Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Bird lovers will flock to this tranquil Ards walk

Into the wild: Back to nature at Kearney

Once a thriving fishing community, Kearney on the tip of the Ards Peninsula is now a sleepy village whose distinctive whitewashed cottages are conserved by the National Trust.

With 14 simple traditional dwellings, the village has a timeless character and this short coastal route takes in the spectacular rugged coastline of the lower Ards Peninsula and the eight-acre sandy beach of Knockinelder.

Neither of the two trails listed here is particularly challenging, but be aware that the terrain of grass, sand and rocky shoreline can be uneven.

Directions

Kearney is situated on the south east coast of the Ards Peninsula, directly east of Portaferry. If travelling from the west or south there is a ferry service that leaves Strangford village regularly.

From the north follow the A2 down to Cloughey, continuing on the smaller coastal lanes until reaching Kearney village at the southern tip of the peninsula.

This shoreline trail is linear and can be taken in either north or south. The trail leads through lichen-covered rocks and coastal grassland studded with spring squill on the promontories. The small, sheltered bays are made up of shingle and saltmarsh, dotted with yellow horned poppy — an unusual plant of the area.

For the north route, walk down from Kearney car park to the shore and turn left. This northern trail encompasses a number of small bays where unique birdlife can be seen as well as a host of sea creatures and plant life. The trail heads up towards the small town of Cloughey.

For the southern route follow the coastline round to the right from Kearney village through grassland. This short trail meanders down to the southern tip of the peninsula, taking in spectacular scenery along the way.

Neither of these short trails is difficult — however, they do contend with some uneven surfaces in parts. The terrain is made up of grass, sand and rocky shoreline. The two miles of coastline surrounding the village include some sandy beaches, a low rocky foreshore and a small pocket of salt marsh.

The Backdrop

Keaney sits at the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula. In the 19th century Kearney was a flourishing community, with fishing as the central occupation. Stories are told of a ‘she-cruiser', crewed entirely by women, which set out to fish in the surrounding waters.

Kearney is now a place of recreation and a splendid place for bird watching. Breeding birds along the coast include oystercatcher, rock pipit and shelduck.

The dramatic white form of the gannet can be seen diving out to sea, and tern, eider and wintering waders are common. Turnstone can also be seen feeding around the seaweed-covered rocks.

The National Trust says Kearney is the kind of place you find by accident and return to again and again. With its quaint rows of houses, peaceful seafront and traditional layout, nearby Portaferry retains a unique character, with many buildings of historical and architectural importance.

Portaferry is a popular tourist attraction on the Ards Peninsula and boasts an impressive aquarium, Exploris. Exploris is an interpretative centre for Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea, giving a fascinating insight into the sea life and habitat of the lough shore.

Portaferry is linked to the village of Strangford across The Narrows by a car ferry service that operates every half hour. The powerful current which rushes through The Narrows carries 400 million gallons of water with every tide. It is little wonder the Vikings named the Lough the ‘Strong Fiord’ (Strangfjorthr).

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact the Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN), tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com

CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

Walk Name: Kearney.

Area: Ards Peninsula.

Nearest big town to start point: Portaferry.

Distance: 2.7 miles / 4.3km.

Terrain: Rugged coastal walk. Take care when walking through the rocky shoreline areas. Although this is a short trail you are still advised to inform someone of your intended route before you leave.

Facilities: Kearney Visitor Information Centre is open between March 17-September 30 and from October 6-14; 10am- 6pm daily, 1-5pm at the weekends.

Publications: National Trust Walks Information. Available from Ards Tourist information Centre or contact the Access and Recreation Officer 028 9751 0721 for more information.

Walk Developed By: The National Trust.

Ordnance Survey Map: Sheet 21 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series.

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