Bangor Marina & Pickie Fun Park Bangor seafront
The 500 berth marina opened in 1995. Pickie Fun Park has mute-swan pedalos, train, kids mini pool and adventure playground. There are a number of good eateries close by so this adds up to an easy day out with the kids. As part of the coastal walk you can walk to Crawfordsburn Country Park (further if you wish) or round the other direction to Ballyholme and beyond! For a bit of history don't forget to visit the Town Hall (North Down Heritage Centre ) where an excellent display can be viewed for free.
Castle Espie Centre 78 Ballydrain Road, Comber, BT23 6EA Tel: 028 9187 4146
A haven for fledgling ornithologists and for a large gathering of geese, ducks and swans. Many of the birds are so tame they will take food from your hand. The best time to visit is between May and June, when the grounds are overrun with goslings, ducklings and cygnets.
Castle Ward Estate Strangford, Downpatrick, BT30 7LS Tel: 028 4488 1204
This mid-Georgian mansion is an architectural curiosity of its time, built in two distinct architectural styles, classical and Gothic. The Victorian laundry, playroom, cornmill and sawmill give the full flavour of how the estate worked. Castle Ward demesne covers 332ha (820 acres) of woodland, farmland and gardens, including 14ml of guided walks.
Castlewellan Forest Park Main St, Castlewellan, BT31 9BU Tel: 028 4377 8664
Located in a dramatic setting of mountains and sea, this is one of the most oustanding tree and shrub collections in Europe. The garden is a mixture of informal and formal design with terraces, fountains, ornamental gates and flower borders. To walk around the forest park's mile-long lake, encountering some intriguing modern sculptures on the way, is to enjoy a great experience of eighteenth-century landscaping.
Crawfordsburn Country Park Bridge Road South, Helen's Bay, BT19 1LD. Tel +44 (0) 28 9185 3621
The Park is situated on the southern shores of Belfast Lough. It is full of variety, featuring 3.5.km of coastline, often rugged and rocky, the two best beaches in the Belfast area, a deep wooded glen with an impressive waterfall at its head, a pond and wildflower meadows with excellent views over the Lough. The Park also includes Grey Point Fort, a coastal battery and gun emplacement dating from early this century and updated during World War 2.
Donard Park Southern end of Newcastle town
Donard Park is a public park and is next to the Glen River, which forms the boundary along one side. The park is named after St. Donard, who also gives his name to Slieve Donard, the mountain which the park is at the foot of. The reason why we have included it here is that you will find it is the best place to ascend Slieve Donard itself.
Down Cathedral English Street, Downpatrick, BT30 6AB Tel: 028 4461 4922
Down Cathedral is a Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. It was built in 1183 as a Benedictine Monastry. In the graveyard we have the reputed grave of St. Patrick. Magnificent stain glass windows, box pews and beautiful organ case enhances this interesting building.
Down County Museum English Street, Downpatrick, BT30 6AB Tel: 028 4461 5218
This former gaol and military barracks where famous United Irishman Thomas Russel was hanged in 1803, now houses the St Patrick Heritage Centre, telling the story of Ireland's Patron Saint and the area's strong links to the founding of Christianity in Ireland.
(Pictured above) This earthwork, only 5 miles south of Belfast city centre and west of the A24 in Ballynahatty, is a huge prehistoric enclosure nearly 200m in diameter. It encloses nearly three hectares with the Druid's Altar, a dolmen from around 4000BC in the centre. Prehistoric rings were commonly believed to be the home of fairies and consequently treated with respect, but this one was commandeered in the 19th century as a racetrack. The 4m-high embankment was a natural grandstand and course barrier. It's an impressive and atmospheric place.
Greyabbey BT22 2NQ Tel: 028 9054 6552
These splendid ruins of a Cistercian Abbey church and conventional buildings are the finest example of Anglo-Norman ecclesiastical architecture in Northern Ireland. The Abbey is set in the beautiful landscaped parkland of 18th century Rosemount House.
Inch Abbey Downpatrick, BT30 6LZ Tel: 028 9054 3034
These extensive remains are of a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1180, by John de Courcy, who led the 1177 Anglo-Norman invasion of East Ulster. It is set in a beautiful location beside the River Quoile, with distant views towards de Courcy's Cathedral town of Downpatrick.
Kilbroney Forest Park Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor Tel: 028 417 38134
Situated to the north east of Rostrevor and on the northern shores of Carlingford Lough. There are few parklands in existence which could surpass the beauty of Kilbroney Park. Here mountain, stream, sea-lough and valley conjure up a scenic wonderland. As a backdrop to Kilbroney Park stands the impressive 4,000 acre Rostrevor Forest rising sharply from 30m to 500m above sea level. There is a forest drive and then a footpath to the top of Slievemartin, or a strenuous trek up the steepest side of the mountain.
