1 day itinerary (except Sunday)
The Mountains of Mourne are a striking feature of the region, but County Down is also renowned for abundant fresh produce; wild seafood from the exposed rocky shores of the Ards Pennisula down to Carlingford Lough to floury potatoes from the arable farmland near Strangford Lough.
Start your journey by travelling to Comber, County Down. Alan Bailey’s Pheasant’s Hill shop in Comber is one of the most interesting food shops in Northern Ireland, mainly because Mr Bailey is devoted to rare breed animals and the fresh meats are sold in the shop. The store is also packed with great organic foods, from milk to smoked salmon.
From Comber take the A22, Killyleagh/Downpatrick Road, and experience ‘Absolute tranquility and gastronomic heaven’ at Anna’s House, Lisbane. This extraordinary country house serving organic food from its own 2 acre organic garden with true hospitality is highly commended by Michelin, Bridgestone, Special Places, Lonely Planet and Time Out. A chance to take a break and browse the organic garden.
Returning to Comber, take the road to Newtownards and Mount Stewart House & Gardens. The neo-classical house and celebrated gardens are owned by the National Trust. The gardens were planted in the 1920s by Lady Londonderry, and are of international importance. The magnificent series of outdoor 'rooms' and vibrant parterres contain many rare plants that thrive in the mild climate of the Ards Peninsula. The house tour includes paintings and stories about the prominent political figures to whom the Londonderry family played host. After immersing yourself in history enjoy refreshment in The Bay Restaurant. Located in the stately home, the restaurant is open for morning coffee, lunches and afternoon tea.
From Mount Stewart follow the road south to the seaside town of Portaferry, home of Exploris, Northern Ireland’s public aquarium and seal sanctuary. Here you will encounter unexpected marine life on a journey from Strangford Lough into the depths of the Irish Sea.
Leaving Portaferry take the ferry across Strangford Lough to the pretty seaside town of Strangford. Continue your journey to Dundrum, home of Dundrum Bay Oyster Fishery which specialises in meaty Pacific Oysters. The fishery also grows mussels and cockles, and you can sample the seafood produce in both The Buck’s Head and The Mourne Seafood Bar. Both specialise in platters of oysters and steaming bowls of chowder, alongside Lobster Thermidor or Thai fishcakes with lime hollandaise. Keep room for desserts at The Buck’s Head, which excels in reinventing the classics.
Staying overnight in the area, you might want to try the relaxing home from home atmosphere in Carriage House, Dundrum or the opulence of the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, Newcastle.
World famous Finnebrogue Venison is produced by Denis Lynn on the Finnebrogue Estate, Downpatrick, Co Down.
The annual Hillsborough International Oyster Festival is held the first weekend of September every year in the historic village of Hillsborough, Co Down.