Beech Hill Guide to Some Great Days Out from Belfast
SUGGESTED DRIVE FROM BELFAST TO NEWRY
North Down is only a few miles from Belfast but feels like a million
miles away with its 16 miles of coastline which extend from the southern
shore of Belfast Lough through Holywood, Cultra, Craigavad, Helen's
Bay, Crawfordsburn, Bangor, Groomsport, Ballymacormick and Orlick to
Portavoe. It has attracted international visitors for generations. First
came scholarly monks on foot, then Viking invaders, Celtic warriors,
Williamite soldiers, Scottish planters and early Victorians who built
their mansions here.
Leave Belfast for Bangor on the A2 and after 6 miles stop in at The
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum near Holywood. It is Irelands most
comprehensive heritage museum including a world-class Irish Railway
collection , Road Transport Galleries, Interactive Flight Experience
and Titanic Exhibition. Experience bygone life-styles in Ballycultra,
the unique Ulster town reconstructed on 60 acres where costumed guides
and craft-workers make you feel at home.
Travel on a few more miles and visit Ulster's most popular Country Park
in Crawfordsburn which features 3.5 miles of coastline or explore the
wooded glens and powdery beaches of Helen's Bay which offer an excellant
view over Belfast Lough. Play a round of golf at The Royal Belfast Golf
Club which is the oldest of the 4 'Royal' Clubs in Ireland.
You can then drive to The Ards Penninsula via Stormont Estate - home
of the Northern Ireland Assembly and on to Newtownards and the start
of Strangford Lough. This is the largest sea inlet in Britain and Ireland
and is about three times the size of Sydney Harbour. It is a marine
nature reserve for seabird and aquatic wildlife and acording to legend
365 islands dot its surface.
On your way to Portaferry be sure to explore the fascinating 18th century
Mount Stewart Estate, take a guided tour of the opulent neo-classical
house, the ancestral home of lord Castlereagh, a Statesman and a diplomat.
Modern history is also represented by the 7th Marquis of Londonderry
who was Secretary of State for Air and Leader of the House of Lords
in 1935. His wife Edith, Lady Londonderry laid out the internationally
famous landscaped gardens in the 1920s. Nominated as a World Heritage
site this is one of Northern Ireland's most popular National Trust Properties.
Plan a visit to Grey Abbey which is the first example of Gothic architecture
in Ireland, founded in 1193 by Affreca, daughter of Godfred, king of
the Isle of Man and wife of John De Courcy as a thank you for surviving
a rough sea crossing to Ireland. The Abbey is set in beautiful park
land and the Physic garden is an added attraction. Go to the village
of Grey Abbey for a light lunch and browse around the village's antique
and speciality shops.
The north part of the penninsula offers superb beaches and the charming
towns of Donaghadee and Millisle. Catch a gimpse of Northern Ireland's
only working windmill, this late 18th century tower mill was in use
until 1915 and is now fully restored, you can enjoy a guided tour of
the windmill and discover the milling process from corn into flour.
For those interested in wildlife a 20 minute boat trip to the Copeland
Islands is a must.
Exploris Aquarium in the centre of Portaferry is a must if you are travelling
with children and is as close as you can get to marine life without
getting wet. The walk through tanks house examples of Strangford Lough's
marine inhabitants. The seal sanctuary lets visitors view the rehabilitation
of injured or abandoned seal pups at close quarters.
A 1 mile car ferry ride across Strangford Lough links Portaferry and
Strangford, look out for the ruins of the 16th century Portaferry Castle
and gothic facade of Castle Ward, another National Trust House which
stands in 820 acres of woodland, farm land and gardens and is well worth
Drive on to Downpatrick and visit the magnifcent Down Cathedral and
St. Patrick's grave. This is a Church of Ireland Cathedral originally
a Benedictine Monastry built on the hill of Down, one of the holiest
Christian sights in Ireland. It's graveyard is where St. Patrick was
reburied by John De Courcy who marked the grave with a great block of
Mourne granite. Built in 1177 the Cathedral overlooks the County Down
Museum, the restored 18th century County Gaol of Down and The St. Patrick
centre which houses an exciting 21st century interactive experience
exploring the legacy of Irelands patron saint.
Formed 65 million years ago and the inspiration behind C.S.Lewis' kingdom
of Narnia The Mountains of Mourne peak at over 2000 feet and include
Northern Ireland's highest mountain - Slieve Donard. From the top you
can see The Isle of Man and the whole of Strangford Lough. At the foot
of the mountain is the seaside resort of Newcastle and The Royal County
Down Golf Course rated one of the top ten golf courses in the world.
Travel on to Dublin via Newry which sits on the border of The Republic
of Ireland and is just 37 miles from Belfast and 68 miles from Dublin.
Make time to visit Narrow Water Keep and Castle. The Castle is an excellant
example of a tower-house and bawn built about 1568 and lies on the Down
bank where Newry river meets Carlingford Lough, a strategic spot. Existing
since 1212 the keep was built by Hugh deLacy, Earl of Ulster as part
of the Norman fortifications to prevent attacks on Newry via the river.
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Hill Country House. It may not be reproduced in any form without written
permission other than to print and use for personal use whilst visiting
Northern Ireland .