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Walk of the Week: Clandeboye Estate

By Linda Stewart

Clandeboye is one of the few great estates in Northern Ireland that still remains in the ownership of the original family. It was settled in 1674 and is currently home to Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava.

Clandeboye is most famous for the legacy of Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1st Marquess (1826-1902), who laid out the historic parklands under the guidance of James Frazer. The project was so extensive that the estate still boasts the largest area of broadleaved woodland in Northern Ireland.

This linear route passes through peaceful woodland corridors of significant historical and wildlife importance, providing a tranquil escape in an urban setting.


Helen’s Bay Railway Station is located off the main Belfast to Bangor Road (A2) in Helen’s Bay Village, four miles west of Bangor. A regular train service runs from Belfast to Bangor, as well as a regular bus service.

The walk starts from the rear of Helen’s Bay Beach Car Park, following Clandeboye Avenue. The route continues along the linear corridor and passes under bridges at Bridge Road and the railway line. A short distance in front lies a gate that takes the walker onto a metalled path.

Continuing along the avenue for approximately a mile will eventually lead to another bridge at Ballyrobert Road. After this bridge the walker reaches the main Belfast to Bangor dual carriageway.

At this point there are two options: either continue with care across the dual carriageway or turn left for approximately 100 yards to reach a farm laneway. This will lead back to the village of Crawfordsburn. Taking a right at the T-junction will lead to the Old Inn at Crawfordsburn, where a pathway leads back into Crawfordsburn Country Park. Walking along the coast from the Visitor Centre will lead back to Helen’s Bay Beach. This looped walk is approximately three miles.

If continuing on to Whitespots Country Park, cross the main dual carriageway with extreme care and continue along the Avenue. After approximately one mile the path leaves the Avenue and continues along a farm lane to Ballysallagh Road. From here the path circles round Blackwood Golf Course, eventually exiting on the Crawfordsburn Road near Ballyleidy Sawmill. From here re-enter Clandeboye Estate at the back of the sawmill and continue uphill to Helen’s Tower for scenic views of the Co Down landscape.

A short distance from here, the walking route leads into Ards Borough Council and the Whitespots Country Park. Continuing through the park past the leadmines will eventually lead to the Somme Heritage Centre and the end of the walk.

From here either retrace your steps back to Helen’s Bay or catch a bus on the main Bangor to Newtownards Road.

the backdrop

The four-mile tree-lined corridor of Clandeboye Avenue links the settlement of Helen’s Bay to the Clandeboye Estate. This avenue is a former coach lane built in 1850 by James Frazer for use by the Marquess of Clandeboye Estate to gain private access to the bay and later the railway station.

The station, built in 1863, was the creation of Lord Dufferin, who wanted a private entrance and waiting room for his family.

Clandeboye House was constructed in 1801. It was designed by Robert Woodgate, a pupil of Soane, who utilised the existing building as the core of his design. Despite recent alterations the exterior of the house remains very much as the original design.

There are a series of intimate walled gardens adjoining the house, including the Bee and Conservatory Gardens. Farther afield the woodland gardens display rhododendron and exotic plant species particularly suited to the climate of Co Down.

Helen’s Tower in Clandeboye Estate was built by Lord Dufferin in memory of his mother, Lady Helen Dufferin. It was completed in 1858. The tower has since taken on an unforeseen poignancy, as an almost identical replica known as the Ulster Tower was built at Thiepval to honour the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division who fell at the Battle of the Somme. The 36th division trained beside Helen’s Tower before leaving for France.

If you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of some of the various creatures that roam the estate woodland including the majestic fallow deer, red squirrel, pipistrelle bat, osprey, tree sparrows or barn owls.

further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) at, 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.

Area: North Down.

Nearest town to start point: Bangor.

Distance: 8 miles/11km linear.

Terrain: Woodland Walk on a mix of metalled paths and rough surfaces.

Refreshments: Mainly concentrated at the beginning and end of the walk, so come prepared.

Walk Developed By: North Down Borough Council, with permission from Clandeboye Estate. Ards Borough Council maintain the walk through Whitespots Country Park.

Map: Sheet 15 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop (

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