Posted by: chiarraigrrl | October 27, 2010

Exploring the Ards Peninsula – Millisle and the Ballycopeland Windmill

Ballycopeland Windmill Millisle 20
Ballycopeland Windmill

I may have mentioned this once or twice (*ahem*), but I love windmills. Ever since I used to walk out along the Tralee Ship Canal to Blennerville and its gorgeous windmill years ago when I lived in the area, I’ve had a soft spot for windmills. They’re beautiful, and I’ll jump at any chance to go have a look at one (same with canals, if ye must know. One of my favourite memories from a trip to Montreal is a tour of the Lachine Canal, which was wonderful and highly recommended if you’re ever in the area). So when I found out that the Ards Peninsula apparently has over 50 windmill sites, I was most pleased – even more so to discover that just outside Millisle, one of these 19th-century windmills has been restored, complete with a visitor centre in the old miller’s house. Naturally, I decided to head for Millisle for an afternoon and have a good gander at this restored windmill.

Sign for Ballycopeland Windmill in Millisle
Sign for Ballycopeland Windmill
I arrived in to Millisle on a grey and mildly wet day, and was delighted to discover that the bus stop was just past the turn for the Ballycopeland Windmill. I wasn’t entirely sure how far it was out of the village, but I had some idea that it was 2km or less (according to the wikipedia entry it’s a mile west of the town) so I struck out on foot along Moss Road for the windmill. Nearer the town there’s a lovely wide footpath (right past the local Orange lodge, which I’ll confess intimidated me a bit with its Union Jack fluttering in the wind), but as you pass the last estate on the road the footpath ends, and it turns into an ordinary two-lane road with no real shoulder, and a tiny edge of grass overhung with shrubbery. Very conscious that I was essentially walking down the middle of the road, I kept a sharp ear out for any cars approaching, and leapt onto the grassy edge (often into the hedge) whenever I heard someone coming – a move that was often greeted by local drivers with a big grin and a wave.

As I came over the ridge of a small hill, thinking it couldn’t possibly be much further, I caught my first glimpse of the windmill:
First glimpse of Ballycopeland Windmill
Miraculously, as if on cue, the clouds started to dissipate, and as I got closer to the windmill the sun started to beam down warmly. I stopped for a few photos approaching the windmill, then walked on to the intersection just past the mill to get a few shots, and got several amused waves from passing locals.

Ballycopeland Windmill Millisle 7

Ballycopeland Windmill Millisle 11

Walking back up to the windmill itself, I was mildly disappointed to note that the visitor centre appears to be closed for the winter (presumably it’s only really open during “the season” in summertime) – but it didn’t stop me having a wander up to the mill itself, so I wasn’t too disappointed. The mill is in great shape, and with the blue sky and beaming sunlight looked gorgeous.

Ballycopeland Windmill Millisle 27

Ballycopeland Windmill Millisle 28

Once I had gotten all the photos I wanted (29 in total, if anyone was wondering) and had a good look at the windmill for a bit, I realised I still had a couple of hours before my bus back to Portaferry via Ballywalter. I remembered the bus passing a lovely seafront park with benches as we got into Millisle, and decided to pick up a sandwich and a bottle of water and head for the park to eat. It was perfect- sun shining down, a bit of a breeze (but not freezing), and a few people walking dogs and so on saying hello as I admired the view. As soon as I sat down and opened my sandwich, a group of seagulls flew over first to hover over me in hopes of a scrap or two, then settled near the small wall in front of me to see if they could get a bite to eat. I wasn’t about to share my lunch, but they were great entertainment.

View from Millisle Beach Park
View from Millisle Beach Park

View from Millisle Beach Park 6
View from Millisle Beach Park

Seagull hoping for part of my lunch at Millisle Beach Park 2
Seagull hoping for lunch

It was only when I returned to the village proper that I discovered copies of the tourist board’s Millisle walking guide handily available outside the post office – and found out that apparently, just south of Millisle in the townland of Ballyrolly is a farm where refugee Jewish children from Germany and Austria were housed as part of the Kindertransport evacuation effort during the Second World War. According to the guide, two survivors who passed through Millisle planted a grove of trees in the peace forest outside Jerusalem to honour those from Millisle and Belfast who were involved in the evacuation effort. The children of the local primary school have planted a Holocaust memorial garden I would have liked to visit if I’d had time, and apparently the school has also produced a DVD called “A Kinder Place”. Needless to say I was welling up as I read the guide…

More photos are up in my Ards Peninsula set, if anyone’s interested…

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Responses

  1. Beautiful photographs. Love windmills too and quite a few in our area of Buckinhgamshire. Think they combine power and grace perfectly.

    • Thanks! I love windmills… 🙂


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