Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

Walk of the Week: Kearney

By Linda Stewart

This short coastal route takes in the spectacular rugged coastline of the lower Ards Peninsula. With simple traditional dwellings and an unspoilt, timeless character, the National Trust village of Kearney is truly special.

The village sits at the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula. In the 19th century, Kearney was a flourishing community, with fishing as the central occupation. Stories are told of a ‘she-cruiser', crewed entirely by women, which set out to fish in the surrounding waters. Kearney is now a place of recreation and a splendid place for bird watching.


Kearney is situated on the south east coast of the Ards Peninsula, directly east of Portaferry. If travelling from the west or south, there is a ferry service that leaves Strangford village regularly.

From the north follow the A2 down to Cloughey, continuing on the smaller coastal lanes until reaching Kearney village at the southern tip of the Peninsula.

This shoreline trail is linear and can be taken in either the north or south direction. The trail leads through lichen-covered slaty rocks and coastal grassland studded with spring squill on the promontories.

The small, sheltered bays are made up of shingle and saltmarsh, with the yellow horned poppy an unusual plant of the area.

For the north route, walk down from Kearney car park to the shore and turn left. This trail takes in a number of small bays where unique birdlife can be seen as well as a host of sea creatures and plant life. The trail heads up towards the small town of Cloughey.

For the southern route, follow the coastline round to the right from Kearney village through grassland. This short trail meanders down to the southern tip of the peninsula, taking in spectacular scenery along the way.

Neither of these short trails is difficult. However, they do contend with some uneven surfaces in parts. The terrain is made up of grass, sand and rocky shoreline. The two miles of coastline surrounding the village include some sandy beaches, a low rocky foreshore and a small pocket of salt marsh.

The National Trust, which has developed the trail, says Kearney is the kind of place you find by accident and return to again and again.

The backdrop

The route takes you through the charming village of Kearney, the eight-acre sandy beach of Knockinelder and opens up a vast array of coastal wildlife.

Breeding birds along the coast include oystercatcher, rock pipit and shelduck. The dramatic white form of the gannet can be seen diving out to sea, and tern, eider and wintering waders are common.

Turnstone can also be seen feeding around the seaweed-covered rocks.

With its quaint rows of houses, peaceful seafront and traditional layout, nearby Portaferry retains a unique character, with many buildings of historical and architectural importance.

Portaferry is a popular tourist attraction on the Ards Peninsula and boasts an impressive aquarium, Exploris, which is an interpretative centre for Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea, giving a fascinating insight into the sea life and habitat of the lough shore.

Portaferry is linked to the village of Strangford across The Narrows by a car ferry service that operates every half hour. The powerful current that rushes through The Narrows carries 400 million gallons of water with every tide. It is little wonder the Vikings named the Lough the ‘Strong Fjord’.

As a general rule, it is best to be overprepared than underprepared. Waterproof and windproof clothing are essential as the weather down the peninsula can be quite wild at times. Take care when walking through the rocky shoreline areas. Despite this being a short trail, you are still advised to inform someone of your intended route before you leave.

Outdoor Recreation NI endorses the principles of Leave No Trace, which mean recreational users can minimise their impact on the countryside while still enjoying activities with freedom. For more information, visit

More 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: Kearney.

Area: Ards Peninsula.

Nearest big town to start point: Portaferry.

Distance: 2.7 miles.

Time: This walk should take under an hour to complete.

Terrain: Rugged coastal walk.

Facilities: There is a visitor information centre located at Kearney (seasonal opening). There are also facilities and shops available in Portaferry.

Publications: National Trust Walks. Information, available from Ards Tourist Information Centre or contact the Access and Recreation Officer, tel: 028 9751 0721 for more information

Walk Developed By: This walk has been developed and is maintained by The National Trust

Map: Sheet 21 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop, Lincoln Buildings 27-45 Great Victoria Street Belfast BT2 7SL

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph