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Ringhaddy: Anecdotes about the walkway stretch back generations


William McFerran

William McFerran

Kevin Scott

William McFerran

Sunlight glimmers on rounded drumlin hills and islands as they roll down to the lough.

Black-headed gulls and monochrome oystercatchers sift through masses of brown seaweed on the rocky shores as the tide drifts lower and a heron flaps lazily across the bay on its way to better pickings.

The shoreline at Ringhaddy, a winding inlet of Strangford Lough, is a popular spot for dog walkers, picnickers and amateur artists, according to one local resident who wished to remain anonymous.

"All that has stopped," he says.

"I don't know anybody at all who isn't very upset about it and very annoyed about it."

Investigations by Down District Council over whether the shoreline route should be asserted as a public right of way have uncovered a wealth of fascinating information supplied by local residents who have drawn on their own experiences and stories passed down from their parents.

Some of this supporting evidence dates back hundreds of years.

The resident said he remembered riding horses along the shoreline towards the Quarterlands Road and farmers would have used it to move cattle.

"It saved a couple of miles on the road, going along there rather than round the back of the hill," he says. "For some reason I think it was known as Purgatory – why I don't know, but I think that was the hill in the middle."

William McFerran said he used to bring cattle to his farm using the route.

"I used to come down all the time and there was always a track there," he said. "Men used to take horses to the blacksmith – it was quite a regular thing.

"A lot of people would have used it to walk round to the Quarterlands Road."

Residents say that long before the First World War when the roads were poor, the route was the most natural and shortest way for pedestrian and horse drawn traffic to get to Killinchy and at one point Killinchy Parish Church even erected a toll bridge in Quarterland Bay crossing a salt marsh and stream.

The quays and rights of way would have been maintained by the local farmers.

Meanwhile, another resident says local families used the right of way to visit family and friends and to transport heavy goods.

"This is supported by records of a small agricultural business, circa 1830-1911, in nearby Ballybregagh townland, which provide documentary evidence that at low tide, supplies were imported by way of Ringhaddy quay using the right of way for distribution," the resident says.

"There was a public well set back from the path about 20 metres along the path from the Ringhaddy Road entrance and this well was used by locals and residents."

The source of the name 'Purgatory' remains something of a mystery, but it has been suggested that it is linked to the derelict Rathgorman Church.

Belfast Telegraph