Castle Ward Hoof Trail

Difficulty
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Easy
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
3-4h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
11.9 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
288 m
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Directions to Trailhead
Castle Ward Hoof Trail

The Castle Ward Hoof Trail is a beautifully scenic walking route in County Down, Northern Ireland that will take you around the estate grounds to visit some historical buildings. While out on the trail, you will make your way around the semi-forested estate and take in views of Audley’s Castle and Old Castle Ward, before making a return to the 18th Century Castle Ward House. This is a fantastic adventure if you enjoy grand estates and extravagant historical buildings.

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Route Description for Castle Ward Hoof Trail

Through no fault of their own, many of the trails surrounding Castle Ward - The Castle Ward Hoof Trail included - have become quite popular as tourist destinations, due largely in part to the area being used as a filming location for the HBO series Game of Thrones, but also because they are fascinating historical sites in their own right. As such, you will likely encounter high volumes of other walkers along this route. If you want to experience the grounds of this extravagant estate in their most calm state, you should try to arrive early or on off-peak days to avoid the crowds.

Even though it may be busy, this really is a great route that features some amazing local history and beautiful views. Not only will you be able to explore the grounds and take in views of Strangford Lough, but you will also be able to take in the historic architecture of the 16th Century Old Castle Ward, the uniquely divided architecture of the 18th Century Castle Ward Manor House, as well as the 15th Century Audley’s Castle located nearby. Whether you are a fan of nature, history, or big budget tv shows, the Castle Ward Hoof Trail will be sure to impress.

Setting out from the car park next to Castle Ward House, you will initially head to the northeast to meet up with the shores of Strangford Lough, turning right to walk along the edge of the water to the southeast. Here, you will make a lengthy 3.6 km loop around the perimeter of the grounds that will bring you into the heart of the Castle Ward Forest. From here, you will slightly descend the hillside and make your way to the northwest, enjoying the tranquil woodland landscape as you make your way past Downpatrick Lodge to the Mallard Plantation.

After passing through this smaller swathe of woodland terrain, you will turn to the northeast and follow the path as it runs alongside Audleystown Road for 1.9 km, before bending to the east to pass by the walled garden and Temple Water. Shortly after crossing over the road, you will continue on to the northeast and make a brief loop through Audley’s Wood to meet up with the shores of Strangford Lough, Turning to the right, continue along the water’s edge as you take in the views of Audley’s Castle on your right.

After taking in the views of one of several Game of Thrones filming locations in the area, you will turn left at a junction and follow the shoreline for 0.7 km to reach another filming site at Old Castle Ward, which was used to depict the stronghold of Winterfell. Here, you can explore the historic 16th Century castle, before making your way uphill to the southwest to arrive back at the starting point of your walk.

But before heading home, make sure that you check out the impressive Castle Ward House, an 18th Century manor featuring a dividing line down the centre that denotes the differing architectural and decorating tastes of its former inhabitants Lord Bangor and his wife, Lady Ann Bligh. After taking in this last bit of history, you can head back to the car park to wrap up your time along the Castle Ward Hoof Trail.

Trail Highlights

Castle Ward

Castle Ward is an estate located in County Down, Northern Ireland near to Strangford Lough that has been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1952. The grounds and its various buildings had been formerly in the possession of the Ward family since 1570.

While the current building that was constructed during the 1760s still stands today, the original 18th Century manor house was destroyed around 1850. Additionally, you can find Old Castle Ward (c.1590) along the shores of Strangford Lough, which was featured in the HBO series Game of Thrones as the location of Winterfell.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you stay overnight at Castle Ward?

Yes, there are National Trust camping/caravan sites, as well as camping pods that are available for overnight use at Castle Ward.

When was Castle Ward constructed?

While Old Castle Ward dates back to 1590, the current building at Castle Ward House was finished construction much later in 1766.

Insider Hints for Castle Ward Hoof Trail

  • Make sure to wear proper walking footwear.
  • Toilet facilities can be found near Castle Ward House.
  • Keep your dog on a lead.

Getting to the Castle Ward Hoof Trail Trailhead

To reach the trailhead for the Castle Ward Hoof Trail from Strangford, head southwest on Downpatrick Road/A25 for 2.3 km and turn right onto Park Road. Follow this for 1.6 km and turn left to arrive at the car park.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    Castle Ward Caravan Park

  • When to do

    Year-Round

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Yes

  • Route Signage

    Average

  • Crowd Levels

    High

  • Route Type

    Circuit

Castle Ward Hoof Trail Elevation Graph

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