|TYPE||Circular walk from train station to train station|
|DISTANCE||2.2 miles / 3.6 km (Chimera Wood option)
2.6 miles / 4.2 km (Clandeboye Avenue option)
|SURFACES||Mixed tarmac and earth/gravel – generally good.|
|HEIGHT GAIN / LOSS||250 feet of descent and ascent|
This is a circular walk which does not require a train to complete. However, starting from Helen’s Bay station provides both easy access and a start with a surprise! There is a car park here but it is often full during commuting hours.
Crawsfordburn Country Park is a well loved public facility and many walkers know it very well indeed. However, this walk using unsigned and hidden paths may well be new to many.
Starting at Helen’s Bay station go through the underpass and discover where normally would be a grim dark concrete wall a doorway instead!
Enter the portal, breathe deeply and take the path to the left! After 100m the small path joins Clandeboye Drive, part of the formerly private carriageway which ran all the way from the Clandeboye estate to the beach at Helen’s Bay. Other GDO walks explore it more fully. This section has the nature of a tree tunnelled lane – a good surface, but now very much a pedestrian way.
After 400m you come to a gate and a ‘crossroads’:
Here is the tricky bit – to the left of this junction a small path slips into the hedge verges on the right – unpromising at first it soon turns into a delightful way through a linear conservation woodland.
The first section diverges into two ‘parallel’ paths which later join. A mixture of old trees and new this excellent addition to the landscape was a gift from the Townswomen’s Guild in 1991 and the subsequent work of Conservation volunteers. Say thanks and carry on!
If you consult the map you will see the path splits with the left hand option looping along the edge of a wooded hill before returning to the more direct way ahead. This section features an ageing group of Scots Pines mixed with the vigorous under canopy of new growth. An old Ordnance Survey map from around 1900 shows ‘Tennyson Clump’ – an isolated copse in this location.
On exiting the wood take care at the road crossing – you will find yourself at the main vehicular entrance to Crawsfordburn Country Park. Once across the main road you will be walking along the one-way road into the Country Park. This road has no footpath, but is a good width and has recently had a ‘pedestrian lane’ marked along the right hand side, which is very welcome.
Immediately after passing the impressive railway bridge turn right and follow the footpath across a steeply banked wooded stream, when it joins another larger path, turn left and return to the Country Park access road. Cross carefully by the Scout Camp entrance and pick up the footpath on the other side which now climbs to the large car park by the visitor centre.
The centre contains interesting nature displays, toilets and a cafe. The pleasant outside seating area is popular with dog walkers and families. Certainly a spot to consider a break.
On leaving towards the sea – resist the tarmac highway ahead and turn left on a steep gravel path along the edge of the wild-flower meadow. Lovely in spring, but this short steep climb is well worthwhile at any time of year for the views to sea and Scotland (atmosphere permitting). At the top there are two well located benches – I recommend a few minutes stop there whether you need it or not!
Drop down the edge of the meadow, turn left into the wood and continue for 200m. Here just past a high block wall there is a T junction and a route choice to make – the shorter, sheltered inland wooded route or the longer route with a section on the shore followed by finishing along the wooded Clandeboye Avenue.
Woodland Route option
(solid orange line – shorter route)
Now instead of the obvious option of dropping down to the shore, turn left into Chimera Wood and follow this path through a lovely Scots Pine forest strip, alongside Helen’s Bay golf course. On exiting you will find yourself on Golf Road which neatly takes you back to Bridge Road and Station Square, your starting point.
Shore and Clandeboye Avenue
(dotted orange line – 600m longer)
Turn right, drop down the steep path ahead to the shore and turn left to round the headland to the Helen’s bay shore and beach. Walk the full length of the beach exiting at the end onto Grey Point Road where you turn left. After 300m you come to a T junction with a large car park (with toilets) directly in front of you. Proceed to the far end of the car park where you will find a pedestrian gate and the start of Clandeboye Avenue. This almost perfectly straight, narrow and deep set pathway could easily be mistaken for a disused railway line – in fact it was formerly a private carriageway linking the Clandeboye Estate to Helen’s Bay Station and the coast. Follow straight ahead for 800m where you will pass under the first of two consecutive impressive stone built bridges with a hexagonal courtyard in between, overlooked by the theatrical towers of Helen’s Bay Station (built in the ‘exuberant Scottish baronial’ style in 1863). You will also see the bricked up door to Lord Dufferin’s private waiting room on your left.
Go through the second bridge, turn immediately left and follow the path to a doorway to the platform underpass. You are now back at your starting point.