Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Walk of the Week: Ards Peninsula

This enjoyable walk will lead you around Ballyquintin Farm on the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula, a beautiful spot which shows how environmental enhancement can go hand in hand with modern farming.

The route takes you through Ballyquintin National Nature Reserve and to Bar Hall Hill where you can enjoy fantastic views over the Strangford Narrows in one direction and across the Irish Sea to Scotland and the Isle of Man in the other.

Wildlife to spot includes seals, porpoises, Irish hare and a multitude of farmland birds such as yellowhammer, tree sparrow and skylark.

DIRECTIONS

Ballyquintin is located at the very southern tip of the Ards Peninsula approximately four miles from Portaferry along the Shore Road. There are bus services from Newtownards as far as Portaferry and Downpatrick to Strangford.

From the car park, set off down the hill, following the signs to Port Kelly. Go through the stile on your left and follow the path through the field. After the next stile, turn right which will lead you down to the shore at Port Kelly. After exploring Port Kelly for a while, retrace your steps for a short distance and carry on past the previous stile following the signs in the direction of Bar Hall Bay.

This will eventually lead you down a grassy lane and through a field and two more stiles before coming out onto the shore at Bar Hall Bay. Turn right and follow this path northwards along the shore, looking out for seals basking on the rocks as you go. When you reach the road, turn right.

Two hundred metres along this road there is an optional detour through a gate to the left which takes you along the side of a field to the top of Bar Hall Hill. From here, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views across the Strangford Narrows and back out across the Irish Sea.

Go back down the hill and turn left to rejoin the road, taking the first turning on your right. This follows the access road along which you arrived and will take you back to the car park.

Once back at the car park, a worthwhile additional walk is to go through the gate and along the path to the Second World War lookout hut. From here, you overlook the Ballyquintin National Nature Reserve. Either return directly to the car park or take a detour through the gate and down the slope to explore the lower reserve.

THE BACKDROP

The National Trust purchased Ballyquintin Farm in the year 2000 with support from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Since then, the charity has acquired further land and now looks after over 160 acres within Ballyquintin and Bar Hall farms.

Ballyquintin National Nature Reserve is owned and managed by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Not only is this a great location for watching wildlife but it is also a fine example of a raised beach created during times of higher sea levels. From the top of Bar Hall Hill, visitors are treated to panoramic views for miles in every direction. To the north is the vastness of the internationally important wildlife refuge of Strangford Lough.

Ballyquintin is a bird watcher’s dream. In the summer, the air is full of the sound of skylarks and yellowhammers and birds such as terns, kittiwakes and gannets can be seen diving for fish off shore.

The winter months see flocks of hundreds of farmland birds such as Linnet and Stonechat. Wildfowl and waders can be seen along the shore including Brent Geese, Shelduck, Redshank, Greenshank and Dunlin. Birds of prey including Peregrine, Merlin, and Hen Harrier have all been recorded.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network at 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com .

Countryside Access and Activities Network (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: Bar Hall and Ballyquintin Farm

Area: Ards Peninsula and Strangford Lough Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Nearest big town: Portaferry

Distance: 2 miles circular route

Time: This walk should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

Terrain: The route is partly on a surfaced road, rough track and grassy field edges.

Access Restrictions: Visitors should note that this is a working farm. Please keep to paths to avoid damage to crops and close gates to contain the cattle. Dogs should be kept under control to prevent disturbance to livestock or wildlife. Refreshments: The nearby towns of Portaferry and Strangford have several popular pubs, restaurants and cafes.

Publications: A Short Guide to Ballyquintin Farm (leaflet) produced by The National Trust and available by phoning 028 4488 1411.

Map: Sheet 21 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk)

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