Categories: County Down

You don’t have to do everything in County Down in one visit! This, after all, is the county that is home to Northern Ireland’s most dramatic mountain range, gave Game of Thrones® its Winterfell castle, has the largest sea lough in Great Britain and Ireland, is St Patrick’s last resting place, and plays host to one of our great shopping destinations. 

Here’s just a few ideas to get you started... 

Make for the Mourne Mountains 

If striking landscapes, lakes and wonderful wildlife are your thing, then set off for the majestic Mourne Mountains. The inspiration for C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, you don’t need to step into the wardrobe to find inspiring scenery. Scale the highest peak - Slieve Donard - or tackle a smaller one via the accessible network of paths and trails.  

Venture into Tollymore Forest - the Haunted Forest from Game of Thrones®

Below the Mourne Mountains, lies 1,600 acres of verdant beauty. Tollymore Forest Park’s array of wildlife is a botanical and sensory odyssey. The mapped trails amidst lush mossy beds will enchant, while the sparkling Shimna River boasts many a cosy clearing for a picnic. 

Hiking, caravanning and camping are also available. If the children are with you, let them find the wooden stag and be a knight of realm for a day.  

Follow in Rory’s footsteps 

County Down is home to a glittering array of top-notch golf courses - not to mention the world’s top golfer, Rory McIlroy. You’ll be spoiled for choice. 

Royal County Down was voted the world’s top golf course by Golf Digest in 2017. Rory’s home club in Hollywood, the fantastic links of Ardglass and the undulating greens at Kilkeel make County Down a golfing paradise. Kirkistown Castle is exceptional, and the nineteenths are pretty special too.  

Walk back in time at the Ulster Folk Museum 

Experience life at the turn of the century at the captivating Ulster Folk Museum in Cultra, County Down. Discover cottages, farms, schools and shops as you wander through the beautiful parkland. Speak with the residents tilling the land, enjoy some of their baked bread, take a horse and cart from farm to farm, or satisfy your sweet tooth with a quarter of barley sugars at the corner shop.  

Tour St Patrick’s heartland 

Sit in peace and tranquillity in Downpatrick, the final resting place of St Patrick, where, in the grounds of Down Cathedral, his grave is marked by a single slab of Mourne granite. Then tour Down Cathedral, be engrossed in his legacy at The Saint Patrick Centre, or take a pew at Saul Church, built to commemorate Patrick’s first church in Ireland.  

Wander around Winterfell 

Castle Ward in reality; Winterfell on the set of the Game of Thrones® fantasy world - either way it’s a must see. Owned by the National Trust, the location, grandeur and setting provide a great backdrop for walking, cycling, horse riding, picnicking or simply people watching once you have toured the estate. 

Soar over Strangford Lough 

While the views on the ground are spectacular, in the air the biggest sea lough in Great Britain and Ireland is a whole new world. 

Board a helicopter tour at Ards Airport and prepare for a trip of a lifetime. Soar over Strangford Lough, taking in the stunning views of the islands and coastal towns. At 1,500ft and 120kmph, it’s eye-poppingly beautiful. 

Dine out in County Down 

The county is littered with exceptional fine dining places, many of which source their ingredients right on their doorstep. 

Hara in Hillsborough takes its name from the hare that runs free across nearby countryside and the focus here is on using the finest locally-sourced ingredients. The menu carefully reflects the season and what’s available locally, and it’s all served up in a beautifully understated dining room. 

Seafood is on the menu at Coq & Bull at the Clandeboye Lodge Hotel in Bangor. But alongside locally-caught fish and shellfish, you’ll find an equal emphasis on locally-sourced and farmed vegetables, fruit and meat. 

Tour an official Royal Residence 

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

Amble up the hill in the quaint village of Hillsborough to the seat of royalty. A tour of Hillsborough Castle guides you through the elegant state rooms, the majestic throne room and graceful drawing room, and reveals stories of its fascinating history. The glorious gardens are open all year and are well worth investigating, before descending the hill to one of the many village pubs or restaurants. 

Eat up the miles on a food and film cycle tour 

Serve yourself some gentle downhill cycling, stunning filming location scenery and delicious artisan foods. The Mourne Foods Cycle Trail pulls these three Mournes temptations together, with even a free shuttle bus to get you to the Spelga Dam start point and a bike pannier to carry anything you buy. Don’t miss the Mourne Honey or Dundrum Bay mussels.    

Step into the realm of Narnia 

If you are anywhere near Rostrevor and Kilbroney Forest Park, you must climb to see the giant Cloughmore Stone and views of Carlingford Lough that will take your breath away. Or, if you have children, Kilbroney is lovely for the C.S. Lewis-inspired Narnia Trail. The author spent boyhood holidays in the area and said this was his inspiration for Narnia.      

Cook fish fresh from the harbour 

Have fun learning to cook the freshest fish and seafood right on Kilkeel harbour, the home of Northern Ireland’s largest fishing fleet. Kilkeel is the seafood capital of Northern Ireland and Mourne Seafood Cookery School is its master chef. Learn to buy, handle and cook seafood – and be prepared for some very fishy stories.    

Step up to Scrabo’s stunning scenery 

Scale the stairs to the top of County Down’s most iconic monument, Scrabo Tower. Standing 540 feet above sea level and 125 feet high, it has incredible views of Strangford Lough, County Down and even Scotland. The tower also houses an exhibition detailing its history. A perfect setting for a family day out and some tall tales over dinner.    

Shop ‘til you drop in Newry 

Newry has not one but two destination shopping centres, The Quays and The Buttercrane Centre, each hosting a wide range of international and local shops, including Debenhams, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, H&M, River Island, Superdry, Next, Sports Direct, Dunnes Stores, Dorothy Perkins. Jack & Jones, Primark, Dv8, Clarks, Boots and Trespass. 

You’ll also find plenty of food and drink options and cafes such as Costa and Starbucks, as well as a 10-screen multiplex cinema. 

If all that isn’t enough for you then there’s plenty more to be discovered in County Down. All you have to do is get yourself here and then the exploring can begin. 

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure information is correct, we strongly advise checking in advance before you travel to your intended destination to ensure its open and book tickets if applicable.