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Counties of Ireland - Down

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Coat of arms for county Down

Coat of arms for County Down

Mountainous, coastal Co. Down was named for its county town, Downpatrick. Downpatrick, meanwhile, was named for its most famous resident, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Patrick is purportedly buried in the cemetery at Down Cathedral, a 14th century spired cathedral that overlooks the town from atop Cathedral Hill. It is believed the saint said his first mass at the humble Saul Church in Saul, east of Downpatrick, and eventually died there on March 17, 461, which is why St. Patrick's Day is now celebrated each March 17.

Beyond these very historic sites, a visit to Co. Down is all about its immense array of natural surroundings. The greatest of these are the Mourne Mountains, which spread across the southeast portion of the county, from Carlingford Lough to Dundrum Bay, and culminating in the highest point in Northern Ireland atop Slieve Donard, a whopping 849 metres up.

The Mournes have been proposed as the first National Park in Northern Ireland, and walking through the craggy, granite hillsides, you might encounter the lonely Mourne Wall, a 35-km long stone wall built around the turn of the 20th century to define the local catchment area.

Strangford Lough is another place of incredible natural beauty in Co. Down, being a popular place for both birding and scuba diving. The Mount Stewart House and Gardens is a beautiful 18th century, neoclassical manor estate situated on the eastern shore of the lake.

Co. Down is generally regarded as a G.A.A. county, with particularly a particularly strong Gaelic football team, which has one All-Ireland Championships, as well as dozens of other titles.

The Brontë family has roots in Co. Down, as Patrick Brontë – father to British writers Anne, Charlotte and Emily – emigrated from his homeland near Rathfriland and changed his surname from Brunty to Brontë. Artist John Butler Yeats was also from Co. Down, and golf prodigy Rory McIlroy is from Carryduff.

Rosstrevor Co. Down

Rosstrevor Co. Down

St. Patrick's Grave, Co Down

St.Patrick's Grave, Co Down

The Town Hall, Co. Down

The Town Hall designed by William Batt, was constructed in 1893. The most unusual feature about the building is that it is built on a three arched bridge astride the Clanrye River.

Castle Wellan, Co Down

Castle Wellan, Co. Down

the Mourne Mountains in Co Down

An area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Mourne Mountains in Co Down were the inspiration for the writer CS Lewis's ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’. Slieve Donard is the highest peak in Ulster.

Other Counties in Ulster

Our list of '101-Must-Visit' Locations

Our team of researchers and genealogists at has put together the following '101-Must-Visit' locations and trips for you for Down. We only pick the best locations to visit, dine in or stay at, and the best ancestral research resources we can find in that area. Enjoy!


#6 Stephen Treacy

County Down has some pretty impressive seaside towns which are great year round but especially in the summer.

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Top 20 Surnames from Down

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