From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900)
NAME.—Downpatrick took its name from the great dun or fort near the cathedral, which was called Dun-Keltair, the fort of the hero, Keltar. The name of Patrick was added to commemorate the saint's connection with the place.
SIZE AND POPULATION.—Length, from Cranfield Point at the mouth of Carlingford Lough to the shore near Donaghadee, 49 miles; breadth, from Lisburn to the shore near Ardglass, 25 miles; area, 957 square miles; population, 272,107.
SURFACE.—The chief physical feature of Down is the grand range of the Mourne Mountains; near the center is the much smaller range of Slieve Croob; all the rest of the county is an endless succession of cultivated hills, valleys, and small plains.
MOUNTAINS AND HILLS.—The Mourne Mountains extend for about 15 miles in length from Carlingford Lough to Newcastle; they form one of the finest ranges in Ireland, and as they rise direct from the sea they are seen in their full height.
The chief summits are the following: Slieve Donard (2,796), at the northeast extremity, the highest mountain in Ulster, whose summit is only 2 miles from the seashore at Newcastle. Slieve Commedagh (2,512) lies 1 mile northwest of Slieve Donard: Slieve Bearnagh (2,394) and Slieve Meel (2,237), are about 2 miles west of Slieve Commedagh. Chimney Rock (2,152) rises straight over the sea, 1 ½ miles southwest of Slieve Donard: Slieve Bingian (2,449) stands 3 miles southwest from Slieve Donard. Toward the southwestern extremity, Eagle Mountain (2,084) and Shanlieve (2,055) lie close together: and towering over Rosstrevor, at the southwest extremity of the range, is Slieve Martin (1,595).
The Slieve Croob range, 7 miles long, lies to the north of, and runs nearly parallel with, the Mourne Mountains. Chief summits, Slieve Croob (1,755), on the side of which is the source of the Lagan: Cratlieve (1,416) and Slievenaboley (1,069) lie further west: and at the southwest end is Deehommed (1,050).
COAST LINE.—Except by the deep inlet of Strangford Lough, the coast is not much broken. For the greater part it is rocky, scarped, and dangerous, having few prominent headlands, and few bays or harbors of shelter.
HEADLANDS.—Grey Point, at the south of the entrance to Belfast Lough: Ballyferis Point, south of Donaghadee: Ballyquintin Point, the extreme south point of the Ards peninsula, and Killard Point, at both sides of the entrance of Strangford Lough: St. John's Point, a bold, rocky promontory marking the east of Dundrum Bay: Ringsallin Point, in Dundrum Bay: Cranfield Point, the extreme southern end of the county.
ISLANDS.—There is quite a little archipelago of islets in Strangford Lough, the chief of which are: Mahee Island, the ancient Nendrum, on which Bishop Mahee, a contemporary of St. Patrick, established a monastery and school, and which still retains some ruins of the old buildings, including the remains of a round tower: Beagh Island, north of Mahee: Castle Island, south of it; and Chapel Island, near Grey Abbey, at the other side of the Lough. The little group of the Copeland Islands lies outside Donaghadee, of which two are inhabited, and one contains a lighthouse: Gun Island is a little to the north of Ardglass: Green Island lies at the entrance of Carlingford Lough.
BAYS AND HARBORS.—Belfast Lough separates Down from Antrim. The two little bays of Bangor and Ballyholme lie near' each other on the north coast: Donaghadee harbor is partly artificial, but is not much used: Cloghy Bay and Millin Bay lie on the ocean side of Island Magee. Strangford Lough or Lough Cone is shallow and incumbered with sandbanks: Ardglass Harbor and Killough Bay are two important harbors of refuge. Dundrum Bay is open and exposed, but it has an inner sheltered bay running up to Dundrum. Carlingford Lough separates Down from Louth.
