Half day excursion
Get off the beaten track and explore the myths of Sheepland, a landscape rich in folklore and associations with Saint Patrick. You will learn about the areas rich folklore; hear tales of Vikings, shipwreck and smuggling.
We begin by paying a visit to an old church. In the graveyard we view the Norman stone statue of the Madonna and child, the oldest of its kind in Ireland. Here we listen to the story of the renegade knight John de Courcy whose actions changed the landscape of Ireland forever.
After leaving the church the walk follows a quiet country road to the clifftop. Along the road you will pass old mills and hear the stories of how people from this ancient abandoned village made their living. The people who live here have a close association with the landscape. They observe many traditional Irish customs to ensure a good year on their farms.
This area is called Sheepland which has nothing to do with the four-legged creatures. It takes its name from an ancient monastery which was destroyed by the Vikings. Their presence is felt in this area by places like Strangford Lough just three miles to the north and Guns Island just off the shore.
The cliffs themselves are formed of Silurian bedrock rising to 30 metres in some places. This vein of rock can be found in Scotland and the Isle of Man too. During its formation, the rock cracked into fragments and to this day is hazardous to boats. There have been numerous ships wrecked here. The best known was l'Amitie wrecked in April 1797 while carrying arms for the United Irish rebellion. The sole survivor gives the clifftop walk its name – The Steersman’s Pad.
Along the path there are quiet coves used for smuggling in times gone by. At the end of the walk we arrive at a well created by Saint Patrick. This ancient spring has its own folklore and traditions. An important site for pilgrimage, water from this well is said to cure any ailment! Depending on the tide, we may have the opportunity to walk on the mystical feature known as Saint Patrick's Road. The legend goes that this was to take him to the Isle of Man.
Round the day off in style
Curran's Bar is an 18th Century inn and has won numerous awards for its food and hospitality. The quaint little bar has been serving the local community for almost 230 years. It has a true and authentic Irish country pub feel. On our return we will enjoy a fantastic selection of local food. The recommended dish to round of the tour is the signature seafood chowder.
A bit more info
The walk is 4 miles and circular, returning to the start point.
Terrain can be uneven in places. Waterproof and sensible walking shoes are advised.
The route will use quiet public highways, laneways, and open grassland (there may be roaming livestock).
The tour lasts 2.5 hours, food is served afterwards.
The walk can be organised for any day of the week with reasonable notice. For weekend dates this can be as little as 3 days.
The meeting point
83 Strangford Road
Regular Ulsterbus services operate to Chapeltown from Downpatrick Bus Centre, the service is 16A.
All prices include food afterwards
Groups up to 4 people - £100
Groups up to 8 people - £180
Walks for larger groups up to 15 people can be organised.
Larger group rate £100
(Lunch per attendee charged per head separately)