Explorers’ Excursion to North/East Down — Ards Peninsula led by Prof. Jim McAdam

Explorers’ Excursion to East Down and the Ards Peninsula
with Prof Jim McAdam, RSAI Vice President for Ulster


This year we are pleased to invite members who are interested in an active and outdoor excursion to take part in a three-day, two-night trip to a relatively unexplored part of Ulster: East Down and the Ards Peninsula around the shores of Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea.

This excursion is for independently-minded members as own transport (or carpooling with other members) is required throughout.

The current schedule for the three-day (two-night) excursion is as follows:

Day 1: We will meet in the small coastal village of Dundrum, just north of Newcastle Co Down, for lunch at 1pm. We will then visit Dundrum Castle, built by the Norman, John de Courcy after his invasion of Ulster in 1177. Following lunch, onwards to a fine example of a stone circle site at Ballynoe and some of the many St Patrick-related sites in the area. Members will continue to the picturesque village of Strangford to take their cars on the short ferry crossing across the Narrows of Strangford Lough to our destination at Portaferry, where we have been booked into the Portaferry Hotel and the nearby Barholm Hostel and The Narrows Guesthouse.

Day 2: The group will travel to a range of fascinating archaeological sites on the Ards Peninsula. These may include: the Late Neolithic cairn at Millin Bay on the Irish Sea coast; the motte and bailey and medieval church at Ardkeen; a fully restored grain windmill, typical of the agricultural heritage of the area; the Cistercian Abbey at Greyabbey (built by the wife of John de Courcy); the National Trust house and gardens at Mountstewart. We will return to the Portaferry Hotel for dinner.

Day 3: The final leg of the journey will take us around the shores of Strangford Lough to the early Monastic settlement at Nendrum via the Market Cross and Dominican Priory at Newtownards. Members can eat locally on the western shore of Strangford Lough and/or depart for Dublin at their leisure. If you are considering a longer stay in the area there is more to see and do and we will be happy to advise you.

As always, excursion programmes are subject to change due to weather and other circumstances. As this excursion will primarily take place outdoors please ensure that you have appropriate waterproof clothing and that you are prepared for walking.


You are kindly requested to book your own accommodation directly with the hotels.

Additional charge of €200 payable to the RSAI to cover the cost of: 1 dinner, 2 lunches, all entrance fees, gifts for speakers and guides and other administration costs.

We have reserved rooms in the following venues for the RSAI members:

The Portaferry Hotel
Address: 10 The Strand, Portaferry, Newtownards BT22 1PE, United Kingdom
Email: info@portaferryhotel.com
Phone: +44 28 4272 8231

The Portaferry Hotel offers 15 rooms ranging in price from £280 to 340 for total stay (single, twin, double and family rooms) – a reduction of £20 per room will be offered on any single occupancy rooms.

Barholm Hostel
Address: 11 The Strand, Portaferry, Newtownards BT22 1PF, United Kingdom
Email: info@barholmportaferry.co.uk
Phone: +44 28 4272 9967

Barholm has 8 en-suite rooms available ranging in price from £45 to £75 per night.

The Narrows Guesthouse
Address: 8 Shore Rd, Portaferry, Newtownards BT22 1JY, United Kingdom
Email: info@barholmportaferry.co.uk
Phone: +44 28 4272 9967

The Narrows has 6 ensuite rooms available from £50 to £74 per night.

Barholm and Narrows Guesthouses are located within a minute walk from Portaferry Hotel.

Please make your booking directly with the hotels before informing the RSAI office of your booking.