Categories: Itineraries

Co. Armagh & Co. Down, 3 day itinerary

Strap yourself in for a breath-taking tour of Co. Armagh and Co. Down. This tour is for the adventurous and the culturally curious as you will climb, walk and glide your way through Co. Armagh and Co. Down.

Explore the scenic surroundings of the picturesque Strangford Lough from a sea kayak to a traditional country kitchen! See where the stunning Mourne Mountains sweep down to the sea. Explore the famous Orchard County and travel though centuries of history from an Iron Age settlement to a range of Christian heritage sites. And from the past to the present, stop off at Northern Ireland’s royal residence Hillsborough Castle as you return.

Day 1

Glide With the Tide

Bring suitable activity wear

Taking out a kayak is beautiful way to explore Strangford Lough. Down at water level, you are in tune with the tides, time of day and weather conditions. Gliding softly brings you closer to the lough’s wildlife, including seal pups and wild geese. There is something magical about this place. You’re only 30 minutes from Belfast, but it feels like you are in another world. It’s just you, the kayak and the water. There are no interruptions here, no devices, crowds or rush hour traffic. Your guide John Hubbucks is a kayak expert who has been teaching people to kayak since 2005 and taught many people, of all abilities, to paddle. He knows the Lough intimately and can help you explore its crystal-clear water, islands and inlets.

Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen

“My kitchen may not be the tidiest or the fanciest,” Tracey says of her home on the shores of Strangford Lough in Co. Down. “But it is certainly lived in and loved.” Everything here in Tracey’s farmhouse, from homemade buttermilk soda bannock (bread) to hearty wheaten bread, is made with love. When you arrive at the traditional thatched cottage, the first thing that greets you – even before you spot Tracey at the front door in her flour-covered apron – is the smell of fresh baking. The aroma fills the air and leads you inside to a big farmhouse kitchen table laden with traditional breads, sweet treats and tray bakes (another Northern Irish delicacy) made early that morning, accompanied with local butter and jam. “Make yourselves at home and tuck into everything on the table,” says your warm-hearted host, brewing up hot tea and coffee.

Men of the Mournes

Bring suitable activity wear

Join expert mountain guide Peter Rafferty as he stretches your imagination – and your legs – as you follow rocky paths at a gentle pace, stopping for breaks to take in the sights and sounds of this special mountain range. Learn about the era when Mourne granite was highly sought after and the mountains echoed with the sound of handpicks. Watch as Peter shows you the tools and ‘plug and feather’ technique used to cut the stone, discover where it was sent, and hear about the men who built the 22-mile Mourne wall, constructed in 1904-1922 to define a catchment area for a local reservoir.


Day 2

Navan Centre and Fort

A place where myth and reality meet. It is one of Ireland’s most famous and important archaeological sites, the legendary Emain Macha. Have you ever wondered about the past? How did people live their lives 2,000 years ago? What were their homes like? How did they survive? What were their daily tasks? Allow our Living History characters to bring these questions to life before your eyes. This memorable and interactive experience takes place in our replica Iron Age dwelling. Sit down by the fire and witness Iron Age life come alive. Enjoy helping the Celts prepare and cook their meals and get your hands dirty in the garden and herb beds. Prepare yourself for battle and learn the skills to survive as an ancient warrior, or sit and relax and allow your imagination to wander as the great tradition of storytelling is used to pass on some of the history of the area and the great warriors who once lived here.

Blossom to Bottle

Experience and Lunch The Troughton family are all about apples – but not just any old apples. They have grown the unique and internationally recognised Armagh Bramley apple for over 100 years and five generations, and recently recreated the craft of making them into a range of award-winning ciders. Their farm is located in the ‘Orchard County’ of Armagh, where even St Patrick is said to have planted an apple tree, in an ancient settlement east of the city. A tour at the Armagh Cider Company begins exactly as you’d hope, with a welcome drink of apple juice or hot spiced apple, and some traditional shortbread. You will learn about everything “from blossom to bottle”. The 80 acres of beautiful orchards here change season by season, from soft pink blossom in spring, to bountiful harvest in autumn, when they are carefully picked by hand (one rotten apple spoils the barrel, as they say).

St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh Robinson Library and the Registry

Visit three of Armagh City’s most iconic visitor experiences. Vicars Hill, built in 1772 as the Diocesan Registry to hold records for the Church of Ireland Diocese, this Grade A-listed building has been restored and was formally opened to the public in March 2011. When you push open the great Georgian door of Armagh Robinson Library and climb the stairs, you will step back into the 18th century. Archbishop Robinson founded this Library in the city of Armagh in 1771. His aim was to share his own collection of books and fine art with the general public. The crypt underlies the east end of the St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral. Its thick stone pillars are the foundations of the choir of Archbishop O’Scanlon’s Cathedral. It measures 60ft by 20ft, with walls two metres thick. It contains the tombs of Archbishop Robinson, the two Archbishops Beresford, and those of two Armagh landed families, the Caulfeilds of Charlemont and the McGeough-Bonds of The Argory. Also here is a collection of pre-Christian carved figures, and of stone ornaments from cathedrals past. It was restored and opened as a visitor attraction in 2011.

