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, (Winner of Most Innovative Business (Small) at the Giant Spirit Awards 2022) or take a pew at Saul Church, built to commemorate Patrick’s first church in Ireland.  

Visit Castle Ward

Castle Ward is 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. The cafe on site is set within the historic stable buildings, and on a good day, you won't find yourself in a more spectacular setting.

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. 

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 on a clear day. The tower also houses an exhibition detailing its history (although this isn't open everyday, so check in advance!) From the car park (which has toilet facilities, picnic tables and bike racks) it's a short, albeit quite steep, walk up to the tower. You'll have reached it within 15 minutes or less, making it the perfect setting for a quick bit of history, and tall tales over dinner.

Shop ‘til you drop in Newry 

Newry has not one but two destination shopping centres, The Quays and Buttercrane, home to a wide range of stores. You’ll also find plenty of food and drink options and cafes, 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 to County Down and 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. 

Mourne Mountains
Natural Feature
Mourne Mountains

"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
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.

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.

Holywood Golf Club
Parkland 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
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.

Kilkeel Golf Club
Parkland Golf Course
View of clubhouse from 17th tee box

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
Links Golf Course
Silhouettes of golfers 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
Visitors enjoying picnics in the grounds of the 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
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 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.

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
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.

Coq & Bull
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 House / Palace
Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

Explore Northern Ireland's royal residence, where worlds and minds meet. Relax in 100 acres of picturesque gardens, explore the State Rooms still used today and indulge in delicious food and drink in our café.

The Narnia Trail
Walking & Hiking
The Narnia Trail

The famous writer, C S Lewis, as a young boy, spent much holiday time in the Mournes and Rostrevor in particular, allowing him to imagine, dream and wonder, and inspiring his creation of the magical world of Narnia.

Kilbroney Park
Forest Parks
Children being photographed in Kilbroney Park

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.

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
Scrabo Tower at dusk

At the top of Scrabo Hill, overlooking Strangford Lough and the whole of North Down, is Scrabo Tower. The tower, which was built in 1857, is one of Northern Ireland’s best known landmarks and the views from the top are spectacular.

The Quays Shopping Centre
Shopping Centres & Retail Parks
Quays Shopping Centre - Main Entrance

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
Buttercrane Shopping Centre - view over Newry Canal

Buttercrane Shopping Centre in the heart of Newry City is home to over 50 big name brands including anchor tenants Primark, Dunnes Stores, Sports Direct/USC and Lidl. Located alongside the historic Newry Canal and close to the 4* Canal Court Hotel, the Centre offers lots of hot food options and over 1000 carparking spaces (including dedicated parent & child, disabled and E charging parking). A visit to Buttercrane promises a great day out, where you can shop and save in style.