Until recently Greyabbey was little more than a road sign along the coast of Strangford Lough and the Ards Peninsula to me. As I really had no reason for visiting until a chance encounter when arriving at nearby Mount Stewart with no cash and they don’t accept cards for the entrance fee. And so this sent us in search of an ATM cash machine to the nearest village along Strangford Lough which brought us to the small village of Greyabbey. And since then I have always intended to return. So now, having spent a day exploring, I would definitely recommend Greyabbey as a stopover/pitstop when out exploring Strangford Lough and Ards Peninsula.
Greyabbey Antique Shops
Our recent visit to Greyabbey was in search of advice on a rather fancy gemstone that we were planning to sell (a long story) which brought us to Greba Jewellers, a small shop on the main street of Greyabbey, that trade in antiques, but specialise in jewellery (Greba is an informal name for Greyabbey). And these specialist antique shops that Greyabbey is most famous for, where they occupy most of the traditional shop fronts along the village’s Main Street. And Googling pretty much any of these shops in Greyabbey and they will have appeared at some point on the Antique’s Road Trip and whatnot. Some of the more famous shops include the Old Courthouse Greyabbey and those of the “Hoops Courtyard”.
Hoops Courtyard, known as the ‘Heart of Greyabbey’, is found through an arched gateway in the middle of the main street of Greyabbey, and is central to many of the smaller antiques and collectable stores which are housed in cute white cottages on either side of the courtyard. There is also a great cafe named simply “The Cafe”, although it is also referred to as “the Hoops Courtyard Coffee Shop”. And it would be the perfect setting for a cappuccino, and maybe a panini, surrounded by pretty flowers, antique furnishings, and lots of local charm. It is, as they, boast “the peninsula’s hidden gem”.
The Greyabbey Abbey
Unsurprisingly the village of Greyabbey was given its name by the site of an actual Abbey (Grey Abbey), a now-ruined Cistercian priory found only a short walk from the centre on Church Street. But I am surprised that I had never actually known of the Abbey before our visit, given it is a famous landmark included on the ‘Saint Patrick’s Trail’ which leads from Bangor Abbey in Bangor. And while I’m sure there is a lot of historical interest and significance with the Abbey, shared at the free onsite museum/information centre, we were happy to just explore and stroll through the grounds of the Abbey ruins. It would really be perfect for a picnic.
There are some scenic walks in the area including a path past St. Saviour’s Church where there’s a small wooded area before a trail through nearby country fields. And this is where we passed the gateway to Grey Abbey House which is a private estate owned by the Montgomery family for more than 400 years. And while many of these old estates and manors are passed to the National Trust etc. to help with upkeep (e.g. Mount Stewart) Grey Abbey House is instead leased for hosting historical, architectural and horticultural groups and as a filming location for many tv and movie productions (mostly period dramas). The Grey Abbey Estate runs parallel to the ruins of Grey Abbey church.