Cultra Station to Holywood

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TYPELinear walk from train station.
DISTANCE2.1 miles / 3.4 km
SURFACESRoad and tarmac / concrete paths throughout (except Priory graveyard).
HEIGHT GAIN / LOSSAlmost completely flat
    Uneven ground in Priory graveyard
    Some walking on residential roads

When I came to breaking up the Bangor – Holywood coast into walking sections I initially queried this section as a ‘proper walk’ because of its largely urban character. On walking it again I realised how wrong I was. This section, through the suburbs and into the heart of old Holywood, is a journey in time and building fashions – there is much to see.

The walk starts with a highlight: Cultra Station, newly re-invented as characterful, desirable private housing, shows how old buildings can be saved, commerce served and we all benefit from an enhanced environment. The original station was required to be “of an ornamental character” by the previous landowners – a requirement we should pass on to developers today!

The restorations and new builds are separated from the public platform by tasteful high slatted wooden fencing – maintaining owner privacy and public amenity.
Even the station gates are welcoming

On exiting the station you are immediately faced with a choice – Circular Road West or East? It doesn’t really matter (the clue is in the name), but I suggest go West.

Proceed with caution – the hedges are high and the footpaths narrow and rather overgrown in places.

This is an area of mature deciduous trees – small woodlands / large gardens as much as houses Such areas form ‘green lungs’ for us and nature, just as much as parkland does, and it is important for this reason that planning control protects these environments from inappropriate residential intensification driven by short term financial gain.

As you proceed along Circular Road you will gain glimpses of what people with a goodly chunk of land and presumably a goodly chunk of money have chosen to build over the last 100 years or so. Some houses are grand, some modest, some are very much of their time – others surprise.

After about 500m, Circular Road lives up to its name and bends right – turn left unto Sea Front Road which will quickly deliver its promise.

As you reach the lough turn left for another short section of road walking.

The houses here are much more exposed and lack the softening benefits of mature gardens.

As you proceed Cultra (more correctly Royal North Of Ireland) Yacht Club comes into view. The club house building is rather theatrical, but the impressive range of sailing craft around it leave you in no doubt that this is a serious place for getting down to the sea in boats!

Just past the club there is a fine row of coastal cottages. An earlier age showing us it is possible to build medium-density housing and enhance your surroundings!

In the next section major landscaping is in progress. Currently the new terracing is raw – but the sympathetic choice of wooden boundary fencing suggests better things for this site as it matures.

The path is now squeezed between the lough and a variety of property boundaries. At high tide with strong wind, sea spray (and perhaps more) is a real possibility here – be aware.

As you round the corner Seapark, Holywood and the cranes of Belfast docks come into view. Even on a raw winter’s day this gem of beach and parkland attracts many determined walkers – with and without dogs. A slight hint of sun and warmth brings out families, kite fliers, beach combers and an ice cream van.

At the edge of  Seapark, Clanbrassil Terrace sits assuredly.
Seapark and the Lough – Isle of Man ‘Steam Packet’ heading out to sea

It is now only 500m along the coast to Holywood Station, but here I suggest you divert inland for the last section to see a small piece of Holywood preserved from earlier times. After Seapark, continue along the next sandy bay until you cross the small stream (Croft Burn today – the 1832 OS Map marks it as ‘Stinking Burn’ – perhaps some things do get better!) Now turn left and follow the path underneath both railway and dual carriageway for easy access to Holywood.

Once through the underpass turn right into Priory Park. A large cemetery on your right is soon matched by a high stone wall on your left. A little further along a heavy iron gate can be pushed open (please close carefully) to gain access to Holywood’s old burial ground which surrounds the ruins of the Priory itself. The ground is in two parts. The first section is mainly 19th and 20th century and the stones here give glimpses of the story of the people of Holywood at home and overseas.

Through the gateway into the second area – many of the graves are much older. The stones are now softened, memorial words are vanishing back into the stone – often only shapes remain.

Pick your way through the stones to the side of the Priory – there is no path here – be careful. At the front a useful panel gives history and context – well worth a read.

Now exit and continue into the heart of Holywood to the crossroads where the singular Holywood Maypole is situated. A major landmark (and a minor traffic hazard) it’s still used for Mayday celebrations and dancing.

Before turning right to return to the seafront and the train station you may well feel you deserve sustenance. Many good options are available both on High Street ahead and on Church Road and Shore Road to your left and right – enjoy.

Route Map to Download and Print (PDF)

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