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Welcome to Down

Come up to County Down and see the mountains and landscapes that inspired CS Lewis to create the magical world of Narnia in the classic The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The Mourne Mountains offer fabulous walks and chances to explore the history and geography of the area.

Down has everything to offer the casual tourist or the holiday adventurer. From Blue Flag beaches to giant redwoods trees, golf courses to aquariums, and from royal palaces to holy sites, Down is a beautiful and fascinating place.

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Things to See & Do

Landmarks

  • Port of Larne
  • Port of Cork
  • Slieve Donard
  • Down Royal Racecourse
  • Donegal Castle
  • Downpatrick Racecourse

Things to Do

  • Mountains of Mourne: The Mourne Mountains are famous for its gentle slopes which ‘sweep down to the sea’, and is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland’s highest peak, rises 850m above sea level and offers unbelievable views over Murlough Bay and the small town of Newcastle. All of the peaks along this mountain range are accessible to walkers.

  • Tollymore Forest Park: Located near the town of Newcastle, this state park is both an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and an Area of Special Scientific Research, and it’s easy to see why. The forest is home to deer, red and grey squirrels and woodpeckers. Giant redwoods, ash and beech trees are common here, as well as oak which was used on the furniture for the Titanic. The Park has numerous stone follies and bridges, including Clanbrassil barn - a barn designed to look like a church. A walk along the River Shimna is marked by many curiosities, natural and artificial - rocky outcrops, bridges, grottos and caves.

  • Exploris Aquarium: Northern Ireland’s only aquarium, Exploris has recently been reopened following a £2 million redevelopment. The newly remodelled centre features some new marine additions and a reptile exhibition, as well as old favourites like the seal sanctuary. The centre displays marine information and history through animated display panels, as well as an interactive kid’s zone and scheduled feeding sessions.

  • Mount Stewart: Mount Stewart House and Gardens is one of Northern Ireland’s finest attractions. Located on the shores of Strangford Lough, this 18th century reflects the rich history of the Stewart family who played a leading role in British social and political life. The house has been transformed following a three year conservation project, restoring the charm and splendour of the house. The gardens support a range of plants from all corners of the world and has been voted as one of the top ten gardens in the world.

  • Ulster Folk & Transport Museum: Early 20th century Ulster is painstakingly brought to life in this open air museum featuring thatched cottages, farms, schools and shops as you experience life from over 100 years ago. Costumed visitor guides explain how people lived and worked as they demonstrate traditional crafts and use farm animals to work the land. There are also plenty of machinery on hand including steam locomotives and horse drawn carriages, electric trams, boats, motorbikes, fire-engines and vintage cars in the Transport Museum.

  • Downpatrick: The county town of Downpatrick is an ancient town, strongly linked to Saint Patrick. It is believed that the patron saint of Ireland is buried at Down Cathedral, and an exhibition on his life can be seen at the Saint Patrick Centre. Down County Museum is also situated in the town, located in the former gaol, and shows the history of the area through artefacts and fascinating exhibitions.

  • WWT Castle Espie: Located on the banks of the beautiful Strangford Lough, this peaceful wetland reserve is home to the largest collection of ducks, geese and swans in Ireland. Operated by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), the centre also contains a gallery, exhibition areas, looped woodland walks, events and activities, and a picnic area.

  • Hillsborough Castle: This 18th century Georgian mansion is today a royal palace, functioning as the official residence of the Royal Family when they are in Northern Ireland. It has also been the home of the Secretary of State since the 1970s. Visitors can tour the palace today when it is not in use, including the State Rooms and the Throne Room. There are also beautiful gardens surrounding the palace, as well as a photographic exhibition in the Downshire Gallery of different people, great and small, who have visited the palace.