Holywood, County Down: best activities, hotels, and pubs in the area

From pubs and charity shops to museums and golf clubs, there is plenty to love about the town of Holywood, County Down.

Holywood, County Down: best activities, hotels, and pubs in the area.

Just minutes from Belfast, you’ll find Holywood, County Down. The town first became popular as a seaside resort in the 19th century, and this tradition continues today, with Holywood being located near several beautiful beaches.

But the beaches aren’t the only reason to visit Holywood. With this guide to the area’s excellent bars, well-stocked charity shops, museums, and golf clubs, we help you get the most out of your visit to Holywood, County Down.

Ireland Before You Die’s top tips for visiting Holywood, County Down:

  • A car is the handiest way to travel, but it’s not strictly necessary. You can reach Holywood by train from either Belfast’s Lanyon Place station (ten minutes) or Bangor Train Station (about 30 minutes).
  • Holywood is just a four-minute drive from Belfast City Airport, making it an easy and affordable taxi transfer from the airport.
  • If you have access to a bike, the hills around Holywood make for a tough but rewarding cycle.
  • Make sure you have room for the treasures you’re bound to find at one of Holywood’s great charity shops!

Best activities – what to do in Holywood, County Down

Charity shops

Perusing the charity shops is one of the best things to do in Holywood, County Down.
Credit: oxfamireland.org

Holywood is a small town but has a high concentration of excellent charity shops.

Along High Street, you’ll find shops in support of Oxfam, Cancer Research UK, Save the Children, Red Cross, Assisi Animal Sanctuary, Marie Curie, and Self Help Africa.

These shops are packed full of great clothes, ornaments, and trinkets that attract people from near and far looking for unique pieces at wallet-friendly prices. Be prepared to spend a few hours looking through the rails in these great charity shops.

There is also a bookshop for Concern Worldwide, just around the corner on Church Road.

Ulster Folk Museum and Ulster Transport Museum

The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is a must-visit at any time of year.
Credit: Facebook / @UlsterFolkMuseum

One of the best things to do, especially for families, in Holywood, County Down, is to visit the Ulster Folk Museum and Ulster Transport Museum.

The Ulster Folk Museum features a collection of heritage buildings, dating from as long ago as the 19th century, through which in-character guides will demonstrate ways of living and working in Ireland throughout history.

The Ulster Transport Museum, on the other hand, has a huge collection of trains to tell the story of transport in Ulster.

There are also permanent exhibitions on the Titanic and on the DeLorean car, produced in Belfast and made famous by the Back to the Future film series.

Address: Cultra, Holywood BT18 0EU

READ MORE: The 25 best things to do in Northern Ireland (NI Bucket List)

Beaches

Check out Holywood's beautiful beaches. Pictures here is Helen's Bay.

Holywood, County Down, is in close proximity to some of the best beaches in Northern Ireland that are ideal for kicking back on a sunny day, having a relaxing afternoon stroll, or watching the sun go down on a summer’s evening.

Seapark Bay Beach is a mere three-minute drive from the town. Further along the coast, you’ll find Farmhill Bay Beach and, even further still, the beautiful Helen’s Bay Beach.

RELATED: Helen’s Bay, Co. Down: visit info, what’s nearby & more

Golf

Holywood Golf Club is one of the best things to do in Holywood, County Down.

As home to one of Ireland’s greatest golfers of all time – Rory McIlroy – it should come as no surprise that Holywood boasts two excellent golf clubs: the Holywood Golf Club, where McIlroy earned his stripes, and the Royal Belfast Golf Club, the oldest golf club in Ireland.

Both of these renowned clubs are open to visitors, so make sure to pack your clubs before visiting Holywood if you fancy getting in a game during your stay.

READ MORE: The 10 best golf courses in Northern Ireland

Hotels – where to stay in Holywood, County Down

Culloden Estate and Spa

The Culloden Estate and Spa.
Credit: Facebook / @Cullodenestate

This is certainly the most expensive accommodation option, given that the Culloden Estate and Spa is one of the top luxury spa hotels in Northern Ireland, but splashing out will afford you one of the most opulent stays possible.

