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A visit to hidden gems on the Ards Peninsula with Sustainable Journeys Ireland - Tuesday 1 December

Date: Tuesday 1 December 2020

Simon Calder, well-known travel writer and commentator recently explored the ancient eastern coastal area of the Ards Peninsula accompanied by tour guide Brigid Watson, of Sustainable Journeys Ireland.

The Ards Peninsula coastline boasts beautiful, tranquil places, rich in heritage that attract visitors from all corners of the world and Simon was to experience areas ‘off the beaten track’, highlighting some lesser known spots on the Peninsula.

The first stop was the multi-award-winning beach at Cloughey, taking in the view across to Scotland and expansive beach before the tide rolled in. Simon, due to broadcast was tasked with choosing a suitable location to capture the attractive backdrop. Setting up on an elevated site where the Millennium Stone stands, a memorial to the brave lifeboat men of Cloughey, the filming was a success and locals delighted in viewing such familiar sights of their home on screen.

Brigid shared stories of the maritime heritage of Cloughey and the history of the settlement as they continued on foot across the Warren to Kirkistown Castle where they learned about the role of the Savage family in local history. Other features highlighted were Kirkistown Castle Golf Club and Cloughey Tennis Club.

South of Cloughey a visit was made to Slanes Graveyard, this ancient hilltop site provided a panoramic view over the countryside to Scrabo Tower in the north and the Mourne mountains to the south. They saw ancient stone with cross carvings and listened to stories of those who the found their final resting place in the graveyard. On the souterrain outside the graveyard walls, they heard of folklore that it was used to store smuggled goods.

Travelling on along the Ballyquintin scenic loop route the quiet country roads hug the coastline and offers sights across the low rolling hills or drumlins which give the Ards Peninsula its distinctive landscape.

The next waters’ edge stop was the quaint and pretty National Trust village of Kearney, at this stunning location Simon learned of the history of the settlement and the rock formations at Kearney which are of international geological significance.

Journeying on through townlands including Tulnacrew and Ballyblack they arrived at Windmill Hill, located high above Portaferry which is sited on the shore of Strangford Lough. This scenic viewing point allowed for a moment to take in the lough, gleaming in all its beauty and calmness, the original name Lough Cuan or ‘quiet lough’ was an apt description. The ferry was crossing the Narrows from Strangford to Portaferry and you could see right up the lough to Newtownards and across to Killyleagh and Castleward.

After a walking tour around Portaferry it was time to board the ferry for the short trip to the historic village of Strangford where Simon returned to Belfast via the western shore of Strangford Lough.

An extract from the feedback from Simon Calder via email to Brigid at Sustainable Journeys Ireland:
“Thanks for a fabulous tour, it was great to meet you and appreciate your passion for the Ards Peninsula. You were also so kind to provide elevenses in such a beautiful location. (at the picnic table at Kearney coastline)” Find out more information about Simon Calder, on his official website.

Guided Walking Tours with Sustainable Journeys Ireland
Enjoy a restorative and memorable experience on a guided coastal walk. Connect with nature, landscapes, and local people in the company of local tour guide, and environmentalist Brigid Watson. For more information about guided walking tours at Sustainable Journeys Ireland website

Please note: the tour and photography was taken prior to current restrictions, for latest guidelines check NI Direct Website.