Antrim Castle Gardens and Lough Shore Park, A Real Revelation!
I’m actually embarrassed to admit this was my first time turning off the A6 into the beautiful surroundings of Antrim Castle Gardens, but it certainly won’t be my last #LoveLoughNeagh
A short half hour drive from our home in Mid Ulster took me, my husband, my 14 year old son and our dog to Antrim Castle Gardens on a sunny Sunday afternoon in April, and what an afternoon! The sun was shining but we were well layered up and prepared for a good walk with the promise of lots to see, and we were not disappointed.
For those visiting by car there is more than ample free parking with electric vehicle charging points available close to the road and at Clotworthy House, where we were greeted at the information office and shop by very friendly and extremely informative staff (thank you Susan). Entry to the house and gardens is free – always a bonus on a family day out!
After finding our bearings with the maps we collected from the information office, we made our way from the Courtyard, through the community gardens which were full of blooming daffodils and primroses, to begin our journey of discovery at the Large Parterre, a stunning, low level, formal garden through to the events pavilion – a spectacular outdoor venue for events and weddings. The pathways are very clearly signposted and we decided to follow the pathway towards the Lough Shore Park. This took us on a leisurely walk along the Six Mile Water river – across the Deerpark Bridge where we were met my a surprisingly large number of walkers, joggers, runners, cyclists, dog walkers and even a jet skier on the river! The pathway is part of the National Cycle Network. There is an outdoor gym trail which is great fun and very popular with the kids (and adults) and interpretation panels line the pathway which detail local myths and legends.
After a 10-15 minute walk we arrived at the Lough Shore Park and a stunning view across Lough Neagh – made even easier by the free viewing binoculars. There is a coffee shop here and the free wifi and good 3g & 4g signal reach all the way to the Lough, so you can check in over a drink and enjoy the and share the views. We met a classic motorcycle club on their way to a meet up who had decided to do just that.
Children will love to see the swans and ducks who are not shy about coming onto dry land so be careful!
We made our way back along the river past the sailing boats and Caravan Park to Antrim Castle Gardens, where we continued to Her Ladyship’s Pleasure Garden with its tunnels and ruins, to the Ancient Motte. From a distance this looks challenging to climb, but was surprisingly easy and totally worth the views from the top where you can clearly see the outline of the Ancient Castle below, including the Italianate Tower.
The final leg of our walk took is past the two ponds, the canal and back to the Courtyard at Clotworthy House for a welcome cuppa and sweet treat at the Garden Coffee Shop. Our dog Meg was pleased to see the water bowls that are dotted around especially for four legged visitors. The weather was good enough to sit outside and the lunch menu was VERY inviting!
We had a look around the Museum before leaving which was well worth the visit for the history of the House and the Castle. An upcoming event that particularly caught my eye was the River to Lough Festival 2nd July 2016. Details can be found at rivertolough.co.uk
Below is a video from Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council about Antrim Castle Gardens & Clotworthy House
All in all we thoroughly enjoyed our time spent at Antrim Castle Gardens and Lough Shore Park. It’s easy to get to, the facilities are excellent with toilets in the Courtyard and at the Lough Shore. It’s dog/child/pram/cycle friendly and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a morning or afternoon – or in fact a day with the family. Bring a picnic or eat lunch in one of the Coffee Shops. So pack up the kids, bikes and dogs for a day out that won’t break the bank!
By Guest Blogger: Jacqueline McGonigle from whatsonni.com/