Things to do in Newcastle Co Down: 12 things for your itinerary

Looking for things to do in Newcastle Co Down? You’ve come to the right place.

Much like Portrush, Newcastle is a small seaside town with some big claims to fame. Newcastle is a gateway to the Mourne Mountains, a short drive to the Silent Valley Reservoir, and surrounded by way more National Trust sites than you could ever squeeze into a weekend getaway. Plus, you will definitely want to allow time for at least one beach day in summer.  

I have narrowed down your choices into five different categories of things to do – including the best, fun, and family things to do in Newcastle Co Down. Skim through and take all the inspiration you need.

Happy Travelling!

Best things to do in Newcastle Co Down

Tollymore Forest Park.
Tollymore Forest Park via Unsplash.

If you want an ultimate list of the best things to do, here you are! These are my tried-and-tested absolute favourites.

Take a walk around Tollymore Forest Park

I love Tollymore Forest Park. The streams, old archways, and tiny woodland paths; honestly, it’s just idyllic and feels like something out of a movie.

The architecture in the park dates back to the 18th century, so you’ll be taking lots of photographs. And while exploring 630 hectares in a day might be a push, I’d recommend walking at least one of the trails. You can spot waterfalls, ancient buildings, and cross rickety wooden bridges – the whole experience is something to savour.

Allow yourself at least two hours to thoroughly enjoy the grounds, and longer if you want to go swimming as well.

Visit the Silent Valley Reservoir

Another beautiful spot, visiting the Silent Valley Reservoir, is one of the best things to do in Newcastle Co Down.

The name is apt, as I visited at sunset and could have heard a pin drop if it wasn’t for the wind. Silent Valley Reservoir is a tranquil place to visit and is stunningly located in the centre of a valley and encircled by mountains.

If you aren’t planning a hike, visit at dusk or just before sunset for the most atmospheric experience and fewer crowds. Otherwise, arrive at midday and complete the 10.8km loop around the reservoir. The walk should take under 4 hours but is considered challenging – so allow yourself extra time and be prepared for off-roading, navigational challenges, and plenty of problem-solving!

Climb one of the Mournes

What would a visit to Newcastle be without a trip up the Mournes?

While Slieve Donard is the largest mountain to tackle (and the tallest in Northern Ireland), don’t rule out Slieve Binnian and Slieve Bearnagh. Walk NI has an excellent guide to the different Mourne walks that I’ll link here. You can also read my complete guide to visiting the Mourne Mountains.

If there is one thing you choose from this list, make sure it is climbing a Mourne Mountain.

Fun things to do in Newcastle Co Down

A swimmer.
Swimmer via Unsplash.

There are plenty of fun things to do in Newcastle Co Down. But these are my top three recommendations:

Get lost in the Peace Maze

Fancy a fun AND free thing to do in Newcastle Co Down? The Peace Maze is the largest permanent hedge maze in Europe.

The maze was created to celebrate Northern Ireland’s peace efforts and consists of 6,000 yew trees – planted by members of the public as a joint community project. The hedge length runs for over two miles, providing plenty of challenge for those who tackle it.

The Peace Maze is located in Castlewellan Forest, just a fifteen-minute drive from Newcastle. It opens from 10 am until sunset every day, with parking available for £5 per vehicle.

Go wild swimming in Tollymore Forest Park

You’ll need to muster all your delayed gratification for this one – even in Summer, the rivers in Tollymore Forest Park are freezing!

Apart from being a daring adrenaline rush though, there are hundreds of benefits to swimming in cold water. You’ll get a boost of your circulation, immune system, and even mental wellbeing. The charity ChillUK actually organises cold water swimming sessions to help people suffering from anxiety and depression.

Head to the Hermitage to go for a dip in Tollymore Forest Park. The medieval ruins are the perfect backdrop for a cold swim, and the river is only a short climb down from the path. Just remember to pack a towel and warm clothes for after!

Have a game of golf at the Royal Country Down Golf Club

Wanting to stay dry but still have fun? Tee off at the Royal County Down Golf Club.

The course is one of the oldest in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Founded in 1889, it has since hosted many a tournament, including The Senior Open Championship in 2000, 2001, and 2002.

Of course, you don’t need to be educated in golf history to appreciate the course location. You’ll be playing next to the sea and under the shadow of the Mourne Mountains.

Family things to do in Newcastle Co Down

Family ride.
Family ride via Unsplash.

