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County Down

Located along the border with Northern Ireland, County Down is on the eastern coast in what many consider an outlying area of the country. It is known for having its own rare brand of isolated and idyllic natural beauty, coupled with ancient archaeological and religious sites that create a quiet, relaxed and awe inspiring atmosphere.

The striking granite cliffs and summits of the Mourne Mountains mark the southern edge of County Down, providing scenic beauty for onlookers and opportunity for outdoor activities such as hiking, walking and nature study for visitors and residents alike.

County Down offers a beautiful countryside – including mountains, beaches and spectacular forest and ocean views. There is also an intriguing collection of castles, historic homesteads, scenic forests and beaches to enjoy here, where St. Patrick is said to have landed when he first arrived in 432 A.D. 

County Down Highlights

The most breathtaking scenery in County Down can be found at the Mourne Mountains. Hikers and beachcombers will enjoy Tyrella Beach and its dunes, while history lovers can browse the Down County Museum, which is located in an historic former prison building from the 18th century. Here they will learn about Irish History through exhibits that focus on topics from the Bronze Age up to the 19th century, including artifacts of St. Patrick and from the 1798 rebellion.

Unique architectural design integrates with natural outdoor beauty at Castlewellan and Tollymore Forest Parks, as well as at the gardens at Rowallane and Mt. Stewart Estate. Religious sites that figured in the life of St. Patrick are located in and around Downpatrick, most notably the healing waters of Struell Wells and the mysterious ruins of Grey Abbey

County Down History

The lands of County Down have been inhabited for some 7000 years, and they have produced many finds of archaeological importance over the centuries.

County Down was first legally established circa 1300, and was the site of the first Norman colonization in the province of Ulster in 1177.

Today’s citizens descend from Irish, Norman and Scottish ancestors, many of whom settled here during the Protestant Plantation of Ulster that began in 1609. Although County Down was not part of the original plantation effort, many of the overflow population from nearby counties ended up here.

Emigration due to the Great Famine was less pervasive in County Down than in many other places during the mid 19th century. The overall average across Ireland was 11.4%, yet County Down lost only 6% of its population to other countries. 

Popular County Down Surnames

Common surnames in the area include:

  • Campbell
  • Hamilton
  • O’Neill
  • Gilmore
  • and Dodds


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