Situated within the scenic landscapes of Northern Ireland, County Down exudes a natural charm, balanced perfectly with historic importance and modern amenities. Famed for its rich folk history and its role in the ancient Kingdom of Ulster, Down is a location that pulls you into its cradle with enthralling experiences.

In this area guide, a deep-dive will be made into the stunning auditorium of natural beauty and the cultural offerings of Down. Prepare yourself for an exploration into this region's history, art, exciting sites, educational offerings, and most importantly, why this county is an ideal place for your next homestead.

History of Down

The emerald gem of County Down has roots seeped deep in Irish history. The county was one of the original parts of the Kingdom of Ulster, and its historical relevance still resonates today. Famous as the burial place of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, Down has a rich mix of religious, architectural, and cultural history. This tale of Down, aired by old cathedrals and Celtic monuments, has turned the county into a living historical portrait of Ulster's heritage. Despite the modern advancements, Down retains its enchanting historical character that continues to allure historians and tourists alike.


County Down is adorned with some jaw-dropping natural landmarks and remarkable architectural gems, but three stand out among the crowd. Firstly, the majestic Mourne Mountains, renowned as the inspiration for C.S. Lewis' 'Narnia', and called the 'most beautiful mountains in Britain' by the Sunday Times. Secondly, the Strangford Lough, an impressive, serene body of water that hosts a flurry of marine life, a treat for nature enthusiasts. Lastly, the vibrant city of Newry, which holds the historical significance of being a Customs Port, is today a buzzing city teeming with urban landscapes peppered with preserved edifices.

Landmarks we love

  • Grey Abbey: Located near Greyabbey village, this magnificent ruin was once a Cistercian Abbey that continues to echo its medieval grandeur.
  • Rowallane Gardens: Situated in Saintfield, it's a lush paradise of vibrant plants and trees spread across 52 acres, a true joy for botany lovers.
  • Bangor Castle: Nestled in Bangor, this 1852 neo-gothic mansion now serves as the town hall, a true testament to the region’s history.
  • Scrabo Tower: Perched atop a hill in Newtownards, this iconic 19th-century tower offers panoramic views of the North Down area.
  • Down County Museum: Found in Downpatrick, this museum, is a fully restored 18th-century prison building, offers an immersive insight into the past.

Top 10 things to do in Down

  • Mount Stewart: Near Greyabbey, this historic house and garden is a glimpse into the life of fascinating aristocratic families in Down.
  • Titanic Belfast: Located in Belfast, embark on an interactive journey to learn about the world's most famous ship, the RMS Titanic.
  • Murlough National Nature Reserve: A tranquil sanctuary in Dundrum Bay, providing a variety of habitats for local wildlife.
  • Exploris Aquarium: Set in Portaferry, this sea-life centre is a perfect choice for a fun day outing with kids.
  • Newcastle Beach: Situated in Newcastle, a great spot to relax and enjoy stunning natural vistas.
  • Delamont Country Park: Wander through the peaceful trails of this beautiful park in Killyleagh.
  • Scotland Street School Museum: Near Belfast, delve into the history of education in Scotland.
  • Silent Valley and Ben Crom Reservoirs: Nestled in Newcastle, a perfect spot for quiet walks and picturesque picnics.
  • Inch Abbey: Located in Downpatrick, a great place for history buffs to explore.
  • Redburn Country Park: Situated in Holywood, an ideal location for outdoor adventures with fantastic city views.

Our recommended areas to live in Down

  • Belfast: The largest city in Northern Ireland blends a rich history with ample metropolitan amenities like shopping, dining, and cultural attractions. Belfast is perfect for those who crave city living yet desire the beauty of nearby rural landscapes.
  • Downpatrick: Recognised for its historical significance, Downpatrick offers a quaint, rural setting ideal for families and retirees. With beautiful natural surroundings and its unique atmosphere, Downpatrick offers a peaceful life rooted in timeless Irish charm.
  • Bangor: As one of the largest towns in Northern Ireland, Bangor is a waterfront paradise offering a diverse range of cultural spots, entertainment venues, and local eateries. It's a perfect place for singles and families looking for an exceptional seaside lifestyle.
  • Newtownards: Boasting supreme views of The Mourne Mountains and Strangford Lough, Newtownards offers delightful suburban living with an array of amenities. It's an ideal mix of tranquillity and accessibility, perfect for working professionals.
  • Newcastle: Placed at the foothills of the spectacular Mourne Mountains, Newcastle is a favourite among nature enthusiasts. With a variety of outdoor activities and a comfortable town atmosphere, Newcastle guarantees a lifestyle of relaxation and play.

Best schools in Down

Education plays a crucial role in Down, catering to different learning styles and educational backgrounds. Fantastic public and private schools, along with several reputed colleges, are scattered around the county. Renowned institutions such as Friends School Lisburn, Sullivan Upper School, and St Malachy's College offer excellent preparatory and secondary education, while Belfast Royal Academy and Royal Belfast Academical Institution are known for fostering academic brilliance and character development. Down High School, in Downpatrick, has excellent graduation rates and high-achieving alumni.

For those seeking comprehensive, skill-based education, South Eastern Regional College provides a dynamic learning environment. And with Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University nearby, higher education is well within reach. The variety of educational institutions ensures that all students' interests are accommodated, making County Down an appealing choice for families considering a move.

Transport links in Down

County Down, well connected with the rest of Northern Ireland, offers multiple modes of comfortable and efficient transportation. The county's key roads, including the M1 and A1, provide easy commuting options throughout the province and to Dublin. Train services, operated mainly by Northern Ireland Railways, connect Down with Belfast and major towns, making daily commuting or weekend getaways convenient.

The George Best Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport connect Down with numerous domestic and international destinations, ensuring you're only a short flight away from the rest of the world. Bus services operated by Ulsterbus and Metro transport folks throughout local these lander communities and to other regions, further enhancing Down's accessibility.

In conclusion, it’s easy to see why County Down is so cherished by its residents and visitors alike. Immersed in history, brimming with stunning landscapes, and well-accommodated with modern amenities; Down epitomises the best of Northern Ireland. Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast drawn to the tranquillity of the Mourne Mountains, a history buff eager to explore Celtic monuments, or someone seeking to enjoy a balanced lifestyle, Down ticks all the boxes. With its welcoming communities, excellent schools and infrastructure, Down gives you a feel of a real 'home', a region where the past colours the present in the most beautiful ways, making each day a new chapter of a beautiful Irish tale.

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