This post, the seventh in a series of 32 covering the entire island, offers a few ideas for things to do on a weekend in Country Down. The following is just one sample itinerary based on the information in our book Exploring Ireland: a guide to the Irish outdoors, where you will find plenty more details, ideas and inspiration.
WALK KILLARD NATURE RESERVE
This easy 2km linear walk at the mouth of Strangford Lough follows the coast south to the tip of Killard Point. During July and August the reserve’s grassland comes alive with butterflies and wildflowers.
EXPLORE SALT ISLAND
This 20 hectare island tucked away in the southwestern corner of Strangford Lough has a bothy that can be reached by a 2km paddle from the village of Killyleagh (54.3980, -5.6496). Set on the southern shore the bothy is a basic shelter equipped with a toilet, a wood‑burning stove and eight bunk beds.
VISIT BALLYNOE STONE CIRCLE
This 35m diameter circle, just south of Downpatrick, consists of over 50 upright stones. Accessed via a 500m walk along a sunken laneway the circle has a very peaceful setting with the Mournes just visible in the distance. It is believed to have been built around 3,000 BC. The entrance lines up with the setting sun on the spring equinox, the half-way point between midwinter and midsummer.
EAT KILLOWEN DISTILLERY
Ireland’s smallest distillery is housed in a small converted barn on the southern slopes of the Mournes overlooking Carlingford Lough. Their range, produced in a pair of beautiful copper stills, includes a gin, poitín and a cask‑strength 10 year whiskey. Tours by appointment.
STAY LACKAN COTTAGE FARM
This organic off‑grid smallholding offers two beautiful self-catering options. Birch Cottage is a cosy, beautifully hand‑crafted space; it is heated by a wood‑burning stove and sleeps two. The Horse Box is a converted horse truck that sleeps two in a compact space. It has an outside seating area with great views of the Mournes.