Categories: Family FunEvents

For the family that likes to get out, about and into nature, Mourne, Gullion and Strangford are quite possibly in the top destinations in the world. Not only does the beauty of the diverse natural landscape encourage exploration and inspire wonder, but the normally benign climate and low population density means the air is always clean and fresh. But don’t stop the plans there, dine al fresco.  Pack your own picnic, pick up a pre-made picnic platter from Ciara in Margaret's Cottage or experience freshly prepared sandwiches and treats from Mrs C's Home Kitchen. There’s plenty of choice!

We are very proud of our parks but we need your help to look after them.  Please take your litter home with you and if you bring a dog (they deserve a treat too) do clean up after them.  Please leave no trace.

Choose your own way

All picnic spots aren’t created equal and sometimes the spot you pick can make or break your experience. So plan ahead, know where you can park safely so as not to block the way for tractors or blue light emergency services (in particular). Take note of any signage displayed at the site, you may even come across walking trails that you never knew existed.

Here’s a few ideas of tried and tested spots in Mourne Gullion Strangford to wet your appetite:

  • Newry Canal Way will take your family along a ten-mile route into the heart of Newry. You’ll have plenty of chances to stop along the way to admire the flora and fauna of the canal or get stuck into the contents of your picnic basket.

  • Not only does Slieve Gullion Forest Park offer families and kids the fantastical Giant’s Lair and Adventure Playground, it also has a range of great forest tracks and trails to choose from and is the starting point for many of the longer trails around the Ring of Gullion. Picnic spots are plentiful here but if you’re not familiar, there’s a grassed area with picnic tables and bench seats close to the play park and also plenty of green space in the Walled Garden (follow the signs).

  • Inspired by local man C.S. Lewis’s epic tale, the Narnia Trail in Kilbroney Park brings all the family into the magical world of Aslan and the Pensevies. Beside the Narnia Trail there is plenty of green space to enjoy away from the revelers, if you prefer.  Fancy a seat with breathtaking views as many picknickers do? Then head for Cloughmor (known locally as ‘the big stone’) which sits approx. 1,000ft above Rostrevor (if you don’t fancy walking from the bottom then motor on up the two-mile Forest Drive right up to the top car park ) When you’re up that far, take in the most famous viewpoint in Rostrevor, ‘Kodak Corner’ on the other side of Cloughmor.  (Do keep an eye out for cyclists on the mountain bike trail as they love this spot too.) 

  • Cameras ready! A truly beautiful spot overlooking Carlingford Lough and far out to see.  If you look along the horizon you should spot the Carlingford Ferry and if you’re very lucky ‘Finn’ the visiting dolphin might just raise his head. 

  • Boasting 400 acres of private natural woodland and park, Montalto Estate, Ballynahinch is a picknickers paradise. With plenty of open space you could easily lose track of time whilst you ‘reconnect with nature’.  Captivating gardens and beautiful walks and trails are in abundance, so the only problem here will be deciding where to settle for the picnic (problem solved, come back again soon and choose a different spot!). 

  • With acres of garden filled with interesting plants to see and smell, it is one of the most beautiful gardens to visit in Northern Ireland and is often described as a hidden gem. Rowallane Garden, Saintfield has many perfect picnic spots so that you can stay refreshed as you explore.  When you arrive, you’ll see the Visitor Centre, and a large grassy area surrounded by large rhododendrons. Perfect for stretching out your picnic blanket on, but before you do, test out the sloping hill and play roly poly. There are benches throughout the Garden or try out the acoustics in the Bandstand whilst you eat, handy if the weather isn’t playing ball. 

  • Delamont has picnic tables adjacent to the car park but if you want to picnic by the shores of Strangford Lough just ramble along the paths and pick your spot.

  • Castle Ward, (7 miles from Downpatrick and 1.5 miles from Strangford Village) the unusual double-sided mansion house stands amongst gentle parkland looking over Strangford Lough. You can explore cultivated gardens, sheltered woodland and the shoreline of Strangford Lough.

  • Why not picnic under the Castle in Castlewellan Forest Park!  The park boasts a walled garden, an Arboretum, Peace Maze, Adventure playground and an activity centre so you can enjoy canoeing, paddle boarding or mountain biking before or after you eat.

  • Enjoy unbeatable peace and solitude at Silent Valley Mountain Park. The site centres around the man made Silent Valley Reservoir, with glassy waters offering a sharp contrast to the rocky faces of the surrounding mountains.  Picnic tables and benches can easily be found not too far from the car park and there is plenty of green space to park your rug. 

Plenty of the car parks have grassed areas and picnic tables longing for a picnic.  

