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Day Trip to Ards and North Down

Just 13 miles east of Belfast you can explore the Ards and North Down area. Enjoy peaceful walks along the North Down Coastal Path, experience great days out with the family and uncover fascinating tales from the area's unique history and heritage. Take a day to amble through Mount Stewart’s world class gardens, see nature at its best at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre or walk around the stunning shoreline of Strangford Lough. View map of attractions >>

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Discover & Explore | History & Heritage | Family Fun | Trails & Tours | Sport | Three Day Itinerary | Book Your Stay

Discover and Explore

Mount Stewart

Mount Stewart is one of the most inspiring and unusual gardens in the National Trust's ownership. Engaging tours of the opulent house reveal its fascinating heritage and historic world-famous artefacts and artwork. Discover a rich landscape of farmland, woodland, monuments and buildings, and a breathtaking hidden glen as you explore the historic demesne.

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Castle Espie

Get up close to Ireland's largest collection of native and exotic waterbirds and migrant birds whilst taking in stunning estuary views at Castle Espie. With a secret swamp, natural play area, walks and trails and an outdoor duckery, there’s something for all the family to enjoy.

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Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

Two museums in one, the Ulster Folk and Transport gives you a window into the way of life from 100 years ago. Discover towns and countryside, with cottages, farms, schools and shops to explore throughout the Folk Museum. Many of the buildings were relocated to the museum to preserve the original structures, and you’ll witness people going about their daily lives as if it was 1900. After, visit the Transport Museum, filled with impressive steam trains, racing cars and all sorts of other vehicles.

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History and Heritage

Christian Heritage

Ards and North Down have been at the centre of Ireland’s Christian heritage dating back as far as the 5th century. The Ards and North Down Christian Heritage Trail incorporates a number of key sites that played an important role in the spread of Christianity not only locally and in Ireland but throughout Europe too. Sites include Bangor Abbey, First Bangor Presbyterian Church, St Columbanus Church of Ireland, North Down Museum, Grey Abbey, Movilla Abbey and Nendrum to name a few. The island monastery at Nendrum was founded in the 5th century, followed in 558 by the foundation of Bangor Abbey by St Comgall. 

Read more | Download Christian Heritage Trail Booklet


Grey Abbey

Grey Abbey is one of the best examples of Anglo-Norman Cistercian architecture in Ulster. The remains of Grey Abbey include the abbey church and other buildings dating from 1193 – 1250 AD. Little is known of the abbey's history, though it appears to have been almost completely destroyed during the invasion of Robert the Bruce in 1315-18. Take a walking tour of Greyabbey village to learn about the abbey, the recreated Physic (herb) Garden and the shore of Greyabbey Bay. Free entry.

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North Down Museum

North Down Museum tells the story of the North Down area from the Bronze Age through to the present day. Key artefacts on display include Bronze Age Ballycroghan Swords, the Bangor Bell dating from around 825AD and the Raven Maps from 1625 - 26, the only complete folio of Plantation era maps in Ireland. After, take a walk around Bangor Castle Walled Garden to enjoy seasonal blooms and public artworks. Free entry.

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Family Fun

Pickie Funpark

With more fun that you can pack into just one day, take a trip to Bangor and visit Pickie Funpark. With mini-golf, electric cars, pedalo swans and the Pickie Puffer train, bring the whole family for a great day out.

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Exporis Aquarium

Located in Portaferry, experience a diver’s view of marine life at Exploris Aquarium. Explore the touch tanks, watch the playful sea otters and seal pups, journey through both local and tropical sea life, and learn about Vikings and pirates with Strangford Lough’s colourful history. Also, don't miss their resident African Nile crocodile, reticulated python and Madagascan geckos in the Rainforest enclosures.

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Ark Open Farm

See lots of cute and cuddly rabbits, chicks, guinea pigs, pet lambs, kid goats and ponies. Get up close and enjoy lots of interaction, supervised by friendly and helpful staff. The Ark Farm is unique, being the only one of its kind specialising in animals no longer seen in Northern Ireland's fields.

