Scrabo Tower & Country Park
Mon - Sun
Free access to park
Tower open daytime
203a Scrabo Road
Newtownards, BT23 4SJ
(see map below)
Scrabo Country Park is centered upon the Tower built on the summit of Scrabo Hill - its name may be drevied from the old Irish word 'Scrabac', literally meaning 'Scraggy Hill'. Overlooking the whole of North Down, it includes the woodlands of Killynether and disused quarries where Scrabo stone was once quarried.
The hill itself dominates the surrounding landscape. At the time during which the Giant's Causeway was being formed, a layer of volanic lava penetrated and covered the underlying sandstone before becoming solidified. This hard rock protected the softer sandstone when, much later during the ice age, the surrounding land was eroded away. Scrabo Hill was thus left as high ground.
The prominence of Scrabo in the landscape and the protection provided by its natural features led to its early use. The remains of hut circles and a great hill fort 22 feet by 200 feet, together with fragments of pottery, flint arrow heads and stone axe heads are evidence of early man's life on the hill from about 5,000 years ago. Indirectly the Tower owes its origins to the Famine. It was erected as a memorial to Charles William Stewart, 3rd Marquis of Londonderry, in recognition of this concern for the plight of his tenants during that dreadful period. The climb up the spiral staircase to the top of the Tower is rewarded by a superb view, with displays in the rooms telling visitors the story of Scrabo Hill and the surrounding countryside.
The first evidence of the use of Scrabo stone for building is in the monastery at Greyabbey and in the Priory at Newtownards. For almost a thousand years thereafter the stone was exploited on a small scale in the local area. In 1826 a local man, Robert Corry, set out to make Scrabo stone the most readily available material in the land.
Tramways were later developed for connecting the quarries to the main railway line at Newtownards. Scrabo stone was shipped as far afield as Dublin and New York. It forms the walls of some of our best known and most attractive buildings such as the Albert Clock in Belfast, and Newtownards Town Hall.
Geology & Wildlife
The hill's geology is just one of the points of interest. The quarries are surrounded by disturbed ground which nature is colonising with thorns and scrub. The contrasts with the fine beech woodlands at Killynether and the hazel wood beyond on the flank of the hill. In spring the woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells. A walk through the hazel wood will reveal other wild flowers which include goldilocks, wood sanicle, woodsage, sheep's sorrel and greater stitchwort. A wide range of birdlife can be observed in the Park. Peregrin falcons nest in the quarries, together with kestrels, jackdaws and ravens. Other birds include dunnock, stonechat, white throat, chiff-chaff, blackcap, linnet and yellowhammer.Videos: