Categories: Luxury Weekends

Less than two hours from Dublin and less than 30 minutes from Belfast, County Down with its rolling hills, majestic loughs and attractive towns and villages is the place to come to when you want to shake off the working week, unwind, relax and indulge in some of the finer things in life. 

Begin with a promenade down the peninsula 

A drive down the lough side of the Ards Peninsula makes for a great start to the weekend. Enjoy gorgeous views over the water and make impressive Mount Stewart your first stop. Take a tour of the stately home and a stroll around the award-winning gardens. 

Head on down the peninsula to the village of Greyabbey, named for its abbey and considered to be the best example of Anglo-Norman Cistercian architecture in Northern Ireland. Explore the visitor centre and abbey church or browse through the village’s antique shops. Enjoy lunch in the Wildfowler Inn before hitting the road again. 

Book a Taste and Tour and tasting experience to visit Echlinville Distillery, where you can see the whole distillation process from field to glass, from the barley growing in the surrounding fields to the age-old tradition of distillery floor malting. 

The peninsula ends at Portaferry, from where you can take the ferry for the short hop over to picturesque Strangford. Here there are several great dining options including The Cuan which is renowned for its local seafood. What’s more it’s a really good place to stay the night as well. As a bonus, it’s got a coveted Door of Thrones in the bar. 

Saturday starts with breakfast and then to the castle 

After a hearty breakfast, you could easily spend the whole morning strolling in the beautiful grounds of Castle Ward. This is a chance to enjoy stunning scenery and glimpse some wildlife, while Game of Thrones® fans can follow a Winterfell trail because it is here that most of the Winterfell scenes were filmed. 

Follow up with a guided tour of the 18th-century mansion, which explains how the house came to be built unusually in two contrasting architectural styles, Classical and Gothic. There is much to explore an learn here, from wildlife to working tools and practices of times gone past. 

Tee off or take to the mountains for the afternoon 

Keen golfers should tee off at Ardglass Golf Club, a unique links that hugs the coastline and offers many challenges. 

Alternatively, the Mourne Foods & Film Cycle Tour is ideal for movie lovers and foodies. Starting at Spelga Dam in the heart of the Mournes it’s downhill all the way through the meandering Shimna Valley and Tollymore Forest, taking in the filming locations of Philomena, Game of Thrones®, The Fall and Dracula Untold and visiting local food producers along the route. Electric bikes are available too, so it’s suitable for everyone. 

Soothe those muscles at the spa in Slieve Donard 

After all that fresh air, indulge in a bit of pampering at the luxurious Slieve Donard Spa. Part of the magnificent Slieve Donard Resort and Spa (4*) sitting at the foot of the Mournes, the spa has stunning views across the mountains and the Irish Sea. Choose from a range of relaxing treatments including hot stone therapies, facials, massage, pedicures and manicures.  

From muscles to mussels – seafood platters in Dundrum 

What better way to end the day than with a delicious meal at the Mourne Seafood Bar in Dundrum, considered one of Northern Ireland’s best restaurants. As the name implies, fresh, locally caught fish dominate the menu and the restaurant sources all its shellfish from its very own shellfish beds. 

When it comes to spending the night, if luxury is what’re you’re here for, look no further than the afore-mentioned and renowned Slieve Donard Resort and Spa in Newcastle (4*). This is a substantial hotel set on 6-acres of private grounds, but with an intimate, welcoming feel to it. It’s nestled right between the strand on one side and the famous Royal County Down Golf Club on the other. 

The Burrendale Hotel, Country Club and Spa (4*) is another great option just 10 minutes’ walk from Newcastle, with plenty of on-site facilities including spa, gymnasium, bar and fine dining room. 

Sunday sees a walk around the lake 

Begin the day with a stroll around the lake at beautiful Castlewellan Forest Park. Covering around 2.5 miles along relatively flat terrain it’s an easy and delightful walk. The trail provides great views of Slievnaslat and the Scottish baronial Castlewellan Castle, built in 1856, and is also home to the Peace Maze which is an interesting and inspiring walks in all sorts of ways. 

As it’s a Sunday – traditionally a day of worship – why not head for Downpatrick to visit the excellent Saint Patrick Centre. (Winner of Most Innovative Business (Small) at the Giant Spirit Awards 2022). The modern exhibition combines narration, sculpture, cinema and audio techniques to relate the adventures of Patrick's life and the major impact of Irish Missionaries on Dark Age Europe. It opens on Sundays only in July and August, but visitors to Downpatrick at other times of the year can still explore the saint’s legacy with a visit to Down Cathedral where he is buried. 

From a patron saint to a patron of food and drink at Daft Eddy’s 

From Downpatrick take the road to Killyleagh to enjoy some final views of Strangford Lough, which is particularly captivating at sunset on a fine day. This side of the lough is dotted with tiny islands and on Sketrick Island you’ll find Daft Eddy’s, a great place for a pre-dinner drink. The views are spectacular, and there might be no better place to savour a pint of local or international beer or an exquisite cocktail while taking in that expansive view as the sun sinks below the distant horizon. 

Finish in fine style 

By now you’ll want to eke out every little moment of your time here, and there are few better places to turn in for the night than Manse on the Beach (5*), a large beach house located on the sea front with stunning views. 

