The search will soon be on for a company to develop a cable car ‘gondola’ to ferry visitors up to the heights of the Mournes.
The Donard Gondola scheme would carry visitors up into the mountains from the resort of Newcastle.
The proposal was made in a tourism roadmap for the area called the South-East Master Plan, published by the Department for Social Development and local councils.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council says the proposal has been approved and the next step is to issue tender documents and identify possible locations.
It had been suggested that the gondola would run from Donard Park at the foot of the mountain range to Millstone Quarry or Thomas Mountain Quarry, with a timeframe of five to 10 years.
The original plan says: “To fully enjoy the Mournes the visitor must be reasonably fit, be prepared and have sufficient time to complete a trek.
“The gondola would provide a facility to enable everyone, including families with young children and disabled users, to access the Mourne Mountains.”
A cafe may be built at the top of the cable car line.
Newry, Mourne and Down Council last year agreed to press ahead with plans for the exciting development and put the gondola ride at the heart of its new tourism master plan
The plan will identify detailed financial costings, with Tourism NI providing the local council with monetary support to produce the new document.
Council officials say the gondola would give people a chance to see the spectacular landscape of the area from a unique vantage point.
A spokesperson for Newry, Mourne and Down Council said: “The next step for the council is to issue appropriate tender documents and appoint a company to deliver the visioning plan for Newcastle and the proposed gondola development.
“Potential locations will be identified as part of this visioning plan.”
Newcastle councillor Willie Clarke said the cable car initiative has the potential to rival any tourist product in Ireland.
“I am happy to support the proposal for a master plan for Newcastle with a focus on access into the Mournes and a chair lift to Thomas’ Quarry,” he said.
Councillor Clarke said there are also opportunities to develop the forest at the foot of the Mournes for activity-based tourism projects and the area’s industrial heritage needs to be expanded, building on the success of the existing granite trail, which could include providing an open museum on one of the older quarries in the mountain range.