Castle Ward

Castle Ward

 GRand Hallway Castle Ward

Grand Hallway Castle Ward

Castle Ward is an 18th-century National Trust property located near the village of Strangford, in County Down, Northern Ireland, in the townland of the same name. It overlooks Strangford Lough and is 7 miles from Downpatrick and 1.5 miles from Strangford. Castle Ward includes 332 hectares (820 acres) of landscaped gardens, a fortified tower house, Victorian laundry, theatre, restaurant, shop, saw mill and a working corn mill. It has a shore on Strangford Lough. From 1985 to 2010 it has also hosted Castleward Opera, an annual summer opera festival. The most interesting aspect of Castle Ward is that of its dual architecture, reflecting the differing tastes of Lord Bangor and his wife, Lady Ann Bligh. While the entrance side of the building is done in a classical Palladian style with columns supporting a triangular pediment, the opposite side is Georgian Gothic with pointed windows, battlements and finials. This difference in styles continues throughout the interior of the house with the divide down the centre. In essence, the visitor is getting two for the price of one.


Castle Ward has been the home of the Ward family since ca. 1570. Originally known as Carrick na Sheannagh and owned by the Earls of Kildare, it was bought by Bernard Ward, father of Sir Robert Ward, Surveyor-General of Ireland. The 850 acre walled demesne also dates from the 16th century. The Ward family built a succession of homes in their estate; Old Castle Ward, built around 1590 near to Strangford Lough, still survives, but a mansion built around 1720 by Judge Michael Ward was demolished around 1850, although some of the associated landscaping remains. The architect of the current building, built in the early 1760s for Michael Ward's son Bernard Ward, 1st Viscount Bangor is unknown, although he may have come from the Bristol area, with which the Ward family had close ties. It may have been James Bridges who practiced in Bristol between 1757 and 1763 and whose work there has some similarity to Castle Ward.

The property passed under a settlement made in 1748 to Bernard Ward's eldest son, Nicholas, who was clearly insane. When his younger brother, Edward, died in 1812 leaving a young son, the youngest brother Robert took the opportunity to move the insane Nicholas into a smaller house in Downpatrick and strip Castle Ward of everything valuable. The house stood empty until the death of Nicholas in 1827, when it was inherited by Edward's son, now the 3rd Viscount. He and his descendants carried out the process of restoring the building and its furnishings, but on the death of the 6th Viscount in 1950 the house and estate were made over in lieu of death duties to the Government of Northern Ireland, who presented the house and its gardens to the National Trust in 1952. On 10 February 1973, Leonard O'Hanlon (age 23) and Vivienne Fitzsimmons (age 17), both members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, were killed in a premature bomb explosion in the grounds of Castle Ward estate.

This was the home of the Viscounts Bangor since 1781 until the death of the 6th Viscount in 1950. A guided house tour will tell you how Bernard, 1st Viscount, and Lady Ann chose different styles for the same house, why Edward, 3rd Viscount, had to renew part of the rooms, and when the Russian bear arrived at Castle Ward. The estate had its own smithy and, closer to the main house, stables and coach houses and its own laundry and dairy. The working laundry and wash house was essential to the running of the big house. The laundry spaces and the drying loft are still much as they were in the 19th century. In contrast to the naturalistic style of the park surrounding the house, the Victorian taste for formal gardens and bedding is reflected in the Sunken Garden. Temple Water is an important piece of garden history. Although canals of this sort became fashionable among landowners in Ireland at this time it is now one of the very few to survive. Come and take a stroll and enjoy seasonally spectacular gardens.

Dining Room Castle Ward

Dining Room Castle Ward

 Walled Garden Castle Ward

Walled Garden Castle Ward

Castle Ward’s historic farmyard is the location of Winterfell, the backdrop for the Game of Thrones series pilot and much of season one. It’s also where you will find the Whispering Wood and key scenes including Robb Stark’s Camp, the Baelor battle and when Brienne confronts the Stark men. HBO's Game of Thrones® spent eight weeks at Castle Ward building the set of Winterfell ahead of the pilot episode and hundreds of actors and crew worked on the filming here. Experience HBO's Game of Thrones® for yourself through ClearSky Adventure at Castle Ward. A replica of the Winterfell Archery Range has been masterfully recreated in the courtyard in the very same spot that the filming took place, transporting you into the world of Westeros. Dress up in character costume, step into the movie set and stand exactly where the characters Jon Snow, and Robb & Bran Stark stood. This tour is independently run by Clearsky Adventure at Castle Ward. It is not sponsored, endorsed or affiliated with HBO or anyone associated with Game of Thrones®. Check out the filming locations, join the archery experience and see your favourite scenes from the series on a cycle tour. Advanced booking is required for the activities, though access to the site to see the filming locations is open seven days per week and is charged at normal admission rates. For further details, including pictures and tour/experience options, and to book your place, contact Clearsky Adventure on 028 4372 3933 or by email at


The visitor can shop for local produce in the delightful gift shop or pick up a bargain book from the second-hand bookshop. Organic soup and sandwiches are available from the stableyard tea-room. There is free parking, 250 yards from the house. There is a new cycle path. Free trail maps from leaflet dispensers in the car park area, visitor reception and gift shop. You can stay overnight in the caravan park for more shopping time.

There are Baby-changing and feeding facilities. There is a Victorian Past Times Centre with toys and dressing up as well as Children's quiz/trail and activity packs. A Family guide is available. There is a Children's play area (adventure playground in woodland)

There is separate mobility parking available, 50 yards from the house. There is an adapted toilet in the farmyard and stableyard. Braille guides are available. There is a Drop-off point. There are six steps to the entrance of the building with a handrail, a ramp is available. There is an alternative entrance with a ramp available, but it still has a few steps. Two wheelchairs available, booking essential. Ground floor accessible. Basement and tunnel not accessible to wheelchair users. Partly accessible grounds with some steps. A Map of the accessible route is available. There is a Staff-driven multi-seater vehicle. Assistance dogs are welcome.


Location : Castle Ward, Strangford, Downpatrick, County Down, BT30 7BA

Transport: Downpatrick (NI Rail) then bus/taxi. Ferry: From Portaferry. Bus Routes : Summer bus service weekends only

Opening Times : Daily; 12:00 to 17:00; Grounds, Garden, Shops 10:00 to 18:00.

Tickets : Adults £8.18;  Children £4.09

Tel: 028 4488 1204