Are you looking for the best things to do in Down?
County Down, located just a short drive south of Belfast, is home to some of the most popular must-visit destinations in Northern Ireland.
Natural wonders such as Belfast Lough, Strangford Lough, and the Mourne Mountains are all within a few hours’ drive from each other, while castles, beaches, woodland parks, stately homes, and a royal palace are just some of the attractions you’ll find in the area.
If you are venturing out of Belfast and looking to explore Down, you’re in for a treat! This area has a wealth of attractions and fascinating destinations, so a visit here is bound to be exciting and memorable. Read on for our guide to the best things to do in Down to fill up your itinerary.
Things you'll find in this article
- 12 Best Things To Do In Down, Ireland ( For 2023 )
- 1. Visit Down Cathedral
- 2. Explore the Ulster Folk Museum
- 3. Take a walk around Mount Stewart
- 4. See ‘Winterfell’ up close in Castle Ward
- 5. Admire the stunning Hillsborough Castle
- 6. Spend a day in the place that inspired Narnia, Rostrevor, and Kilbroney Park
- 7. Stroll through Tollymore Forrest
- 8. Hike Mourne, another inspiration for Narnia
- 9. Walk along the magnificent Murlough Beach
- 10. Have a pint in the 200-year-old Maghera Inn
- 11. Feast on seafood in Down
- 12. Spend the weekend on the Ards Peninsula
12 Best Things To Do In Down, Ireland ( For 2023 )
1. Visit Down Cathedral
Down Cathedral stands magnificently on the Hill of Down, overlooking the medieval town of Downpatrick. The patron saint of Ireland St. Patrick was buried on Hill of Down in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland towards the end of the 5th century according to legend.
This hilltop has been home to a cathedral since the 12th century. In 1900, a stone memorial from the Mourne Mountains was erected at what’s said to be the exact burial location of St. Patrick.
Take a guided tour of the church, which is illuminated by a soft light subdued by colored stained glass windows. Impressive murals, statues, and stained glass honor St. Patrick in the nave.
In addition to Celtic crosses and Gothic architecture, Down Cathedral is a magnificent piece of art. Visitors can also see the 11th-century granite baptismal basin which was uncovered in 1927. It was placed in the cathedral in 1931 and is still considered a valuable artifact today.
2. Explore the Ulster Folk Museum
The Ulster Folk Museum, located on 170 beautiful acres of rolling countryside overlooking Belfast Lough, is a fascinating destination to visit.
You’ll find a historically authentic replica of an Ulster town, with thatched houses, farms, schools, and shops. There are also costumed tourist guides who can tell you all about life here a century ago.
With its extensive collection of horse-drawn vehicles, steam locomotives, Irish-built cars, and even antique planes, the Transport Museum is one of the most comprehensive transport museums in Europe.
Don’t miss the Harland and Wolff Shipyard where the Titanic was built, which has a Titanic-themed display.
3. Take a walk around Mount Stewart
An essential stop for history buffs, Mount Stewart reopened in 2019 after undergoing a maintenance and restoration project that lasted three years.
One of the best things to do in County Down is to visit this National Trust property, which is located on the opposite bank of Strangford Lough.
Known for its magnificent Victorian-era home and landscaped grounds, Mount Stewart, Serves as the ancestral abode. There is no better way to experience Mount Stewart’s majesty, history, and enchantment than by visiting the mansion, gardens, and demesne.
The house, gardens, and demesne are all infused with Lady Edith Londonderry‘s (1878-1959) energy and personality.
Edith used her imagination, color, and excitement to create a sanctuary for world-famous guests, a playground for children, and a venue that was alive with her sense of adventure and delight.
4. See ‘Winterfell’ up close in Castle Ward
Are you a Game of Thrones fan curious about the Ireland locations of the hit TV series? Or maybe you’re a history buff curious about centuries-old structures?
Visit the Winterfell Castle movie set in Castle Ward, which was used extensively during the filming of Game of Thrones.
Visitors here may look forward to enormous medieval walls, a spectacular castle gate, breathtaking scenery, and a seemingly infinite view of the nearby loughs.
Castle Ward’s tours include a chance to meet the real-life Direwolf Dogs and visit over 20 Game of Thrones filming locations. Included in the Game of Thrones-themed tour are the “Winterfell ” castle, Winterfell Crypts, and the courtyard of the Stark family.
To book this tour click here.
5. Admire the stunning Hillsborough Castle
This former royal residence, Hillsborough Castle, is one of the best places to visit in Down. Located on 100 acres of manicured parkland and gardens, it was designed in the Georgian style and splendor of Wills Hill.
