Castle Ward is an 18th-century mansion located near the village of Strangford, in County Down. Overlooking Strangford Lough, Castle Ward includes 332 hectares (820 acres) of landscaped gardens and is famed for its mixture of architectural styles. Gothic and classical collide here, making Castle Ward one of the strangest architectural sites in Ireland. Castle Ward is also one of the sets of HBO’s series Game of Thrones: not far from the palace is “Winterfell Castle”. The surroundings have also been captured in several episodes. Within Castle Ward’s park are different trails, 3- to 15-km long, winding around the hills of the lough.
This morning, in a wonderful and windy day of sun, we went to visit Castle Ward mansion. The palace, built on top of a hill, offers an open view over the calm waters of the lough. We first visited the barn and the close-by set of Game of Thrones. We then visited the mill and, from here, we chose to follow the Castle walk leading to Audley’s castle. This castle was named after its late 16th-century owners, the Audleys, who held it in the 13th century. It was sold, with the surrounding estate, to the Ward family in 1646 and used in 1738 as an eye-catching focus of the long vista along Castle Ward’s artificial lake, Temple Water. Audley’s Field is being used as a filming location for Game of Thrones, as well. Finally, the walk revolves back to Castle Ward palace.
Our walk was about 7 km long and was very pleasant, in spite of the wind. The view over the opposite shore of the lough is something you don’t want to miss. You can easily spend the entire day walking: all the routes are signposted and they cross with each other. The area is of a rare beauty and deserves a full day exploring the area. Make sure you don’t miss Castle Ward when you plan to visit Northern Ireland.