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|TYPE||Linear walk (with option to return to start via train)|
|DISTANCE||2.4 Miles / 3.9 Km|
|SURFACES||Paved paths throughout|
|HEIGHT GAIN / LOSS||Several gentle ascents and descents|
This easy and pleasant short walk starts at Carnalea Station and takes you to Bangor Seafront where refreshments may be appropriate, before returning via the train from Bangor station. There is a lot to see in a short distance – all the more reason to take your time and give the possibly familiar a second look.
An even shorter alternative is to start at the car park (or the nearby Bangor West Station) at Stricklands Glen and join the coast path at Smelt Mill bay.
Starting from Carnalea station exit North towards the sea and turn immediately left (no signs here). After 100m you come to Carnalea Golf Club entrance ahead and a tarmac footpath to your left running down a valley directly to the sea. Here you get your first views of Belfast Lough and beyond.
When you reach the coastal path bear right and follow the slightly elevated path which has excellent views over the rocky foreshore. This is a good point for binoculars with a good chance of seeing turnstones, eider, herons and the ubiquitous oystercatcher whose bright sharp markings and rather comic dashings-about provide free entertainment!
Now round the headland into the intriguingly named ‘Smelt Mill Bay’. This is an apt reminder that history of landscape and labour are meshed together – once there was a lead mine and associated industrial workings. Nowadays we in the west are often prepared to leave this dirty work to others in other places, but we shouldn’t forget we still need to dig big holes in the ground to make the things we all rely on.
A small river runs into the bay from Strickland Glen – this wooded valley contains several waterfalls and ponds and is well worth exploring in its own right. The small car park at the end of the Glen is a very useful access point for the coastal path.
Beyond the bay the edge of Bangor and with it the imposing hilltop homes of the very well-to-do. Not just a room with a view (there’s castles too)!
Bangor proper and Ballyholme Bay now come into view and as you round the corner there is a fine view of the massively modernised Bangor Harbour and Marina.
The path now drops to the start of the old town seafront. The parkland to the right was previously the site of a bandstand while the inlet which opens to your left was marked on early twentieth century maps as ‘Skippingstone Bathing Place’. A later map sadly adds ‘disused’.
You now come to the modern Pickie Fun Park childrens’ play area. The name Pickie harks back to the former Pickie Rock and bathing pool – in 1937 a large open air swimming and diving pool with a massive multi-tiered diving board. It is worth having a look at the old cine film footage of Pickie Pool on the Northern Ireland Screen Digital Footage Archive to get a sense of the social hub this once was.
Beyond Pickie is Queen’s Parade, Bangor’s rather confused core ‘sea frontage’. A mixture of car parks, partial views of marina masts and a major area of ‘redevelopment opportunities’. Imagination and TLC are very much required here. However, you will also find a couple of bustling, pleasant cafes to rest and refuel, before retracing your route, or heading uphill along Main Street to Bangor Station to catch a train back to Carnalea.