Things To Do In Donaghadee

Donaghadee has a plethora of things to do, for young and old

Donaghadee on the Ards Peninsula

Is a town with a population of some 8,000.  It has a very rich history, having been one of the main ports of entry to the island of Ireland up until the 19th Century.   Aside from the historic buildings reflecting its rich heritage, the town has a picturesque seafront, offering views across Belfast Lough to the north and eastwards to the Scottish Coast.  There is a great choice of restaurants, cafés and shops all offering a friendly welcome to visitors.  General information on Donaghadee and the surrounding area can be found on https://www.visitardsandnorthdown.com/

The Moat

Donaghadee Motte was constructed by the Anglo-Normans in the late 12th century. Circa 1821 a picturesque castle, the Gunpowder Store, was built on top of the Motte to store explosives during the building of the ‘new’ harbour. Both are owned by Ards and North Down Borough Council and are protected heritage assets: the Motte and surrounding ground are Scheduled Monument, and the Gunpowder Store is a Listed Building. 

Opening Times
May to September, Saturdays and Sundays, 10am-4pm
1 May 2022 – 30 Sept 2022
* Or by appointment via   visitardsandnorthdown.com/things-to-do/donaghadee-moat-and-camera-obscura-p788121


Short Strolls
The Promenade and Commons (Flat walk of about 1 mile)
Stroll along the seafront in the direction of the Lighthouse and turn right immediately before the entrance to the harbour (you can walk along the harbour if you wish). Continue past the Community Centre, the bus station, the car park and the marina and take in the terrific sea views as the route proceeds to the Commons Recreation Grounds – a landscaped area with summer seats and an adventure playground. If feeling energetic have a go at some of the outdoor exercise equipment, Take the same route back if you wish or, alternatively, come back up on to the main road and turn right and follow the Millisle Road back into town.


The Heritage Walk (Town centre footpaths, some hills )

Begin the walk at the harbour which was built in 1832 by John Rennie. Take a peek over the harbour wall to see the Scottish coast and looking southwards on a clear day for a glimpse of the Isle of Man. Walk back towards the town past Pier 36 and turn left into Manor Street. Walk to the top where the Manor House stands. Turning left you will see the Admiral Leslie Hall (now Donaghadee Baptist Church) and Rosebank House. We then head back down the hill towards the town passing the Manor House again until we come to Grace Neills, reputedly the oldest bar in Ireland dating back to 1611. The walk continues up the High Street past the Presbyterian and Methodist churches at which point the street becomes Moat Street. Set back a little from the road you will see the Parish Church which dates from 1626. Continuing up Moat Street to the near the top of the hill and on the right hand side is one of the entrances to the Moat. There are steps leading to the top where you can enjoy a view of the town itself or across to Portpatrick on the Scottish coast. The Moat is being renovated and a camera obscura installed. Taking care, follow the steps down towards the sea and make your way back to the promenade and walk back towards the lighthouse.



Country Lanes and by-ways

(a few hills, some main roads about 3 ½ miles)
Walk out the town via Moat Street or New Road to the Newtownards Road and continue on past the Rugby Club to the bottom of the hill (Take care on the narrow footpath). At Happy Days Nursery cross the road on to the Hogstown Road and continue along the road to you see the Cannyreagh Road on the left. Take this road and follow it round past several farms to you come back into the town at the Beechfield and Ashfield housing estates. Keep on the main road straight down the hill and into Town Centre at High Street.



Longer Walks

The Coast and Orlock (these can be shorter walks if the first part of the route is covered by car!)
A 2 ¼ mile walk out of Donaghadee along the shore and away from the Lighthouse, past the Sailing Club, Shore Street Presbyterian Church and the Golf Club. The walk continues along the coast to Orlock – the point where the road begins to rise. To the right is a small car park and access to this National Trust property. Pathways take you up the hill, affording terrific views of the Copeland Islands and Belfast Lough. When you get to Sandeel Bay you have the option of retracing your steps or continuing up Sandeel Lane to the road, turning left at the top and returning to the car park.



