If looking for some more rustic and rural scenery when visiting Bangor, my favourite out-of-town hotel option would undoubtedly be the Old Inn Crawfordsburn Hotel (aka Crawfordsburn Inn), simply because it’s surrounded by some of the most magnificent greenery along this coastline. Where the Old Inn Hotel is situated in the charming village of Crawfordsburn, where it is set right on the edge of Crawfordsburn Country Park, with a lane connecting directly from the side of the hotel.
This also marks the start of many of the more exciting walks in the country park, including the Crawfordsburn Viaduct, the Waterfall Trail, and I just personally prefer starting from the village rather than driving into the country park itself. Note, if planning on travelling to Crawfordsburn, without a car, the closest train station is at Helen’s Bay on the Belfast to Bangor line (The Gold Coast Trainline) which is about 1-mile out from the Crawfordsburn Inn.
The Old Inn Crawfordsburn Hotel
The Old Inn Crawfordsburn, or the Crawfordsburn Inn as it’s known locally, is the lifeblood of Crawfordsburn village (full info on the hotel here), where it offers the only bar and restaurant, as well as the only hotel and accommodation, in the area.
So with its romantic surroundings, the hotel has become popular with Wedding and Honeymoons, including some famous names through the years including C.S. Lewis (of the Chronicles of Narnia), who Honeymooned at the Crawfordsburn Inn way back in 1958. Although is still relatively recent history, given the Old Inn Crawfordsburn was first established way back in 1614, making it one of the oldest inns in Ireland.
And while many renovations have taken place since this time, they do still preserve their traditional thatched roof, and I was fortunate to see them renewing it recently on a walk through the village (apparently the outer layers are replaced every 8 to 10 years). Anyway, check here for the current deals at the hotel.
Crawfordsburn Country Park
So the Old Inn Crawfordsburn Hotel sits on the edge of Crawfordsburn Country Park, where a lane behind the hotel leads to some of the more exciting parts of this coastal country park, including the viaduct (below left), and the Waterfall Trail (below right). It is also a relatively compact and easy-to-explore forest park, which is made simpler by coloured waymarkers and signalled walking trails around the park (although I prefer to just get lost).
These walks also include the Bayburn Trail (a 4-mile walk in total) which starts at the Old Inn Hotel, before looping through Crawfordsburn Country Park, and past a number of Coastal Path attractions, before returning back again to Crawfordsburn Village. And there’s a handy map found on the side wall of the hotel (at the entrance to the park) although I will probably share this walking trail in full down the line. Full post on the country park here.
The North Down Coastal Path
Crawfordsburn Country Park also connects to the coastline, with the North Down Coastal Path leading from the seafront marina of Bangor town, right up to the small town of Holywood. A route which also follows train lines between Bangor and Belfast City Centre where the closest station to Crawfordsburn would be Helen’s Bay, which is a 1-mile walk out.
However, many of the better sights on this Coastal route are in and around Crawfordsburn, starting at Swinley Bay and leading up to Helen’s Bay and Grey’s Point Fort. Which can all be seen in the video below (1:35 mins to 2:35 mins). But again Crawfordsburn Beach is likely the highlight of this coastal section, and there’s also a decent cafe (the Woodland Cafe) found just a short walk into the park from the coastline. Full coastal path blog here.
Crawfordsburn is a relatively charming and characterful village in itself, centred mostly around the 17th-century stretch of the main street, although there are newer developments connecting the village (which are not really noticeable).
Although some newer boutique shops and cafes have opened recently, including a Cottage Crafts store, and “Loaf” which is a Pottery and Coffee Shop. Then there are usual historical and heritage sites of the village including the Crawfordsburn Orange Hall. Otherwise, the forest-side perimeter of the country park is almost entirely taken up by the Old Inn Crawfordsburn Hotel.
Loaf Pottery and Coffee Shop
So we recently called in for a quick coffee at the local ‘Loaf’ cafe, which isn’t so much a cafe, as it is a workshop for local crafts, including arts, pottery, paints and glazing workshops. Which is actually part of a wider social enterprise (Loaf Catering) that runs cafes and catering to support people with learning difficulties and autism in Northern Ireland.
So the cafe is pretty much limited to coffees and scones, as well as deli sharing boards, sausage rolls, and their popular artisan wood-fired pizzas. But no Ulster Fries I’m afraid.
A Local Connection
I actually have a slight personal connection to the village, where my grandparents once lived in Crawfordsburn (from the 1950’s), in what was the former Ballymullan School House. This is found on the winding road coming into the village. My grandad therefore spent most of his nights at the Crawfordsburn Inn, sharing local village banter with a Bushmills or two.
But the same house has had a chequered past since this time, where it was then bought over by a local paramilitary boss who was murdered on the doorstep, and it was later opened as a B&B for a while. But I do still visit the village relatively regularly, as well as Crawfordsburn Glen (also known as Cootehall Park), which is a smaller local park which connects to Crawfordsburn at the village bridge. Shown below.