Blessingbourne

Enjoy a visit to the Lowry family home, award-winning Blessingbourne Estate. A beautiful historic 550-acre country estate, nestled in the heart of woodlands, lakes and wildlife on the edge of the Clogher Valley, within walking distance of Fivemiletown village and close to the Fermanagh Lakelands. Blessingbourne Estate is one of North West Ireland’s most tranquil and unique destinations.


Day 3

Hillsborough Castle Experience

To understand Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle is a good place to start. This is the Queen’s official Northern Ireland residence, and the site of some of the region’s biggest discussions and decisions: past, present and future. At Hillsborough, you are experiencing history in the making. On a 45-minute tour of the elegant Georgian castle, in the charming village of Hillsborough, Co. Down, you follow in the footsteps of world leaders, through plush and lovingly restored State Rooms including the Throne Room, State Drawing Room, Lady Grey’s Study, State Dining Room, Red Room and Stair Hall. There are many layers of stories here, and your guide will share hundreds of years worth of tales, about celebrations, entertainment, diplomacy and negotiations. Standing in these rooms, where pivotal decisions have been made, you get a true sense of Hillsborough Castle’s importance.

Lord Rawdon’s Montalto

Step inside Montalto Estate and, as you breathe in the scents of its beautiful gardens, and hear the satisfying crunch of gravel underfoot, you’re transported back to the 1760s. Centuries meltaway as Lord Rawdon, Earl of Moira (a very convincing costumed guide) welcomes you to his newly built home.

Back to all itineraries

Glide with the Tide
Canoeing & Kayaking
Glide with the Tide

Taking out a kayak is beautiful way to explore Strangford Lough. Down at water level, you are in tune with the tides, time of day and weather conditions. Gliding softly brings you closer to the lough’s wildlife, including seal pups and wild geese.

Tracey's Farmhouse Kitchen
Cookery School
Tracey's Farmhouse Kitchen

Tracey's cottage is located only 30 minutes from Belfast in a Marine Nature Reserve on Strangford Lough. Join her to make Soda and Wheaten Breads and to enjoy a feast of homemade treats around the Farmhouse Kitchen table. A hands on experience.

Navan Fort
Visitor Centres & Museums
Navan Fort

The Navan Fort, located just two miles from Armagh City, is a place where myth and reality meet. As the ancient seat of Kings and the earliest capital of Ulster, there is plenty to explore.

Armagh Cider Company
Tailor-made Tours
Armagh Cider Company

Armagh Cider Company is a family business based at Ballinteggart House where apples have been grown for five generations. Walk through the orchards, experience the cidery and bottling plant before tasting our award winning ciders and juices.

St Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral
Churches & Sacred Sites
St Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral

Saint Patrick founded his chief church here on the Hill of Armagh in 445AD, and there has been a Christian church on the site ever since. The present building dates from the 13th Century and was last restored in 1834.

No 5 Vicars' Hill
Visitor Centres & Museums
No 5 Vicars' Hill

Built in 1772 as the Diocesan Registry to hold records for the Church of Ireland Diocese, this Grade A listed building has been restored and was formally opened to the public in March 2011. Fully accessible. Interactive displays for all ages.

Armagh Robinson Library
Visitor Centres & Museums
Armagh Robinson Library

Established in 1771, Armagh Public Library is one of the oldest libraries in Ireland, holding rare and valuable books, ancient Irish artefacts, and print, gem and coin collections. Visitors and researchers, individuals and groups, are all welcome.

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens
Nature and Wildlife
Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

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

Lord Rawdon's Montalto
Guided Tour
Lord Rawdon's Montalto

Step inside Montalto Estate and, as you breathe in the scents of its beautiful gardens, and hear the satisfying crunch of gravel underfoot, you’re transported back to the 1760s. Centuries melt away as Lord Rawdon, Earl of Moira (a very convincing costumed guide) welcomes you to his newly built home. Over light refreshments, the Earl explains his vision of Montalto and how he has created this 400 acre estate, a true jewel in the heart of the County Down countryside, for himself and his friends. He is a charming guide, engaging and humorous, and, if the mood takes him, a bit of a singer too. Before long, he is beckoning you out to admire the lush and quiet grounds.