The Victorian seaside resort of Newcastle (An Caisleán Nua) has been given a multimillion-pound makeover and sports a snazzy modern promenade, stretching for more than a kilometre along the seafront, complete with modern sculptures and an elegant footbridge over the River Shimna. The facelift makes the most of Newcastle's superb setting on a 5km strand of golden sand at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, and there are hopes that it will transform the town's fortunes from fading bucket-and-spade resort to outdoor activities capital and gateway to the proposed Mourne National Park.
The town is a good base for exploring Murlough National Nature Reserve and the Mourne Mountains – accessible from here on foot, by car or by public transport. Golfers from around the globe flock to the Royal County Down golf course, voted the 'best in the world outside the US' by the magazine Planet Golf in 2007.
If you're driving, be aware that the town can be a major traffic bottleneck on summer weekends.