After packing up our cloaks and swords we left Inch Abbey and drove through the town of Downpatrick until we reached the A25 road and then we headed westward past the village of Clough until we reached the town of Castlewellan where we then headed south toward the Mourne Mountains and soon reached our destination just outside the village of Bryansford: Tollymore Forest Park, also know to Game of Thrones fans as The Haunted Forest.
Clough is a small village of less than 300 people. 3500 people in Northern Ireland were killed during the Troubles. Two of these deaths occurred in Clough. On May 22, 1987 Charles Watson, a 35 year-old Protestant member of the Ulster Volunteer Force was shot and killed by the IRA at his home in Clough. On July 27, 1997 James Morgan, a 16 year-old Catholic from Castlewellan was beaten to death in a field in Clough by members of the Loyalist Volunteer Force.
Castlewellan is a small town of about 2400 people. Ten people were killed in Castlewellan between 1972 and 1992 during the Troubles. Seven of these were killed by the IRA, two by the Ulster Volunteer Force and one by the British Army. This last person was a 21 year-old member of the IRA who was shot as he was walking on the grounds of St Malachy’s. Also, the teenager who was killed in Clough in 1997 was from Castlewellan.
Tollymore view a tad to the right of previous photo.We were about to set off on our second trek of the day. This would be a three-mile hike that began with a long downhill stretch and levelled off somewhat as we walked along the river. The most difficult portion of the hike for me was that stretch toward the end of the hike that now was all uphill.
The splendor of Tollymore.
Tollymore Forest Park came into existence on June 2, 1955, making it the first state forest park in Northern Ireland.
Another crop for a vertical view.
The opening scene of the first episode in the first season of Game of Thrones was filmed here in the Tollymore Forest. This is when the deserter from the Night Watch comes across the dismembered bodies of the Wildlings who were massacred by the White Walkers.
Tollymore was the last stop on our tour and we then turned around and drove back to Castlewellan and Clough where we switched to the A24 and headed back to Belfast, passing Ballynahinch, where we attended our family wedding the previous day. Our guide turned on the first episode of the first season of Game of Thrones for our pleasure on the return trip. We pulled into our parking spot at Jury’s Inn at exactly 6:00pm with five minutes to go for the episode. That was it. We had to get off the bus. I still haven’t seen the last five minutes of the show.
Bonus — The Mountains of Mourne
The Tollymore Forest Park is at the foot of the Mourne Mountains in southeast County Down. We drove through the Mournes one day in 2009 with Henry and Geraldine and stopped for a bite at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa near the Royal County Down Golf Club in Newcastle. There we saw the dark Mournes sweep down to the sea.
Percy French (1854 – 1920) was a popular songwriter and entertainer around the turn of the century and also an excellent watercolorist. He was born in Tulsk in County Roscommon, about halfway between Strokestown and Boyle. We stayed at the Percy French Hotel in Strokestown in 2002 when we attended the Ballykilcline Convention that year.
One of my Dad’s favorite songs was Abdul Abulbul Amir, one of French’s popular ditties, and I still have that record in my music collection. But French’s most popular song was The Mountains of Mourne which he wrote in 1896.
Many have sung this song over the years including the Kingston Trio (Nick Reynolds) in 1960, Charlie King in 1979, Don McLean in the 80s, Finbar Furey in 2003, and Celtic Thunder (Keith Harkin) in 2008. Here’s Johnny McEvoy’s rendition from 2000:
Here’s a bit of trivia for you: The highest point in Northern Ireland is Slieve Donard in the Mournes. It stands at 850 m (2,790 feet) and is the seventh highest in all of Ireland.
Extra bonus — Abdul Abulbul Amir
Ok, OK — I hear that there are at least a thousand people out there who can’t wait to hear Abdul Abulbul Amir. So here is the song as recorded by Frank Crumit in 1927: