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Walk of the Week: Castle Ward Castle Trail

By Linda Stewart

This walking trail leads along the shore of Strangford Lough and then through Audley's wood before returning to the farmyard on the minor Audleystown Road.

The route leads through fields where there may be livestock. Follow the pink waymarker disks with the words Castle Trail around the edge.


Castle Ward Demesne is located seven miles north east of Downpatrick, 1.5 miles west of the village of Strangford on the A25. The car park is clearly signed from the main entrance drive.

There is also a bus stop on the road at the main entrance to Castle Ward (route number 16E) and a regular bus service from Downpatrick to Strangford village passes this stop.

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.

On reaching the Audleystown Road, walkers turn left and follow the minor Audleystown Road back to the Farm Yard and the Shore Car Park.

The backdrop

The area now called 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 the standing stone and beside it a matching stone lying on the ground. It is highly probable that these stones represent the remains of a dolmen or portal tomb.

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 and adjacent 18th century stable yard which contains a tea room and gift shop.

The return to formalism in Victorian times is represented by formal garden with terracing adjoining the house as well as other Victorian features including a pinetum.

Victorian industrial innovation is also represented on the property by a cornmill and sawmill in the old Castle Ward/farmyard area, which were operated by a culverted water course from the temple water lake.

The cornmill is still operational and demonstrations are held periodically during the summer months.

The clock that can be seen on the old Castle Ward tower house was a Victorian addition and it still chimes on the hour.

A closer look will reveal the 12 letters W I L L I A M J W A R D in place of traditional numerals on the clock face.

Audley’s Castle is a magnificent example of a 15th century Anglo-Norman tower house (now in state care), splendidly situated on top of a naturally defensive rock outcrop commanding panoramic views over Strangford Lough.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or

Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (formerly CAAN) in association with Belfast Telegraph has provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland 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: Castle Ward Castle Trail.

Area: Strangford Lough.

Nearest town to start point: Strangford.

Distance: Two miles, circular.

Terrain: Off-road gravel paths, woodland trails and quiet rural roads.

Access Restrictions: Dogs must be kept on a lead or under control at all times. Visitors must be aware of other activities on the trails, including horses and bicycles.

Facilities: There is a car park (fee charged), accessible toilets, gift shop, tea room and bike hire at Castle Ward Demesne.

Publications: Copies of the trail maps of Castle Ward can be obtained from reception in the stable yard.

Walk Developed By: Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (formerly CAAN) in partnership with the National Trust and maintained by The National Trust

Map: Sheet 21 Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop, Colby House, Stranmillis, Belfast BT9 SBJ (

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