Castle Ward is an 18th century estate about 15 minutes from Downpatrick by car. It is owned by the National Trust and is one of the best days out in Northern Ireland, in my opinion.
There is something for everyone - the 18th centry house with it's fascinating architecture, two 15th century castles, a hydro-powered saw and corn mill, beautiful walled garden and acres of land and forest to wander around. It is right on Strangford Lough and the views across to the town of Portaferry are very pretty.
See my travelogue for more photos.
First of all, the Mill was built in 1792 on a site where there is evidence of earlier mills dating to medieval times. The building is unusual because it is eight stories high - an engineering feat in the late 18th century and it was the tallest building in the UK at the time. It was powered by a water wheel which is in the process of being replaced, a windmill (which there is no visible evidence) and a steam engine (of which the chimney still remains). The whole building has been sympathetically restored and the original stone walls are complemented by the original Oregon pine floors and beams. The views from every window are of the beautiful Downpatrick countryside.
The staff were very helpful and friendly without being robotic. Service was efficient without being too fast - plenty of time to finish your course before the next one arrived.
We have stayed here for bed and breakfast even though it is only a few miles from our house. The dinner was fantastic, the rooms beautiful, clean and very quiet and the breakfast wonderful.
Favorite Dish: Everything we had was delicious. The menu is mainly local produce interestingly presented.
I had a caesar salad with boiled quail eggs, salmon in a tangy buerre blanc with side veggies which were stir fried in garlic and ginger, and for dessert, a raspberry macaroon.
GF had julienne chicken which was sauteed in a slightly sweet sauce and served with chunks of bacon (pancetta), then a chicken breast which was very tender and tasty and served in a creamy sauce. For dessert he had sticky toffee pudding which was just the right size after a large meal.
On another trip to the Mill the food was just as delicious. For starters, GF had asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto and topped with oak smoked cheese and I had a slice of goat's cheese on a bed of greens and topped with chopped mango and sprinkled with maple syrup. For mains, GF had duck on a bed of spinach and some very creamy celeriac. I had lamb chops which were cooked to perfection and were on a bed of risotto with green olives. Our sides were potatoes fried in garlicand bacon and cabbage fried with bacon. For desserts, GF had a fantastic tarte tatin and I had a scrumptious chocolate truffle torte which just melted in my mouth. Again, the service was very prompt and professional. I highly recommend this place.