*This article is the continuation of the previous “Northern Ireland by the sea: the path from Helen’s Bay to Bangor”*
So after about one hour and a half from our departure from Helen’s Bay, we reached the end of the coastal walk and caught sight of the town of Bangor.
Bangor is the largest town in County Down and it’s situated by the Irish Sea, on the south of Belfast Lough, the large, intertidal sea inlet on the east coast of Northern Ireland inside which is Belfast.
The first detail that you can notice when reaching the town from the coastal path is the red beacon that dominates the end of the port:
In fact Bangor, after a pretty ancient and interesting history (the first settlement dates back at the Bronze Age, then it had also a Viking period and one of the most important monastic trends in Europe), from the Victorian age started to be a renowned holiday spot during the summer, and in the last years a commuter town in winter. In fact the town is connected very well with the northern irish capital through the railway line we took to get to Helen’s Bay and it’s still part of Belfast Metropolitan Area, so it’s the ideal place for those who want to live by the sea but still have their job in the city.
Even if the first impression is that Bangor didn’t keep so much of its long history, actually some buildings are still there. Among these there’s the Old Custom House, one of the oldest buildings in Ireland to have been in continual use, and Bangor Abbey, founded in 558 by Saint Comgall; this is where Saint Columbanus, later abbot of Luxeuil and Bobbio, studied, and Saint Malachy was abbot here in 1121.
Another historical spot of the town is the area where you can find Bangor Castle and its Walled Garden.
The Castle, despite the name, is actually a country house; the house itself, composed by 35 bedrooms and incorporating a huge salon for musical recitals, dates to the second half of ‘800, but it is attached to a previous abbey building which had been occupied by Franciscan monks until 1542. Today the complex is the offices of the local council.
As every “castle” should be, the building is surrounded by a huge park, mostly made of forest, inside which there’s a Walled Garden:
Curious, we went searching and we found it just after a short walk among the trees: the Walled Garden dates back to 1840, when it was designed by the Ward family; for a long time it remained closed to the public, so someone started to call it “secret garden”.
The garden won many prizes for its flowers and plants collections and for the beautiful bloomings; inside there are not only common flowers, but also vegetables, spices and a greenhouse with tropical plants.
While we were leaving the park to return to Belfast, a new friend came to say bye: