A Walk in Castle Park

Bangor Castle Park will likely be the first place you see in Bangor, where the Town Hall (or Bangor Castle as it’s also known) is found directly opposite the two main stations of the town. It’s really just hard to miss. And the area will always make an ideal starting point for any visit to Bangor town centre, with plenty of parking available in-and-around the park itself. So if you’re arriving by car, it is best to just follow the road up towards, and past, the Town Hall. Before taking the 1st right into the shaded parking at the North Down Museum (Google Maps Here). Or, alternatively, take the 2nd right before reaching the rather retro looking Omniplex cinemas, where there will be a massive free car park at the far end of the street which Bangor’s Aurora Aquatic & Leisure Complex (aka the swimming pool) shares with Bangor’s Walled Garden.

Castle Park

Castle Park is more of a forest park than your typical town park, so there’s not really the usual parklife activities, like ponds, and ducks, and swans. (
for these I’d go to Bangor’s Ward Park). Otherwise it is just a rather nice wooded area to explore, with waymarked walking routes (red and yellow) which I have never actually followed before, because it’s just more fun to walk off track and get lost in this relatively small and compact park. Then, along the way, you’ll probably pass dog walkers, and dogs, and squirrels, and maybe dogs chasing squirrels. And for those into botany, there are all sorts of mature conifers and deciduous trees scattered throughout the park.

While Summer is the preferred season for visitors to Bangor Castle Park, when it is warm and sunny, and the days are much longer. Instead I am sharing the park through the lesser-known times of the year, like autumn, when the maple trees are really quite stunning and keep the park bright and colourful right up until December.

North Down Museum

Castle Park is home to the North Down Museum (former Bangor Heritage Centre) which is found in the back annexes of Bangor Castle/ Town Hall. And the museum shares various artefacts and treasures from the region, dating back to Bangor’s beginnings at around 500BC, with the late Bronze Age. Otherwise, the main themes and exhibits of the museum include Bangor’s Christian Heritage, as well as the founding of Bangor Abbey, which is found just a short walk from the museum in Bangor Castle Park.

Then there is then the whole World War History connection, which again links in with many of Bangor’s other tourist attractions, including Bangor’s Eisenhower Pier, and we have shared a full write-up on Bangor Museum here for more info. Otherwise our own personal highlights included the glass beehive upstairs, the exhibits of nearer nostalgia from Bangor’s tourist heyday, and then there’s a replica of Bangor Castle made from 2,011 sugar cubes, for some reason. And of course the cafe for some grub. We also share a brief, but relatively comprehensive, history of Bangor here.

Bangor Abbey

Continuing on with the whole Christian heritage theme. In the front courtyard of the Museum is a plinth holding a bell with the word “Bobbio” chiselled into the side of it. Where Bobbio, in Italy, is the final resting place of former Bangorian Saint Columbanus, who founded a number of monasteries throughout Europe, including France, Germany, Austria Switzerland and Italy (our bit on Bangor to Bobbio here). And this is the first of a trail of similar markers that share Saint Columbanus’ missionary journey through Europe to finally reach where he set out from at Bangor Abbey (so it’s kind of backwards from the Museum).

The trail in Castle Park, therefore, begins (or ends) at the museum, where leaving it cuts across the side of Bangor Castle, to follow the front of the park until its end (or beginning) at Bangor Abbey. Which is hard to miss given the massive bell (that looks a bit like an oversized monopoly piece) found just after Malachy’s Wall. Along the way there will be notice boards at each bell, sharing titbits of the monks’ journey, as well as benches for the old-timers who are likely to follow the walk (it’s probably no more than 500meters). Also, keep an eye out for ‘C.S Lewis’ Bench’ found at the front of Bangor Castle, which is where the Narnian Author would sit and look out over Belfast Lough.

The Walled Garden

Bangor’s Walled Garden is the restoration of the former Victorian gardens once used by the residents of Bangor Castle (the Ward Family back in the 1840s) to grow fruit, veg and flowers for their estate. It later became a nursery for the various trees now surrounding the castle in Castle Park. Before it was finally restored and opened to the public in 2009. And now it is home to a number of Bangor’s historical instalments, including an old bandstand formerly located in the ‘Sunken Gardens’ at Pickie Park. As well as some more contemporary additions like the central fountain and greenhouse conservatories. Note, Bangor Walled Garden is only open through the brighter months of the year (our full write up here) and there is a small onsite cafe in the busier months of this period.

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