Winter Solstice Festival – Alive with Myths and Legends

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and the Ring of Gullion Partnership have kicked off their Winter Solstice Festival this month.

Events include the Michael J. Murphy Winter School, Christmas decoration workshops, retreats, races, walks, plays talks, finding out about the geological history of the area and much much more.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Roisin Mulgrew and tour leader Una Walsh with a tour group exploring Celtic sites in the area.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Roisin Mulgrew and tour leader Una Walsh with a tour group exploring Celtic sites in the area.


Highlights include a Willow Wreath Workshop, 18 November, 1.30pm, Slieve Gullion Courtyard, £10. Get into the spirit of the season by learning how to make traditional Christmas wreaths using willow. In this workshop you will be shown how to create these unique decorations and given the skills to produce your very own piece of traditional Christmas craft, decorated with green foliage, ribbon and festive Christmas trimmings. Once you’re finished you can take this hand made creation home for all of your friends and family to enjoy and admire.

Straw Craft Ireland is based at the shores of Lough Neagh in North Armagh; an area steeped in the history of traditional Irish crafts. They provide beautifully intricate items woven in straw in a traditional and uniquely Irish plaiting method as well as promoting the continuance of ancient traditional Ulster and Irish crafts, customs and culture, click here for further details of their work .

This workshop is designed for adults, but children may accompany adults to assist with the decorating. Booking is essential.

Ballymoyer Christmas Experience 26 November, 3pm, St Malachy's PS, Ballymoyer. £6 per child, adults free. Join Father Christmas and his Elves as they sprinkle some magic Christmas dust on the hills of Ballymoyer.

Visit Santa in his Winter Wonderland. Make a Christmas Wish in Santa’s cottage, Children’s Games and Craft Activities. Local Arts and Craft Stalls, Festive Cake Sale, Hot Chocolates and Mulled Wine.

Tí scannán – Bad Day for the Cut1 December 7pm, Ti Chulainn. £5 - featuring a Q&A session with director Chris Baugh. 

A locally produced thriller Bad day for the cut, stars Nigel O’ Neill and Susan Lynch in gritty revenge drama.

It is the debut movie by director/writer Chris Baugh and producer/writer Brendan Mullin, a Tyrone pair who run Six Mile Hill Productions.

The film, tells the story of a mild-mannered middle-aged Irish farmer, who still lives at home with his mother, who sets off on a mission of revenge when the old lady is murdered.

Redmond O’Hanlon – The Life and Death of an Outlaw 2 December, 7pm, Ti Chullainn, £10

Rapparee Five present a unique performance, telling the Redmond O’Hanlon story, brought to life using narration, original songs, and dramatic portrayals of the principal characters.

The story begins at Downpatrick Gaol, in 1681, with a mother grieving the loss of her son, Redmond O’Hanlon, recently assassinated, and whose head is spiked above the walls. The mother laments her son with an Irish language keen.

We are then transported back in time to 1640, and the birth of Redmond. We meet his parents, and see him grow to boy and man. His journey takes him away from family, to war in Europe, and back again in Ireland, with all his hopes and aspirations.

As his fate creeps ever closer, we meet the various characters who played major parts in his life. Treachery and bloodshed are never far away as Redmond becomes outlawed, and we edge towards the tragic conclusion of our tale.

Arriving back where we started, at Downpatrick Gaol, we wonder if this really is the end.

A Magical Programme

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Roisin Mulgrew said,” For the next two months, the Ring of Gullion Partnership is providing a magical programme of events showcasing all that is great about the area with a range of lectures, plays, and craft workshops. This area reflects the mix of cultures from the Neolithic Era to the present day. The Ring of Gullion and South Armagh is an area which has always represented a frontier: from the ancient Iron Age defences of the Dorsey, through the Anglo-Norman Pale, and latterly to the modern border. It is alive with history, awash in scenic beauty and bursting with culture. It’s been said of South Armagh that you can ‘kick any stone’ and it will tell a story.”

Councillor Mulgrew continued, “This Winter Solstice Festival wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of a number of partners and event organisers across the area.  The Festival will provide an enriching experience and enlighten people’s view of the Ring of Gullion, leaving them hungry for more, giving them a taste of this rich cultural and archaeological place which is brimming with talent, myths, legends and history.”

The region’s geological history and archaeological heritage can be explored with expert Dr Kirstin Lemon on 16 November.  For those interested in astronomy, Dr Frank Prendergast will be speaking in Cross Square Hotel on 7 December about his work in the field of Cultural Astronomy and the cultural symbolism and meaning in the solstice alignment of standing stones in the Irish landscape.

For a full list of events and bookings check out the Ring of Gullion website at or telephone 028 3082 8590.