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    The Star Of The County Down.

    The song “the Star of the County Down” tells the story of a young man who spots a beautiful young lady in Banbridge, County Down, while walking down the street and falls in love at first sight. It is the music emblem of people from County Down, throughout all corners of the world.

    This famous song was written by Cathal McGarvey, a Donegal man, born in Rathmullen in 1866. It seems Cathal was often a one man show – writer, producer and performer. Cathal was part of Dublin’s literary circle and Gaelic league revival in the early 1900’s forming around An Stad – the Irish translation for ‘The Stop’.  An Stad was a meeting place and guesthouse for enthusiasts of the Irish language, Gaelic games and and key players in Irish Nationalist movement. Michael Cusack, one of the founders of the GAA, James Joyce and Michael Collins frequented McGarvey’s establishment.

    Here’s a real treat… In one of the Northern Ireland Opera’s new video series, singer Ben McAteer from County Down is in fine voice with this impeccable rendition of The Star of County Down. Relax with your favourite hot drink and embrace the giant spirit of Northern Ireland.

    The Star Of the County Down. 

    Near Banbridge town in the County Down
    One morning last July
    Down a boreen green, came a sweet colleen
    And she smiled as she passed me by
    She looked so neat from her two bare feet
    To the sheen of her nut brown hair
    Sure the coaxing elf, I’d to shake myself
    To make sure I was standing there

    From Bantry Bay up to Derry quay
    And from Galway to Dublin town
    No maid I’ve seen like the brown colleen
    That I met in the County Down

    As she onward sped, sure I shook me head
    And I gazed with a feeling rare
    And I said, says I, to a passer-by
    Who’s the maid with the nut brown hair ?
    He smiled at me and with pride says he
    That’s the gem of old Ireland’s crown
    She’s Rosie McCann from the banks of the Bann
    She’s the star of the County Down.

    From Bantry Bay up to Derry quay
    And from Galway to Dublin town
    No maid I’ve seen like the brown colleen
    That I met in the County Down

    At the harvest fair she’ll be surely there
    and I’ll dress my Sunday clothes
    With my hat cocked right and my shoes shon bright
    for a smile from the nut-brown Rose
    No horse I’ll yoke, or pipe I smoke,
    ’til the rust in my plough turn brown
    And a smiling bride by my own fireside
    sits the star of the County Down…….

    Some other twinkling “stars of the County Down” include…..

    Northern Irish golfer from Holywood, Co Down, Rory McIlroy is a four-time Major winner. He won his first major in 2011 at the US Open.

    Rory McIlroy © Irish Times & PA

    Killyleagh Castle is the oldest occupied castle in Ireland. Built in the 12th Century, it is still in use as a private home.

    Hans Sloane Chocolate Festival at Killyleagh Castle, County Down. Photographer Brian Morrison © Tourism Northern Ireland

    The Co Down village of Killyleagh, was also the birthplace of scientist and collector Sir Hans Sloane, who is credited with bringing the recipe for drinking chocolate to Europe in the 1680s.

    Slieve Donard at 850m (2,789 ft) is the highest peak of the Mourne Mountains and the highest peak in Northern Ireland. The views from the summit are extensive and on a clear day the Isle of Man, Wicklow, Donegal, Wales and Scotland may be seen, as well as the long stretch of Newcastle Beach.

    Slieve Donard & Newcastle, County Down © Tourism Ireland

    Nestling at the foot of the Mountains of Mourne, the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa stands in 6 acres of immaculate private grounds. The hotel has been providing the best of Irish hospitality for over 100 years. A golden strand of beach borders one side while the mighty Royal County Down Golf Links frames the other. This lovingly maintained Victorian hotel is now home to one of Europe’s finest resort Spas and is equally suited to a short break, residential conference or even grander events.

    Slieve Donard Resort & Spa Hotel, Co. Down © Hastings Hotels.

    DID YOU KNOW that most windmills turn anti-clockwise, except for the windmills in Ireland? If you want to see one in action, head to Millisle in County Down. Here you’ll find the Ballycopeland Windmill, which was built in the late 18th or early 19th century, and is the only windmill in Northern Ireland with its original mechanism still in working order.

    Ballycopeland Windmill, Co. Down ©

    The Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick, County Down is the starting point for any visitor who wishes to know more about Ireland’s patron saint. The exhibition ‘Ego Patricius’ – The Story of Saint Patrick – explores the legacy of Patrick, ancient and modern, and recalls the saint’s own story – in his own words. A series of interactive displays allow visitors to explore how Patrick’s legacy developed in early Christian times and reveals the fabulous artwork and metalwork which was produced during this Golden Age. Journey to the fabulous local sites associated with Patrick to discover Inch Abbey where the legends of the snakes was written, and the first church in Ireland at Saul were Patrick died on March 17th. St Patrick is believed to be buried in Downpatrick in the graveyard at Down Cathedral.

