Keeping Mum in the Mournes

Pete Jonno visits the Silent Valley

For a place called the Silent Valley, there is certainly a lot of noise made about one of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful visitor attractions. Sitting almost on top of the Mourne Mountains, just outside of Kilkeel, the Silent Valley is home to two huge dammed reservoirs that hold almost all of Greater Belfast’s water supply.

Dating from 1933, the opening of the reservoir and the decision to construct the dam have succeeded in creating a win-win solution for Northern Ireland – Belfast gained a secure and clean water supply whilst the Mournes gained a spectacular addition to its already fantastic scenery.

The idea to flood the valley dates back to the turn of the century, when 9,000 acres of the Mournes were purchased and the plans for the Dam finalised. The Silent Valley Dam took ten years and 2,000 workmen to complete, with the first water being pumped from the reservoir in 1933.

However, after twenty years of expansion in Belfast it became clear that the reservoir was struggling to cope with demand, and a new dam was constructed at Ben Crom, some three miles above the Silent Valley. Technological advances and the experiences of the first dam meant that the Ben Crom dam was built in just three years and gave the two reservoirs a capacity of 30 million gallons of water per day.

The added bonus of the damming project has been to create a country park, managed by the Water Service, which allows visitors to walk through the Mournes and around both reservoirs – enjoying both the sensation of being enclosed by the ringed peaks of the Mournes and the tranquility that the presence of so much water promotes.

The park also has a bus to take less active visitors to the Ben Crom reservoir, high in the Mournes, and is a popular spot for walkers, ramblers, runners and family visitors.

For more information call 08457 440088.