If you’re considering staying in a holiday cottage in Northern Ireland, this part of County Down is an ideal spot. It offers mountains, spectacular views, a seaside resort and a golden stretch of glorious beach. Whether you’re a nature-lover, into walking and climbing, or you just want to relax and take in the scenery, there’s something for you here.

 

The Mourne Mountains

The Mourne Mountains comprise an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with a complex and varied character, presenting a range of walks, from the scenic to the challenging.

The big challenge is walking the six peaks, the tallest in this region. Be prepared though, because this route is nearly 24 miles of rugged terrain, typically taken over a three-day itinerary.

You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with stunning views of the Irish Sea, and the satisfaction of knowing you’ve conquered the six peaks.

If you want something less physically demanding, you can take other walks which will give you a vivid sense of the area without quite the same level of exertion. The 26 miles of the Mourne Way, for example, follows mountain paths through the foothills of the Mournes.

You can also explore the beauty of Tollymore Forest Park or take in the sights of Silent Valley Reservoir.

 

Newcastle

Around 45 minutes’ drive from Belfast, Newcastle is a small coastal town with an unspoiled, almost magical feel. It lies at the foot of the Mourne Mountains as they descend towards the coastline.

Nearby, you’ll find self-catering accommodation and the town itself has a 1930s lido, plenty of charm and a local restaurant, Vanilla, with a formidable reputation for great food.

 

Dundrum Castle and Coastal Path

On a wooded hill outside Dundrum Village, near Newcastle, Dundrum Castle dates back to 1177. This well-preserved Norman structure offers fantastic views of Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains. This reflects the strategic importance of the castle when John De Courcy first built it as part of the area’s coastal defences.

The Dundrum Coastal Path takes you along a stretch of disused railway line on the western shore of Dundrum Inner Bay. The walk begins next to Dundrum Village and follows the shoreline, and passes through a conservation area including rich grassland and saltmarshes. It also provides a habitat for a variety of birdlife.

Murlough Beach and Nature Reserve

Murlough Beach is just outside the town of Newcastle. It is a blue flag beach, with its golden sands stretching some five miles.

The beach is part of the Murlough Nature Reserve. This was Ireland’s first nature reserve, and consists of a 6,000-year-old system of fragile dunes, at the edge of Dundrum Bay. It contains evidence of human habitation dating to Neolithic times.

There is a network of paths and boardwalks through the dunes and this example of a dune heath landscape is home to butterflies, wildflowers and bird species, including wildfowl.