Explore and Discover
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.
Situated amongst the drumlins of the Ards Peninsula, the Echlinville Distillerys 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.
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, Helens Bay, Crawfordsburn, Bangor and finishing just after Groomsport, at Portavoe. This beautiful environment 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 sometimes grey or Atlantic seals can be spotted basking on the rocks at Ballymacormick, Orlock and Rockport.
History and Heritage
Ards and North Down have been at the centre of Ireland's Christian heritage as far back as the 5th century. The Christian Heritage Trail incorporates a number of key sites that played an important role in the spread of Christianity. Sites include Bangor Abbey, 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.
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, walk around Bangor Castle Walled Garden to enjoy seasonal blooms and public artworks.
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 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.
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.
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, as the only farm of its kind specialising in animals no longer seen in Northern Ireland's fields. Ark Open Farm is open year round and runs special events throughout the year.
Located in Portaferry, experience a divers 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 Loughs colourful history. Also, don't miss their resident African Nile crocodile, reticulated python and Madagascan geckos in the Rainforest enclosures.
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. The fun park is at the gateway to the Marine Gardens, a delightful stretch of coast for leisurely walk. There are panoramic views of Bangor Bay and the hills of Antrim beyond.
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. 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.
Sport and Adventure
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.
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, 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.
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.
£8 Ulsterbus Ards Peninsula Day Ticket
The £8 Ulsterbus Day Ticket is available every day on Ards Peninsula services after 9.30am with unlimited day travel.
Exploring the Ards Peninsula couldn't be easier. Hop on a number 9 or 10 bus from Belfast and explore the peninsula using the numerous Ulsterbus routes for £8. Plus get special offers at Mount Stewart and Exploris.
Hotels in Ards and North Down
Make a night out of it with our list of hotels and accommodation in Ards and North Down.
For a full list of accommodation in the Ards and North Down area click on visitardsandnorthdown.com.
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 £100 per person
Enjoy a spectacular spring break at Culloden Estate and Spa from £100 per person sharing including overnight accommodation, full Irish breakfast, a spring cocktail, use of health club and spa, turn down service, complimentary car parking and complimentary WiFi.
Salty Dog Hotel
Rooms from £70 per night
2 minutes' walk from Bangor's busy town centre, and 50 yards from Ireland's largest marina, The Salty Dog enjoys views over Belfast Lough all the way to Scotland. This dog friendly hotel offers rooms from £70 per night.
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.
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.
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.