Categories: Short Breaks

Of course there are more than 8 ways to enjoy a short break in County Down. After all this is the home of the Mourne Mountains, Murlough Beach, Strangford Lough, Hillsborough Castle, Castle Ward Demense (aka Winterfell) and a world class championship golf course or two. 

So we think 8 ideas is just about right to give you the inspiration to plan a short break of your own here in County Down. 

Pure luxury between the mountains and the sea 

Stay in pure luxury at the foot of the Mournes in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa (4*). The hotel stands on six acres of private grounds and is known for providing top hospitality for over 100 years. 

Treat your eyes to stunning panoramic views across the Irish Sea and the world-famous Royal County Down Golf Club (Voted Number 1 in the World's 100 Greatest Golf Courses, Golf Digest, 2017) from your luxurious room. Pack your swimsuit and make use of the hotel’s stunning swimming pool and undergo replenishing treatments in the spa. 

Trek up, down and across the majestic Mourne Mountains 

After dropping your bags off, it’s time to get outdoors and get moving! The best way is a trek up Northern Ireland’s highest and most dramatic mountain range. There are walking routes up each of the mountains and you don’t have to climb the highest peaks to experience their majestic beauty. Breathe in the fresh air as you take in spectacular scenery including forest parks, coastal views and impressive gardens. Don’t miss the Silent Valley for its spectacular tranquillity. 

A coastal adventure to admire at Murlough Bay 

For a blast of fresh sea air and a taste of salt on your tongue, head to the beach at Murlough Nature Reserve where you will find five miles of golden sands to stroll along.  

Head for Hillsborough Castle 

(Access is only available to the gardens and café during the winter.  The Castle will reopen in the spring).

Hillsborough Castle is the official Royal Residence in Northern Ireland and is well worth visiting for more than that connection alone. It was built in Georgian style and splendour by Wills Hill and is beautifully set in 100 acres of well-tended parkland and gardens. 

A castle guided tour will trace the history of the palace as you move from one opulent room to another, including the magnificent State Rooms, the Red Room and Throne Room. Outside, you’re able to wander the grounds, discovering the restored Walled Garden, Lost Garden and a myriad of winding avenues, paths and lawns. 

Soak up something soothing and special 

After your short break jam-packed full of outdoor exercise, it’s time to unwind in the Soak Seaweed Baths located on the South Promenade in Newcastle. Seaweed baths are known to offer some fantastic health and beauty benefits. It’s the ideal place to experience an activity which has enriched the lives of people on this island for more than a century. 

Lie down in your Victorian roll top bath in a private bathroom and soak in hot seawater and fresh seaweed. If you want an experience customised to your own preference, bring along your own CD and hand it into reception so you can enjoy your soak listening to your favourite tunes. 

Be haunted by Tollymore Forest Park 

This is the Haunted Forest of Game of Thrones fame and a walk here really is something special and magical, without dragons of course. Walk along the Shimna River to see the many curiosities along the way including rocky outcrops, bridges, grottos and caves. If you’re a tree lover then you’ll find the eclectic mix of species here truly fascinating – check out the monkey puzzle and eucalyptus or admire the tall giant redwoods and Monterey pines. 

Conquer the Castle 

The Gothic and Classic collide at Castle Ward which is famous for its views over the tranquil waters of Strangford Lough, and almost as famous as the location for Winterfell in Game of Thrones. Half of the castle facing the lough is built and decorated in an elaborate Gothic style, while the half facing inland is in a classical Palladian style – all because of a legendary domestic dispute! 

Make your way along the Lough Trail and spot a host of wildlife and rare plants along the way. Warm up after your walk with a cup of tea or coffee and a freshly baked scone provided in the tearoom, and check out the stableyard which featured heavily in Game of Thrones®, plus cycling, tours, walking, archery, horse-riding and acres of immaculately planted and tended grounds. 

Take to the water on Strangford Lough 

As the largest sea lough in Britain and Ireland, it should come as no surprise that there’s also a large amount to on and off the waters of Strangford Lough. Fortunately, Strangford Lough is both immense and intimate at the same time, littered as it is with harbours, villages, marinas, slipways and quays. 

It’s a great place to take a kayak out on the blue waters for a few hours exploring. There are any amount of kayak, dinghy, and paddleboard hire and instruction operators all along its shores, and once you’re out on the waters you can look out for all sorts of seabirds, plus otters, seals, porpoises, dolphins and even a visiting pod of Orcas.