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 the 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 Holywood, 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. 

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 Royal 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 

Amble up the hill in the quaint village of Royal 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 Buttercrane, hosting a wide range of international and local shops, including Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, H&M, River Island, Superdry, Next, Sports Direct, Dunnes Stores, Dorothy Perkins and Primark. 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. A great place to while away a few hours!

Now, it's time to get planning! 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 destination to confirm details and book tickets if applicable. 

The Mountains of MourneThe Mountains of Mourne

"Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea" (Percy French) The popular song has made the Mournes the best known mountains in Ireland. Distinctive and self contained, they are tucked away in the south east corner of Northern Ireland, ...

Tollymore Forest Park
Nature and Wildlife
Tollymore Forest Park

Oak wood from Tollymore Forest Park was used for the interiors of the White Star liners which included the Titanic. A walk along the Shimna River is marked by many curiosities, natural and artificial - rocky outcrops, bridges, grottos and caves.

Royal County Down Golf Club
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.

Holywood Golf Club
Golf Course
Golfers on the green with woodland and coast in background

Set high in the Holywood Hills, County Down we are just seven miles outside Belfast and have breathtaking views of Belfast Lough and the Antrim Coast. Visit the home course of world golf star Rory McIlroy. Get a photo taken with the major trophies.

Ardglass Golf Club
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.

Kilkeel Golf Club
Golf Course
Kilkeel Golf Club

Encapsulated by a wealth of unspoilt natural beauty, this superb course presents a myriad of challenging holes, while a newly built clubhouse offers a warm and inviting atmosphere for food and relaxation.

Kirkistown Castle Golf Club
Golf Course
Gilfer teeing off on the green

Kirkistown Castle Golf Club is situated in the sleepy little village of Cloughey on the eastern seaboard of the Ards Peninsula in County Down, N.Ireland. It is the nearest links golf course to the city of Belfast (about 45 minutes by road)

Ulster Folk Museum
Visitor Centres & Museums
Family enjoying exploring the Ulster Folk Museum

Refresh the connection at Ulster Folk Museum, a place where traditions and heritage skills are preserved and celebrated to help shape future generations.

Down Cathedral and Saint Patrick's Grave
Cathedral
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.

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

The Saint Patrick Centre is the starting point for any visitor who wishes to know more about Ireland’s patron saint. The exhibition Ego Patricius – The Story of St. Patrick, explores Patrick’s legacy, and recalls the saint’s story, in his own words.

Saul Church
Churches & Sacred Sites
Saul Church

Two miles outside Downpatrick is the replica of St Patrick's first church in Ireland. Close by, on the crest of Slieve Patrick is a massive statue of St Patrick. Bronze panels illustrate scenes from the life of Ireland's Patron Saint.

Castle Ward
The National Trust
A family walking towards Castle Ward house

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.

Coq & Bull
Restaurant
Diners enjoying their meals

Good, honest food using the finest local, seasonal produce, wonderfully cooked and presented, matched with a superb wine list. The Coq & Bull is the place to be.

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens
Historic Sites, Houses, Castles & Buildings
Family take a selfie at the Hillsborough Castle and Gardens sign

Hillsborough Castle is one of the most beautiful, and interesting historic properties in Northern Ireland, and the official residence of the Royal Family when they are in Northern Ireland.

The Narnia Trail
Walking & Hiking
The Narnia Trail

Family Trail through woodland

Kilbroney Park
Forest Parks
Group of friends enjoying the sunshine in Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor

Kilbroney Park Forest features riverside walks and an arboretum. There is a two-mile forest drive which showcases panoramic views over Carlingford Lough. There is also a Play Park with children's play area and tennis courts, an Information area and a café all on site.  Wheelchair accessible in some areas.  Dogs welcome on leads.

Mourne Seafood Cookery School
Cookery School
Mourne Seafood Cookery School

The state of the art Mourne Seafood Cookery School offers a range of cookery courses and demonstrations on local seafood.

Scrabo Tower
Nature and Wildlife
Photo of yellow gorse bush and Scrabo Tower peaking up from behind framed by blue sky

Scrabo Country Park is centred at the top of Scrabo Hill near Newtownards and boasts incredible views over Strangford Lough and the surrounding countryside.

The Quays Shopping Centre
Shopping Centres & Retail Parks
The Quays Shopping Centre

The Quays Shopping Centre is a major retail and leisure development situated in the heart of Newry, County Down. The complex overlooks the canal in the historic Albert Basin area of the City.

Buttercrane Shopping Centre
Shopping Centres & Retail Parks
Outside of Buttercrane Shopping Centre at Night

Occupying a city centre location, alongside the historic Newry Canal, Buttercrane accommodates most major high street retail brands including Primark (Pennys) , Dunnes Stores, Sports Direct/USC and Lidl , the centre has some 50 other high street names such as Boots, Vila, Perfume Shop, DV8, and Superdrug.