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In a first for the area, Slieve Gullion Forest Park hosted HRH Prince Charles yesterday afternoon. It was part of his two day visit to the north and he was accompanied on his short forest walk by Lord Caledon the Lord Lieutenant of County Armagh

Prince Charles met with locals as well as schoolchildren from nearby primary schools including Dromintee.

Prince Charles with Padraig Carragher, Bluebell Lane Glamping; Darren Rice, AONB and Geopark Manager and Colleen Savage, Ring of Gullion Ambassador . Photograph: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Young musicians from Traditional Arts Partnership (TAP) were on hand to keep the music flowing as the monarch in waiting took a walk around The Giants Lair and checked out the fantastic facilities for visitors, at Slieve Gullion.

Padraig Carragher, Bluebell Lane Glamping, Mullaghbane spoke at length with the Prince about tourism in South Armagh and about Bluebell Lane and how he has planted around 20,000 native trees there. Padraig said "He wished me the best of luck with my venture."

The Prince learned the story of the Cailleach Beara's lake on the summit of Slieve Gullion, where legend has it a young Fionn MacCumhaill was tricked into jumping into the lake to help the Cailleach Beara but he was turned into an old man when he came out, and even when she gave him back his youth his hair remained white. The story goes that if you swim in the lake even now, your hair will turn white. Padraig Carragher joked with The Prince “I see you’ve already been for a swim in the lake.”

Prince Charles and Lord Caledon visited Slieve Gullion yesterday and called in on the village of Caledon today. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Darren Rice, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Geopark Manager helped show the prince around giving him an overview on the AONB designation, and of their UNESCO Global Geopark application.

Speaking after the visit Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Councillor Laura Devlin said “It’s been a tough year for everyone, but this event today marks a reopening of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. The Ring of Gullion welcomes visitors with open arms. Businesses have been working harder than ever this past year, developing new experiences through the Atlantic Culturescape project, they’ve been refurbishing accommodation, and there are many more outdoor licenses across the district.”

She added “We are lucky enough to live in one of the last undiscovered gems on these islands, and we were delighted to welcome The Prince here today, as we will all visitors over the coming months and years.”

Pupils from Dromintee PS meet Prince Charles. Photograph: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

His Royal Highness toured the park, following the path through the woodland and met project partners, research partners, volunteers and conservation workers along the way. The Prince learned how NMDDC operates to reduce erosion on the fragile ecosystem on Slieve Gullion and supports local trade, buying sheep’s wool to under-lay the upland paths. His Royal Highness learned of the work being done to help preserve the population of red squirrels and the important role pine martens may have to play in their survival.

The royal helicopter flew over Newry on it's way to Slieve Gullion. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The Royal visitor's helicopter flew over Newry going and coming from his South Armagh visit. Whether anyone pointed out Victoria Lock and the Albert Basin to him or what he thought of Newry will remain unknown.

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