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Crawfordsburn Country Park

Crawfordsburn: Lowland Scots “craw” or Old English “crawe” meaning crow “burn” – small river or stream. The name is territorial, appearing in documents from Lanarkshire, Scotland in the 12th  century.

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Between the 6th  century and 16th  Century this area was part of Bangor monastery lands. After the 17th century Plantation of Ulster, two families dominated here: the Crawfords and the Dufferins of Clandeboye.

The Crawfords were a sept (or family) of the Clan Lindsay whose Chiefs were the Earls of Crawford. George Crawford was one of the fifty Scottish “undertakers” of the plantation and granted 1000acres in Co Tyrone. Although he sold this property within 10years many of the kinsmen he brought over from Scotland remained. In 1625 Andrew Crawford was in possession, as tenant of Lord Clandeboye, of a mill and lands in Co Down. These were subsequently purchased in 1670 by William Crawford from Lord Clanbrassil and became known as the Crawfordsburn estate. William had two sons, one of whom, John, had a daughter Mable who married a William Sharman (hence the name Sharman – Crawford).

The estate continued in family ownership for nearly 300years, the original Crawfordsburn House being built in the 17th century, modified in the18th & 19th Century but replaced by a new building in1905. This was sold in 1948 by the family to the Northern Ireland Tuberculosis Authority. The N.I. Hospitals Authority assumed responsibility in 1959 and it became a geriatric hospital until the early 1980’s when it passed into private ownership. It has since been developed and extended into luxury apartments. Crawfordsburn’s heyday – in common with other Irish stately homes – was the 18th and 19th centuries. It was then that much of the estate was planted, including the coastal headlands (with Scots Pine, Beech, Beach, Sycamore and Elm) and the Glen (many exotic trees Monterey Cypress, Red Cedar, Californian Redwood as well as Rhodendrons, Beach and Laurel.

This period also coincided with the life and work of   Crawfordsburn’s most famous son, William Sharman - Crawford (1781-1861). As a Radical MP (Dundalk1835-37 and Rochdale 1841-52) he held advanced social and political views and in 1847 founded the Tenants Rights Associations in Ulster. This sought to protect the tenant farmer and compensate him for any improvements to the land. In 1850 this was extended to become the Irish Tenant League and although its aims were to reduce the power of the landlords (and WS Crawford was himself a substantial landlord, receiving at this time some £8,000per annum in rents, a very considerable sum) he strongly advocated giving legal force to the custom in the interest of all Irish tenant farmers. Committed to this course he gave up his Rochdale seat in favour of fighting the County Down one in the 1852 General Elections but he and his fellow Ulster candidates were heavily defeated, in the general election of 1852. He retired to Crawfordsburn at this time, and it was not until the Irish Land Acts of 1870,1881,1920 and 1909 that the power of the Landlords were reduced, eventfully being required to sell their lands to tenants who received government support over a 68½ year period to pay off the purchase. However William Sharman-Crawford did play a highly significant part in what was a land-holding evolution, which was only accomplished in many other countries by violence.

Degree of Difficulty

Scooters 1: Easy
Manual wheelchairs and walkers: ½ fairly easy.

There are few slopes to cause any difficulty, the only ones worthy of note being around Quarry Port and on the western side of Helen’s Bay Beach. The others is the public road, all but walkers must take care because there are steps on the Helens Bay beach to Grey Point Fort path. Great care must be taken on this public road the pavement is too narrow – and has a treacherous corner.

The Ramble(s)

  1. Coastal ramble.
    The most accessible part of the Park is along the shore – Crawfordsburn and Helens Bay beaches where a broad, tarmac path makes the going easy. To the east – at Crawfords Beach the ramble must stop at the rocky because only a sandy track leads on, (through entirely suitable for walkers). At the west end of Helens Bay the ramble could end at the junction of the paths in order to avoid going on to the road. Access to Grey Point Fort and the coastal path leading to the Old Boat House is best gained by exiting from the Park and going to the car park at fort.
  2. Glen ramble
    Because of steps at the footbridge and steep slopes only a short part of the glen is easily accessible. This leads from the Visitor Centre, following the red and green arrows through a car park on to a main Park road and into the gravel/earth track which runs for 400 metres before joining the Park road again and hence back to the Visitors Centre.

Great care must be taken along all the main roads of the Park – they are always busy and many drivers may not be expecting to encounter a pavement scooter! Take care!

Features of Special Interest

  • The Visitors Centre
    Apart from an excellent – thought provoking permanent exhibition “Choices in the Environment” there are seasonal displays about various environmental issues, flora and childrens’ projects. In addition there is a self – service restaurant with a wide variety of main meals/desserts. Open from 10.00am – 4.30pm from Easter to end of September. Disabled Toilet.
  • The Viaduct
    Designed by Sir Charles Lanyon (Architect of Queens University, Belfast Castle etc;) and built from Scrabo Sandstone. In 1865 to facilitate the railway.
  • Quarry Port
    Only remnants remain. Constructed to allow transport of building stones from the small quarry used for buildings on the estate.
  • Geology
    Apart from quarries, coasts are the best places to see the underlying rock. Along the coast the main rocks are Ordivician and Silurian metamorphic rocks. Yes, quite!. What this means are that the rocks were originally formed underwater, then by pressure and heat caused by earth movements hardened and charged (metamorphosed ) into much harder rocks. Originally they would have been laid down in horizontal layers, but other earth movements tilted them so that many now stand vertically. They are slates and their name is taken from ancient Welsh tribes, who lived id the area where they where first studied – the Ordivices and Silures.
  • Grey Point Fort
    At the turn of the 20th century two coastal defences were constructed to guard Belfast Lough one here in Crawfordsburn, the other Kilroot. Grey Point was garrisoned during both World Wars being finally disbanded in1956. It was opened to the public in 1987. West of the fort – and accessible by a path just on the Holywood edge of the Fort is an area of Special Scientific interest (A.S.S.I) where unusual examples of Flora and Faune are found.


On the Southern shore of Belfast Lough, about 12 miles from Belfast City Centre (via A2) entrance is by way of road (B20) from the village of Crawfordsburn. It is clearly sign posted from all directions.

Opening Hours

10.00am - Sunset



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