Crawfordsburn Country Park

crawfordsburn-country-park-waterfall2The short stretch of coast from Helen’s Bay to Grey Point , including the fort , is actually part of the Crawfordsburn Country Park , an estate handed down from the Scottish Presbyterian Crawford family, then acquired by Lord Dufferin (whose mother Helen gave her name to the bay) and now in public hands.

Well worth a short visit on our extended Belfast tours or tours of Ireland.

Its glens and dells are replete with beeches , crypresses , exotic conifers , cedars , the usual burst of rhododendrons and also a Californian giant redwood , but the park’s best features are the wild-flower meadow and the woodland planted with native species.

Perhaps the most scenic walk (well marked by green arrows) is to follow the pathway back from Grey Point to the top of the bay’s beaches and turn inland by the trickle of Crawford’s Burn. This will take you up through the best of the woodland , under a fine – and still used – 19th century railway viaduct , and up to a waterfall at the head of the glen.

The Park Centre has a cafe and an incredible amount of information on local ecology and wildlife.

Helen’s Tower , which can be seen from a considerable distance was built by Lord Dufferin in the 19th century to honour his mother , and as a famine relief project.

Crawfordsburn village is on one of Ireland’s most ancient highways , a track that ran from Holywood to Bangor Abbey , and has a nice early 17th century pub , The Old Inn, a partly thatched coaching inn offering accommodation and an excellent restaurant. Now this is a real hidden gem.