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Cycle This Way: Castle spin a shore thing

By Linda Stewart

The longest cycling trail at Castle Ward, this route combines sections of multi-use trail with sections of swooping singletrack.

Starting in the Shore Car Park, this circular trail leads along the shore of Strangford Lough and then around Audley's Castle through the surrounding woodland.

This trail has an even surface throughout and is narrow in places, with some steeper gradients and numerous gates to open and close

Directions

Parking for cyclists is in the Shore Car Park within Castle Ward Demesne. The car park is clearly signed from the main entrance drive. There is an information panel and map in the Shore Car Park.

By bike: use National Cycle Network Route 99. By bus: Ulsterbus No 16E between Downpatrick and Strangford, bus stop at Castle Ward gates. By car: on A25, 7 miles from Downpatrick and 1.5 miles from Strangford; 45 mins drive time from Belfast. Follow brown road signs for Castle Ward.

After crossing the Audleystown Road, the trail leads firstly through some woodland before leading through West Park – an area of historic farmland. Return into the woodland at Mallard Plantation, where the trail branches left on a great section of singletrack descent.

After crossing Downpatrick Avenue and a short 100m section on road (again look out for vehicles) the trail leads left into Tullyratty, an area of farmland designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), due to the species-rich grassland.

Return into the woodland of Mountain Wood, and follow the singletrack trail to Base Camp. After crossing the bridge continue on more singletrack, meandering through woods and fields to reach the main entrance to the property.

Cross with caution and look out for vehicles travelling in both directions. Continue through the historic grounds of Windmill Plantation and cross Church Walk with a view of Castle Ward house to the left. The trail then leads down through the Deer Park on the final singletrack descent to Strangford Avenue and the Shore Car Park. Again look out for other users and vehicles where you join Strangford Ave.

The Backdrop

The area now known as Castle Ward was previously known as Carrick na Shanna (the rock of the fox) and there are traces of human habitation here dating back to Neolithic times, evidenced by a standing stone and beside it a matching stone lying on the ground. It was not until the Ward family settled here in 1570 that the Demesne began to develop into the landscape that we see today. The social rise of the Ward family from colonists in the 16th Century to the nobility in the 18th century is encapsulated by the small fortified tower house of old Castle Ward and their more recent Georgian mansion set in landscaped parkland.

The stylistic changes in landscape gardening are represented by the remains of the 18th century formal garden with what is probably the most impressive ornamental canal of this period in Ireland, together with terraces lined with their original yews and picturesque Classical temple.

The succeeding naturalistic movement is exemplified by the pastoral and wooded parkland around the manor house. The return to formalism in Victorian times is represented by a formal garden with terracing adjoining the house as well as other Victorian features including a pinetum.

A corn mill and saw mill in the old Castle Ward/farmyard area were operated by a watercourse from the temple water lake. The clock on the old Castle Ward tower house was a Victorian addition and still chimes on the hour. A closer look will reveal the 12 letters WILLIAM J WARD in place of traditional numerals on the clock face.

Audleys Castle is a magnificent example of a 15th century Anglo-Norman tower house. Now in state care, it is splendidly situated on top of a naturally defensive rock outcrop with spectacular views over Strangford Lough.

Event

For this year's Get Outdoors Weekend, the National Trust is offering free entry into Castle Ward Demesne on Saturday, September 21, for you to enjoy a network of more than 34km trails. All trails are moderate and suitable for families.

Just register for your free place at getout doorsweekend.com and turn up with your bike or book hire in advance and enjoy the trails.

Visit getoutdoorsweekend.com for more information. Castle Ward Trail Guide and Map available from Castle Ward on arrival.

Further information

For further information, contact Outdoor Recreation NI at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or visit cycleni.com

Outdoor Recreation NI in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation NI 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.

Cycle Name: Castle Ward Boundary Trail.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: Strangford Lough.

Nearest big town to start point: Strangford, Downpatrick.

Distance: 8.1 miles, circular.

Access Restrictions: The trail is suitable for competent cyclists and walkers. Expect other users on the trails – walkers on the singletrack sections and horses and walkers on the wider multi-use sections. Please ensure all gates are closed after passing through. Many of these enclose livestock. Users MUST follow the direction of travel as indicated by the waymarkers – this will enable you to see oncoming users, especially horses (where trails are multi-use).

Facilities: Car park – fee charged. Disabled parking at Stableyard, accessible toilets, seasonal tearoom, gift and book shop, mansion house with tours, farmyard, camping and caravan site, picnic areas and bike hire.

Terrain: All off public road. The trail has an even surface throughout. A mix of wide, flat paths and narrow, twisting singletrack. Two road crossings and a short 100m (max.) section on public road.

Cycle hire: Available from Clearsky Adventure Centre based in the Castle Ward Estate, including adult and kids mountain bikes, trailers and helmets. Email: fun@clearsky-adventure.com, tel: 028 43 723 933, clearsky-adventure.com

Developed By: The National Trust.

Map: Sheet 21 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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