County Down

County Down Ireland is in the North East corner of Ireland. It is one of the six counties that form Northern Ireland (uk) sitting within the province of Ulster.
It is home to the Mountains of Mourne a unique part of Ireland landscapes and if you are visiting Ireland it has many attractions including the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Tollymore Forest Park, coastal town of Bangor and of course the Mourne Mountains.

•Down contains both the southernmost point of Northern Ireland (uk) (Cranfield Point) and the easternmost point of Ireland (Burr Point).
•It is one of only two counties of Ireland to presently have a majority of the population from a Protestant community background, according to the 2001 census. The other is County Antrim.
•The Mourne Mountains have been named as an area of outstanding natural beauty. There are at least a dozen peaks in the mountains.
•Slieve Donard, at 849 m (2,785 ft), is the highest peak in the Mournes and in Northern Ireland (uk)
•The county town, although not the largest, is Downpatrick. It is named after Dun Padraig (Irish), since it has many links to Saint Patrick. He is thought to be buried in the grounds of Down Cathedral.
•Down contains two significant peninsulas: Ards Peninsula and Lecale peninsula.
•The Old Inn in Crawfordsburn is one of Ireland's oldest hostelries, with records dating back to 1614.
•The county has a population of about 531,665. It is also one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland, lying within the province of Ulster.
•Killyleagh Castle, in County Down, Northern Ireland, is the oldest occupied castle in Ireland.Built in the 13th century, it is still in use as a private home.
•Mount Stewart House and Gardens are amongst the finest estates in Northern Ireland and can be found about five miles south of Newtownards near Strangford Lough

The picturesque seaside town of Annalong is at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. Ireland’s most striking cornmill is to be found in this village, built in the 1800’s. It is one of Ulster’s last working watermills. Why not be transported to this bygone age by producing your own flour and oatmeal! No matter what the weather, Annalong has something to offer. You can launch a boat, follow the Marine Park trail, enjoy a cup of coffee in the cafe, or take a walk through the exhibition at the Visitors Centre.

Ardglass with its magnificent harbour is one of the three major fishing ports in Northern Ireland. Water based sports and sea angling are popular. The former Ardglass Castle is now home to Ardglass Golf Club, which plays host to the annual Heart of Down Golf Tournament, organised by Down District Council. Jordans Castle an imposing ruined 15th century tower house is open to visitors during the summer season. Ardglass has benefited from the new Ardglass Marina Complex opened in 1996, with berthing facilities for 83 vessels, perfect for exploring the South Down coast and on the rushing waters of Strangford Lough. Ardtole Church a ruined late medieval church is situated on hilltop overlooking the sea and the Isle of Man.

A busy market town on the North East corner of Down District, Ballynahinch was laid out by the Rathdown family in the first half of the 17th century. Windmill Hill is famous as the site of the Battle of Ballynahinch in June 1798. Ballynahinch Community Centre has facilities for basketball, badminton, tennis and outdoor playground. Just outside Ballynahinch is Spa Golf Club, host to the annual Heart of Down Golf Tournament organised by Down District Council. Riding facilities are available at Ballynahinch Riding Centre

At the centre of the District is the chief town and administrative centre of Banbridge situated in the townland of Ballyvally which, in Irish, means ‘the townland of the road’ referring to the road which crossed the River Bann on its way to Newry. The great hill on the south of the river presented a huge problem to the horse drawn Royal Mail coaches of old who threatened to bypass the town which would have resulted in lost trade. The action taken as a result of this threat can be seen today in a feature that makes Banbridge like no other town in Ireland. In 1834 the wide main street was divided into three sections with an underpass cut out into the middle to lower the hill and a bridge built over the gap. The bridge is called the Downshire Bridge, also known locally as ‘The Jinglers Bridge’ while the underpass is known as ‘The Cut’.

Bangor is a large seaside resort on the southern side of Belfast Lough and within the Belfast Metropolitan Area. In 2007 the town was voted by UTV viewers as the most desirable place to live in Northern Ireland.[3] It functions as a commuter town for the Greater Belfast area, which it is linked to by the A2 road and a direct railway line, usually known as the Bangor Line. Bangor is situated 13.6 miles (22 km) east from the heart of Belfast, not far from George Best Belfast City Airport.

