What to visit in County Down, Northern Ireland


The Mourne Mountains
I've mentioned these last week so you already now how much I love them. They should, without a doubt, be the very first thing on your list of things to visit in County Down. Make sure to do both the higher mountains scenic route and the mountain coastal route. This way you'll see them all in their glory. Keep aside a whole day to explore as you'll be stopping every 30 minutes to take pictures. Newcastle is a great little town to stop over for some lunch. We ate at Great Jones Craft & Kitchen which was delicious. They offer some great Northern Irish craft beer choices. I recommend the Cajun fish tacos. They went down a treat! 



Castle Ward

I'm a sucker for an old stately home in manicured, fancy grounds. Castle Ward ticks all the right boxes. There a Game of Thrones location to tick off if you're that way inclined, some trails to wander if you like to walk and a lavish home if you want to imagine how the other half lived. There's a lovely little cafe on the grounds to enjoy an afternoon of cake and tea. 




Inch Abbey

If there's one thing Ireland does well then it's an ruin. Be it a castle or an abbey, the island is full of them. Featuring early gothic architecture, Inch Abbey was the place where the northmen rallied behind Robb Stark in Game of Thrones. From the abbey you'll have a gorgeous view of Downpatrick, where St Patrick is buried, and the River Quoile. The ruins are very well-intact and you can definitely tell what it was hundreds of years ago. There are some great signposts scattered around detailing the history. 




Murlough Nature Reserve 

Don't be too alarmed if you hear gunshots. The beach backs onto an army shooting range so you'll be able to hear them practising. There's signs in the sea to warn you not to go too far out just in case. But if you carry on strolling the gunshots gradually due away and you'll be able to swim until your heart's content. Surrounded by the mountains, the nature reserve is a great place to blow away the cobwebs. Pack some comfortable shoes and go for a wander. Follow the wooden broadway to get down to the sea. Wrap up warm as that sea air does get chilly!




Dundrum Castle

Located not too far from Newcastle, Dundrum Castle is believed to have been built in and around 1177. It's fast become of my favourite castle ruins in Northern Ireland, second to Kinbane Castle on the Causeway Coast. Considering it's been around since the Norman invasion, the ruins are surprisingly very well intact. I loved the fact there are stairs allowing you to climb the ruins to explore further. They offer you a great view! A fun fact which actually isn't fun to anyone apart from me. But my boyfriend's family came over to Ireland during the Norman invasion so this castle is as old as their Irish family tree! Crazy right?




Ard Peninsula 

Located on the east coast of Northern Ireland, the Arg Peninsula is only half an hour from Belfast. making it the perfect contrast to city life. Surrounded by the Irish Sea and Strangford Lough, there's some lovely little villages and towns to stop off along the way. Our favourite places were Grey Abbey where you'll find some ruins and Scrabo Tower which offers incredible views.




Hillsborough

We based ourselves in Hillsborough for four days while we explored the county. It's such a charming town and so unlike anywhere I've ever visited in Northern Ireland before. For a small place it has some fab places to eat, lots to explore and cute little houses you can't help but look up on Rightmove. Be sure to take a walk around the pretty lake and grab some lunch at The Parson's Nose.




Ballynoe Stone Circle

I had never been a stone circle before yet ended up at two during this trip! It is a bit tricky to find this and you do have to leave your car in a dodgy place. It won't really work if there's another car already parked. Be prepared to walk through a magical-looking track surrounded by overgrown trees. Once you get to the end, you'll be greeted with an incredible view of the Mourne Mountains. The stone circle was built in the Bronze Age but no one is quite sure of its purpose yet. 




Tollymore Forest Park

If you're a fan of Game of Thrones then you definitely know about Tollymore. You will have seen it! You'll past the place where the Starks found the direwolves, where the Night's Watch found bodies in the snow and where Tyrion and Jon chat on their way to the wall. It really is a beautiful place and you'll need at least half a day to explore. We could only spend an hour and it wasn't long enough. Take a picnic with you and enjoy the scenery.

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