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County Down, a county of almost unmatchable beauty and is ideal for anyone looking to escape it all with a self-catering holiday in one of the county's traditional cottages. The iconic author C.S. Lewis once said that "None loves the hills of Down better than I" and it is said that the county inspired his greatest work; the Chronicles of Narnia. It is easy to see why with Down's Mourne Mountains, Saint Patrick's first church, castles and beautiful coastlines. It's easy to see why the area has been inhabited for over 7,000 years.
In the fifth century, Saint Patrick landed on the County Down coast with the determination to bring Christianity to the people of Ireland. As a missionary, he founded his first church three miles from Downpatrick on a site in Saul. Follow in the footsteps of the world’s most celebrated Saint, Saint Patrick. The Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick is well worth a visit as it explores the life of one of the world's best known saints.
Popular among visitors of all ages and beautiful to behold; the Mount Stewart House, its gardens and Temple of the Winds are enjoyable all year round. The house of Mount Stewart is a grand building which hold many items of historical importance. Following the defeat of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna met to redefine borders in 1815. The house hold the 22 chairs used during this famous meeting. Beyond the house's walls are the gardens; these have been exquistely crafted with a wide ranging palette of colour with many exotic plants to be seen. Inspired by similar temples in Athens, The Temple of Winds is octagonal temple from the 18th century. If you're staying nearby, self-catered or otherwise, the house is well worth a visit.
The Mountains of Mourne are definitely a big part of Down. From Percy French's classic song to their impact of C.S. Lewis' writings, the mountains are a breathtaking backdrop for many an image of the county. Many come to explore the mountains' many nooks and crannies. Between the mountains lies the Silent Valley which features a dam built by hand in the 1920s to supply water to Belfast. It is an amazing feat of architecture and engineering.
A mash-up of two architectural styles, Castle Ward is a rather interesting building. The 17th century mansion was built by Benard Ward, 1st Viscount of Bangor, and his wife Anne but they couldn't agree on what architectural style to adopt. The keep everybody happy, the Viscount had the front of the house built to reflect his tastes in classical architecture, his wife had the back of the house built with Gothic style architectural points. This odd combination can be seen overlooking the Strangford Lough.
The Rowallane Gardens is a plethora of colour and features many exotic flowers, plants and trees which have been present here since the 1860s. The garden has been well maintained for generations and are well worth a visit.
In Bangor, you'll find Ireland's largest marina. Opened in 1989 and now home to well over 600 boats, ships and other crafts; the marina has won the coveted Five Anchors award by the Yachting Harbour Association