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The Ards Peninsula features in The Guardian ‘10 itineraries for the UK seaside’

Strangford Lough with hills and Scrabo Tower in the distance, Greyabbey village and picture of whitewashed houses in Kearney Village

Date: Tuesday 2 March 2021

Extract Copyright - The Guardian - Read the full article 'Coast through summer: 10 itineraries for the UK seaside' by Clare Gogerty at The Guardian website

Get beach ready with our week-long planners to 10 glorious seaside spots, covering everything from secluded coves to surf lessons, boat rides and places to stay.

The Ards Peninsula, Co Down

The Ards Peninsula wraps around Strangford Lough enclosing it from the Irish Sea. The shoreline is never far away, be it the sandy beaches of the east coast, or the shingle banks surrounding the lough.

Day one Stock up on locally produced food and craft at the monthly market, held in Portaferry’s restored market house (first Saturday of the month, 10am-1.30pm). Portaferry sits at the southern end of the peninsula near the Narrows – the turbulent channel linking Strangford Lough to the Irish Sea – and is where to catch the ferry to the other side of the Lough. Sit outside the Portaferry Hotel with a coffee and wait for the ferry to arrive, or duck inside to eat seafood dishes, including bouillabaisse and lobster.

Day two Make your way three miles up the road from Portaferry to Kearney, a former fishing village restored in vernacular style by the National Trust. Now fully occupied, the simple whitewashed cottages tucked between drumlins (hillocks) and the sea, present a sanitised but appealing impression of what life was like in a 19th-century fishing village. In one cottage lived Mary Ann Doonan, captain of the so-called “she-cruiser”, a ship crewed entirely by women, and something of a local legend. The sandy beach of Knockinelder is close by and is a lovely spot for a dip.

Day three Hire a canoe and explore one of Strangford Lough’s 100-plus islands, many of them rich in seabirds and other wildlife; you may even spot seals and otters as you go. Outdoor Recreation NI, which manages and promotes outdoor activities in Northern Ireland, has devised a series of canoe trails, which can be found, along with a list of canoe providers, at canoeni.com. One canoe trail leads to Salt Island, where you can stay overnight in a bothy – it has a woodburner and a flushing toilet but no cooker (sleeps 10, £10pp sharing, £80 for exclusive use).

Woman and child feeding ducks, group canoeing on lough, boats anchored and people canoeing on lough

Day four Drive around to the other side of Strangford Lough to the Castle Epsie Wetland Centre (which is just 12 miles south-east of Belfast). Blending with the shoreline of the Lough, its 25 hectares of tidal lagoons, salt marsh, woodland and reed beds are home to countless birds, bats and insects, and a stopping-off point for migrating brent geese. Watch the avian comings and goings from one of the hides, or walk among ducks, ducklings and geese in the duckery. On the way back, stop off at Daft Eddy’s, a smart modern restaurant by the side of the Lough, for Portavogie scampi and a pint of Guinness.

Day five Visit Grey Abbey House and Gardens in Newtownards to inspect a fine example of a big old Irish Georgian house. Located on the side of the Lough, the grounds have a walled and vegetable gardens, and two orchards of Victorian fruit trees and Irish apple trees. The expansive estate includes a lake and ancient woodland inhabited by red squirrels. Close by are the ruins of a Norman Cistercian priory, dissolved by Henry VIII. Up the road is Harrisons of Grey Abbey, a nursery, farm shop and popular restaurant.

Check out the full article for ideas on where to stay lockdown lifts.

For the latest information on Covid-19 restrictions, go to the NI Direct website