Scrabo tower was built in 1857 and is situated at the top of Scrabo Hill, just outside of Newtownards. It is approximately a 10-minute walk from the Scrabo Car Park. The tower overlooks Strangford Lough and the whole of the Ards Peninsula. From the top, you have views of the Ulster Flying Club runways and on a good day Scotland can be visible. The Tower itself hosts an exhibition, kids’ activities and a video on the history of the Tower.
There are two car parking areas which are mainly used to access the Tower; one at Killynether Wood which is a 5km walk through the Wood, up to the tower and back. The other is at the other end of Killynether Wood, closer to the Tower. From this car park, it is approx. an 8 minute steep uphill walk to get to the Tower. Scrabo Golf Club is also accessible from this car park.
The Tower itself is open Friday – Sunday (and bank holiday Mondays) between May and September and costs £3.50 per adult and £2.50 per child over the age of 5 – children under 5 go free! If you don’t have intentions of entering the Tower though, it is completely free to walk around the grounds! There are toilets at the main Scrabo Car Park and also picnic areas off the path on way to the tower.
Generally, the tower is suitable for everyone although the steep walk up the hill from the carpark may need to be taken into consideration. There is a tarmac path up to the tower, but once you reach the summit the ground becomes more uneven as it is grassy. Scrabo Tower is particularly nice, in our opinion, for those wanting somewhere to relax – you could spend ages taking in the views and watching the sunset, regardless of whether you enter the tower or not.
Newtownards is the closest town, approx. a 5 min drive to the town centre.
- Dundonald is 10 Mins away
- Bangor is 20 mins away
- Belfast City Centre is 30 mins away
If you were looking to stay in accommodation close to Scrabo Tower, you may be limited by your budget. Generally the North Down area is known for being quite expensive and so hotels such as the Clandeboye Lodge
(Bangor) or La Mon Hotel & Country Club
(Moneyreagh -15 min drive) may be above a moderate budget. Other options may be to venture further south in County Down – to the Millbrook Lodge
in Ballynahinch or Denvir’s in Downpatrick
although these are a 30 and 35 minute drive respectively.
Other Attractions Nearby
We find it so hard to narrow down the hidden gems that County Down has to offer, as being from County Down ourselves, we know how many amazing places there are. With Scrabo bordering County Antrim, it limits the amount of other attractions which are close by, if you are looking to stick to exploring County Down.
If you are looking for an attraction close to the tower itself then we would highly recommend Castle Espie
(a 15 minute drive away) which is a perfect day out for everyone. Castle Espie is an outdoor Wildfowl Nature Reserve, which has plenty of other features. Entry is £8.36 for an adult and £4.63 for children over 4.
There is loads of wildlife at Castle Espie, an art exhibition gallery and each weekend in June there are tours of their “indoor duckery”, to see the eggs hatching. These tours must be booked in advance.
There are lots of activities for children including a climbing wall and an indoor softplay room, set up to mimic the environment of some of the surroundings, to burn off some energy. From Spring through to Autumn, they have “Pond Dipping” for adults and children alike, which allows you to explore the underwater life up close and personal with magnifying glasses and creature-identifying booklets to help. On site there is also a secret swamp, where it makes you feel like you are in a Fairytale. While this is great for anyone who loves the great outdoors, it also has an educational centre to keep those brains ticking over.
If you are staying in Ballynahinch or Downpatrick, here is a list of hidden gems within a 30 minute driving radius:
If you are into Game of Thrones there are a number of filming locations you could pay a visit to, such as Castleward, Audleys Castle or Tollymore Forest Park.
For a nice day out head to Murlough Beach and into Newcastle, which is at the foot of the Mourne Mountains.
For something a little different, you could visit St. John’s Point Lighthouse, Struell Wells, Ballynoe Stone Circle or Saul Mountain.
Close to Scrabo Tower, there is one café/bistro in particular which we would recommend due to the wide variety on the menu. The Sugar Cane Bistro
in Comber, which is a 7 minute drive from the Tower, has a brilliant variety of food, accommodating for vegetarians and vegans. Pricing works out approximately £6 for breakfast and £12 for a main.
We are a couple living in Ballynahinch, County Down aged 23 and 22, working in IT and childcare.
We set up our own Instagram page (@irish_explorers
) with the aim of exploring every county in Ireland and showcasing photos of its many attractions. So far, we have visited 28 counties in Ireland, with our Campervan roadtrip in May 2019 being the most recent of our adventures. It is places like Scrabo Tower, with its historical relevance and panoramic views, that we aim to uncover on our travels.
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