GETTING THERE

There are 21 airports across the UK which offer connections to Belfast. Try British Airways (britishairways.com), Flybe (flybe.com) and Easyjet (easyjet.com).

WHERE TO PLAY

The immediate vicinity of the city is famed for its parkland courses. Founded in 1881, Royal Belfast is the oldest golf club in Ireland. The course itself, however, is a more recent creation. A Harry Colt design of 1925, it?s located at Craigavad on the shores of Belfast Lough. The layout slopes towards the Lough and Colt certainly made the most of the gradients. There are uphill holes, downhillers, left-to-righters and vice versa ? as well as 13 changes in direction as you make your way round.

Heading south into County Down we made for Ardglass. At one point Ardglass was Ulster?s busiest port and the many castles and grand houses in the surrounding area confirm its historical importance.

With time to spare before tee-off we took the opportunity to explore the town. Around every turn there?s another impressive old structure: The King?s Castle, Jordan?s Castle, Margaret?s Castle ? each has a story to tell.

The clubhouse at Ardglass GC was once Ardglass Castle and sections of the building date back to the 14th century. It must be one of the oldest 19ths anywhere in the world. Ironically, the course here wasn?t extended to a full 18 until 1970 but since then it?s deservedly earned a reputation as a rugged links and cliff-top layout of some quality.

Few people who?ve had the pleasure of playing Royal County Down (RCD) will argue with that sentiment.

It?s a beautiful, natural links featuring towering dunes, impenetrable gorse and wonderful views. The fairways sometimes appear unfeasibly narrow and the greens are treacherously difficult to hold ? when the breeze gets up RCD is extremely challenging. It?s certainly not a course for novice golfers and even the more experienced player may have to accept a higher score than he would normally expect to record. But, however your performance measures up, it?s the very experience of playing here that will leave an indelible imprint on your golfing memory.

WHERE TO STAY

On the slopes of the Hollywood Hills, looking out over Belfast Lough, the Culloden was originally built as a palace for the Bishops of Down. Now it is one of Northern Ireland?s most luxurious spa hotels, offering fine dining and preferential tee-times at Royal Belfast.

The Burrendale Hotel and Country Club is located in Newcastle, this is an ideal base from which to explore the courses of County Down. It has comfortable rooms ? many with great views ? plus an excellent selection of bars and restaurants.

Just a mile from Belfast city centre, Renshaws is located in the trendy university area. There are 20 rooms here, all kitted out with satellite TV. The hotel is well placed to access the routes out of the city.

OFF COURSE

Take the Titanic boat tour and see the shipyards of Harland and Wolff where the ill-fated ship was built. Visit laganboatcompany.com for more information.

Castle Ward, a fabulous 18th century house is set in 820 beautiful acres near Downpatrick. It?s a National Trust property and is open daily throughout the summer. Price: from £4.50 adults.

CONTACTS BOOK

ROYAL BELFAST

T: 028 9042 8165

www.royalbelfast.com

ARDGLASS

T: 028 44 841022

www.ardglassgolfclub.com

ROYAL COUNTY DOWN

T: 028 4372 2419

www.royalcountydown.org

CULLODEN HOTEL

T: 02890 421066

www.hastingshotels.com

BURRENDALE

T: 028 4372 2599

www.burrendale.com

RENSHAWS

T: 028 90 333366

www.renshaws.com