Circle the Town

(about 5 ¼ miles, fairly flat, a few main roads)
Walk out the town via Moat Street or New Road to the Newtownards Road and continue on past the Rugby Club to the bottom of the hill (Take care on the narrow footpath). At Happy Days Nursery cross the road on to the Hogstown road and continue along the road past the Cannyreagh Road on the left until you come to an old railway bridge and the Windmill Road on the left. Take this road and follow it round past several farms until you see the Ballyhay Road on the left. Follow the Ballyhay Road to its junction with the Killaughey Road and taking care, cross this busy road into the Ballyvester Road. Follow the Ballyvester Road down to the coast where you turn left and head back into the town
As a variation on this route (adding a further mile to the walk) instead of turning left into the Ballyhay Road continue on the Windmill Road until its junction with the Killaughey Road. Cross the busy road with care and continue on the Windmill Road until the Craigboy Road is on the left. Follow this winding road through the countryside down to the sea, turn left and return to the town.


Stay local and make a trip round the countryside bordering the town using any of the walking routes (nb no vehicles allowed on Sandeel Lane)
Alternatively, go cycling along the coast visiting the many towns and villages on the Ards Peninsula.





Sea Fishing
In addition to sea fishing from the Harbour those wishing to spend more time with rod and line can arrange a fishing trip in a fully equipped boat from the harbour.

Fresh Water Fishing

Bridgewater Fishery is 5 acres in area and open all year for Fly Fishing from the bank. Tuition is available as well as farmhouse bed and breakfast accommodation. The Fisherman’s Lodge Tea Room and toilets are open on site. Anglers will be fishing for 2-8Ib Rainbow Trout and must have a DAERA Angling Licence for persons aged 12 and over. There is a bag limit but this depends on the daily ticket.Telephone 028 9188 3900





Visiting boats can berth at the harbour or at the privately owned marina. For more information. For further information see
Donaghadee Harbour – https://www.ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk/resident/harbours/donaghadee-harbour





The town has a full range of sporting activity for spectators and participants
Coastal Rowing
Swimming (Open Water) available at many locations or join in with the Chunky Dunkers who swim every day throughout the year


Donaghadee offers many opportunities for birdwatching. We have identified the following locations as being particularly good and listed some of the species which can be seen. We would encourage those with an interest in birds to send any other locations or details of species not listed to us via our contact page



Cromellin Wood

Take a gentle stroll through our flagship environmental project in Cromellin Wood. The Association has leased this area of woodland from the local Council and has embarked upon an ambitious scheme of planting and the creation of pathways. Nesting boxes have been erected and it is hoped that we will see increased birdlife in the area. Blackbirds, blackcaps, chiffchaffs, house martins, robins, swallows, thrushes, tits, wood pigeons and wrens can be seen with perhaps an occasional glimpse of a sparrow hawk.


The Harbour

Gulls mainly Black Headed (see picture) also Herring, Common and Great and Lesser Black Backed. Black Guillemots (Bangor Penguins). Cormorants and Shags, Terns. Waders and shore birds at low tide, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Turnstone, Heron. Wintering Geese.




Town Centre

Swifts (see picture) can be seen nesting along the shorefront. The Crow family – Jackdaw, Rook and Hooded Crow – is very common.



The Commons

A location rich in birdlife. See land birds such as Robins, Wrens, Titmice, Finches, Blackbird, Thrush, Dunnock (see picture), Stonechat, Pipits alongside sea and shore birds such as Gulls, Cormorant and Shag, Eider Duck, Diver, Guillemot, Gannet (usually well out to sea). Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Sand Pipers, and Turnstone



Warren Road shoreline

Redshank (see picture), Dunlin, Sand Pipers, Turnstone. Gulls.









Good for bird song. Thrush family and Warblers in Summer.




    A historic tour of the town – Have a tailor made tour of the town or join one of the tours already in the programme, see https://visitdonaghadee.com/donaghadee-local-history-forum/

    A tour of the distillery – see https://copelanddistillery.com/tours

    The Copeland Distillery will take you on a journey through the decades of events that led us to the creation of our spirits.






