Talking GolfGetaways 76: Royal County Down, Ardglass and exploring the best of Northern Ireland golf and travel
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Talking GolfGetaways 76: Royal County Down, Ardglass and exploring the best of Northern Ireland golf and travel

The Slieve Donard Resort & Spa along the County Down coastline in Northern Ireland (photo by Darin Bunch /

Northern Ireland. It’s on most golfers’ bucket list for obvious reasons, most notably because it is home to Royal County Down, arguably the No. 1 golf course in the world. But there is so much more to explore, both on and off the golf courses, as hosts Darin Bunch and Mitch Laurance discuss in Episode 76 of the “Talking GolfGetaways” podcast while detailing Darin’s trip to the beloved country.

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The Portstewart-Portrush area (which was home to the Irish Open this year and will host the Open Championship in 2019) is a true playground for the traveling golfer — and adventurer. Along with the championship courses at Royal Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock, which draw golfers from all over the world, Darin is quick to point out the lesser-known tracks (such as Portrush’s 18-hole Valley Links and Castlerock’s 9-hole Bann) that should not be missed on a visit, making this region a full-scale golf destination all its own.

And it’s also worth some time, Darin says, to get away from the golf course to explore the amazing geological wonder that is the Giant’s Causeway and the daunting Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. (And if you’re a “Game of Thrones” fan, take the tour of various locations where the show has been filmed.)

Over in Newcastle, you’ll find the perfect twosome of first-class golf at Royal County Down and accommodations at the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, which Darin considers to be one of the best golf hotels he’s visited anywhere in the world. Plus, the town offers other delights, including Brunel’s restaurant where chef Paul Cunningham’s creations with local ingredients are as much art as they are fine-dining cuisine.

And then there’s Ardglass, possibly the biggest surprise on Darin’s itinerary and the place he says he would love to return and play over and over again (rumor has it, he’s even considered becoming an international member). With an oceanside opening tee shot (swinging in front of the castle clubhouse dating back to 1405), Ardlass offers one of the greatest No. 1 holes in all of golfdom, and its blufftop holes along the craggy coastline create true drama throughout its quirky-fun 18 holes.

Darin also highlights his stay at the Lough Erne Resort, where the back nine of the golf course plunges down toward the water and through hilly terrain while the hotel offers pure country comfort in yet another unforgettable setting.

And all of this is only the beginning. Mitch and Darin talk ice cream in Portstewart, wonderful people throughout the country and other perfect places to stay if you’re looking for something a little different than a resort experience. With so much to absorb in Northern Ireland, this episode only begins to scratch the surface of the golf-getaway itineraries you can create in a country that truly exceeds what, for most golfers, are already lofty expectations.

Enjoy the connection to Northern Ireland, and start dreaming about just how you might build your perfect bucket-list golf vacation.

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“Talking GolfGetaways with Mitch Laurance & Darin Bunch” can be found on and across the Golf News Net platform. New episodes post daily (for the most part, except when we’re traveling or golfing or generally having other kinds of fun). “Talking GolfGetaways” is also available audioBoom, iTunes and Stitcher.

Follow us on Twitter @GetawaysGolf and @MitchLaurance, and use #TalkingGolfGetaways and #2HaggisBags to hit us with your favorite golf-travel stories and recommendations — you just might make it onto a future episode of “Talking GolfGetaways.”

About the author



The GolfGetaways crew of Darin Bunch and Mitch Lauarance have decades of golf travels and adventures to share, which they do here at GNN, on their "Talking GolfGetaways" podcast and on their social media channels. You can find them usually playing hickories and having a great time taking in amazing architecture, scenery and company.