County Down is located in Northern Ireland. Some of the most attractive mountain scenery in Ireland can be found in the Mourne Mountains in south Down, where Slieve Donard rises to almost 2800 ft.
Parts of Belfast City are in County Down, from where a visitor has easy access by bus or car to much of the county.
The Ards Peninsula separates the Irish Sea from Strangford Lough, in the east of the county.
Top Attractions in County Down
Downpatrick and County Down Railway – Market Street, Downpatrick – Northern Ireland’s only standard gauge (i.e. full size) heritage railway. Founded in 1985 and staffed by volunteers, the Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway runs steam (and sometimes heritage diesel) trains between Downpatrick and Inch Abbey on a restored railway line.
Dundonald Old Mill – 231 Old Belfast Road, County Down, Dundonald – The 300 year old building is constructed in sandstone with exposed timber beams and floors. The building exudes an old world charm creating and informal and relaxed ambience.
Hillsborough Tourist Information Centre – Hillsborough Tourist Information Centre, The Courthouse, The Square, Hillsborough – A former Market House, the 18th century Georgian style Courthouse is situated amongst a range of Georgian town houses in the square. Closed as a court in 1987, the court-room and building is now home to an exhibition.
Saint Patrick Centre – Lower Market Street, Downpatrick – Telling the story of Ireland’s patron saint through a dynamic and informative exhibition.
Somme Heritage Centre – 233 Bangor Road, Newtownards – The Somme Heritage Centre is The Somme Association’s flagship project. Situated adjacent to the Clandeboye Estate outside Newtownards, the Centre is a unique visitor attraction of international significance showing the awful reality of the Great War.
The National Arboretum at Castlewellan – Castlewellan – Tollymore’s river dashes over cascades and Castlewellan’s large lake provides pleasure boating and angling. Each forest park has a cafe, exhibition hall and well equipped caravan and camp sites.
The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum – Holywood – The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, voted Irish Museum of the Year, illustrates the way of life and the traditions of the people of the north of Ireland. Set in over 170 acres of rolling countryside, the outdoor Folk Museum tells the story of life in early 20th century Ulster.
Main Destinations in County Down
Ballynahinch is a classic rural market town, where the County Down staghounds meet in Montalto park. There is golf at the Spa, but the spa waters no longer flow.
Banbridge is off the main Dublin to Belfast road, on the Upper Bann river. The wide main street is in three sections with an underpass in the middle: cut in 1834 to enable stage coaches to take the steep hill.
Downpatrick illustrates Northern Ireland’s history in architecture, with Irish Street, English Street and Scotch Street meeting at the town centre. The wide Georgian Mail leads past Down County Museum (and St Patrick Heritage Centre) up to Down Cathedral.
Newcastle: Step off the beach on to the mountain slopes – at the foot of Northern Ireland’s highest peak, Slieve Donard (2,796 ft). You can step off the same five-mile beach on to Royal County Down Golf Course and its easier companion course.
Newry lies at the start of Carlingford Lough, surrounded by mountains on all sides – the Mournes to the east and Slieve Gullion to the west. The area has been a centre of population since prehistoric times.
Popular locations to stay in Co. Down are Annalong (2 places to stay), Ardglass (2), Ballynahinch (1), Banbridge (4), Bangor (1), Castlewellan (3), Donaghadee (3), Downpatrick (7), Dromore (2), Dundonald (1), Dundrum (1), Greyabbey (1), Hillsborough (3), Hilltown (3), Holywood (2), Kilkeel (7), Killyleagh (1), Moira (4), Newcastle (5), Newry (14), Newtownards (5), Portaferry (3), Portavogie (1), Seaforde (1), Strangford (1), Tandragee (2), Warrenpoint (4).
Getting Here and Around
Down is not far from Belfast, which is home to two airports, and not far from Belfast and Larne ferryports. The Dublin-Belfast railway line passes through Down, and there are services to both Belfast and Dublin. There are frequent bus services to Belfast also. Details on getting around Down, and of the air- and seaports can be found in our Co. Down Transport Guide.