  • The car park opposite Kilclief Castle. Nature lovers are spoiled for choice, do make sure you find time for a walk in Killard Nature Reserve, to see rare flowers and orchids around the interesting rock formations.

  • The sandy Blue Flag beach at Cranfield.  Feel the sand in your toes (not in your sandwiches). The sea here is supposed to be the warmest in Northern Ireland! Picnic areas are available beside the play park.

Picnics and BBQs can be lots of fun but please be careful. Summer heat increases the risk of nasties on meat and dairy produce in particular.  We all love a BBQ but please ensure safety at all times.  Don’t leave it unattended and always ensure its been extinguished properly. No one wants the picnic to end with emergency Blue Lights.

We hope you enjoy this taster for picnics in our region.

Share your photos with us on social #VisitMourne  #MourneMountains #RingofGullion #StrangfordLough and with your friends and family as ‘sharing is caring’ after all. 

Lastly, but still important, check the opening hours before you set off.  Picnics in the car are memorable but sometimes cause a lot of cleaning up afterwards.

Ps don’t forget the picnic rug!

Castlewellan Forest Park
Forest Parks
View of the Annesley Walk in Castlewellan Forest Park

Located on Forest Park View, Castlewellan, County Down, in a dramatic setting of mountains and sea, Castlewellan Forest Park has one of the most outstanding tree and shrub collections in Europe. The beauty, vigour and perfect shape of the trees in the National Arboretum attract tree enthusiasts from around the world.

Cranfield West Beach
Cranfield West Beach

Cranfield West offers a gently sloping, mainly sandy beach located at the entrance to Carlingford Lough, an area designated as being of Special Scientific Interest.

Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Adventure Playpark and Fionn's Giant Adventure
Forest Parks
Children playing around a giant book in Slieve Gullion Forest Park

Slieve Gullion is Ireland's Mountain of Mystery. Slieve Gullion Forest Park offers walking trails, a scenic drive, an Adventure Playpark, Fionn's Giant Adventure children's story trail and a Courtyard with coffee shop.

Quoile Pondage Nature Reserve and Countryside Centre
Nature and Wildlife
Quoile Pondage Nature Reserve and Countryside Centre

The Reserve provides a relaxing natural retreat and offers visitors tranquil riverside and woodland walks.

Montalto Estate
Historic Sites, Houses, Castles & Buildings
Picture of Montalto House, Montalto Lake and Boathouse all within Montalto Estate in Ballynahinch.

Montalto Estate in Ballynahinch is a mystical and enchanting estate, set in magnificent natural surroundings. Visitor experience includes access to the estate's beautiful gardens; historic walks and trails and an exciting play area where children can engage, explore and learn.

Silent Valley Mountain Park
Lake / Reservoir
Image of Silent Valley

The Silent Valley Reservoir was built to gather water from the Mourne Mountains and is the main water supply source for most of County Down and a large part of Belfast. The famous Mourne Wall was constructed to enclose the reservoir's catchment area.

Castle Ward
The National Trust
Castle Ward

Discover a place of contrasts and creativity at Castle Ward, an eccentric 18th century mansion and estate looking out over the tranquil waters of Strangford Lough in County Down where visitors can explore cultivated gardens, sheltered woodland and the shoreline.

Rowallane Garden
The National Trust
Rowallane Garden

This unique garden has grown from the 19th century beginnings of the Reverend John Moore and his nephew Hugh Armytage Moore. Their vision created a place where you can leave the world behind and immerse yourself in nature's beauty.

Delamont Country Park
Public Park
Child climbing and another on a slide in the play park, at Delamont Country Park.

Situated on the shores of Strangford Lough in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Delamont Country Park, Killyleagh offers peace, beauty and tranquillity. The stunning views across Strangford Lough and the relaxing atmosphere make Delamont Country Park a place to enjoy that 'away from it all feeling'. It is home of the Strangford Stone - the tallest megalith in Ireland. This beautiful 200-acre Country Park offers a great day out for visitors of all ages. Whether you are a keen walker, a nature lover or simply looking for a great day out for all the family you will find plenty to entertain you in Delamont Country Park.

Kilbroney Park
Forest Parks
Children being photographed in Kilbroney Park

Kilbroney Park features riverside walks and an arboretum. There is a two-mile forest drive which showcases panoramic views over Carlingford Lough. There is also a Play Park with children's play area and tennis courts, an Information area and a café all on site.

Killard National Nature Reserve
Walking & Hiking
Killard National Nature Reserve

Situated at the mouth of Strangford Lough, opposite Ballyquintin. The rich wildlife include orchids and other rarities, and interesting rock formations can be seen.

Margaret's Cottage
Bed & Breakfast
Margaret's Cottage

Margaret’s Cottage is a special place to stay...a safe haven of luxury and great Irish hospitality.