Game of Thrones might be finished but the legacy will always live on. Who can forget the dragons, the murder, and the, errr, “family love”? But, even though Khaleesi has left us, Winter never has, and Northern Ireland is still home to the Iron Throne. There are plenty of places to explore that are part of the show. But when you are done with them, where else can you go? Fear not, I have you covered with 5 hidden gems in County Down that are perfect for a day out.
If you are staying in Belfast for a holiday, County Down is just less than an hour away by bus or car. And with the recent upgrades to the transport system in Northern Ireland (think onboard wifi and new hybrid buses), it’s easier than ever to get about. But if you are using a car, all of these places have free parking!
On the edge of Strangford Lough, there is an old estate that is still home to the Londonderry family. This 19th-century house has just been restored to its former glory with plenty to explore. The gardens are a walkers dream with plenty of paths to walk and wildlife to see. It is a favourite among dog walkers so don’t be surprised to see plenty of pups running about in search of the perfect stick. Mount Stewart is a National Trust property so make sure you take your card with you if you are a member.
One of the most well-known landmarks in County Down is Scrabo Tower. Standing at 135 feet tall on top of Scrabo Hill, the Tower is a great place to test your legs. During the summer months, it is open to the public and you can test your endurance by climbing to the top and taking in the view of the countryside. But if you go when the Tower is shut, you can still explore the woods around the hill. You might spot some of the places that Dracula Untold was filmed.
Quack Quack motherducker! It’s time to visit the ducks, geese, and other creatures at the Wetlands in Castle Espie, Comber. Over the last few years, the centre has grown massively! And there are plenty of activities for the family with welly walks and mini beast sessions. While this might sound like a glorified duck pond, it is home to the largest collection of ducks, geese, and swans in Ireland. Once you are done looking at the birds, you can kick back in the coffee shop and relax.
More than just an aquarium, Exploris is a seal sanctuary and family favourite for the area. This is another place that has just had a facelift. The aquarium was shut for nearly two years after receiving a £2 million refurbishment. They now have brand new exhibits, a soft play area, and a reptile house. Exploris regularly part in the bigger festivals so don’t be surprised if you end up discovering more than you bargained for with the NI Science Festival.
If you like this post then check out my other ideas for things to do in the UK.
Ah! I couldn’t help it! I had to include one Game of Thrones spot! Castle Ward is another National Trust spot which was home to Winterfell during the filming. Now you can explore the grounds where it was filmed and enjoy a Game of Thrones experience. But, if you came to this post wanting to avoid all of the Game of Thrones spots, there is a Georgian house to explore and plenty of trails to walk, around 36km of trails need to be explored in fact.
Wherever you choose to visit in Northern Ireland, I’m sure you will have plenty of fun and make some amazing memories!
Do you know of any hidden gems in County Down? Let us know in the comments below!
For more ramblings about Northern Ireland, check out Lindsay’s blog over at www.lattelindsay.com and if you would like some more information about the history of the area, check out her book Newtownards in the Great War.