Bangor is part of the North Down area. Tourism is important to the local economy, particularly in the summer months, and plans are being made for the long-delayed redevelopment of the seafront; a notable historical building in the town is Bangor Old Custom House. The largest plot of private land in the area, the Clandeboye Estate, which is located a few miles from the town centre, belongs to the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava. Bangor hosts the Royal Ulster and Ballyholme Yacht clubs. Bangor Marina is one of the largest in both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland, and holds Blue Flag status.[4] The town is twinned with Bregenz in Austria and Virginia Beach in the United States.

Castlewellan, situated between the Mournes and Slieve Croob Hill, is proud of its heritage. The Castle, in Scottish Baronial style, was owned by the powerful Annesley family who built the town during the 18th century. The Castle is now a conference centre. Castlewellan Forest Park is one of the most popular Forest Parks in Northern Ireland, attracting many visitors to its world famous arboretum, and the lake is famous for Brown and Rainbow Trout also plays host to major rowing competitions between Queens University and Universities in the Republic of Ireland. Castlewellan Fair Days in May and November attract large crowds. Down District Council organise Walking Festival first weekend in August. Riding centres nearby include Wood Lodge and Mount Pleasant.

Comber is another plantation town that owes its development to the Industrial Revolution. Flour milling and distilling developed in the 19th century but the towns oldest industry is the spinning mill dating back to 1863 and regarded as one of the best examples of its kind in Northern Ireland. Famous names abound here such as the Andrews family who own the mill have held high office in Northern Ireland since it was founded in 1922, and Major General Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie, whose statue stands in the square distinguished himself in a spectacular attack on a hill fort in the Himalayas. Comber has a relatively dry climate with a high sunshine average, making it ideal for arable farming and giving it the reputation of being, the Garden of Ulster.

Downpatrick is the administrative centre of the historic Down District, and with a population of 10,113, has the highest populous in Down. There are many sites to visit in this town and its surrounds. Downpatrick is home to Down County Museum, Down Cathedral and adjacent to it is the final resting place of Saint Patrick, along with Saint Brigid and Colmcille. Downpatrick Race Course is home of the Ulster National, and plays host to a series of meetings throughout the year. Due to open in 2001 is the centre dedicated to Saint Patrick, the Saint Patrick Ulster Centre.

is a small market town and civil parish band lies within the local government area of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council. It is 19 miles (31 km) southwest of Belfast, on the A1 Belfast–Dublin road. The town's centre is Market Square, which has a rare set of stocks. It is in the old linen manufacturing district. Dromore has the remains of a castle and earthworks, although these have modern buildings surrounding them, a large motte and bailey or encampment (known locally as "the Mound"), and an earlier earthwork known as the Priest's Mount on the Maypole Hill.

Holywood is a affluent satellite town of Belfast. The clock tower of its old priory, dating from the thirteenth century, is floodlit at night. An abbey founded in woods here in AD620 by St Liseran was connected with the larger Abbey at Bangor.

In Kilkeel, which has the largest and best-equipped fishing fleet in all of Ireland, fresh fish is available all year round. The fish market held weekly on Friday at the harbour is a tourist attraction. Kilkeel is the Kingdom of the Mournes and annually hosts the Kingdom of Mourne Festival. Within Kilkeel, there are many amenities including Kilkeel Swimming Pool, Kilkeel Sports Centre or Kilkeel Golf Club, an 18-hole golf course in Mourne Park. The Nautilus Centre situated on the idyllic quayside at Kilkeel, paints a picture of the fishing industry in this era and tells the story of Kilkeel. The well known Silent Valley and Silent Valley Visitor Centre is just 5km from Kilkeel and tells the history of the dams being built.

