County Down's attractions are many and varied. From glorious walks in the Mourne Mountains, to rolling farmland with cosy village pubs, to birdwatching on the mudflats of Strangford Lough, you'll want to spend some time exploring it all.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout County Down.
This 16-sq-km forest park has walking paths offering awesome views, as well as Northern Ireland's best downhill mountain-biking trails. Arriving by car, the main park entrance is 1km east of Rostrevor. From the lower car park, you can continue to the top of the forest drive, from where a 10-minute hike leads up to a superb view over the lough to Carlingford Mountain, as well as to the Cloughmore Stone, a 30-tonne granite boulder inscribed with Victorian-era graffiti. If walking from town, follow Bridge St east to reach Kilbroney River; from here the Fairy Glen path leads along the riverbank, connecting with other trails; continue east to reach the Narnia Trail, a children's woodland path dotted with characters from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Kilbroney was the inspiration behind CS Lewis' fantastical tale). Bike hire and uplift are available from East Coast Adventure at the trailhead. There's also a caravan park, with a grass area suitable for tents (campsites with/without electricity hook-up £23/18.50).
This Cistercian abbey was founded in 1193 by Affreca, wife of Norman knight John de Courcy, the builder of Carrickfergus Castle, in thanks for surviving a stormy sea crossing from the Isle of Man. The small visitor centre explains Cistercian life with paintings and panels; there's also a herb garden full of medicinal plants once cultivated by the monks. The abbey's church, in use until the 18th century, was the first in Ireland to be built in the Gothic style. In the visitor centre (moved inside for protection) is a sandstone effigy, possibly depicting Affreca. Even if the visitor centre is closed, the ruins are well labelled with informative signs. The grounds, overlooked by 18th-century Rosemount House, are awash with trees and flowers on spreading lawns, making this an ideal picnic spot.
About 2km northwest of Warrenpoint's town centre, you'll see Narrow Water Castle, a fine Elizabethan tower house built in 1568 to command the entrance to the River Newry. It's closed to the public, unless, that is, you stay at its apartment.