Just a few weeks ago, we took a short break to the western shores of Strangford Lough in County Down, an area of outstanding natural beauty dotted with pretty villages en route. One such village we visited was Strangford itself, (from Old Norse meaning ‘strong fjord’), nestled at the mouth of the lough. We were wandering around the harbour, enjoying the early Sunday morning sunshine, when a local stopped to talk to us and told us about a walk we could do which would take us behind the village through a woodland to an old bathing pool and to the lough beyond.
Intrigued, we followed his directions – walking up behind the harbour to the end of Castle Street (in the picture above) where we found a small gap, The Squeeze Gut, and through it we went to begin our walk. History has it that although County Down was a lesser affected area in the worst years of the Irish Famine between 1845-1847, there was still great hardship and starvation. William, 23rd Baron de Ros, who lived in Strangford, commissioned a sunken path to be dug out in 1847, to provide employment relief.
The walk starts as a fairly steep climb into a lovely area of woodland, and as we looked back, we could see Strangford Lough shimmering in the distance.
As we followed the path round, glimpses of sailboats on the lough came into view through the trees. The area itself is a mixed woodland, called Pond Wood, managed by the Woodland Trust.
The path runs along the perimeter of the Old Court Estate, the home of Baron de Ros and we could just make out a barn in the adjacent field.
We eventually emerged from the wood to reach the edge of the lough where we could see fields of vivid yellow rapeseed growing on the other side.
We continued along the water’s edge until we reached the ruins of the old bathing pool. I could see why they might have chosen this location. It was set in a lovely little cove with stunning views across the lough.
We lingered here for a while imagining what life might have been like in earlier times, if we had been wealthy enough to own our bathing pool in such a beautiful and secluded location !
I wandered on further along the path and, in the distance, I could see Audley’s Castle, one of a number of filming locations in Northern Ireland for Game of Thrones. Even early on a Sunday morning, tourists were already gathered at the spot and we decided we would visit the castle on a quieter day !
We retraced our footsteps back along the path, taking another look at the lough before entering into the shade of the woodland again.
We took a slight detour and discovered the Victorian pond after which the wood is named. There was a hardly a soul around and with the sun shining through the trees, it was a lovely spot to discover.
We continued the way we had come, reaching the starting point of the Squeeze Gut and back out into the sunshine of Strangford village once again.
It is said that the Squeeze Gut was so named because farmers used it to drive their cattle that way to the harbour and larger beasts often had to squeeze through. Local folklore claims that it became a lovers’ lane where a boy might give his girl a ‘squeeze’ ! Either way, whatever your preferred version, it’s a lovely walk with beautiful scenery and interesting local history. Another hidden gem, really, which we would never have discovered if we hadn’t stopped to talk to a local sipping his mug of tea by the harbour !
Have a lovely Thursday – the weekend is almost here 🙂