Kilcief Castle Strangford Tel: (028) 9023 5000
2.5 miles south of Strangford, Kilcief Castle guards the seawards mouth of the strait. This is the oldest tower house in the county, built in the 15th century by the adulterous bishop of Down. It has some elaborate details and is viewed as the prototype for other castles in the region.
This is perhaps Ulster's most famous Stone Age monument and is found just west of Slieve Croob (532m). The tripod dolmen is less bulky than most and its elevated position gives it the impressive backdrop of the Mourne Mountains to the south. Legananny Dolmen is situated off the B7, 7 miles south of Dromara, signposted from Dromara and Castlewellan. There is no entrance free and visitors are welcome to visit all year round.
Mournes Coast Road
The coastal drive south along the A2 around the sweeping Mournes is the most memorable journey in Down. Annalong, Kilkeel, Rostrevor and Warrenpoint offer convenient stopping points, from which you can detour into the mountains. If you take the Head Road, following the signs for the Silent Valley half a mile north of Annalong, you go through the beautiful stone-wall countryside, past the Silent Valley and back to Kilkeel.
Mount Stewart House & Gardens Portaferry Road, Newtownards, BT22 2AD Tel: 028 4278 8387
(Pictured below) Mount Stewart is an 18th-century house and garden owned by the National Trust. Situated on the east shore of Strangford Lough, a few miles outside the town of Newtownards and near Greyabbey, it was the home of the Stewart family, Marquesses of Londonderry. The house and its contents reflect the history of the Stewarts, who played a leading role in British social and political life.
Opened in 1986 the Newry and Mourne Museum aims to provide a dynamic and inclusive recreational and educational resource reflecting the rich cultural heritage of the local area. Entrance is free and the small museum contains a detailed history of the town and has some intriguing exhibits, including Admiral Nelson's cabin table from HMS Victory.
Nendrum Monastic Site Comber, Newtownards Tel: 028 9054 3037
The monastery comprises three concentric dry-stone walled enclosures with evidence for industrial work outside, including a tidal mill and landing places. The central enclosure has a church ruin with sundial, the remains of round tower and a graveyard. The middle enclosure contains remains of huts and workshops. The outer enclosure is only partly in state care and little is known about it.
Rowallane Gardens Saintfield, Ballynahinch, BT24 7LH Tel: 028 9751 0131
Renowned for spectacular displays of rhododendrons and azaleas in the spring. Summer and autumn are excellent times to visit too. Rowallane House was inherited in 1903 by Hugh Armitage Moore, a distinguished gardener who spent 25 years developing the 21 hectare garden.
Silent Valley NI Water
Head Road, just east of Kilkeel, leads 4 miles to the beautiful Silent Valley where the Kilkeel River has been dammed to provide water for Belfast. The dry-stone Mourne Wall surrounds the valley and climbs over the summits of 15 of the nearby peaks. Two metres high and over 22 miles long, it was built between 1910 and 1922 and outlines the watershed of the springs that feed the two lakes.
Cut off by from the sea by the Ards Peninsula, except for a 1km wide strait at Portaferry, Strangford Lough is almost a lake. It is 25km long, about 6km wide and up to 45m deep. Large colonies of grey seal live here, especially at the southern tip of the peninsula. Birds abound on the shores and mudflats including Brent geese and eider ducks.
Strangford/Portaferry Ferry BT30 6AJ Tel: 028 4488 1637
There has been a ferry service between Portaferry and Strangford, without a break, for almost four centuries. The alternative road journey is 75 kilometres and takes about an hour and a half, while the ferry crosses the 0.6 nautical miles (1.1 km) in 8 minutes. A new £2.7 million vessel, MV Portaferry II, built by McTay Marine of Merseyside, came into service on 18 December 2001, relegating the earlier vessel, MV Strangford to a support role.
Struell Wells Ardglass Road, Downpatrick, BT30 6RA
1 mile east of Downpatrick, behind the hospital, is the final pilgrimage site associated with St. Patrick. Since the middle ages, the waters from these have been popular cures for all ills, with one well specially set aside for eye ailments. The site's popularity was at its peak in the 17th century and the men's and women's bath houses date from this time.
Tollymore Forest Park Byransford Road, Newcastle, BT33 0HJ Tel: 028 4372 2428
The 500-hectare park is almost 2 miles north-east of Newcastle. It has lengthy walks along the Shimna River and the northern Mournes. The visitor centre is in a 19th century church-like barn that has information on the flora, fauna and history of the park. Guided walks are available. Part of the park but with a separate entrance is the Tollymore Mountain Centre with courses on hill walking, rock climbing and canoeing.
Ulster Folk & Transport Museum Cultra, Holywood, Co.Down BT18 OEU. Tel +44 (0)28 9042 8428
(Pictured below) One of the finest museums in Ireland. The Folk Museum illustrates the way of life and the traditions of the people of the north of Ireland. The Transport Museum displays Ireland's largest and most comprehensive transport collection, from horse-drawn carts to Irish built motor cars, and from the mighty steam locomotives that graced our railways to the history of ship and aircraft building.