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Trails and Tours

North Down Coastal Path

Get your walking boots on and explore one of the finest shoreline walks in Northern Ireland. It stretches for 16 miles, from Holywood to Cultra, Helen’s Bay, Crawfordsburn, Bangor and finishing just after Groomsport, at Portavoe. This beautiful environment, with its contrasting shoreline, provides a number of differing habitats from rocky shores and salt marshes to mud flats and sandy beaches. A wide variety of bird species can be observed, and a special treat are the grey or Atlantic seals which bask on the rocks at Ballymacormick, Orlock and Rockport.

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Northern Ireland Food Tour

Experience a NI Food Tour and get to know the food of County Down, where there are more award-winning producers and restaurants than anywhere else in Northern Ireland. Tracey is your local tour guide and she has an in-depth knowledge of where to find great local producers, where you will hear their story and taste their produce. Sample foods as varied as single estate whiskey to artisan dulse wheaten bread and everything in between. Tours include a stop at a local award-winning restaurant where the emphasis is on very fresh food and very local produce.

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Echlinville Distillery

Situated amongst the drumlins of the Ards Peninsula, the Echlinville Distillery’s surroundings are as uncompromising as their approach to making whiskey. Echlinville Tours offer a real insight into the workings of Northern Ireland's first licensed distillery in over 125 years. Guests will be personally welcomed and guided through the process, from the barley arriving from the fields, through to the maturation warehouse. All tours finish with a few drams of exquisite spirit. 

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Sport and Adventure

Royal Belfast Golf Club

Founded in 1881, Royal Belfast Golf Club lays claim to the title of the oldest golf course in Ireland. The course remains much the same today as it was then, a tribute to the enduring excellence of its original design, always meticulously maintained with impeccable greens and groves of rhododendrons and gorse providing a colourful backdrop in spring. Visiting players are always warmly welcomed to enjoy a real slice of history.

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Eddie Irvine Sports

Owned by Formula One ace Eddie Irvine, Eddie Irvine Sports is one of Northern Ireland's premier indoor sporting facilities. Open all year round, experience the excitement and thrills of high speed racing at one of Ireland's best karting circuits, or challenge your friends to a game of paintball and laser combat.

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Bangor Aurora

Bangor Aurora offers a great range of sporting and leisure facilities. Kids and adults can bop, bounce and splash to their heart's delight on the bouncy castle assault course in the pool, or enjoy the waterslides, wave machine, baby beach and pirate ship.

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Three Day Itinerary

If you're feeling spoilt for choice with all of the above attractions, why not download the Ards and North Down Three Day Itinerary? This handy itinerary will help you to plan your visit and help you get the most out of your time whilst seeing and experiencing as much as possible.

Hotels in Ards and North Down

Culloden Estate and Spa

Nestled high in the Holywood hills and overlooking Belfast Lough, is the luxurious 5-star Hastings Culloden Estate and Spa.

Bed and Breakfast from £135 per person
Escape to a little luxury and enjoy an overnight stay with breakfast, plus access to the Spa, an oasis of tranquility.

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The Salty Dog

Rooms from £70 per night
Situated within a 2 minutes' walk from Bangor's busy town centre, and 50 yards from Ireland’s largest marina at the base of the Eisenhower Pier, The Salty Dog enjoys views over Belfast Lough all the way to Scotland. This dog friendly hotel offers rooms from £70 per night.

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Strangford Arms Hotel

Rooms from £65 per night
The Strangford Arms Hotel is situated in Newtownards, a lively market town nestled at the foot of Scrabo Tower and sited at the head of Strangford Lough.

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Rayanne Country House

Rooms from £95 per night
Rayanne House in Holywood is renowned for its high standards in accommodation, cuisine and service. A warm, genuine Irish welcome awaits you.

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Clandeboye Lodge

Rooms from £85 per night
Clandeboye Lodge in Bangor boasts a comfortable ambience, contemporary design and exceptional service, and all rooms enjoy scenic views over parkland, pheasant runs or meticulously landscaped gardens with contemporary garden sculptures.

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