Mount Stewart
The National Trust
Mount Stewart House

Mount Stewart is a stunning estate in the beautiful scenic area of Strangford Lough. The Formal Gardens are ranked as one of the top ten in the world and the within the house there are collections of national and international significance.

Grey Abbey
Abbey / Priory
Grey Abbey ruins and graveyard from a birds eye view

Grey Abbey, a Cistercian Abbey church and its living quarters were founded in 1193 by Affreca wife of John de Courcy, the Anglo-Norman invader of East Ulster.

Wildfowler Inn
Image of the outside front entrance

A former coaching house with a cosy traditional atmosphere and log fire in picturesque Greyabbey, just three miles from famous Mount Stewart house and gardens. Fine food catering for all tastes. Families especially welcome.

The Echlinville Distillery
Couple walks outside the Echlinville Distillery in the sunshine

Discover how Echlinville Distillery captures the flavour, colour and mouthfeel of their spirits, before settling down to relax and enjoy them in the bar.

Strangford Lough Ferry
Boats & Ferries
Strangford Lough Ferry

The ferry links the beautiful Ards and Lecale Peninsulas and the villages of Strangford and Portaferry across the Narrows of Strangford Lough. The 10 minute ferry journey allows you to take in the stunning scenery of this Marine Nature Reserve.

The Cuan Restaurant
The Cuan Restaurant

The success of The Cuan has been built on consistently serving excellent food and drink coupled with exceptional customer service. A strong emphasis is placed on using fresh ingredients and sourcing our produce locally. Stay over in our bedrooms.

The Cuan
The Cuan Bedrooms

The Cuan is situated on the shores of Strangford Lough, on the Village Green in the beautiful tranquil village of Strangford. The Cuan is the perfect setting for a mid-week break, weekend getaway or an activity led holiday with the family.

Castle Ward
The National Trust
Castle Ward

Discover a place of contrasts and creativity at Castle Ward, an eccentric 18th century mansion and estate looking out over the tranquil waters of Strangford Lough in County Down where visitors can explore cultivated gardens, sheltered woodland and the shoreline.

Ardglass Golf Club
Links Golf Course
A birds' eye view of Ardglass Golf Club, Ardglass

Located 30miles from Belfast on the beautiful County Down coast, Ardglass Golf Club is links as it should be.

Tollymore Forest Park
Forest Parks
Tollymore Forest Park

Covering an area of almost 630 hectares at the foot of the Mourne mountains, Tollymore Forest Park has panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the sea at Newcastle. It's open to the public all year.

Slieve Donard Resort and Spa
Slieve Donard Exterior

A beloved destination for families, golfers, and holiday travellers, Slieve Donard is a local landmark that’s equal parts homey and breath-taking. The resort sits at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, on the edge of Royal County Down Golf Club, ranked no. 1 in the world by Golf Digest.

Mourne Seafood Bar
Mourne Seafood Bar

Our aim is to provide locally sourced seafood at an affordable price. All our produce is sourced from local ports and delivered daily to ensure freshness and quality.

Royal County Down Golf Club
Links Golf Course
Image showing Royal County Down Golf Course and Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, with Slieve Donard mountain in the background.

Royal County Down is located in one of the world's most naturally beautiful links settings in the Murlough Nature Reserve. Against the magnificent backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne.

Burrendale Hotel, Country Club and Spa
View of the front exterior of the Burrendale Hotel, Country Club and Spa, Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland.

The Burrendale Hotel, Country Club & Spa is a leading four-star Hotel in Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland, nestled beneath the Mountains of Mourne. Located just 45 minutes from Belfast or Newry, The Burrendale Hotel, Country Club & Spa is the ideal location to relax and unwind. Perfect for a Spa Break, Family Retreat, Romantic Getaway or Business Trip.

Castlewellan Forest Park
Forest Parks
View of the Annesley Walk in Castlewellan Forest Park

Castlewellan Forest Park boasts a stunning Victorian Castle, incredible panoramic views, scenic walking trails, 27 km of mountain bike trails, nature play perfect for the kids, an on-site multi-activity centre, hedge maze and equestrian centre, making it a must-visit for all ages.

The Saint Patrick Centre
Visitor Centres & Museums
The Saint Patrick Centre

The Saint Patrick Centre is the only permanent exhibition in the World about Ireland’s Patron Saint. The History of Ireland starts here in Patrick’s words, which guide you through our amazing multimedia exhibition. Located 2 Hours north of Dublin and 35 minutes south of Belfast beside Saint Patrick’s Grave with a fantastic Craft Store and incredible Garden Cafe. This needs to be your first stop in Ireland.

Down Cathedral and Saint Patrick's Grave
Down Cathedral and Saint Patrick's Grave

Down Cathedral, a Cathedral of the Church of Ireland with magnificent stain glass windows, box pews and beautiful organ case was built in 1183 as a Benedictine Monastry. The patron saint, Patrick is believed to be buried in the nearby graveyard.

Daft Eddy's Bar & Restaurant
Dining area

Renowned for its fresh food and wonderful hospitality, Daft Eddy's offers fresh seafood and a host of other local produce.

Manse on the Beach
Guest Accommodation
External view of accommodation

Manse on the Beach is a luxurious house on the sea front. Five superbly finished double/twin rooms-some have breathtaking views of the beach. Large walled garden to rear compliments a louvred pergola. All communal areas are beautifully furnished.