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Take a walk through time in historic harbour town

By Linda McKee

Published 06/07/2009

Once the main shipping port between Scotland and Ireland, Donaghadee has now become a quiet seaside resort that welcomes a flurry of visitors every summer.

This walking tour uncovers how the town developed from mediaeval times. After Con O’Neill rebelled against the Crown and abandoned the land, it passed to Scottish planter Hugh Montgomery, who brought large numbers of his compatriots to occupy Co Down.

Donaghadee gradually became the premier ferry port of Ireland, carrying daily shipments of people, livestock and mail for two centuries.

In the 1800s, the famed engineers, Sir John Rennie and Son, took the controversial step of converting the port into a safe harbour for sailing ships and trade died out, moving to Larne with its extended harbour.


Donaghadee lies six miles from Bangor and eight miles from Newtownards on the Ards Peninsula. Regular bus services run from Newtownards and Bangor.

The walk begins at the car park beside the bus station, leading you back to the Lighthouse. It was constructed in 1836, lit by 45,000 candles and was visible for more than 18 miles.

Moving along the pier towards the town, the walker passes the lifeboat house, now a social club. The trail moves into the old quarter of Donaghadee by taking the first left into Manor Street. At the top of Manor Street, turn left onto Millisle Road to admire the Admiral Leslie Hall, now Donaghadee Baptist Church. A little further is Rosebank, one of the oldest houses in Donaghadee where Sarah Grand, novelist and suffragette (1854-1943) was born.

Retracing your steps towards the town centre, turn left at Killaughey Road, and observe an ancient walled garden and Café Manor. Continue back along the Killaughey Road and turn left down the hill to see Grace Neill’s Bar and Restaurant that dates back to 1611 — it has attracted guests such as John Keats and Franz Liszt. Further on the left is the Methodist Church with a dome marking the spot where John Wesley once preached.

Proceeding up the hill into Moat Street, the walker reaches the Parish Church of Ireland hidden on the left at the bottom of Church Place. Continuing back down from the Church and linking back into Moat Street, continue for five minutes and the entrance to the Moat is on the right, built for storing gunpowder while the harbour was being constructed.

Climbing back down to Moat Street, continue right. Past Manor Hall, you will see a small laneway on the right hand side, just opposite the entrance to Manor Farm. Follow Carnathen Lane to the end and take a right onto New Road, which has many imposing Georgian houses.

At the end of New Road, turn right to pass Shore Street Presbyterian Church, opposite which is a row of red-brick coastguard cottages built in the 1860s. The walk back to the harbour skirts the sandy bay, and at low tide, it is an easy walk out to the breakwater or North Pier. Next comes Union Street, once known as Tanner’s Row, and Sailors Row.

Following down the parade you reach Copeland Antiques building, once used as a sewing factory. It is reputed to have been the occasional residence of the Duke of Cumberland.

After you pass Bridge Street, there are two narrow laneways on the right hand side leading back to the High Street. One was once known as Murder Lane, reputedly because of the number of inebriated sailors who fell prey to robbers.

Halfway up New Street is the old Market House, later used as the town’s courthouse. A few further steps and you reach High Street and the end of the trail.

Further information

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

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: Donaghadee Walking Trail.

Area: Ards Peninsula.

Nearest town to start: Donaghadee.

Distance: Approximately 1½-2 miles, taking around 1 hour to complete.

Terrain: Town centre footpaths.

Access Restrictions: Some of the locations mentioned in this tour are privately owned and cannot be accessed. The privacy of the owners should be respected.

Refreshments: There are many refreshment stops from coffee shops to restaurants dotted throughout the town — try Pier 36, gastro-pub and Inn and recent winner of ‘Taste of Northern Ireland’ category at the 2009 NITB Tourism Awards, or pay a visit to Grace Neills, reputed to be the oldest pub in Ireland.

Publications: Pick up a copy of the Donaghadee Walking Guide from Ards TIC (028 9182 6846) or Portaferry TIC (028 4272 9882). You can also download a copy from . The walking guide can also be downloaded as a podcast.

Walk Developed By: Ards Tourism.

Map: Sheet 15 (Belfast) of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series.

Belfast Telegraph

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