If you love exploring historic castles and glorious gardens, Northern Ireland is full of exciting locations while our rich history has left an incredible legacy of buildings all telling their own story.
Rachel Quigg, Tourism NI Destination PR Officer said: “Northern Ireland has so much to offer in terms of stately homes and impressive castles such as Dunluce Castle on the Causeway Coast to stately houses like Mount Stewart located on the shores of Strangford Lough.
Northern Ireland is also awash with wonderful gardens. From grand ornamental gardens to charming walled gardens, award-winning rose gardens and woodland meadows, there are a wide range of magical open green spaces just waiting to be explored.
So whether you are a gardening enthusiast or love to roam historic ruins there is a garden, castle or stately home to suit the experience you are looking for,” Rachel added.
Tourism NI have pulled together a list of stunning Castles & Gardens to explore in Northern Ireland:
Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, Co. Down
A modern day castle literally fit for a Queen, Hillsborough Castle, built in the 1770s, is a working royal palace that functions as the official residence of the Royal Family when they are in Northern Ireland.
Explore 96 acres of stunning gardens featuring impressive 150-year- old Lime Trees, a serene Temple water and Pond and a world record breaking Rhododendron. You can also take in the grandeur and hear about the fascinating history with a guided tour of the Castle which includes the elegant State Rooms, still in use today, including the majestic Throne Room and graceful Drawing Room.
Suggested Place for a Bite: The Plough Inn located in picturesque Hillsborough village is a family owned pub with an outstanding reputation for hospitality, atmosphere and fantastic food.
Belfast Castle Estate, Belfast
Situated on the slopes of Cave Hill Country Park in north Belfast, the estate contains both parkland and mature mixed woodland and offers breathtaking views of the city from a variety of vantage points.
The estate is home to many different species of wildlife, including long-eared owls, sparrowhawks and Belfast’s rarest plant, the town hall clock.
Cave Hill Country Park also features an adventure playground for little adventurers, a visitor centre, ecotrails and orienteering routes.
Suggested Place for a Family Activity: With over 250 amazing interactive exhibits in four incredible exhibition areas, W5 provides a unique experience as well as fantastic fun for visitors of all ages. In addition to permanent exhibits, W5 also presents a changing programme of large and small scale temporary exhibitions and events.
Mount Stewart, Co. Down
Mount Stewart is one of the most inspiring and unusual gardens owned by the National Trust. Re-opened after a three-year long restoration project, the house has been redesigned to the elegance and charm it held when it was home of the 7th Marchioness Edith, Lady Londonderry and her family in the early 20th century.
A simply ‘must-see’ on the list of UK gardens, if not the world, Mount Stewart was voted European Garden of Inspiration in 2003. The mild climate of Strangford Lough allows astonishing levels of planting experimentation. The formal areas exude a strong Mediterranean feel and resemble an Italian villa landscape; the wooded areas support a range of plants from all corners of the world, ensuring something to see whatever the season.
Suggested Place for a Drive: Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Strangford Lough is Northern Ireland’s first marine nature reserve. Tour along the Ards Peninsula and enjoy the combination of stunning scenery and picturesque villages and towns.
Dunluce & Dunseverick Castle, Bushmills, Co. Antrim
Both Dunseverick and Dunluce Castle are perched on the fabulous Causeway Coastal Route with the North Antrim Cliff path from the Giant’s Causeway to Dunseverick Castle a particular highlight. For the ultimate cliffhanger, Dunluce Castle clings precariously above the north Atlantic. Once the headquarters of the MacDonnell Clan, its magical setting is said to have inspired C.S. Lewis and was included in BBC Countryfile Magazine’s top 10 romantic ruins in Britain.
Suggested Place for a Tipple: The Bushmills Distillery is the oldest working distillery in Ireland. The Bushmills Brand Experience encompasses guided tours around a working distillery with all the associated sights and smells, tutored whiskey tastings, a specialist whiskey shop and gift shop.
Harry Avery’s Castle, Newtownstewart, Co. Tyrone
Thought to have been built around 1320 by a local chieftain of the O’Neill clan, but named after another chieftain who died in 1392, the castle is considered unusual in that Irish Chieftains of the time rarely built stone castles.
Its design is also unusual with its two towers looking like a gatehouse, similar to that of Carrickfergus Castle, but in reality it served a similar function to a medieval towerhouse.
Suggested Place for a Walk: Meander through hills of heather on a lake side walk at Gortin Glen Forest Park offering superb views of the Sperrins landscape.
Castle Ward House & Gardens, Co. Down
Castle Ward is a stunning 18th century mansion with a sunken garden and 820 acres to explore. Step into a fantasy world of castles and dragons as you explore the Georgian farmyard and the Lough shore, film locations for the smash hit television series Game of Thrones®. You can also head out on the Lough in a canoe, climb and abseil the cliffs, and build a raft with Clearsky Adventure.
Suggested Place for a Game of Thrones® fan: Experience HBO’s Game of Thrones® for yourself at Castle Ward, the location of Winterfell in the series. A replica of the Winterfell Archery Range has been masterfully recreated in the courtyard, transporting you into the world of Westeros. Dress up in character costume, step into the movie set and stand exactly where the characters Jon Snow, and Robb & Bran Stark stood.
Crom Estate, Co. Fermanagh
Not one but two castles are nestled in Crom Estate on this 2,000 acre demesne containing ancient woodland, tranquil islands and estate cottages all linked by breathtakingly beautiful landscape on the shores of Upper Lough Erne Co. Fermanagh. One of Ireland’s most important conservation areas, Crom is home to a wealth of wildlife. Discover it whether you are fishing, woodland walking, butterfly spotting or bird watching.
Suggested Place to Stay: Glamping pods, holiday cottages and a campsite are all available at Crom and are a stone’s throw from the water – the perfect spot to relax and watch the sun set.
Glenarm Castle & Gardens, Co. Antrim
With its own special place in local history, Glenarm Castle is a true national treasure. One of Ireland’s oldest estates and home to the Earls of Antrim, Glenarm Castle is a ‘must see’ destination and one of NI’s top tourist attractions. Whilst here, visitors can enjoy beautiful scenery and enchanted walks in the historic Walled Garden and Castle Trail, excellent locally sourced food in a charming Tea Room and a little bit of retail therapy in the new Castle Shop.
Suggested Place for a Festival: Glenarm runs a full programme of events starting with a tulip festival in April and Nathan Carter in concert in July as part of the Dalriada Festival.
Northern Ireland has many more stately homes and castles and gardens worth exploring – find out more including special spring accommodation offers at www.discovernorthernireland.com and www.sayhellotomore.com