miles long. 

Beginning at the main car park on this route, you will pass the ‘Mourne Hand’ art sculpture, a duck pond and the historical Watertown House. Continue walking as you pass the cafe and will meet steps which you will proceed to climb – you will then be met with the Silent Valley Reservoir. The walk continues along the embankment as you take in the outstanding natural beauty. Follow the waymarkers to make your way past Sally Lough. You will then reach the start of the Nature Trail. From here, turn left and make your way back towards the main car park.

Points of Interest

Heritage walk is my favourite route for the historical landmarks which it offers—witnessing the original Watertown House, which housed men during the construction of the valley. Beside the house is a memorial that remembers each person who sadly lost their lives during the building of the dams. 

Reservoir Walk


Guiding you along this path are the orange arrows marked along the way. This trail is both a highlight of history and the valley’s engineering hub. 

Points of Interest

The Heritage Trail is a circular route where you will witness the Mourne Wall, the Boat House and endless views of the Mourne Mountains.

Mountain Walk 


Start at the main car park and follow the black arrows to guide you along the Mountain Trail. 

Mountain walk is considered one of the more challenging walks in the Silent Valley. The level of difficulty is rewarded by going further in the Mourne Mountains and enjoying more spectacular views. The view is always worth the climb! 

Point of Interests

The Mountain walk will take you through the Nature Trail at the very beginning. Along the way, you will see Watertown House, Granite Quarry and the famous Silent Valley Reservoir. 

The Challenge Trail


The Challenge Trail is marked out with blue arrows. From the main car park, follow the sign for the Nature Trail. Continue on this path until you see a sign for Watertown; from here, take the steps up onto the road, take a left and continue until you reach a junction. You will now be able to witness with your wondering eyes the remains of Watertown House. 

From here, you can continue to follow the stone waymarkers as you climb the slope up to the Mourne Wall. 

Enjoy the bird’s eye view of the Silent Valley reservoir. On the way down, make your way towards the reservoir embankment. 

Points of Interest

Along the way, you will see the Granite Quarry, the Nature Trail and the endless views of the Co. Down’s beloved Mourne Mountains

Family-Friendly Environment?

Children Play Park 

While the Silent Valley is most famous for its walks, the environment accommodates all individuals. Near the main car park, past the duck pond, you will find a play park. Situated with views of the Mourne Mountains and guarded by trees. 

Duck Pond

The duck pond is an exciting way to engage with the wildlife home to the Silent Valley. Please do not feed the ducks with your food. If you wish to feed the ducks, you can purchase food at a stall located beside the pond. 

Picnic Areas 

Beside both the pond and play park are several picnic tables. The picnic area is an excellent opportunity to eat before you begin one of the trails. 

Additional Information

Due to Covid-19 Times and Prices have changed, See more information below:

Silent Valley Mountain park opening hours are daily from 9:30 am to 6 pm.

Car £5.00

Mini Bus £13.00

Coach £35.00

Pedestrian £1.60

Child £0.60

Motor Bikes £2.50 

For further enquiries, please get in touch with Northern Ireland Water 08457440088

About the author

Originally from Scotland, Colin now resides near the beautiful seaside town of Portstewart on the Causeway Coastal Route. By day he works in IT and by day off he spends much of his time travelling around the Island with his young family, writing about his experiences for many sites both locally and nationally.