Touring Northern Ireland - Belfast to Dundalk
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Driving Directions for this Route can be found here.
Keeping to the coast again, following alongside Belfast Lough, pass out through Hollywood and along to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum which gives us an insight into how the people of Ulster lived in the early 1900s. A number of buildings including mills, churches, schools and shops have been recreated.
The transport museums exhibits include the full range of transport from the simple horse and cart, right through to the colossal locomotives and ships built in the area.
From Bangor head to Newtonards and if you have the time take the more scenic route along the Ards Peninsula as the road runs parallel to Strangford Lough. Why not stop and visit the Gardens of Mount Stewart, an eighteenth century home with possibly the finest gardens in Ireland. The house also has a small collection of famous paintings.
Drive to the end of the Peninsula and take the ferry for the short crossing from Portaferry to Strangford (about 5 minutes). If you don’t have as much time to spare, you can take the quicker but less scenic route from Newtonards to Killyleagh and Downpatrick. Stopping at Killleagh will allow you to stretch the legs and stop on the shore of Strangford Lough.
Between Strangford and Downpatrick is the Castle Ward which sits on a 750 acre estate. The house is built with both Classical and Gothic features, and has excellent views over Strangford Lough. It also has a number of beautiful walks through the grounds (30 minutes to 3 hours) taking you through parklands, forest and along the lakeshore in places.
From Strangford or Downpatrick rejoin the coast at Ardglass following the road through Killough to Clough and on to Dundrum. You can take a guided tour of the Castle. Currently admission is free. The Castle was built circa 1210, and now stands in ruin.
A short distance away is the Murlough National Nature Reserve which holds an impressive range of flora and fauna. It also has a number of Stone Age relics. Children should also be impressed with the reserves collection and exhibits on insects and butterflies. Why not take a stroll through the dunes to Murlough beach, which must be one of Ireland’s nicest strands.
Newcastle is the next town and makes an ideal point to stop and find something to eat. It is the subject of the Percy French song which tells of “where the mountains of Mourne, sweep down to the sea”.