Published Monday, 27 August 2012
I did manage to find some sunshine and enjoy a couple of nice days where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.
Before we arrived in Newcastle itself, we stopped off in the village of Dundrum. Last time I had been there I found myself co-presenting a tv show, which involved me recording a 'piece to camera' while throwing myself down a huge inflatable slide. I'm still waiting for that segment to make an appearance on Alright on the Night (or more likely, You've Been Framed!)
There's obviously been a bit of money spent on the promenade area of the village - the view over the bay is stunning, particularly on a sunny evening. The village is overlooked by Dundrum Castle, considered one of the finest Norman castles in Ireland and it offers some great views if you manage the steps and steep path. You may also enjoy the short woodland trail nearby. The National Trust manage the Murlough Nature Reserve which is a series of sand dunes with many opportunities for birdwatching and walking.
Indeed, it's possible to walk along the beach from Dundrum into Newcastle.
Newcastle itself is very much a tourist-orientated town. It really depends on the thousands of visitors who meander down its Main Street in the summer months. The view of the Mournes as you make your way down the street is, quite frankly, breathtaking.
It actually looks like a film set backdrop, I keep expecting to walk round the back of the mountain and discover it's being held up by metal posts.
Newcastle has been making a name for itself in recent years as a host of major events. The weekend we were there, the Festival of Flight was taking place and the town was thronged with thousands of visitors enjoying lots of events.
My visits to Newcastle usually involve my kids dragging me into the various amusement arcades and sweet shops, so it was a bit different to see the town from a 'grown-up' perspective. Having said that, we still visited the arcades! Nightlife in the town has a 'holiday' feel too, we enjoyed a karaoke night in the Donard Bar - no doubt the participants sounded good in their own heads!
There are plenty of accommodation options in the area too. Caravan Parks surround the town, whilst predominantly populated with static caravans, a number offer spaces for tents and touring caravans. You can also find B&B's and Hotels in the town too. We stayed at the very well appointed Burrendale Hotel & Country Club. The hotel recently gained its 4th "star" from the NI Tourist Board, and it is very worthy of it too. The spa and swimming pool is an added bonus to the complex and there's easy access from the main body of the hotel. The meal we enjoyed in the Vine Restaurant was outstanding and the steak I had was enormous and cooked to perfection.
There is a very quirky 'cottage bar' in the middle of the building, which lives up to its name and has a very homely atmosphere.
In fact that atmosphere permeates the entire building. There was something really welcoming about the Burrendale, an atmosphere that you just don't get at 'chain' hotels.
For further information on places to stay and things to do in the Newcastle and Mournes area, you can visit www.discovernorthernireland.com and www.downdc.gov.uk