Experience the area's rich and diverse history as you journey on the Columban Way Heritage Trail
Welcome to the Columban Way, a heritage trail between Comber and Bangor covering 20 miles (32 km).
Experience the area’s rich and diverse history, Bronze Age relics, monastic settlements, Viking attacks, industrial heritage and military influences in both the First and Second World Wars, are just some points of interest you will discover along the trail.
The Columban Way forms part of the wider European 'Via Columbani'. It traces the route from Mt. Leinster to Bangor across eight countries of Europe finishing in Bobbio, Italy. “Via Columbani” is inspired by St Columbanus, a 6th century monk and pilgrim whose messages, though delivered nearly 1500 years ago, continue to have remarkable relevance today.
On your journey, you will experience some of the most spectacular views on the island including Strangford Lough (an area of outstanding natural beauty), Country Parks and the North Down Coastal Path.
The development of this trail has been made possible through the support of the Department for Communities and The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
We hope you enjoy your journey and take time to visit the various points of interest along the way.
Points of interest
1. Comber Square, Comber, BT23 5DT
Comber grew as a market town through the 19th and 20th centuries. It now holds an award-winning monthly Farmers’ Market by the town square at St Mary's Church.
2. Ards Priory/Market Cross, Newtownards, BT23 7FW
Established as a Dominican Priory in the 13th century, Sir Hugh Montgomery made further improve-ments in the 17th century. The Market Cross, dates from 1636 and was where markets and events were held.
3. Somme Museum, Newtownards, BT23 7PH
Arriving at Whitespots Country Park, the Somme Museum examines Ireland’s role in the First World War.
4. Whitespots Country Park / Lead mines
Designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), the area was mined for lead from 1849-1910.
5. Helens Tower/Clandeboye Estate
The Tower, completed in 1861, was designed by William Burn in the Scottish Baronial style. Part of a landscape project, Lord Dufferin named the tower after his mother Helen Selina Sheridan. Clandeboye estate is the historic home of the Dufferin and Ava family and is now also famous for its delicious yoghurt made from the local herd. (Access to the estate itself is limited).
6. Clandeboye Carriage Way
On the journey to Helen’s Bay via the old carriage way, be sure to look up as you walk towards the bridge to see the Marquess of Dufferin’s Coat of Arms supported by a heraldic lion and tiger.
7. Grey Point Fort, Helen’s Bay, BT19 1LE
Completed in 1907, the fort was key part of Belfast’s defences against naval attack, it proved to be of limited value during the 1941 German air attacks.
8. North Down Coastal Path
Between Helen’s Bay and Bangor you will enjoy part of one of the finest shoreline walks in Ireland, stretching approximately 16 miles (26km) in full!.
9. Crawfordsburn Country Park, BT19 1JT
One of the country’s most visited country parks, comprising of two beaches, tranquil walks, cafe, spectacular scenery and views across Belfast Lough.
10. McKee Clock/Bregenz House, Bangor, BT20 5ED
Next to Bangor Marina is The McKee Clock. Built through the generosity of James McKee, who offered the Council £200 for its construction. Adjacent to the central pier is Bregenz House, the Coastguard station, named after Bangor’s twin-town of Bregenz, Austria.
11. Eisenhower Pier/Tower House, Bangor, BT20 5ED
EisenhowerPier, re-named by Mary-Jean Eisenhower, granddaughter of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 2005.
12. North Down Museum/Bangor Castle and Walled Garden, Castle Park, Bangor, BT20 4BT
The Museum explores the history of the local area from Bronze Age to present day. The Castle, home to the Ward and Bingham family, served as a military hospital dur-ing the Second World War. It is now the local Council headquarters. Divided into different sections, it features two unique sculptures inspired by the area’s fascinating history.
13. Bangor Abbey, Bangor, BT20 4JE
Founded by St Comgall in 558AD, the Abbey was one of the most important seats of learning in Ireland with almost 3000 monks.
• This trail stretches for 20 miles (32 km) over a variety of surfaces, so it is important to be equipped with suitable clothing, footwear and provisions.
• Be aware when crossing roads, traffic comes from your right. Use denoted crossings where possible.
• Sections of the North Down Coastal Path follow private roads. Please respect the Highway Code at all times, and particularly when on these sections where residential traffic will have right of way.
• Northern Ireland has very few public rights of way. In many areas, walkers can only enjoy walks because of the goodwill of local landowners. In the interests of personal safety, please take care and be respectful when using the area for recreational pur-poses.
While in the area
If you have time to discover more whilst in the area, here are a few other suggestions.
- Castle Espie Wildfowl and Wetland Centre - Hides and nature walks allow you to get close to wild birds from around the world on the shores of Strangford Lough. wwt.org.uk/wetlandcentres/castle-espie
- Nendrum Monastic Site - Believed to have been established by Saint Machaoi in the 5th century, Nendrum is considered to be the best example of a pre-Norman monastic site in Northern Ireland. Seasonal visitor centre.
- Scrabo Tower/Country Park/Killynether Wood - Built in 1857, Scrabo Tower is one of the area’s best known landmarks with spectacu-lar views of Strangford lough and the surrounding farmland. Adjacent to the tower, Kil-lynether wood boasts a network of picturesque woodland walks.
- Ards Arts Centre, Newtownards, BT23 4NP The former Georgian House, completed in 1770, originally held the local market. To-day the centre houses art exhibitions, performances and exhibitions throughout the year, as well as the building’s original gaol cell! www.andculture.org.uk
- Movilla Abbey, Newtownards, BT23 9DJ. Founded in the 6th century by St Finian who, according to legend, brought the first Bi-ble to Ireland. It was later re-founded as an Augustinian abbey in the 12th century.
- Ward Park, Bangor, BT20 4LG This beautiful park covers 37 acres with small lakes, a wildfowl sanctuary, sports fa-cilities and features a War Memorial.