The North Down coast and some real hidden gems…….

About 6 miles from Belfast lies the little town of Holywood. Beside the maypole which stands proudly in the main street is a little pub known locally as “Neds” , though some refer to it as the “Maypole Bar”.

It is a true family run pub and whilst the decor is very basic , in my opinion (and I have had a few Guiness in my time) , it serves the best pint of Guinness in Ireland. The clientelle range from retired shipyard workers to current leading barristers and local peers. It is well worth a visit. It has in fact been my own local for the last 29 years. So stopping for a pint will be a welcome pitstop.

A stones throw from Neds is the Priory Church dating from the 7th Century , though the present ruins are 12th Century. The old graveyard is most interesting.

Beyond Holywood we drive through what is known as the “Gold coast”….known as such….not for the sandy beaches…but for the cost of property in that area.

At Helens Bay there is a very interesting second world war fort. Known as Grey Point Fort it is an old coastal defence emplacement open to the public.

Then in nearby Crawfordsburn village is a remarkable old pub/restuarant and hotel. The thatched part of the building dates from around 1600 a.d.

The food is excellent and if you are on a tour of Ireland spending a night there is well worth considering.

Check it out at www.theoldinn.com . We work closely with this unique establisment and if you are travelling with Ireland Luxury Tours preferential rates can be arranged. If you are on a day tour out of Belfast lunch here is recommended. We stop here with many of our cruise ship clients and they are most impressed.

Driving through the bustling town of Bangor with its large sea front marina takes us through the village of Groomsport. You are now only about 17 miles out of Belfast. The quaintly named “Cockle Island Boat Club” has its home in the little harbour. The harbour is reputed to be of viking origin.

In the next town , Donaghadee , there is a very special pub…….”Grace Neills”.

Donahadee is based around its picturesque harbour , which was a very important steam packet base for the trade to Scotland. It was also used by eloping couples wanting to get to Gretna Green to get married. Scotland is less than 20 miles away !

Grace Neills is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest pub in Ireland. Originating from 1611 it is almost four ceturies old. Originally called “The Kings Arms” it later became “Grace Neills” , named after its landlady who died in 1916 at the ripe old age of 98….thats Guinness for you. It is said that her ghost still frequents the pub.

All this can be seen within 20 miles of Belfast and that means if you are on a cruise ship you can really savour each stop and it is a very short drive. If you are on an extended tour of Ireland with Ireland Luxury Tours the a drive along the North Down coast is recommended………especially if you like good food and a pint of Guinness !!