So close, yet far and away the best for a break – the majestic Mournes
Just 2 hours from Dublin the Mournes area in Co. Down can rival anywhere in Ireland for stunning scenery, world class golf and incredible seafood just waiting to be discovered.
You don’t have to drive for half a day to discover a completely different world where beyond Carlingford Lough, the majestic Slieve Donard rises above Kilkeel and Newcastle in a landscape that is affecting and dramatic. The Mournes is an area with its own magic and makes the perfect escape from Dublin, or anywhere else in the country, if you’re looking to connect with nature, live the good life, sample some of the best seafood in the world, or tee-off in style. Be inspired by the Mournes.
Mournes Coastal Route Co. Down
This incredible stretch of coast takes you from the Ring of Gullion in South Armagh to Strangford Lough. It takes you right through the heart of the Mourne Mountains allowing you to stop off at a number of natural beauty spots along the way. Some of Northern Island’s best hidden gems are waiting to be found on the Mournes Coastal Route and there’s a surprise around every corner.
Kilkeel is world famous for its seafood, which comes straight off the boats in the town’s harbour. Here the award-winning Mourne Seafood Cookery School teaches seafood lovers the art of selecting, buying, preparing and cooking all kinds of fish. Under the tutelage of MasterChef Roger Moynihan participants will come away with a few more winning recipes in the bank, some great tips and a new passion for the finest food that can be put on a plate.
Silent Valley Reservoir, Kilkeel, Co. Down
Built in the 20s to supply Co. Down and the growing Belfast with water the reservoir is a feat of engineering set in the stunning surrounds of the Mourne Mountains. The Mournes was a natural choice for the site of a reservoir because of its high rainfall and its pristine waters. Just a short turn off the Mourne Coastal Route and you’ll find a manmade wonder that lives in complete harmony with the natural beauty around it.
Found in the historic town of Dundrum, the Buck’s Head dates back to the eighteenth century. Today the fine seafood restaurant welcomes you to a cosy interior complete with open fire and a menu filled with imaginative seafood specialities, created by owner and chef Alison Crother.
Established 128 years ago, the Royal Co. Down Golf Club in Newcastle is one of the oldest golf clubs in Ireland. With two outstanding 18-hole links courses, the Championship Course and the Annesley Links the Club hosted the Irish Open in 2015 and the Senior British Open in 2002. Visitors are welcome on the Championship Link course but check the website for available times.
Bordered by the Royal Co. Down Golf Club on one side and a stretch of golden sandy beach on the other you’ll find the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa. Five-time winner of the prestigious 2017 Irish Hotels Awards, this luxurious 180 bedroom hotel is set on six acres of immaculate gardens. Lovingly maintained in it's magnificent state, the hotel has panoramic views across the Irish Sea and Royal County Down Golf Club. Where sumptuous Victorian grandeur meets modern comfort and luxury, you'll find the perfect place to unwind. And with current exchange rates, your Euro goes further.
Another culinary highlight of Dundrum is the Mourne Seafood Bar. Serving up incredible seafood at affordable prices, the restaurant sources all its shellfish from its very own shellfish beds. Just 3 miles from the Royal County Down Golf Club, it’s the perfect place to eat after a round of golf on the links.
Murlough National Nature Reserve is a fragile 6000-year-old sand dune system that was established as Ireland’s first Nature Reserve in 1967. It is an excellent area for walking and bird watching due to its spectacular location at the edge of Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains. The Reserve is one of the best and most extensive examples of dune heath within Ireland and with extensive walks and boardwalks through the dunes it is a must see in the Mournes.
St. Patrick’s Heartland, Co. Down
Venture into the heartland of Ireland’s Patron Saint in Co. Down. Follow the Saint Patrick’s Trail through a host of Christian sites at Bangor, the Ards Peninsula, Downpatrick, Newry and Armagh and see how strong the links are in this part of Ireland to St. Patrick.
Strangford Lough, Co. Down
The largest sea inlet in the British Isles, Strangford Lough is a Marine Conservation Zone that is recognised internationally for its natural importance. Fishing and boating have always been a draw to the waters of Strangford but there’s also a wealth of history and culture to be found in the towns of Killyleagh, Comber, Newtownards, Portaferry and Strangford that are found along the lough’s shores.
What better way to sample the delectable delights of Co. Down than with NI Food Tours. You’ll meet local people in their homes and taste lots of amazing award winning food from raw milk blue cheese to single estate whiskey, from oils to chutneys and chocolate. You can try your hand at making traditional Irish Soda Bread, or just eat it smothered in delicious local butter.
Situated in a beautiful Grade 1 listed Edwardian butcher's shop, the Bull & Ram serves the best in local award-winning meat and fresh, seasonal County Down produce. A unique dining experience that combines new and creative cuisine with traditional fare in a setting worthy of a period film. A real class act.
Northern Ireland has so much to see and do and with the stunning Mournes Coastal Route of Co. Down just a short drive up the road there’s never been a better time to visit. Go see what you’re missing.
For more information on a short break to the Mournes, visit discovernorthernireland.com