Escape the city and explore Belfast and Strangford Loughs for wonderful water’s edge encounters. Take the train from Lanyon Place Station to Holywood and in minutes you’ll be on the shore of Belfast Lough, enjoying the fabulous North Down Coastal Path which meanders from Holywood to Bangor.
Traditions such as griddle baking, basket weaving and blacksmithing are showcased at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra. You can walk in the footsteps of monks and saints at Bangor Abbey and North Down Museum. Or why not pack a picnic and head for Scrabo Hill, an extinct volcano in Newtownards with magnificent views of Ireland’s largest sea lough, Strangford Lough? Nearby Killynether Wood is an ideal spot for the children to play hide and seek.
Mount Stewart House has opened yet more magnificent rooms to the public. After a tour, treat yourself to some lunch before taking in its equally enchanting Gardens and trails. Further along the Ards Peninsula you’ll find abbeys, stately homes, windmills and castles. This land has been shaped by Ulster Scot settlers and its quaint villages have a tale or two to tell. Stop at the giant ‘E’ sculpture in Ballyhalbert for a selfie at Ireland’s most easterly point!
Bring your little ones to encounter wonderful wildlife and animals, from the ducklings at Castle Espie, Comber, to the baby otters and seals in Exploris, Portaferry and spring lambs at the Ark Open Farm, Newtownards.
Burn off energy in the many activity centres, with trampolining, high ropes and a skate park ready for all those junior dare devils! Creative children can decorate their own masterpiece at Eden Pottery, Millisle while you enjoy cake and a cuppa.
Spend quality time together and create lasting memories on a bespoke experience. From guided walking, food or distillery tours to kayaking by moonlight or taking to the air on a trial flight – the possibilities are endless and the views are truly breath-taking!
Surrounded by natural beauty, many talented artists have made their home here. From sinuous silver jewellery reflecting the movement of the Loughs to pottery pit-fired and patterned by hedgerow and seashore plants, the area is both inspiration and ingredient. Visit Bangor’s Project 24, an artist’s studio or craft shop to find that perfect memento.
Time to Recharge
Nothing tastes better than fish and chips fresh from the paper by the seaside or ice creams along the shorefront watching boats wrestle with the tides. Throw in cosy cafes and top class restaurants serving up tasty homemade treats or gourmet local ingredients, accommodation ranging from a homely hostel to a 5* converted boathouse with scores of welcoming B&Bs in between, and you’ll wonder why you’ve never been here before!
There are many events to keep you entertained - from music, karting and guided walks to festivals and exhibitions. To help you make the most of your visit, stop off at Bangor or Newtownards Visitor Information Centre where friendly staff are on hand to assist with advice, inspiring ideas and directions.
For more info tel. (+44) (0)28 9182 6846 or click visitardsandnorthdown.com.