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Castle Ward loughside walk


Overlooking the south shores of Strangford Lough, Castle Ward is one of Northern Ireland’s finest demesnes, or country estates. At its heart lies an unusual Georgian mansion, but there's a lot more to discover here.

An excellent walk to spot winter wildlife

This walk explores the waterside, a ruined castle, woodland, an ornamental lake and follies. Visit in winter for a chance to see a fantastic range of migrating birds and the resident seals, and come in summer to visit the Old Castle farmyard animals and wildflower meadow.

Visitors on bicycles on lough shore
Discover the wildlife on our loughside trail Adrian Dennis


Map route for Castle Ward loughside walk
Land and Property Services permit no. 120099 © Crown Copyright (2013)


Old Castle Ward farmyard, OSNI grid ref: J573498


Start at the old farmyard. Note the tower house, a fortified home built in 1610. It was the Castle Ward estate's main residence before the mansion was built. Follow the blue trail down towards the water and boathouse through a large stone gateway. The name Strangford comes from the Old Norse for 'strong fjord' and probably describes the powerful currents where the Irish Sea enters the lough.

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The path leads along the water front, passing boat houses and small quays, before reaching Audley's Wood. Enjoy beautiful views across to Portaferry. You may see seals bobbing about in the water and, in autumn and winter, birds such as redshank and oystercatcher.

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At the edge of the wood, a path on the left takes you on a short detour up the 16th-century Audley's Castle. Climb to the top for a great panorama across the estate and Castle Ward Bay. Look out for pine marten and a long-eared owl that are sometimes seen here at dusk. Close to the castle is a Neolithic cairn where around 30 skeletons were found.

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Continue walking along the loughside then turn left away from the water and through Audley's Wood, home to badgers and lots of small birds.

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When the path exits the woodland, head right on a track, which soon leads to a gate in a stone wall. Emerge through this gate in to the parkland surrounding Temple Water. The temple itself is perched up on your right. You pass a Victorian walled garden, currently used to grow wildflowers.

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Follow the path away from the lake along a tree-lined avenue back to the farmyard. In summer, note the wildflower meadow on your left. A series of paths lead to the mansion house, woodland and playgrounds. To find out more about wildlife on the estate and lough, visit the Strangford Lough Wildlife Centre, adjacent to the farmyard.


Old Castle Ward farmyard, OSNI grid ref: J573498

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Castle Ward loughside walk


Trails are gravelled in places with some woodland tracks. Several short sections are steep. Walk can be extended slightly by climbing to Audley's Castle.

Castle Ward loughside walk

Contact us

Castle Ward loughside walk

How to get here

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

7 miles (11.2km) north-east of Downpatrick, 1.5 miles (2.5km) west of Strangford Lough, entrance by Ballyculter Lodge. (N.B. If using GPS, once on Strangford Road, follow signs for Castle Ward only).

By foot

Follow the Lecale Way; see WalkNI

By ferry

Portaferry to Strangford. Daily, except Christmas Day.

By canoe: Strangford Lough canoe trail; visit CanoeNI

By bus

Ulsterbus 16E Downpatrick to Strangford, with connections from Belfast. Ulsterbus Lecale Rambler (Saturday and Sunday only, in summer).

By bicycle

National Cycle Network Route 99.

Castle Ward loughside walk

Facilities and access

  • Car park, toilets and tea-room at Castle Ward
  • Bike hire available
  • Gift shop and book shop