Journey To The End Of The Peninsula
Today I took Mum on a drive around the whole of the Ards Peninsula stopping off along the way for our annual pilgrimage to St Cooey's Wells. We left the main route just after Cloughey to take a picturesque detour via Ballyquintin Bay and Barr Hall before arriving back on the main road at Portaferry and our journey home along the side of Strangford Lough. This quiet detour boasts rugged coastal views and wildlife in an unspoilt natural habitat and our first stop was at the Holy Wells which lie beneath the site of the ruined Temple of Saint Cooey, now marked by a few remaining stones around a modern altar.
It has been a long time since I have been able to kneel down at the wells so Mum always scoops up some extra for me to drink and wash my various sore bits. Hopefully next year after both my knee replacements I will be the one scooping up the waters for her!
This year we remembered to take our wellies so that we could take the beaten track through the marshy reed bed to the Penance Stone, beyond which lies the rocky shoreline and the Irish Sea. It may look like a barren and desolate place to some but it has something of a serene beauty, the only sounds from a lone bird and the breeze rushing through the tall sea grass. Take time here to feel the haunting loneliness and still silence and you will definitely feel a strong connection to a long ago past.
Our next stop was at Ballyquintin Farm and Nature Reserve which lies at the Southernmost tip of the Ards Peninsula. The farm and other lands along the coast were purchased by The National Trust in 2000 and the Nature Reserve is owned and managed by the NI Environment Agency. There is a picturesque walk through the farmlands along the coast and through the nature reserve, but as the skies were threatening rain we took the short route to a WWII look out shelter which takes in panoramic views across the nature reserve and the Irish Sea in one direction and across the Strangford Narrows to the Mourne Mountains in another. We are hoping to go back again later in the summer when I have recovered from next week's knee operation to do some bird spotting and nature hunting.