The Ring of Gullion is the remnants of huge volcanic activity about 58 million years ago with the magnificent Slieve Gullion, long celebrated in song and story as Ireland’s “Mountain of Mystery,” at its centre.The grant will help the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership preserve and protect this unique landscape and at the same time create trails so that people will be able to access parts of this historic landscape for the first time.
Much of the area used to be occupied by the British Army whose watchtowers dominated the landscape. The watchtowers were abandoned in 2001 and demolished thereafter.The project will also put in place a comprehensive training programme and offer courses for walking leaders, budding natural historians, archaeologists and Ring of Gullion Heritage Ambassadors.
Paul Mullan, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland, said: “We invest heavily in the conservation of distinctive landscapes across the UK. In Northern Ireland alone we have granted £11.8 million through our Landscape Partnerships programme. We believe this is important and exciting work because it opens up beautiful areas for public access, helps us to conserve traditional skills and makes an important contribution to the economy, including the tourism industry. The projects we are supporting combined cover an area of 1,923km², this is roughly 5 times the size of Lough Neagh, 14% of Northern Ireland or 320,500 football pitches.
“The Ring of Gullion is one of the most significant investments to date – not least because of its huge historical and geological importance. We believe that our grant will help local people enjoy the heritage on their doorsteps and boost visitors to one of the most beautiful natural sites in western Europe.”
Welcoming the Heritage Lottery Fund contribution, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: “This is excellent news that HLF funding has been secured alongside contributions from my Department and Newry and Mourne District Council enabling the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership scheme to progress. I congratulate all those who worked in partnership to achieve this positive outcome for one of our most spectacular landscapes which has been rightly designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It should not be underestimated that our natural and built environments have the potential to generate significant economic benefits not least through tourism and to contribute to the health and wellbeing of local communities and visitors alike”.
Newry and Mourne District Council’s Mayor Daire Hughes added: “This is fantastic news for the Ring of Gullion and the district. The HLF grant, together with our own and NIEAs contribution, will help us to conserve, restore and make our heritage accessible to all. This scheme will give everyone the chance to learn about and use the landscape sustainably through community activities, and training and volunteering opportunities.”
Des Murphy, Chair of the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership Board is delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded the Ring of Gullion this grant, “The news of this Grant is truly welcome. Well done to all in involved in securing funding which will help our continued efforts in both sustaining and transforming the landscape and heritage of this area”