Newcastle is a fun and friendly holiday destination for families. Most of the things to do in Newcastle are nature-linked, and families can cherish time in the outdoors together.

However, I’ve included some alternative options that specifically suit children and young families. Keep these in mind for a child-focused or rainy day.

Visit Kent Amusements

If Newcastle’s weather isn’t cooperating, don’t worry. Kent Amusements is the perfect indoor solution.

The amusement-centre-meets-theme park is right on the Newcastle promenade, providing that perfect cheesy seaside entertainment. You can wreak havoc on the dodgems, play on the penny falls machines, or try to win a cuddly toy on the fairground stands. Think of a Blackpool Pleasure Beach experience without going to Blackpool.

Kent Amusements has wheelchair and pram access and is suited to all families and ages.

Coco’s Children’s Adventure Playground

Does letting your kids loose sound appealing? Coco’s Children’s Adventure Playground is one of the best family things to do in Newcastle Co Down that actually gives the adults a break.

The soft play area has ball pits, tunnels, an under 5s area, and a scary freefall death slide for adventurous older children.

While your children play, you can sit with a tea or coffee. Or perhaps, order fish and chips for the family. I’ve included the 2022 rates in the table below:

3 years and under4 years and over
1.5 hour session4.505.90

Seaforde Gardens & Tropical Butterfly House

With butterflies, mazes, and plenty of outdoor space to run around, Seaforde Gardens & Tropical Butterfly House is a fantastic family attraction.

The Tropical Butterfly House is home to an enclosed jungle environment and thousands of resident butterflies. It is a great place for first encounters with wildlife for little ones or even for older children to learn more or practice photography.

Apart from butterflies, visitors also meet a python, glow-in-the-dark scorpions, parrots, terrapins, tarantulas, and snakes! Plus, there are a whole lot of tropical fish and creepy crawlies.

While the Peace Maze might be the largest, Seaforde Gardens has the oldest maze in Ireland – planted in 1975! So don’t miss out on a family maze challenge before you leave.

Things to do for couples in Newcastle Co Down

A couple walking on the beach.
Couple walking on beach via Unsplash.

Newcastle is fantastic for all groups, ages, and interests. However, it is particularly suited to couples, as the atmosphere is so peaceful and perfect for romance. I’ve included a few activities that can double up as date ideas if you are travelling as a couple.

Catch sunrise (or sunset) on Slieve Donard

Slieve Donard is easily Newcastle’s main attraction. And, if you want a romantic outdoor activity, hiking it for sunrise or sunset is a dreamy date idea.

Start the hike from Donard car park in Newcastle, heading through the woodland and crossing the bridge to turn right and pass a series of waterfalls. Once you pass the woodland level, you emerge at ‘the saddle’. From here, you turn left at the Mourne Wall to reach the Slieve Donard summit.

Remember to bring a headtorch when planning to ascend/descend in darkness. You need to keep your hands free as some sections of the trail are slippery and may be challenging.

Logistics and directions aside, a picnic is always a romantic gesture!

Walk the Alpacas at Cranfield

Okay, Cranfield Alpacas is a 34-minute drive from Newcastle. But who doesn’t want to go on a date to walk an alpaca?

Walking alpacas is one of the most popular things to do for couples in Newcastle Co Down. You can go for a 90-minute beach walk, a 60-minute field walk, or just opt for a meet and mingle experience. Book your experience from the options on the Cranfield Alpaca website here.

Have a date night at Kent Amusements

In case you missed it, we listed Kent Amusements as one of the best family things to do in Newcastle Co Down. But, since it stays open to 11 pm every night, it also makes a perfect date night for couples visiting Newcastle.

Channel your inner child and thrash your significant other at dodgems. Or be a sweetheart and win them a cuddly toy. Either way, Kent Amusements is a fantastic late-night date activity – especially after a long day hiking.

Newcastle is easily one of the best places to visit in Northern Ireland. It is small, pretty, and peaceful, making for a relaxing Northern Irish escape. 

The seaside town is only an hour’s drive from Belfast, so a realistic addition to a standard Belfast itinerary. You can reach Newcastle from Belfast via the 237a or 520 bus, but you’ll be limited in what activities you can do when you arrive – so I’d recommend hiring a car if you need to. 

Have you been to Newcastle before? Drop any extra suggestions of things to do in the comments below.

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