Irish Name: An Dún: "fort"
County Town: Downpatrick
Nickname: The Mourne county, The Ardsmen
GAA Colors: Black and Red
Famous People with Down roots: The Brontë family, Charles de Gaulle (ancestor was a McCartan from County Down), Rory McIlroy, James McCartan, John Butler Yeats, Otto Jaffe
County Down is one of the traditional counties of Ireland. It is located within the province of Ulster and is part of Northern Ireland.
The county forms an area of 2,448 km2 (945 sq mi). The estimated population in 1992 was 416,600; a more recent approximation puts it at about 516,000. The county town is Downpatrick, but the largest town is Bangor. Newry lies partially in Down and Armagh counties, although east and parts of south Belfast as well as south Lisburn lie within the county also.
Down contains both the southernmost point in Northern Ireland (Cranfield Point) and the easternmost point in Ireland (Burr Point).
The county borders County Antrim to the north, the Irish Sea to the east and County Armagh to the west. It is one of only two counties of Ireland to presently have a majority of the population from a Protestant community background, according to the 2001 census. The other is County Antrim.
Down contains two significant peninsulas: Ards Peninsula and Lecale peninsula.
The county has a coastline along Belfast Lough to the north and Carlingford Lough to the south (both of which have access to the sea). Strangford Lough lies between the Ards Peninsula and the mainland. Down also contains part of the shore of Lough Neagh. Smaller loughs include Lough Island Reavy.
The River Lagan forms most of the border with County Antrim. The River Bann also flows through the southwestern areas of the county. Other rivers include the Clanrye and Quoile.
There are several islands off the Down coast: Mew Island, Light House Island and the Copeland Islands, all of which lie to the north of the Ards Peninsula. Gunn Island lies off the Lecale coast. In addition there are a large number of small islands in Strangford Lough.
County Down is where, in the words of the famous song by Percy French, "The mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea", and the granite Mourne Mountains continue to be renowned for their beauty. Slieve Donard, at 849 m (2,785 ft), is the highest peak in the Mournes and in Northern Ireland. Another important peak is Slieve Croob, at 534 m (1,752 ft), the source of the River Lagan.
An area of County Down is known as the Brontë Homeland (situated between Rathfriland and Banbridge, where Patrick Brontë had his church), after Patrick Brontë (originally Brunty), father of Anne, Charlotte, Emily Brontë, and Branwell Bronte. Patrick Bronte was born in this region.
The city of Newry in the south of the county contains St Patrick's (Church of Ireland, 1578), overlooking the city centre from Church street, on the east side of the city, which is considered to be Ireland's first ever Protestant church.Newry is also the home of the first summit-level canal ever to be built in the British Isles.
Down is also home to Exploris, the Northern Ireland Aquarium, located in Portaferry, on the shores of Strangford Lough, on the Ards Peninsula.
The Old Inn in Crawfordsburn is one of Ireland's oldest hostelries, with records dating back to 1614. The inn claims that people who have stayed there include Jonathan Swift, Dick Turpin, Peter the Great, Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, former US president George H. W. Bush, and C. S. Lewis, who honeymooned there.
Saint Patrick is reputed to be buried at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, reputedly alongside St. Brigid and St. Columba.
Kilcoo (from the Irish: Cill Chua meaning "church of mourning" – from the legend that Saint Patrick's body stayed there while on its way to Downpatrick to be buried) is a small village in County Down situated between Hilltown and Castlewellan.
Common Surnames in Down: Thompson, McCartan, Smith, Campbell, Patterson, Martin, Wilson, Graham, Johnston and Murray