RIVERS.—Except the Bann and the Lagan, which drain the west of the county, all the rivers of Down are small. The Bann, rising in the Mourne Mountains, flows through Down till it enters the county Armagh, 2 miles below Gilford. The Lagan rises in Slieve Croob, runs through Down to near Moira, and forms the boundary between Down and Antrim for the rest of its course. The Ravernet, a considerable affluent from the south coast, joins the Lagan a mile above Lisburn. The Blackwater runs into the west side of Strangford Lough at Ardmillan. The Ballynahinch River, flowing east through Ballynahinch, and the Carson's Dam River, flowing south through Crossgar, join at Kilmore, and the united stream is called the Annacloy River, and lower down the Quoile River, falling into the southwest angle of Strangford Lough, near Downpatrick. The Ballybannon River flows from Slieve Croob into Dundrum Bay at Murlough House, near Dundrum; the Burren River and the Shimna River run into Dundrum Bay at Newcastle. In the south of the county, the Annalong River flowing into the sea at Annalong, the Kilkeel River at Kilkeel, the White Water falling into Carlingford Lough near Greencastle, and the Kilbroney River at Rosstrevor, all flow down the slopes of the Mourne Mountains. The Newry River or Glenree River, rising near Rathfriland, and passing by Newry, flows into Strangford Lough at Warren Point: from Newry down to its mouth it is called the Narrow Water.
LAKES.—Down touches Lough Neagh by a long neck west of Moira. All the other lakes of the county are small and unimportant. The little Loughbrickland Lake, in the west, gives name to the town of Loughbrickland. Halfway between Ballynahinch and Dromore is Lough Aghery, and near it on the northeast is Lough Erne: nearer to Saintfield are Long Lough and Creevy Lough. Lough Money and Loughinisland Lake lie near Downpatrick. Beside Castlewellan is Castlewellan Lake, and 3 miles southwest from the village is Lough Island Reavy.
TOWNS.—Newry (14,808, of which 5,657 are in that part of the town belonging to Armagh), a town of considerable trade and manufacture. Proceeding round the coast from Newry: Warren Point (1,887) stands at the mouth of the Narrow Water: and 3 miles east of this is Rosstrevor (706), one of the most beautiful spots in Ireland. Kilkeel (1,452) is near the extreme south end of the county: Newcastle (840), at the base of Slieve Donard, is much frequented as a watering place; and a little further north, on the inner Dundrum Bay, is the village of Dundrum, with the fine old ruin of John De Courcey's castle near it. Killough (748) and Ardglass (691) stand near each other, the latter having a fine old castle ruin.
Entering Strangford Lough, we pass in the strait, first on the left hand, the pretty village of Strangford (434), and a little further in, at the opposite side, the prosperous town of Portaferry (1,647). On the western shore of the Lough is Killyleagh (1,835), and the well-to-do town of Comber (2,165) at the head of a little creek: and at the head of the lough, half a mile from the shore, is Newtownards (8,676), a business-like and prosperous town (muslin weaving). Returning southward along the eastern shore of the lough, we pass first Grey Abbey (679), with its fine abbey ruins; and 3 miles further south, Kircubbin (609).
Near Grey Abbey, on the ocean side of Island Magee, is Ballywalter (595). Donaghadee (1,861), on the northeast corner, is the packet station, and the nearest port to Scotland; 5 miles west of this is Bangor (3,006), which was in former days one of the most celebrated religious establishments in Ireland. Lastly, on the shore of Belfast Lough, is the important little town of Holywood (3,293).
The following are inland: Downpatrick (3,419), the assize town, the burial place of St. Patrick. Banbridge (5,609), on the Upper Bann, a good business town (linen weaving); and 4 miles lower down on the same river, Gilford (1,324), with flax and linen industries like Banbridge. On the Lagan are Dromore (2,491), and lower down Moira (461). Rathfriland (1,572) lies to the northeast of Newry: Ballynahinch (1,470) is in the center of the county: and 3 miles northeast of it is the neat town of Saintfield (769). Hillsborough (797) is 4 miles south of Lisburn: and Castlewellan (892) lies 4 miles west of Dundrum. That part of Belfast named Ballymacarret belongs to Down, and contains a population of 23,917: and a portion of Lisburn, containing a population of 2,446, also belongs to this county.
ANCIENT DIVISIONS AND DESIGNATIONS.—This county formed a part of the ancient territory of Dalaradia. Upper or South Clannaboy occupied the district now included in the two baronies of Upper and Lower Castlereagh.
The old name of the Mourne Mountains was Beanna-Boirche (pron. Banna-Borka). The Dane's Cast in the west, a little to the south of Gilford, is a part of the ancient rampart dividing the two kingdoms of Oriel and Ulidia.