The State Rooms, the Red Room, and the Throne Room are all included in a guided tour of the castle, which will take you through the palace’s history.
Outdoors, you can take a stroll along various paths and meadows that wind their way through various parts of the property. After that, spend some time at the cafe and gift shop, which are almost enough of a reason to come.
Note that only the gardens and cafes are open in the winter. The Castle will reopen in the spring.
To book this tour click here.
6. Spend a day in the place that inspired Narnia, Rostrevor, and Kilbroney Park
Real-life Narnia awaits in Rostrevor and Kilbroney Park, which is also home to some of Ireland’s best vistas. The views from the top of the park’s Cloughmore Stone, across the surrounding hills and Carlingford Lough, are breathtaking.
This is where the Belfast-born C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia series, spent a lot of time growing up.
The portion of Rostrevor that looks out over Carlingford Lough was once described by Lewis as “my idea of Narnia” in a letter to his brother.
Follow the Narnia Trail, which includes well-known locations from the books such as the wardrobe and the lamp post, for a fun day out with the family.
7. Stroll through Tollymore Forrest
In the foothills of the Mourne Mountains is Tollymore, Northern Ireland’s first state forest park. The area covers 1,600 acres of land along the Shimna River.
Natural wonders abound in Tollymore (Tulaigh Mhór, meaning “big hill or mound”), including grottoes, caves, and a wide range of unusual plants and animals. Sixteen bridges, meanwhile, span the Shimna River, the oldest of which dates back to 1760.
There is also a barn that resembles a church and several other follies constructed by Thomas Wright, a friend of James Hamilton’s. Tollymore Forrest has also been used as a location for scenes from Game of Thrones.
8. Hike Mourne, another inspiration for Narnia
Rostrevor and Kilbroney Forest in Northern Ireland’s Carlingford Lough inspired C.S. Lewis to write his children’s book series about an imaginary world called Narnia. This continues onto Mourne Mountain, the highest peak in Northern Ireland.
Imagine yourself in Narnia as you stand at the foot of the strange Mourne Mountains. Narnia-themed trails for children and adults alike are available here.
Visit the reservoirs at Silent Valley and Spelga Dam for scenic walks through wooded, watery, and mountainous terrain. You may also hike Slieve Donard, the highest point in Northern Ireland.
From the coast in Newcastle, follow a steep-sided ravine until you reach the col, then climb the wall to the summit. On clear days, one can see as far as the Isle of Man, England, and Scotland from the peak of Donard.
9. Walk along the magnificent Murlough Beach
It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic spot in County Down than Murlough Bay and Nature Reserve for a sunny day.
To begin or end a day of exploring, nothing beats a stroll down a well-maintained beach.
The Mourne Mountains may be seen from the beach’s six-kilometer length.
More than 720 different species of butterflies and moths call the dune fields of Murlough home, making it Ireland’s most extensive dune heath. Take a stroll along the sands or the boardwalk through the dunes.
10. Have a pint in the 200-year-old Maghera Inn
The Maghera Inn in County Down, Northern Ireland, is a fantastic location to relax after a long day of seeing the best of Down.
Maghera Inn is not your typical Northern Ireland pub restaurant. Although the pub is known for the quality of their Guinness, they also have a bar full of uncommon brands, as well as cuisine that’s sure to please even the most discerning gourmet.
Easily one of the best things to do in Down, visitors from all walks of life are welcome at The Maghera Inn pub restaurant.
11. Feast on seafood in Down
Throughout Down, there are various fishing communities and seafood restaurants. Pier 36, a seafood restaurant in Donaghadee town, is known for its seafood platters, Strangford mussels, and Portavogie prawns.
You may warm up with a steaming bowl of clam, mussel, or haddock soup at the Maghera Inn after a strenuous hike and enjoy it with some nutty wheaten bread.
Meanwhile, a dedicated forager is the head chef of Brunel’s, a restaurant in Newcastle. They serve food sourced from the region’s wild coastal pantry of herbs and seaweed.
12. Spend the weekend on the Ards Peninsula
A visit to the Ards Peninsula is one of the best things to do in Down on a weekend. This gently rolling landscape is a picture-perfect combination of charming villages, romantic seascapes, and undeveloped coastline.
Visit the distinctive Ballycopeland Windmill and the other half of the peninsula while you’re there. Donaghadee and Millisle are two of the classic beach towns that can be found there.
To the west of the Lough, there are many excellent dining options in Comber town and its surrounding areas. One of which is Daft Eddie’s, which is a favorite among the locals.[adinserter name=”Block 1″]
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