Killyleagh on the shores of Strangford Lough boasts a large harbour which caters primarily for pleasure craft. Dominating the skyline is Killyleagh Castle, an amazing Loire style chateau with a riot of turrets and battlements rising like a fairytale vision towering over the town. Killyleagh Castle is the oldest inhabitated castle in Ireland dating back to the 1600’s. Killyleagh Castle is open by prior arrangement for groups. Located close by is Delamont Country Park – way marked walks overlooking Strangford Lough. Situated in the park is Strangford Stone 100ft megalith and miniature railway – popular with all the family.

Newcastle is a lively seaside resort situated approximately 48 km south of Belfast and 139 km north of Dublin. The town is set within a stunning natural environment with the Irish Sea on one side and the magnificent Mourne Mountains on the other. Newcastle is located within the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a stunningly beautiful coastline. The surrounding area is blessed with forests, lakes and rivers and a host of historical features. There is a variety of accommodation available together with a large number of eating places and public houses in close proximity. Newcastle is home to the world famous Royal County Down Golf Club – very popular links course. The area is popular for crafts.

Newtownards a manufacturing and market garden town a bit inland from the head of the lough, dates from the thirteenth century when a Dominican priory was founded by Walter de Burgh.

Portaferry has a beautiful site on the east side of the entrance to Strangford Lough. The long, low waterfront of cottages, terraces, pubs and small shops is best appreciated from the car ferry which takes you crabwise across the narrows to Strangford village in barely five minutes.

From the square at Rathfriland on top of a steep hill, five streets with stepped terraces fall away sharply on all sides. Before the combustion engine, the cheery residents usually walked home, getting out of their traps and carts to spare the ponies. The town has a mid-week variety market in the square and 3 livestock sale days a week. During the nineteenth century potato famine, the market house (1770) was used as a soup kitchen though Rathfriland was spared the worst, since cereals as well as potatoes were grown locally. Four substantial Presbyterian churches are testimony to past differences of opinion. The old Quaker meeting house is now a scout hall, and the small shop with pointed windows on the first floor was originally the town’s Methodist chapel. A very prominent funnel shaped water tower occupies the high point in the riverless town, near the site of a sixteenth century Magennis castle, now vanished. This part of County Down has distinguished connections with pioneer Canada. The intrepid Catherine O’Hare, mother of the first European child born west of the Rockies was herself born in Rathfriland in 1835. She and her husband, Augustus Schubert, joined 200 Overlanders who went west in search of gold, and blazed the trail for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Rathfriland has not yet erected a memorial to this remarkable woman, though in Kamloops city park British Columbia is named after her, and Armstrong also has a monument.

The road into Rostrevor winds past a tall granite obelisk erected in memory of Major General Robert Ross. He was commander of a small British force which captured Washington in 1814 after unexpectedly defeating the Americans at Bladensburg. Palm trees and mimosa flourish in the mild climate of Rostrevor. There are oak trees in the square, nice old houses, and a long seafront.

The founder of Waringstown built himself a two storey Jacobean-style gentleman’s house, one of the first unfortified houses in Ireland (1667). A third storey was added later. A handsome flaky pink painted mansion with tall Tudor revival chimneys, it looks solid enough but is actually built of mud and rubble. Across the road are seven curious terraces in sets of three and four houses, with scalloped garden walls and railings-some of Waring’s seventeenth century cottages rebuilt in 1930’s style. The Waring fortune was founded on linen and Dutch style houses were built along the main street for the weavers, most of whom came from Flanders. The present white-washed houses with flowerbeds, though modern, have a certain harmony. A yeoman’s house built 1698, now a restaurant, founded in 1851, fields a strong team. The big house and the parish church (1681) had the same designer, James Robb, chief mason of the King’s works in Ireland. The church’s Jacobean interior is largely of ancient oak-roof, panelling, choir screen and a notable pulpit.

The port at Warrenpoint handles container traffic and substantial coal, timber, paper and grain tonnages, with a regular service to Rotterdam. When Newry port closed in the 1970s, this harbour was enlarged, and the town has an animated waterfront, long promenade, and a spacious square used mostly as a carpark but also for fetes and occasional markets.