Ards Peninsula



An early Ulster-Scots settlement with an imposing Bronze Age hill fort and Norman motte overlooking the wide bay, Ballyhalbert is steeped in ancient and modern history.
The bay is long and shallow: a great place to walk, paddle, or enjoy watersports. At the southern end of the bay is Burr Point, with a fine Victorian harbour, offering an excellent perch to fish from at high tide.

Burr Point is also the most Easterly point on the island of Ireland, marked by the Big E sculpture at the harbour carpark.
Just offshore of the harbour is Burial Island, which is a rocky little islet covered in seabirds - ( the name Burial Island is possibly derived from the Irish word 'Broighill', which means cormorants).

In May 1917, during World War 1, German U-Boat UC65 captured four vessels, the Saint Mungo, Derrymore, Amber, and the Morion, and sunk all four of them in Ballyhalbert Bay.

In Ballyhalbert's more recent history, it was the location of the key airbase that defended Belfast and the eastern half of Northern Ireland. The airfield consisted of three runways, two hangers and a control tower; service personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, and Poland served here; and the base once hosted Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, General Eisenhower in May 1944. The airfield is now a caravan park, however you can still see the control tower and make out the extensive network of runways (check out the area on Google Maps satellite images to see the full extent of the old airfield).


Places worth visiting nearby

The Big E at Burr Point- Marking the most easterly point on the island of Ireland, you can find this imposing landmark right beside the harbour at Burr Point, at the southern end of Ballyhalbert Bay.
Make sure you visit the Big E for a selfie - it's not compulsary, but it should be.

The Airfield Control Tower - The old control tower for the WWII airfield is still standing, although it is on private property and in a derilict condition. If you drive inland from Ballyhalbert towards Glastry, looking right you can see the control tower in the middle distance.
The RAF airfield was officially opened 28th June 1941 - the satellie airfield at Kirkistown was opened in July that same year.
The airfield has been home to squadrons of Hurricanes, Spitfires, Beaufighters, Mustang 1s, Fulmars, Hellcats, and Seafires.
Ballyhalbert airfield was transferred from the RAF to the Admiralty and became a Royal Naval Air Station on 24th April 1945, commissioned as HMS Corncrake.
The satellite airfield at Kirkistown was also transfered to the Royal Navy, and was commissioned as HMS Corncrake II

Glastry Clay Pits - This attractive walk around a lake is just 1km inland from Ballyhalbert village look for a little carpark to the left, opposite the old airfield. There is a short trail of mown grass paths; the area to the north of the road includes former clay pits and an old landfill site that has been capped and sown with a wild flower mix. The pits are popular with anglers. Please keep chhildren under close supervision due to the deep water close to the edge of the pits.

Ballyhalbert Graveyard - It lies on the landward side of the north-south road through the village, near the Portavogie end. The earliest record of the parish is in the Taxation of Pope Nicholas of 1306 at which time it was called Talbetona after the Talbot family who acquired land there in the Norman conquest. In 1622, when most of the churches of County Down were in ruins, it is described as "repayred". Throughout these centuries, certainly until 1605 Blackabbey had the patronage of the church and received the tithes Inishargy had passed out of use by 1622. The graveyard is large with burials on all sides of the ruined church and inside it. The wall was built (or rebuilt) in 1852 and repaired in 1905. The stones are widely spaced (compared with Greyabbey) but as elswhere in the Ards the majority are of slate and very readable. Only a few are of sandstone or cement and have suffered from the wind. The graveyard receives little care now but being largely in grass, the stones are readily accessible even in summer. There is only one vault in the graveyard. The oldest stone dates from 1716.

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Ballyhalbert - Ballywalter - Carrowdore - Cloughey
Greyabbey - Kircubbin - Millisle - Portaferry - Portavogie

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