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Explore Northern Ireland’s historical past through European Heritage Open Days

Northern Ireland has hosted a jam-packed schedule of festivals and events so far in 2018, and September will be no different.

The European Heritage Open Days on September 8-9 will see over 300 properties steeped in culture open their doors, with exciting events across Northern Ireland celebrating the historic environment.

Take a trip to experience what the Strangford area of County Down has to offer during this special weekend and discover the unique historical heritage that has shaped society today. At the mouth of Strangford Lough, Strangford village falls within a Special Area of Conservation, protecting the wealth of rare marine life that is indigenous to the surrounding waters. The village retains much of the Georgian charm inherited from an age of prosperity and affords a warm welcome to all those who visit. Base your trip at The Cuan Licensed Guest Inn, a beautiful family-run hotel on the shores of the lough. This four-star accommodation provides a cosy comfortable stay with prime views overlooking the heart of the village below.

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Strangford

A short 20-minute drive inland through Downpatrick brings you to Inch Abbey, a monastic site located on the north bank of the Quoile River. The structures were built in the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries by John de Courcy as atonement for his destruction of the nearby Erenagh Abbey. In more recent years, the ruins provided scenic locations for the screen classic Game of Thrones. During the European Heritage Open Days, step into the past with Living History re-enactments throughout the afternoon conveying a sense of everyday life during the era in which the abbey was flourishing. Walk through the grounds with an actor portraying ‘Cistercian Brother Robert’ as he remarks upon the serene beauty of the medieval site, before moving on to explore more of Northern Ireland's historical haunts.

At Castle Ward, gothic and classic collide in an eccentric 18th Century mansion. Overlooking the tranquil waters of Strangford Lough, regal Castle Ward is a cabinet of curiosity due to the conflicting styles that are evident in its décor and indulgent furnishings. Embark upon a free-of-charge atmospheric tour to discover more about the castle’s intriguing past, its residents and the events that took place within the expansive grounds. After your guide has divulged insights to the mysterious stately home, take a walk along the ‘Secret Nature Shore Trail’ that runs along the banks of Strangford Lough to spot a host of wildlife and rare plants.

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Castle Ward

Return to the bustling main square in Strangford village to dine at The Lobster Pot. This popular venue, directly opposite The Cuan, offers delicious regionally sourced seafood dishes including tasty mussels and its premier entrée, local lobster. Enter the restaurant via the idyllic and cosy front bar, the perfect spot for a much-needed drink by the wood-burning stove. The dining area is complemented by soft furnishings, delicate lighting and historical paintings reflecting the area’s heritage, creating an atmospheric environment for your meal. Once you have enjoyed the finest local seafood, move out towards the hidden beer garden before drawing the night to a close.

Other nearby attractions

Newtownards Priory

Newtownards Priory is the only well-preserved medieval Dominican priory to survive in Northern Ireland, founded in the mid-13th Century. Fascinating re-enactments will see Dominican Brothers go about their daily lives of toil and prayer, illuminating the darkness both literally and figuratively. Visitors will also have a chance to learn the ancient arts of candle-making and writing with a quill pen in this beautiful priory.

North Down Museum

The North Down Museum is housed in the stables and laundry of the Town Hall, Bangor Castle, which was built for the Hon. Robert Edward Ward in 1852. Its past will be brought to life through Living History next Saturday in the Museum Galleries. Enjoy archery, calligraphy or even explore the craft of Curragh Making. Witness weapons demonstrations and relax as you listen to traditional music, poetry and story-telling.

Strangford View Mews

These four-star self-serviced apartments are located in 18th Century converted stable barns that overlook Strangford Lough.  The tastefully restored accommodation is spacious and in a fantastic location to explore the area with magnificent views over the peaceful waters that surround the village.

County Down has a bursting programme of events and interesting properties to explore throughout the European Heritage Open Days Weekend 2018.

For more of what’s happening during the European Heritage Open Days, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com

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