The National Trust estate of Castle Ward is near Strangford, County Down.
With its unusual mixture of Palladium and Georgian Gothic architecture, the 18th century mansion and estate were one of several Game of Thrones filming locations in Ireland.
The 820 acre estate includes gardens, trails, a fortified tower house and lots more, as you’ll discover below.
Some quick need-to-knows about Castle Ward
Although a visit to Castle Ward in County Down is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Overlooking Strangford Lough, Castle Ward is near the village of Strangford on the east coast of Northern Ireland. It is 33 miles southeast of Belfast, 20 miles northeast of Newcastle and easy to reach from the A7.
2. Opening hours
Castle Ward house and gardens are open daily from April 1 to October 31 and on bank holidays. Some times to be aware of are:
- In summer, the gardens are open from 10:00 to 17:00 and the mansion from 11:00 to 16:00
- From November through March the mansion is closed but the gardens, estate, shops and tearoom are open from 10:00 to 16:00
Standard admission to Castle Ward is as follows:
- Adults: £10
- Children: £5
- There are discounted prices for families and groups.
- Members of the National Trust have free admission to both the house and grounds.
4. Game of Thrones
The popular TV series Game of Thrones was filmed at Castle Ward so fans can re-live the action by spotting landmarks from the series. The historic farmyard was transformed into the fictional Winterfell with the Tower House acting as the imposing entrance. Whispering Wood was used for the Baelor Battle and Robb Stark’s Camp.
5. Dog friendly
All the family are welcome at Castle Ward, and that includes your pets. Dogs must be kept on leads at all times as the trails are shared with horses, cyclists, young families and walkers. There’s a dog exercise field near the main car park where dogs can romp and play. Even the Stableyard Tea Room is dog-friendly.
The history of Castle Ward
Castle Ward is one of the more notable castles in Northern Ireland. The estate was originally owned by the Earls of Kildare and was known as Carrick na Sheannagh. The Ward family took over the 850 acre estate in 1570 and the name became Castle Ward.
They built several homes including the current mansion, built in the early 1760s for Bernard Ward. He became 1st Baron Bangor in 1770 and later became 1st Viscount Bangor in 1781.
Part of the mansion displays classical Palladian style while the rest is Georgian Gothic with battlements and pointed windows.
This was due to the differing tastes of Lord Bangor and his wife and their diverging preferences continue inside the mansion too. The Tower House is an older defensive structure dating back to 1610.
The 2nd Viscount inherited the property but was insane. His younger brother had him removed to a house in Downpatrick and then stripped the mansion of its fine furnishings.
The house was restored by the following generations but on the death of the 6th Viscount in 1950, the estate was donated to the National Trust in lieu of death duties.
Things to do at Castle Ward
There’s endless things to see and do at Castle Ward which make it a great morning-out-destination. Here are some suggestions:
1. Explore on foot
Castle Ward estate has 21 miles (32km) of multi-use trails for exploring on foot, bicycle or on horseback.
The trails run through the unspoilt landscape passing Temple Water, a man-made canal, with resident swans and bird-life.
The Secret Shoreline Nature Trail is sure to be popular with all the family while the Boundary Trail offers an 8 mile (13km) hike through woods.
Loughshore Walk explores the lake, farm and follies with excellent views from Audley’s Castle.
2. See where Game of Thrones was filmed
Castle Ward was used as the film set for Games of Thrones. The Tower House in the old farmyard was the entrance to Winterfell in Season 1.
The Whispering Wood may be familiar to fans as the site of the Baelor Battle and Robb Stark’s Camp.
3. Explore by bike
Bring your bike and cycle the miles of trails that criss-cross the estate. Four of the five trails are suitable for bicycles as well as walkers.
The well-surfaced trails are suitable in all seasons and there are loops for youngsters as well as serious cyclists. Keep left and follow the directional signs around Strangford Lough, exploring the woodland and wider deer park.
Explore Robb’s Trail, one of two Game of Thrones self-guided cycling tours within the estate.
Places to visit near Castle Ward
One of the beauties of Castle Ward is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best things to do in Down.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Castle Ward!
1. Audleys Castle (10-minute drive)
Just 10 minutes from Castle Ward, the ruined tower of Audley’s Castle is at Portloughan. The land was owned by the Audley family since the 13th century. They built the tower as an eyecatcher across Temple Water from the long vista. The ruin provides superb views of the area. It was sold to the Ward family in 1646 as part of the Castle Ward estate.
2. Take the ferry to the Ards Peninsula (5-minute drive)
Cross the mouth of Strangford Lough by ferry from Portaferry and explore the scenic Ards Peninsula. Enjoy views back towards Castle Ward and north to the Mourne Mountains. You’ll pass sandy beaches, forests, gardens, village pubs and rocky mountains.
3. Delamont Country Park (20-minute drive)
Just 10 miles west of Castle Ward, Delamont Country Park borders the shoreline of Strangford Lough. Check out the Strangford Stone, the tallest megalith in Ireland. The 200-acre country park is ideal for walks surrounded by outstanding natural beauty. There’s a picnic area, miniature railway and a playground for youngsters too!
FAQs about National Trust Castle Ward
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the Glenveagh Castle Gardens to the tour.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Do you have to pay into Castle Ward?
Yes. Standard admission to Castle Ward is £10 for adults and £5 for kids. Group discounts are available, too.
Is Castle Ward worth visiting?
Absolutely. Castle Ward is a joy to explore on foot or on bike and there’s plenty of trails to tackle. You can also explore the house.
Was Game of Thrones filmed at Castle Ward?
Yes. The farmyard was transformed into the fictional Winterfell with the Tower House acting as the imposing entrance. Whispering Wood was used for the Baelor Battle and Robb Stark’s Camp.