A Break in the Mournes and Strangford Lough
The Mournes and Strangford Lough areas in County Down are perfect for a getaway - easy to get to, with stunning scenic drives, fascinating historic sites and houses, and great places to dine and stay over.
Here are just some ideas to get you started on planning your trip.
• Soak up some history at the many castles in this once strategically important area. These include Bagenal's Castle which houses Newry and Mourne Museum, Greencastle Royal Castle overlooking the entrance to Carlingford Lough, and the commanding, 12th century Dundrum Castle. While you're in Dundrum, why not have lunch at The Buck's Head Inn.
• Visit the F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio in Banbridge and browse its exhibitions, sculpture garden and craft shop, then enjoy some home baking in the café.
• Visit the bustling seaside town of Newcastle. Stay in the luxurious Slieve Donard Resort & Spa overlooking the majestic Mountain of Mourne, the perfect place to pamper yourself or enjoy a round of golf at the world-famous Royal County Down Golf Club.
• Be sure to sample the local seafood at restaurants along the coastline - specialties include turbot, plaice, langoustine and brill. You can even learn first-hand at the Mourne Seafood Cookery School in Kilkeel.
• Go for a bracing walk in the Mourne Mountains or Ring of Gullion, two adjoining Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty which are a walker's paradise. The region has some beautiful forest and country parks to explore, including Kilbroney Park, Tollymore Forest Park and Delamont Country Park.
• Explore the beautiful National Trust property of Castle Ward near the village of Strangford. Go for a stroll around the grounds, cycle the trails along the shores of Strangford Lough, visit the Medieval Audley's Castle, browse the gift and second-hand book shops, then relax in the Coach House café.
• While you're in the area, why not try a Strangford Sea Safari tour? These high speed boat trips are the perfect way to see the area's stunning coastline - look out for the seals and the lough's impressive whirlpools.
• Take the Strangford Lough Ferry the short distance from Strangford across to the town of Portaferry on the opposite shore of the lough. Dine in or stay in the Portaferry Hotel and explore the Ards Peninsula with its many attractions. These include the restored fishing village of Kearney, Grey Abbey and another stunning National Trust property, Mount Stewart House and Gardens.
For more inspiration visit The Mourne Mountains and Strangford Lough.