Ards Peninsula & Grey Abbey
Duration: 4 hours
Tour Code: bfs-002
Enjoy the beauty of the Ard's Peninsula on this tour that takes you off the beaten-track to discover some of the breath-taking landscapes that are found outside of Belfast.
The coastal road along the southern shore of Belfast Lough plays hide and seek with the sea, like the railway that runs alongside it, it darts in and out of the hills giving glimpses of sandy beaches, yacht clubs and busy harbors. Away from the coast are the beginnings of the rounded drumlin hills of the Ards Peninsula, unexpectedly rural so near to Belfast.
The Ards Peninsula is an area of outstanding natural beauty, unspoiled, free of crowds, and the perfect setting for a magical coastal drive. Here, you will find a rural way of life and a genuine Irish welcome combined with a haunting landscape, history and tranquility.
Departing from Belfast you will first make your way to Stormont Castle, seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly. A symbol of progress to Northern Ireland's troubled past, the power sharing executive with responsibility for Northern affairs rules from this impressive building. After a brief photo stop, you will drive to Grey Abbey, site of a Cistercian Abbey from which the village takes its name. A stop will be made at the abbey for an inside visit and tour of the ruins, which date back to 1193.
From Grey Abbey, you will travel the peninsula to Ballywalter. Formally a fishing village, Ballywalter is now typical of the tranquil lifestyle enjoyed by the inhabitants of this area where local fishermen still lay pots or creels for lobsters and crabs during the summer months.
Turning north, you'll follow the coastal route through the town of Millisle to Donaghadee. Donaghadee boasts a long seagoing history; therefore, it is not surprising that it still maintains a special relationship with the sea, proving very popular with water enthusiasts, anglers and those who simply like to spend time at the coast. From Donaghadee, visitors have the opportunity to enjoy spectacular views across the Irish Sea, when on a clear day, you can see all the way to Scotland. In the Harbor is Donaghadee's impressive lighthouse, which was built in 1836 and was the first lighthouse in Ireland to be lit by electricity. A stop will be made here to visit a local hostelry for Irish Coffee and afterwards, some free time is allowed for you to independently explore this pretty little hamlet before it's time to re-join your coach and travel back to the pier.
Please note: This tour is mostly panoramic with optional walking at the stops. The guided tour of the ruins at Grey Abbey includes up to 45-minutes of walking and covers rough and uneven natural surfaces. Arrangements can be made with the guide to not participate in this guided portion of the tour. This tour is not available to wheelchair guests and those with mobility concerns are cautioned only to participate to the extent of their personal stamina and ability. Weather appropriate clothing and flat, comfortable walking shoes are suggested. Guests should be prepared for the possibility of rain. The order of the sites viewed or visited may vary.