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Flagship Trails Open at Castle Ward


Friday 24th June sees the launch of a twenty-one mile network of multi-use trails through the stunning Castle Ward Demesne on the shores of Strangford Lough.

This unique development of sustainable off-road trails is the largest recreational project ever undertaken by the National Trust in the UK and one which is set to make Castle Ward a premier outdoor recreation venue in Northern Ireland. 

National Trust Property Manager, Barbara Muhly comments, “We are delighted with the development of these trails which have enabled us to bring the outdoors to life here at Castle Ward. There are now endless opportunities for walkers, runners, mountain bikers and horse riders to explore unique areas of our historic demesne which were previously inaccessible to members of the public. There is also now a two mile all-ability trail offering unparalleled views across the lough.”

The National Trust has been working in partnership with the Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) with support from Forest Service and the British Horse Society to develop these trails. Designed by renowned trail designer Dafydd Davis MBE, construction work on the trails took six months and also includes a brand new car parking area specifically for trail users.

Barbara continued, “Of paramount importance to us was the assurance that the landscape around Castle Ward remained largely untouched. The trails have completely exceeded our expectations and the high quality of the end product is a real testament to everyone who has been involved during the design and construction process.”

To celebrate the launch of the new trails at Castle Ward, the National Trust is hosting a ‘Hot on the Trails’ open day for walkers and cyclists on Sunday 26th June from 10am to 5pm where members of the public can visit the famous demesne and try out the new trails free of charge. There will be guided cycle tours with bike hire available from Clearsky Adventure Centre based at Castle Ward as well as a bicycle maintenance clinic hosted by Doagh based cycling retailer Chain Reaction Cycles.  With slow bike competitions and fun obstacle courses on offer there will be a whole host of opportunities for visitors to challenge themselves on the new trails. A later date will be arranged to showcase the horse riding trails through the demesne.

When asked to explain why Castle Ward was chosen as a recreational venue over other estates in Northern Ireland, Clare Wright, Product Development Manager from CAAN explained, “For years now, Castle Ward has been an ideal destination for family days out and is beautifully situated on the shores of Strangford Lough. About an hour’s drive from Belfast and 2 hours from Dublin the demesne is also very much part of the local community around Strangford village.”

“The varied landscape around the grounds here at Castle Ward is simply ideal to sustain a network of off-road trails and the National Trust has been pro-active throughout the design and construction process, allowing the new trails to open up access to areas of the demesne which have previously been strictly off limits to members of the public. We are absolutely delighted to finally launch these trails and really excited to see members of the public out enjoying them at the open day on Sunday 26th June,” continued Clare.  

With a total investment of over £750,000, the design and construction of the trails has been funded through the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s Tourism Development Scheme, the National Trust, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas programme and Down District Council. The development of these landmark trails are expected to attract many domestic and international tourists into the area and bring direct benefits to the local community.

The new trails at Castle Ward are fully waymarked and there is a bike wash and café facilities on site. Bike hire, including 2 tandem bicycles is also available.

View route descriptions, images and maps for the Castle Ward Off Road Cycling Trails.

View route descriptions, images and maps for the Castle Ward Walking Trails.

For anyone interested in other CAAN projects please visit or contact the CAAN office on 028 9030 3930.

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