    Saint Patrick’s Trail, Co. Down. Photographer Brian Morrison © Tourism Ireland

    Harry Ferguson, the inventor of the tractor was born near Dromore, County Down.

    1939 – Harry Ferguson (left) and Henry Ford discuss the new Ford Ferguson 9N tractor. © & Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

    Mount Stewart, located on the shores of Strangford Lough in County Down, is an exceptional example of an Irish demesne, a beautiful and productive estate, with farmland, woodland, orchards and a walled garden providing for the ‘big house’. This family home showcases collections of international and national significance including the famous painting Hambletonian – Rubbing Down by George Stubbs, the Congress of Vienna desk and books by W.B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw. Voted as one of the top ten gardens in the world, Mount Stewart reflects a rich tapestry of design and planting artistry bearing the hallmark of its creator. Edith, Lady Londonderry’s passion for bold planting schemes coupled with the mild climate of Strangford Lough allows rare and tender plants from across the globe to thrive in this celebrated garden. Each of the formal gardens exudes a distinct character and appeal.

    Mount Stewart Gardens, County Down. Photographer Art Ward. © Tourism Ireland

    The Old Inn in Crawsfordsburn is one of Ireland’s oldest hotels, with records dating back to 1614.

    The Old Inn, Crawsfordsburn, County Down ©

    Patrick Bronte, the father of Anne, Emily, Charlotte and Branwell was born near Banbridge, County Down.

    Tollymore Forest Park features the Tollymore National Outdoor Centre, which is the Northern Ireland centre for mountaineering and canoeing. For the student of garden follies, Tollymore is a rare treat. A barn dressed up to look like a church, stone cones atop gate piers and gothic-style gate arches all show the influence of that highly individualistic designer, Thomas Wright of Durham (1711-1786), who was a friend of Lord Clanbrassil, owner of Tollymore at that time. A walk along the Shimna river is marked by many curiosities, natural and artificial – rocky outcrops, bridges, grottos and caves. Elsewhere in the park the tree lover can examine experimental forest plots – some of exotic trees such as monkey puzzle and eucalyptus – or admire the tall giant redwoods and Monterey pines. Oak wood from Tollymore was the preferred material for the interiors of the White Star liners, including the ‘Titanic’ which was built in Belfast.

    Tollymore Forest Park, Co. Down © Chris Hill Photographic

    The Down Royal racecourse is in Lisburn, on the border of County Down and County Antrim. The Down Royal Corporation of Horsebreeders was created in 1685 by Royal Charter from King James II, the objective being the encouragement of horse breeding in the County of Down. Down Royal Racecourse has brought the “Sport of Kings “ to generations of people in Ulster since then, and is proud to boast some of the most modern facilities for any race-goer.

    Down Royal Race Course © Visit Belfast

    Slieve Croob in County Down is the source of the River Lagan that flows through Belfast City. Belfast City is mostly in County Antrim but parts of east and south Belfast are in County Down.

    Slieve Croob, County Down © Tourism Northern Ireland

    Sir. James Martin, the inventor of the ejector seat was born in Crossgar, County Down.

    Sir James Martin plaque Crossgar, Co. Down © Peter Clarke

    David Trimble, the former Ulster Unionist leader, was born in Bangor, County Down.

    The 1998 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, John Hume, right, and David Trimble, display the gold medals which they received during the peace prize awards ceremony in Oslo Town Hall in Norway on Thursday, December 10, 1998. ©

    Eddie Irvine, the formula one driver with Jordan and Ferrari was born in Newtownards, County Down.

    Eddie Irvine ©

    Portaferry, on the Ards Peninsula is home to Exploris – the Northern Ireland aquarium. Your journey will begin with a focus on Strangford Lough and Irish Sea, where you will get a ‘hands on’ with some native species as you tickle the belly of a small shark and feel the spikes on a sea urchin. You can also learn about the Viking heritage of Strangford Lough.

    Exploris Aquarium County Down. Photographer Brian Morrison © Tourism Northern Ireland

    Embrace a Giant Spirit. 

    Embrace the Irish Spirit on a journey of Ireland and discover the “Stars of County Down” with Specialized Travel Services. Specialized Travel Services will assist you in planning your customized tour of the hidden gems of Ireland.  Take a look at some of our private chauffeur drive vacations on our website for additional suggestions of what to visit on your vacation in the Emerald Isle.

    To experience the warm and welcoming atmosphere that surrounds the Island of Ireland, contact Specialized Travel Services by filling in the Contact form Or by email: 

    Just some small steps to a Giant Adventure!




    Note: Featured image at the top of the blog is of Tollymore Forest Park in County Down © Tourism Northern Ireland

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      Photo Gallery

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      Sloane's Hot chocolate ©
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      Tollymore Forest Park, Co. Down © Chris Hill Photographic
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      Down Cathedral & St Patrick's Grave, Co. Down. Photographer Chris Hill. © Tourism Ireland
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      Royal County Down Golf Club, Co. Down. Photographer David Cordner. © Tourism Northern Ireland


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