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Walk of the Week: North Down Coastal Path

By Linda Stewart

North Down Coastal Path winds its way along the shore of Belfast Lough from Holywood in the west to Orlock in the east.

The path makes its way through coastline and parkland, where historic relics, flora and fauna are found in abundance, including grey seals which can be spotted offshore.


From Belfast take the A2 to Holywood (passing Belfast City Airport). On arrival at Holywood turn left onto the Esplanade. You can park at the train station car park.

Setting off from the Esplanade in Holywood, walk under the railway arch and turn right. Follow the linear path along the outer edge of Belfast Lough towards Seapark, a recreational area with a play park.

Continue past the park towards the Royal North Yacht Club. From here follow the public footpath as it rejoins the coastal path. At this point a detour to the right will lead to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and the railway halt.

Continuing on, the path leads to Craigavad, with the Royal Belfast Golf Club on the right. Beyond this point cross the bridge in front of Rockport Primary School. About two miles further round the coast, a set of steep steps takes you inland at the Seahill Sewage Treatment Works and rejoins the coast path as you descend at the far end. From here the path leads to Crawfordsburn Country Park, passing Grey Fort Point, Helen's Bay and through to Crawfordsburn Beach.

Leaving the path briefly, cross the sand at Swineley Bay and pick up the path at the far side. Continue walking along the path to Wilson's Point, where the path turns towards Bangor Marina.

From here follow the path round to Ballyholme Beach, which leads to the National Trust area of Ballymacormick Point. The path then becomes more rural in nature as it passes Orlock Point and finishes at Groomsport Harbour.

The backdrop

Helen's Bay is situated on the coast four miles west of Bangor and has two lovely beaches flanking Crawfordsburn Country Park. It is named after Helen Sheridan, mother of the first Marquis of Dufferin and Ava.

Crawfordsburn Country Park is full of variety, featuring 3.5km of often rugged and rocky coastline, the two best beaches in the Belfast area, a deep wooded glen with an impressive waterfall at its head, a pond and wildflower meadows. The park also includes Grey Point Fort, a coastal battery and gun emplacement dating from the early 1900s and updated during World War II.

The rocky outcrop of Orlock Nature Reserve is located at the end of the coastal path by the village of Groomsport. Covered in gorse, it is good for rough walking and for spotting birds, flowers and foxes.

There is something for birdwatchers at all times of the year. The combination of rough grass, gorse and rocks forms an inviting breeding ground for oystercatchers, skylarks, meadow and rock pipits, stonechats, reed buntings, willow warblers and linnets.

In winter, waders such as dunlin, redshank, curlew, purple sandpiper and ringed plover can be seen on the shore.

Summer brings the sandwich terns to join the nearby breeding arctic and common terns.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland at The Stableyard, Barnett’s Demesne, Malone Road, Belfast BT9 5PB, tel: 028 9030 3930 or visit

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: North Down Coastal Path.

Area: North Down.

Nearest Town: Holywood or Bangor.

Distance: 16 miles linear.

Terrain: Mostly tarmac path, with small rugged sections.

Refreshments: Available along the walk, in Bangor town and Helen’s Bay.

Publications: You can purchase A Guide to the North Down Coastal Path from the Bangor Tourist Information Centre. Tel: 028 9127 0069 for more information.

Map: Sheets 15 and 21 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop, Colby House, Stranmillis, Belfast BT9 SBJ

Walk Developed By: This walk has been developed by North Down Borough Council, with permission from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the National Trust.

Belfast Telegraph


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