Ards Peninsula

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Kirkistown Castle, near Cloghy

Ards or the Ards Peninsula is a long peninsula of County Down that separates Strangford Lough from the North Channel on the east coast of Ulster.

Several towns and villages are found on it, including Donaghadee, Newtownards and Portaferry. Newtownards is considered to be the largest conurbation, as the larger town of Bangor, which is also geographically located on the north end of the peninsula. The peninsula has a mild marine microclimate, with dry and fertile soils suitable for extensive agriculture.

The name "Ards" is from the Gaelic nAird Uladh, meaning "Peninsula of the Ulstermen".[1]


The Ards peninsula was once known as "The Ards". It was conquered by the Normans in the 12th century and the Norman family Savage built a number of local castles and priories.

The peninsula was the site of a number of airfields during Second World War, including RAF Ballyhalbert and a satellite airfield, RAF Kirkistown, both now closed. Kirkistown site is currently used as a car and motorcycle racing circuit.

Places of interest

  • Scrabo Tower overlooks Newtownards and the northern end of the Ards Peninsula. It is in a country park and was built in 1857 as a memorial to Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry.
  • Mount Stewart, an 18th-century house and garden owned by the National Trust near Greyabbey. It was the home of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family, Marquesses of Londonderry.
  • Grey Abbey, a ruined Cistercian abbey].
  • Kirkistown Circuit, Northern Ireland's only MSA-licensed permanent motorsport circuit.
  • The Echlinville Distillery, Northern Ireland's newest whiskey distillery in over 125 years. Set in the magnificent grounds of the Echlinville Estate, near Kircubbin

Towns and villages

Towns and villages of the Ards Peninsula include:

Archaeological sites


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