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l treasure


With domestic travel back on the agenda, Katie McGonagle leaves London in search of outdoor adventures in County Down, Northern Ireland


DESTINATIONS NORTHERN IRELAND | UK & IRELAND


s


tealing a glance to my left as the road winds around the edge of


a quiet inlet, I catch my first, heart-lifting glimpse of the sea – still and glassy, surface barely rippling against the low sea wall, but connected to the wild, open waters of the Irish Sea nonetheless. The road curves again, and the domed peaks of the Mournes come into view, looming so large in the windscreen it feels as though I’m driving right into the heart of the mountains themselves. A refrain from the Irish folk song – ‘where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea’ – plays through my head as I carry on towards the seaside town of Newcastle, County Down. Moments later, I pull in to the drive of Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, its grand, red-brick façade a beacon against the moody sky, with waves crashing against the shore to one side and the Mournes in full view up ahead. After months in lockdown,


in a one-bedroom London flat, it’s no exaggeration to say the very sight of sea and mountains feels like fresh air and freedom at last, a much-needed antidote to weeks of non-stop news about Covid-19. Little did I know at this point that those mountains would become my constant companions on this outdoorsy adventure weekend – greeting me from my bedroom window each morning, watching the mist steal across before burning off in the sun, tasting the peppery notes of herbs picked fresh from the mountainsides or hiking steep trails in search of sweeping views. With travel trends pointing


towards a spike in staycations and an appetite for the outdoors, an active escape to Northern Ireland could be just the tonic your clients need to remind them of the joys of travel once again.


OUTDOOR ADVENTURES The Mournes are the greatest draw here, with hikers and mountain bikers coming ²


travelweekly.co.uk 23 JULY 2020 27


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