If you’re considering the Dublin and Royal County Down golfing experience, then here are a few suggestions as to things you can do between games that might persuade you Ireland is the place for you to be walking the links.
Castlewellan Forest Park
Ireland is a country famed for its dramatic scenery, and you can certainly get a sense of this in Castlewellan Forest Park. This 460 hectare park in County Down sprawls between mountain and sea, giving you the chance to explore the views from several different walking paths, all of which are manageable for even the inexperienced walker. For those who are more adventurous, 27km of mountain bike paths wind their way through the Park, providing a more high octane way to get to know the landscape.
Castlewellan Forest Park is also home to the National Arboretum (in which you’ll find several trees that are British record holders for height), Castlewellan Lake and its lakeside walks, nineteenth century Castlewellan Castle, and the Peace Maze. The Peace Maze, comprised of 6000 yew trees that cover 11,000 square metres, is the world’s second largest permanent hedge maze. It was created to commemorate the ending of The Troubles – reach the centre of the maze and you can ring the peace bell.
St Patrick Centre
In Downpatrick, County Down, you’ll find the St Patrick Centre. A lot of work has gone into this attraction, which offers a comprehensive guide to the life of Ireland’s patron saint. Even if you know nothing of St Patrick going into this experience, the Centre’s IMAX film will tell you everything you need to know about the man, from his childhood in Roman Briton, to his capture by Irish ‘pirates’ and subsequent enslavement, to his work as a missionary, spreading the message of Christianity in Ireland.
The Centre also highlights other sites of interest associated with Saint Patrick that are available to visit. These include several surviving historical sites, such as Inch Abbey, home to the legend of the snakes, and the National Grave of St Patrick, which can be found at Down Cathedral.
Game of Thrones tours
One of Ireland’s most recognised exports in the 2010s has been the hugely popular TV series, Game of Thrones, which came to an end in May 2019. The stark, sweeping landscapes of Ireland were just what was needed to bring George R R Martin’s Westeros to life, with areas around the country standing in for some of the harsher regions of the fantasy world, such as the North and Dragonstone.
Fans of the show will find plenty of ways to learn more about how this epic fantasy drama was brought to the screen, with a range of tours available. You can find these at gameofthronestours.com, choosing to start in Belfast or Dublin. These guided tours cover filming locations including Winterfell, the Iron Islands and more, bringing you to the heart of the story with short treks into the hearts of these areas. They even bring a few props along if you really want to live the experience.
Downpatrick and County Down Railway
Set up in 1985, the Downpatrick and County Down Railway is an ongoing project to restore some of mainland Ireland’s original railway line whilst educating visitors on Ireland’s railway heritage. The museum, in the upstairs of the station building, is home to several Irish rail artefacts, but the real treasures here are the trains themselves. The Carriage Gallery showcases both restored and unrestored original carriages, and, of course, you can book a journey on one of the steam engines. The journey will take you to Inch Abbey, a historical site known as much to scholars of St Patrick as it is to fans of Game of Thrones. True steam engine enthusiasts can also sign up to have a ride in the cab of the locomotive alongside the driver, a wonderful experience for aficionados and new train fans alike.
Murlough National Nature Reserve
Get down to the coast with a visit to Murlough National Nature Reserve. This National Trust maintained park is made up of a four mile stretch of shingle beach and dunes, shaped by the wind and waves over 12,000 years. It’s a perfect, windswept break from strolling the links, offering dramatic vistas no matter which of the walking paths you take. Take the Murlough North Point Nature Trail to take in coast and woodland, pass by the Murlough House, and climb one of the highest points in the park for looming views of the Mourne Mountains in the distance, including the tallest peak, Slieve Donard.
Discover our golf experiences at Royal County Down here.