County Down, (Irish: Contae an Dúin, meaning County of the Fort. Ulster Scots: Coontie Doun.) is one of the nine counties that form the province of Ulster and one of six counties that form Northern Ireland. The county forms an area of 2,448 km² (945 square miles). The estimated population in 1992 was 416,600, a more recent approximation puts it at about 516,000. The county town is Downpatrick and the largest town is Bangor.
Down contains both the southernmost point in Northern Ireland (Cranfield Point) and the easternmost point on the island of 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 historic counties of Northern 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 Copeland Island (together, the Copeland Islands), all of which lie to the north of the Ards Peninsula. Gun 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 848 metres (2,796 feet), is the highest peak in the Mournes and the highest in Northern Ireland. Another important peak is Slieve Croob, at 532 metres (1,775 ft), the source of the River Lagan.
An area of County Down is known as Brontë Homeland (situated between Rathfriland and Banbridge, where Patrick Brontë had his church), after Patrick Brontë (originally Prunty) -- father of Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë -- who 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 Ireland or Great Britain.
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 Bush, and C. S. Lewis, who honeymooned there.
Scrabo Tower, in Newtownards, was built as a memorial to Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry.
St. Patrick is buried under Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down reputedly alongside St. Brigid and St. Columba.
Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
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