I got up nice and early (06:00) and as the sun was out and the forecast for later was abysmal, I thought I'd go for a wee tootle around the Ards Peninsula (County Down, Northern Ireland). So this is just a snapshot of a few places/things that I pass when doing this ride. The trip round the peninsula is approx 60 miles, depending on the exact route, but it's a nice way of putting in a few hours before breakfast.
So leaving my home in Newtownards, my first stop was Ballycopeland Windmill.
It is the last working windmill in the whole county. There used to be over 100 of these dotted around the place, but technology soon resigned them to history. This one is quite special to me tho' as my cousin was the main man who restored it to its former glory. As he is no longer with us, I kinda look on it as a memorial to him and all his hard work. This is just a library picture as there was quite a blanket of fog at this early hour of the morning.
Onwards and I broke out of the fog as I hit the coast and my next destination of Donaghadee. Donaghadee has a lovely lighthouse perched on the end of one of its harbour walls.
I head on down the coast, through the villages of Ballywalter, Millisle and on to Ballyhalbert where the next bit of family history has some special meaning to me. Through a caravan park and into the area that used to be RAF Ballyhalbert ( http://ww2ni.webs.com/countydownairfields.htm
). Here we have the old Control Tower building which is in ruins. But the thing about this is that my Dad spent a few months here during WW2 (he was sent here as a punishment by a C.O. in England, not realising that my Dads parents lived four miles away from the station. A fact that my Dad was only too happy to point out to his C.O. on leaving for his 'punishment'
!) There's quite a lot of the old buildings I couldn't get near on the bike, but it was lovely to hear an aircraft at high altitude pass over while I was deep in thought.
Following on from the old airfield, I stopped in a fishing village by the name of Portavogie. Looking at the memorial of those who have perished at sea was pretty shocking as I noticed how many families were lost together. Fathers and sons and possibly three generations together never to return to shore.
I went onto the harbour complex to have a look at the vessels tied up. These aren't big boats and all look to be quite old. The thing I noticed was that there used to be maybe three times as many fishing boats in this harbour than there is now. I know it can be very lucrative to catch a sizeable haul, but it's a job I couldn't do for any amount of money.
I'm now within striking distance of the end of the peninsula, but I pass a lovely entrance to a place called Barr Hall. This is its more historic entrance with a new modern one having been opened up a few years ago to accommodate modern vehicles. I think this one would have seen more horses than horsepower go through it over the ages.
The house itself, well, I don't know anything about it really as I think it is in private ownership. It was heading for rack and ruin before it was bought and refurbished several years ago.
I'm now tuning away from the Irish Sea side of the peninsula and crossing over to the mouth of Strangford Lough. The sea lough is the largest inlet in the British Isles and millions of tons of water flow through the narrow gap every day. There is a ferry service that operates 364 days a year which saves a long round trip for those who live on opposite sides. In the first pic, you can just about make out SeaGen, the world's first commercial tidal stream power station.
My next stop was the village of Kircubbin. This was where my Dad lived before he joined the RAF (in 1936) and where his dad was the local Blacksmith and Justice of the Peace. Many of the local inhabitants have told me of Dad's daring exploits (or showing off I reckon) of buzzing the church on a Sunday morning and flying his Spitfire down the main street at zero feet for a bit of craic. Maybe his punishment was justified after all !!
Almost home and I pass one of two big rocks that were left over from the glacier that swept down the country during the ice age.
And finally past our most famous landmark, Scrabo Tower. It was built as a memorial to the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, Charles William Stewart. He helped alleviate the suffering of his tennants during the potato famine in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. His generosity and kindness to his tenants gained him a level of respect, which was not commonly given to the landed gentry and led to a communal desire to erect a monument in his memory. It commands a fantastic 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside, over my town and also towards Belfast. It's a lovely place to go for a walk and to perhaps seek some solitude.
And that's it. That's my local run that I have on my doorstep. It's always nice to have beautiful sights and country roads to ride on, ones that benefit from local knowledge and nice that it is to wander far and wide, sometimes it's nicer to stay closer to home.
Hope you enjoyed.