lecale way, Northern Ireland, photography, walking

Stepping out along the Lecale Way

Saturday 22nd April 2017

Ardglass to Audley’s Castle, Strangford (13.6 miles)

Despite the forecast, the day started off bright & sunny.  We were walking sections 2 & 3 of the Lecale Way, in reverse, starting in the coastal fishing village of Ardglass.  ‘Doyles’ bistro was our first port of call for some welcome tea & scones to set us on our way!

Our route – Ardglass to Audley’s Castle

Just before midday we set off along the main Strangford Road.  However, after about 1.5 miles of road walking, we were soon on a quieter country road. A grassy lane, laden with banks of primroses, led us to the coastal path.

Spring Primroses
Peeble Beach
Spring Squill, County flower of County Down
Scallop Shells

We passed St Patrick’s Well and continued to make our way north along the Sheepland coastline.  The rocky coastline was striking, as were the numerous array of coastal flowers we observed.

Ballyhornan Coastal Path with Gun Island in view

The weather held up and after a lunch stop at a very quiet peebly beach we soon reached the village of Ballyhornan.

Lichen, Ballyhornan Coastal Path
Ballyhornan Coastal Path, Lecale Way

The lure of the beach took us off the official path, but as the tide was well out we were able to walk the broad beach at Ballyhornan Bay and on round to Benderg Bay.  Apart from a few dog walkers we were almost the only people on the sands.

Ballyhornan Bay
Ballyhornan Beach
Ballyhornan beach
Looking back at Ballyhornan beach
Benderg Bay toward Killard Point
Benderg Bay

At the end of Benderg Bay we climbed up onto Killard Point, past the remains of the old RAF radar station and down the other side taking us through Killard Nature Reserve towards Mill Quarter Bay.  Yet another beach awaited before reaching the road towards Kilclief Bay and a well deserved coffee stop.  At Kilclief the sand was almost volcanic grey in colour & so soft it was like walking on quicksand.  In theory, at 7.5 miles, this was our halfway point – so after 4 hours it was beginning to look like we would be in for a late finish!  However, after our 10 minute tea break & jelly baby pickup we started out again from Kilclief Castle – a 15th century tower house built between 1412 and 1441.  It has 4 floors, a spiral staircase and is amazingly well preserved.

Kilclief Castle

Window, Kilclief

Working backwards caused us some confusion with directions but we eventually got our bearings and found the quiet Black Causeway Road.  The well maintained high hedgerows hid the fields full of sheep & new born lambs as we walked along.  After a couple of miles of road walking we eventually reached the outskirts of Strangford village.  However, as time was against us, we decided to omit the optional 2 mile loop of the village and instead entered the back of Castle Ward estate.

20170422_181905-1
The boathouse, Castle Ward

Our pace quickened as we passed the busy caravan site & occupied pods.  The woodland walk was amass with bluebells and wild garlic as we headed toward Castle Ward Bay with views of Portaferry in the evening light.  Our final tower house, Audley’s Castle, was in sight – and we had completed our final 6 miles in 2 hours!

Wild Garlic, Castle Ward
Bluebells and wild garlic
Audley’s Castle , Castle Ward
Audley’s Castle, Castle Ward

We had a lovely tea in ‘The Cuan’, Stangford – really tasty food served by friendly & welcoming staff – which helped to round off another memorable days walk.  As we drove back to Ardglass, to retrieve the other car, it was fun to “retrace” our steps and see how the tide had now engulfed our lovely beaches.  It was a long day, but a great catch up with friends!

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