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Ireland Gazeteer

County Down in 1837

Surface Character

Down forms the south-eastern extremity of Ulster. The surface of nearly all the county is undulating; but the only uncultivated district is that occupied by the Mourne mountains and the detached group of Slieve Croob.

The mountainous district of Mourne is bounded on the east by the bay of Dundrum and on the west by the bay of Carlingford, and covers an area of nearly 90 square miles.

Beginning from the west, the principal elevations are Cleomack, 1,257 feet; Tievedockaragh, 1,557 feet; Eagle Mountain, 2,084 feet, having on the north Rocky Mountain, 1,328 feet, and on the south Finlieve, 1,888 feet; Slieve Muck North, 2,198 feet, from the north-western declivity of which the river Bann takes its rise at an altitude of 1,467 feet; Slieve Muck South, 1,931 feet: Slieve Bingian, 2,449 feet; and north of these Chimney Rock Mountains, 2,152 feet: Slieve Bearnagh, 2,394 feet; Slieve Corragh, 2,512 feet; and Slieve Donard, 2,796 feet, the highest ground in the county, which overhangs the sea above Newcastle, a small town situated on the western shore of Dundrum bay.

This mountain group contains much fine scenery. Its north-eastern declivities are clothed for several miles with the plantations of Tullymore Park, the splendid residence of the Earl of Roden; its western flanks overhang the beautiful vicinities of Warren's Point and Rosstrevor, and on the narrow strip between its southern declivities and the sea is situated the fine demesne of Mourne Park the residence of the Earl of Kilmorey.

The Slieve Croob range covers an area of about ten square miles to the north-east of the Mourne Group. Slieve Croob, the highest elevation of the range, has an altitude of 1,755 feet; on its north-eastern declivity the river Lagan rises at an elevation of about 1,250 feet above the level of the sea.

The remainder of the county, about 850 square miles is productive, being either under cultivation or serving the purposes of turbary.

The numerous hills which diversify the surface are seldom too high for arable cultivation ; and the irregularity of the surface facilitates drainage, and likewise affords a shelter, which, from the scarcity of timber in some parts of the county, is of material advantage.

A low chain of cultivated eminences, well timbered, and on the northern and western side covered with the demesnes and improvements of a resident gentry, commences east of Dromore, and extends under various names alone the valley of the Lagan and the eastern shore of Belfast Loch, as far as Bangor.

The only detached eminence of any consequence is the hill of Scrabo at the head of Loch Strangford, 534 feet. This range separates the basin of the Lacan from that of Loch Strangford.