County Down

Ards Peninsula

The peninsula starts east of Belfast at Bangor.  Bangor has a modern marina.  South is Donaghadee where boats to the copeland Islands leave from.  The last humans to live there were in the 1940's.  Near Millisle is the Ballycopeland Windmill (1784), Northern Ireland's only working windmill.

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Mount Stewart House

Mount Stewart belonged to the Londonderry family, the most noteworthy member of such was Lord Castlereagh, British foreign Secretary from 1812 to 1822.  The house dates from the 19th century, but the magnificent gardens were only planted in the 1920's.  The house contains many treasures including chairs used at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and a George stubbs painting (1799).
The garden contains many subtropical plants which thrive in the mild climate.  There are specially laid out gardens such as the Shamrock Garden, the Sunk Garden and the Italian Garden.


Situated on  Strangford Lough  has Scrabo Tower, which was built in 1857 in memory of the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry.

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Grey Abbey

This abbey was a parish church till the 17th century, and has a finely carved west doorway.


Situated on the tip of the Peninsula, it affords stunning views.  Portaferry has a large aquarium.

Castlewellan  Forest Park

This is a wonderful forest park and gardens . See also:-Castlewellan Forest Park

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Down Cathedral, a protestant cathedral lies on the Hill of Down dates from the 19th century, but there have been churches on the site since at least the 10th century.  There is a cross in the church yard dating from this time.There is also a slab marked with "Patric" which is reputed to be the burial place of St. Patrick.

The old County jail houses the Down county Museum, which has exhibits on all the local history including the life and times of St. Patrick.

There are places associated with St. Patrick all around the area.  Saul, where he landed to start his mission in 432, has a small church.  Slieve Patrick has a statue of the Saint at its summit.  Struell Wells was a place of pagan worship that the Saint blessed.  

Inch abbey founded by John de Courcy in 1180, is a Cistercian Abbey.  There are not many remains left now.


The town is overlooked by a Norman castle, now ruined.

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16km (10 miles) from Belfast  this Georgian town is home to the massive Hillsborough Castle.  It is not open to the public, but is used when important people visit from abroad.

There is also Hillsborough fort, an artillery fort dating from 1650.

Legananny Dolmen

Situated 35km (22miles) north of Newcastle this is a fine dolmen.


An Caisleán Nua, the New Castle, is a popular seaside resort with a 3 mile sandy beach.  Its name comes from a castle that was built in 1433 where the River Shimna flows into the sea at Dundrum Bay.

There is a famous hotel here The Slieve Donard hotel, named after the Mourne Mountains highest mountain which dominates the town.  Many famous people have stayed here including Charlie Chaplin.

On the seafront is a memorial to Percy french who wrote The Mountains of Mourne, which brought much fame to the area.  

Another memorial is on a  boulder by the leisure centre.  It is to Harry Ferguson who made an aeroplane flight along the beach in 1910.  He later became famous for tractors.

At the south end of the town next the swimming pool is a large ships anchor which is from I.K.Brunel's SS.Great Britain, which was shipwrecked for the first time in Dundrum Bay in 1846.  It was later towed away and repaired and was later wrecked in the Falkland Islands before again being towed home and repaired.  The SS.Great Britain now has a permenant home in Bristol, England.

A tough trail runs up from Newcastle to the peak of Slieve Donard, for a while it follows the Mourne Wall which was erected in 1904-1922 to enclose the catchment area of the two reservoirs in the silent Valley.

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Rostrevor was a Victorian  seaside resort, and it is situated at the base of the mountains,below the peak of Slieve Martin.  In the past it was a site of the linen industry, as there is a mill built on the river coming down the valley here.  Sadly the business has moved to another site now.

There is also a very nice forest park here too.

Spelga Dam

The Spelga Dam is situated in the middle of the Mourne Mountains at a height of over 1200ft above sea level.  there are wonderful views of the mountains all around and the drive to get to the Dam is a pretty one.  If the level of the water is low you may see the remains of an old road that once went through the now flooded valley, and the roof of an old dwelling too.

see also:-  Mourne Mountains

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Just outside this port is Castle Ward.  This estate belonged to Lord and Lady Bangor who could not agree how their house should look.  He wanted Palladian, while she wanted Gothic, the solution? -The front has a Palladian look while the back is Gothic.  Inside the two styles also mix.  There are lovely walks and also a working corn mill.

Kilclief Castle dating from the 15th century is one of the oldest tower houses in Ireland, is about 4km (2.5 miles) from Strangford.

Ardglass built from the 14th to 16th centuries was once Ulsters busiest harbour.  There were a few castles erected here to protect the harbour but now only six remain of which one is open to the public.

Tollymore Forest Park  Lovely forest park with follys.  See also:-Tollymore Forest Park

Ulster folk and transport Museum

The folk and transport museum is based near Holywood in county Down.  Here there are quite a few buildings that have been rescued and rebuilt in the grounds, including sawmills, flax mills and corn mills.  There are demonstrations of many crafts and farming methods given here and a visit is very interesting.

The transport section is separate from the folk part as the site is split into two by the A2 road.   There are exhibits of machinery, cars and trains all made in Ulster.  There is an exhibit of the ill fated De Lorean car which was made in the early 1980's.  There is also information on the Titanic which was made in Belfast's docks.

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