Hoof trail at Castle Ward

Castle Ward, Strangford, Downpatrick, County Down BT30 7LS

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Serene views at Strangford Lough © National Trust, Strangford Lough

Serene views at Strangford Lough

The 15th-century Audley's Castle on Strangford Lough © Craig McCoy

The 15th-century Audley's Castle on Strangford Lough

View through to the farmyard at Castle Ward © National Trust, Castle Ward

View through to the farmyard at Castle Ward

Our gorgeous camping pods mean your Castle Ward adventure can last longer © Peter Muhly

Our gorgeous camping pods mean your Castle Ward adventure can last longer

Route overview

This trail is designed specifically for use by horse riders and must be used in a clockwise direction only.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Hoof trail map at Castle Ward
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Horse car park, grid ref: NW672027

  1. Leave the car park and head through farmland on a short two-way section before turning right onto Colonel's Walk. This wide track meanders through woodland for several miles before a single track section that leads through mature trees and the farmland of Tullyratty.

  2. Descending to Downpatrick Avenue, there are several places with steep drop offs to the side. After the short road section, horses must follow waymarkers keeping left on entering Mallard Plantation and continuing through woodland. At the top of the woodland, pass through the gate and merge into a multi-use trail with cyclists and walkers approaching.

  3. The trail then follows the line of the boundary wall through the West Park, with stunning views across Strangford Lough and Castle Ward Demesne.

    Show/HideStrangford Lough

    Strangford Lough is a large sea lough or inlet in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is separated from the Irish Sea by the Ards Peninsula. The name Strangford is derived from Old Norse: Strangr-fjërðr meaning 'strong fjord'; describing the fast-flowing narrows at its mouth.

    Serene views at Strangford Lough © National Trust, Strangford Lough
  4. At the end of this long section, turn left behind the walled garden before entering into woodland. This is a slow zone area.

  5. On reaching the Audleystown Road take care crossing the road before heading towards Audley's Castle, through Audley's Wood and then along the shore of Strangford Lough.

    Show/HideAudley's Castle

    The castle probably dates from around the 15th-century, but the early history is unknown. The castle is named after its late 16th-century owners, the Audleys, an Anglo-Norman family who held land in the area in the 13th-century, although it is not known if they built the castle. It was sold, with the surrounding estate, to the Ward family in 1646 and used in 1738 as an eye-catching focus of the long vista along Castle Ward's artificial lake, Temple Water.

    The 15th-century Audley's Castle on Strangford Lough © Craig McCoy
  6. On reaching the farmyard gates turn left along the shore and follow the grassy track between the boundary wall and the lough.

    Show/HideOld Castle Ward

    Built in the late 16th or early 17th-century by Nicholas Ward, Old Castle Ward is a 3-storey tower house built of split stone rubble with sandstone dressings. At present Old Castle Ward is part of a 19th-century farm with a saw mill belonging to the estate.

    View through to the farmyard at Castle Ward © National Trust, Castle Ward
  7. The trail then leads back into the estate through the arched gateway at Coal Quay. Turn left and follow inside the boundary wall until reaching Strangford Avenue close to the caravan park.

    Show/HideCaravan park

    Tucked away on Strangford Avenue in the stunning 820 acre demesne the caravan park offers a beautiful location for a relaxing holiday.

    Our gorgeous camping pods mean your Castle Ward adventure can last longer © Peter Muhly
  8. Follow the uphill path known as The Screen to reach Ballyculter Gate Lodge, and then follow the historic Colonel's Walk leading along the boundary wall once more.

  9. A short two-way section through farmland leads back to the horse car park.

End: Horse car park

  • Trail: Horse Riding
  • Grade: Hard
  • Distance: 7.5 miles (12km)
  • Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • OS Map: NI Discoverer Map 21
  • Terrain:

    This trail has an even surface throughout and is narrow in places, with some steeper gradients and numerous gateways. Be aware that as this trail crosses farmland you may encounter livestock.

  • How to get here:

    By boat: ferry from Portaferry

    By bus: Ulsterbus 16E, Downpatrick to Strangford

    By car: 7 miles (11.3km) north-east of Downpatrick, 1 mile (1.6km) from Strangford on A25

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