    • Visit Mountstewart House and Gardens, which is an outstanding National Trust property. Mount Stewart is one of the most inspiring and unusual gardens in the National Trust’s ownership.  The garden reflects a rich tapestry of design and great planting artistry that was the hallmark of Edith, Lady Londonderry. The mild climate of Strangford Lough allows astonishing levels of planting experimentation. The formal areas exude a strong Mediterranean feel and resemble an Italian villa landscape; the wooded areas support a range of plants from all corners of the world, ensuring something to see whatever the season.  Engaging tours of the opulent house reveal its fascinating heritage and historic world-famous artefacts and artwork. (for more details see https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mount-stewart


    • 30 minutes by car will take you to Castle Espie where Visitors can witness Ireland’s largest collection of ducks, geese and swans. Centre facilities include – unique viewing points from the Brent hide, waterfowl gardens, woodland walks. Nature centre, art gallery, shop, Loughshore cafe. Castle Espie offers a varied programme of events and activities for all ages throughout the year for more information visit https://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/castle-espie/

    • Exploris – the Northern Ireland Aquarium. Exploris; The Northern Ireland Aquarium, is ideally sited on the shores of a marine nature reserve and area of special scientific interest – Strangford Lough.  A visit to Exploris enables the visitors to view and learn about the marine species that are indigenous to Strangford Lough and the coastline of the island. Marine communities are recreated to enable the visitor to gain a better understanding of the complex inter relationships between different species.  The Seal Sanctuary affords the visitor the opportunity to view the process of rehabilitation of rescued seal pups from their arrival through to full health when they are re-introduced to the wild.  For more details see  exploris.org.uk/


    • Owned by Formula One ace Eddie Irvine, and situated 6 miles away in Bangor, Eddie Irvine Sports is one of Northern Ireland’s premier indoor sporting facilities.  Open all year round, Eddie Irvine Sports not only has one of Northern Ireland’s largest indoor purpose built karting tracks but also hosts extensive indoor 3rd-generation fieldturf pitches offering a wide range of professional soccer coaching sessions suitable for all ages and abilities.   For more details see https://www.eddieirvinesports.com/


    • Drumwhey miniature railway The Belfast and Co. Down Miniature Railway Society operates a 7 1/4” gauge railway called Drumawhey Junction, located at Four Road Ends on the Upper Gransha Road, midway between Bangor, Donaghadee and Newtownards The railway has an interesting track plan incorporating both a tunnel and a lattice steel bridge, which gives a 12-minute run of 1.5 km. A signal box controls the turnouts, colour light and semaphore signals. The track is laid with steel rail with all turnouts build in-house.  For more details see https://www.drumawhey.com/


    • The Somme Heritage Centre – The centre examines Ireland’s role in the 1st World War with special reference to the cross-community involvement in the 3 local volunteer Divisions: the 10th and 16th (Irish) Divisions and the 36th (Ulster) Division. Guided tours bring the visitor back in time to 1910 where they learn about the Home Rule Crisis, recruiting and training of men and life in the trenches. Reconstructed trenches of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. For more details see http://www.sommeassociation.com/visit/somme-museum


    • Ballycopeland Windmill Windmills were once very common in the grain-growing area of east Down, but with the exception of Ballycopeland all are now in ruins. Built in the late 18th or early 19th century it was worked until the First World War.  It has been restored to full working order after falling into disrepair.  Inside the kiln house there is a video explaining how the mill works. Depending on weather conditions, there may also be a chance to mill some barley. The Millers house is also open with its impressive kitchen and fireplace containing a unique double flue. The outbuildings now serve as visitor centre with displays, models and audio-visual theatre.  For more details see https://discovernorthernireland.com/things-to-do/ballycopeland-windmill-p675321

    • Bangor Heritage Centre in Castle Park Bangor Tells the story of the North Down area from the Bronze Age to the present day through a series of rooms, each dedicated to a particular era of history. Key artefacts on display include the Bronze Age Ballycroghan Swords, the Bangor Bell from the hugely important Bangor Abbey settlement, and the Raven Maps, the only complete folio of Plantation era maps in Ireland. See https://www.visitardsandnorthdown.com/things-to-do/north-down-museum



    • Ulster Folk and Transport Museum – Step back in time in and uncover a way of life from 100 years ago. Discover cottages, farms, schools and shops as you wander through the beautiful parkland of the Folk Museum chatting to costumed visitor guides demonstrating traditional crafts. Climb on and off majestic steam locomotives or experience the sensation of flight in the Transport Museum bursting with horse drawn carriages, electric trams, motorbikes, fire-engines and vintage cars.  For more details see nmni.com/uftm

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