Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland, located on the floodplain of the River Lagan on the west coast of the country. Over seven million people per year visit Belfast, drawn by an eclectic mix of stunning Georgian and Victorian architecture, ultra-modern art and creative hubs, a legendary nightlife and the chance to experience the famous Irish hospitality at close quarters.
Like many capital cities, Belfast is crowded, noisy and bustling, offering a buzz of excitement and a range of accommodation. From basic but comfortable hostels for backpackers working their way around Europe to romantic inns and lodges for honeymooners and family-run bed and breakfasts, the hotels and inns of Belfast offer every kind of welcome.
Beyond the City
Although the cosmopolitan thrill of the city centre itself is what attracts most people, Belfast is equally attractive as a gateway to the rest of Northern Ireland. Excellent transport links make exploring the surrounding countryside quick and easy, with the drive to your destination often being as pleasurable as the destination itself. Travel less than an hour beyond the city centre itself and you’ll soon find yourself entranced by the tranquil magic of a place like Castle Ward.
Getting to Castle Ward
Castle Ward is located in Strangford, County Down, on a hill overlooking the glittering waters of Strangford Lough. It lies 29 miles south of Belfast city centre and can be reached via the A7 heading south and then the A25 travelling east. If you don’t have access to your own vehicle you can take a bus such as the 515 or 215 from Belfast centre to the village of Downpatrick, from where it is just a short trip to Castle Ward.
Exploring Castle Ward
Castle Ward is an 18th century mansion that combines the classical and gothic architectural styles to stunning and unique effect. The magical atmosphere of the Georgian farmyard and the shores of Strangford Lough create an ambience which is perhaps best underlined by the fact that Castle Ward has been used as one of the backdrops for filming the hit television programme Game of Thrones.
Things to do at Castle Ward
While parents might be happy just to soak up the tranquil atmosphere and stunning beauty of Castle Ward, younger members of the family will doubtless be looking for ways of letting off steam. Rest assured, Castle Ward delivers handsomely on this front as well - 21 miles of trails criss-cross the land surrounding the mansion, offering a multitude of activities. Some of the trails are designed for hiking and walking, while others are built for the use of horses and bicycles.
If that’s not exciting enough, the Clearsky Adventure Centre, on the shore of Strangford Lough, offers the chance to participate in activities as wide ranging as archery, laser clay pigeon shooting and rock climbing. Take to the waters of the Lough and you can try your hand at kayaking, canoeing and raft building.
If that all sounds a bit too exhausting, Castle Ward offers plenty of space to recover, in the form of a stunning sunken garden and the chance to tuck into some delicious homemade snacks in the Coach House tearoom.
After a day spent exploring this unique attraction, you’ll be happy to be able to return to the comfort of your hotel room, just a few miles away in central Belfast.