Posted by: chiarraigrrl | October 26, 2010

Exploring the Ards Peninsula – Portaferry and Strangford

Strangford Lough 4

Took off to Portaferry for a few days exploring the Ards Peninsula last week, which was a wonderful trip. The Portaferry Hotel was absolutely lovely and a perfect base for exploring the Ards Peninsula. The room looked out on Strangford Lough, which was not only beautiful but also provided some amusement watching the birds – a grey heron who seemed to have the area as his local turf was a frequent visitor to the shore below the window, and seemed to like to perch on the edge of one of the small boats, particularly when the ferry was coming in so that he could ride the waves created by the wake of the ferry. Most amusing. There was also a black bird one morning who, on seeing that the heron had taken the edge of the boat, balanced himself on a buoy to surf the small waves:

Bird balancing on buoy near Portaferry on Strangford Lough

I love a good wander around with my camera, so decided to follow the walk suggested by the Ards Peninsula tourist board (unfortunately the Portaferry tourist office, and attached crafts area, appears to only be open during the summer season, but Ards tourism had sent a pack including the Portaferry walking guide prior to the trip, which was most helpful) and after having a look at The Watcher, wandered up to Portaferry Castle and the Rope Walk up by Exploris Aquarium.

The Watcher 3
The Watcher

Portaferry Castle 4
Portaferry Castle

Continuing on through the square past the Market House, it follows Church Street to the left up by the old Templecraney graveyard, which has the following (presumably quite old) sign up on the pillar at its gates, offering a £5 reward for information leading to the conviction of anyone damaging the property:

Sign on pillar at Templecraney Graveyard Portaferry

After a look at Ballyphilip Parish Church, I wandered up around Anne Street and back toward the square along High Street, and took a left on Meeting House Lane to see the Portaferry Presbyterian Church. It’s a gorgeous building, built in 1839 and designed by architect John Miller based on Greek Doric lines with Ionic pillars in the interior. I was taking photographs from a few angles outside (thinking it looked closed) when someone came out, so of course I put the camera back in my pocket and started to head on up Windmill Hill. I had stopped a few houses on to cross the road when the older gentleman who had come out of the Presbyterian church caught up with me on his way to his car, and asked if I was interested in the church building. When I replied that it was a beautiful building, and I was up from Dublin for a few days and having a wander around the town, he asked if I wanted a look around in the church. It’s at least as beautiful inside as it is outside, if not more so. The gentleman showing me around (I never got his name) was quick to point out that the gorgeous stained glass windows on either side of the organ were made in Dublin. The church was built using stone brought from Newtownards by the congregants by horse and cart, and it’s believed that they based the design on Greek lines because Rev. Steel Dickson, a former minister at the church, had founded reading groups in the town to study the classics. When the church was built it had roughly 500 in the congregation; at this point, I was told, perhaps 40 or so turn up of a Sunday, so they’ve decided to open the church up to other uses while keeping its main purpose being for worship. They hold regular concerts, and have set up the Friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church as a registered charity to maintain the church and run events. Wonderful. I thought it was very kind of the gentleman to take time out to show me around, as well.

Portaferry Presbyterian Church 5
Portaferry Presbyterian Church

I love windmills – I blame walks out to Blennerville for that – so couldn’t resist walking up Windmill Hill to have a look at Tullyboard Windmill at the top of the hill. There are some really spectacular views from the windmill, and someone (presumably Ards council, but I don’t know for sure) has thoughtfully installed benches at the base of the windmill, which is a wonderful spot to sit and relax for a bit. The AA has also installed a marker across the road from the windmill which indicates what the different landmarks are that are visible from the top of the hill, which I thought was a brilliant idea.

Tullyboard windmill Portaferry and view to Strangford Lough
Tullyboard Windmill, Portaferry

One of the missions on the trip was to find a restaurant that would serve lobster, so as I wasn’t able to find any in Portaferry (in October, anyway) I hopped on board the ferry and took the ten-minute (max) journey across the lough to Strangford to have a look around. Strangford’s a lovely little village, and what did I see almost immediately upon getting off the ferry but a restaurant called the Lobster Pot that did, in fact, serve lobster. We went for dinner there the next evening and it was perfect – excellent food, great service, reasonable prices and lovely surroundings. Very impressive, would highly recommend it.

Strangford
Strangford

Strangford Castle
Strangford Castle

View to Portaferry from Strangford 6
View across Strangford Lough to Portaferry

More photos are up on my flickr, of course.

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