Holywood To Helen’s Bay

A crisp Sunday in January offered up a beautiful albeit a little chilly day to go for a family walk.

The first stage of the North Down Coastal route begins at Holywood Esplanade – near to the Dirty Duck bar and restaurant which we’ll get on to later! – and takes you 5 miles along the shoreline to the edge of Crawfordsburn Country Park at Helen’s Bay.  This route is a family favourite of ours so we tend to walk the opposite way: from Helen’s Bay back towards Belfast.

Helen’s Bay is a popular spot for a seaside stroll with dog-walkers and families with the stretch of shoreline from Crawfordsburn towards Bangor being most popular.   However if you wish to escape from the masses, especially in the summer time, I’ll divulge a lesser known parking spot.

Travelling from Belfast we took the Belfast Road until the turn off for Craigdarragh Road, after this it’s a left hand turn down Coastguard Avenue and first right into the car park.  In warmer weather the grassy knoll is a great little picnic spot.  From here it’s a straight forward path with a fairly constant smooth concrete path interjected with sandy bays, grass and a newly installed bridge.


Near the start of the walk you’ll come across a boat shed.  In summer months kayakers can be seen coming in with their catch of the day, usually mackerel.  The sheltered bay is a perfect spot for kids to build mounds in the sand, explore the life hiding amongst the rocks or to play the impossible game of detaching limpets off the surface they’re glued to.


On round the coastal path provides stunning vistas over Belfast Lough where ferries, freight ships and sailing yachts can be spotted while you gaze at cormorants and gulls, amongst many other species, hunt for their food.

For scavengers the sandy shores littered with seaweed, shells and driftwood make for a great forage site.


You’ll walk past the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club and in fair weather will likely see a beautiful array of sails out on the water.  On towards Holywood and where better to seek shelter from the icy winds and rest your weary feet than the Dirty Duck.  Overlooking the lough, the upstairs restaurant delivers a vast and varied menu and with every dish being so tasty a decision can be difficult.  And never pass on dessert – they are just too good.


A beautiful walk whatever the weather and in Northern Ireland that’s extremely variable!