The Culloden offers 98 beautiful rooms, many of which have stunning views over Belfast Lough, an excellent spa, and three restaurant options serving only the finest local produce.

Address: Bangor Rd, Holywood BT18 0EX

The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn

For a quaint stay, consider the Old Inn Crawfordsburn.
Credit: Facebook / The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn

The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn, is a little outside Holywood but is one of the best hotels in the area.

A sister hotel of the renowned Galgorm, anyone familiar with the famous County Antrim hotel will know what to expect at the Old Inn.

Its pièce de resistance is undoubtedly the intimate and cosy Treetop Spa, equipped with a heated pool, steam room, sauna, and jacuzzi, among other features.

Address: 15-25 Main St, Crawfordsburn, Bangor BT19 1JH

MORE: Our experience of The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn

Other options

Nearby Bangor and, in particular, Belfast, open up a whole range of accommodation options to suit any visitor to the area.

You can make your stay as expensive as your budget allows and still be within easy reach of Holywood by either car or public transport.

Pubs – where to drink in Holywood, County Down

The Dirty Duck Alehouse

The Dirty Duck is one of the best pubs in Holywood, County Down.
Credit: Tourism Northern Ireland

The Dirty Duck Alehouse is a great little spot for a few pints and a bite to eat in Holywood, County Down. Its cosy outdoor area overlooking the water makes it a particularly lovely place to enjoy a drink in the summer.

With excellent local and international drinks, an extensive food menu, and attentive staff, what’s not to like about this great pub?

Address: 2-4 Kinnegar Rd, Holywood BT18 9JN

The Maypole Bar

The Maypole is one of the best pubs in Holywood, County Down.
Credit: Instagram / @m_langham

Renowned for its pint of Guinness, the Maypole Bar is one of Northern Ireland’s hidden gems.

This old-school bar is loved by locals and welcoming to visitors, and is a must-visit when staying in Holywood, or anywhere in the North Down district for that matter!

Address: 55 High St, Holywood BT18 9AB

Alexander’s & Co.

Pictured is Alexander's & Co. in Holywood.
Credit: Facebook / Alexander’s & Co

Alexander’s & Co. is a gastropub specialising in wines, ales, and food made with local produce.

Alexander’s & Co. really comes alive on Fridays and Saturdays. Enjoy the weekend in the main bar, which showcases local artists, or head upstairs for some excellent cocktails and small plates accompanied by live music and DJs.

Address: 57 High St, Holywood BT18 9AQ

Notable mentions

Joxer is a great spot for a delicious coffee or a bite to eat.
Credit: Facebook / Joxer

Cafes: Holywood, County Down, is also home to some great cafes. Get your caffeine fix along with a sweet treat from the likes of Joxer, Homebird Café, or Lynchpin.

Restaurants: While there aren’t many restaurants in Holywood, those that the town has are well worth a visit.

Highlights include Lemongrass for Pan-Asian cuisine and Coast for a casual dinner. Little Wing is the go-to for pizza, while the Ruddy Duck is a beloved fish and chips shop.

Redburn Country Park: For nature enthusiasts, take a walk through Redburn Country Park and enjoy forest views as you ascend to sweeping views of Belfast Lough and beyond at the top of the hill.

Crawfordsburn Country Park: Taking a stroll through the woods and beaches of Crawfordsburn Country Park is an excellent way to spend an afternoon in Holywood.

Your questions answered about Holywood, County Down

Is Holywood Catholic or Protestant?

Holywood, County Down, has a greater Protestant community than Catholic. The 2021 census showed that 50% of the population was Protestant, while 16% identified as Catholic. The remaining 34% either were of other faiths or of no religion.

Is Holywood Belfast a nice place to live?

Just a stone’s throw from Belfast and with plenty of excellent beaches and scenery, Holywood, County Down, is a lovely place to live!

What is in Holywood?

Despite its size, you’ll find plenty of nice cafes and restaurants in Holywood, as well as some good bars and excellent charity shops for clothes and antiques at very attractive prices.

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