Places of Interest
The town of Newtownards is overlooked by the 100-foot (30 m) high Scrabo Tower. The tower is 41 metres high, and was erected as a memorial to Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, in recognition of his concern for the plight of his tenants during the great potato famine. It is open to the public and houses a historical and local environment exhibition. The basalt topped sandstone hill at Scrabo is one of the dominant features of north Down. The tower now stands tall in Scrabo Country Park with its woodland walks and parkland through Killynether Wood.
The Somme Heritage Centre, which is situated a little north of the town, is the Somme Association's flagship project. Situated adjacent to the Clandeboye Estate outside Newtownards, the centre is a unique visitor attraction of international significance showing the reality of the Great War and its effects on the community at home. The centre commemorates the involvement of the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) divisions in the Battle of the Somme, the 10th (Irish) Division in Gallipoli, Salonika and Palestine and provides displays and information on the entire Irish contribution to the First World War. The centre promotes cross-community contact, mutual understanding, an appreciation of cultural diversity, and is a major visitor attraction. The centre is built on ground provided by Ards Borough Council in what is to be the Whitespots Country Park. It is linked to Helen's Tower on the Clandeboye Estate via the Ulster Way. Historically, the 36th (Ulster) Division trained on the estate during the first few months of the war and German prisoners of war were interned there. A replica of Helen's Tower was built on the Somme battlefield as Northern Ireland's national war memorial.
Also to the north of the town is the Ark Open Farm, specialising in rare and endangered species of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry, many of which are no longer seen in Ireland today. Facilities at the farm include a petting zoo, pony rides and restaurant.
To the north-west of the town centre is the factory where hand-crafted acoustic guitars have been made by Avalon Guitars since 1988. Several globally recognised artists including Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison and David Gray have guitars made by Avalon in Newtownards.
On the east shore of Strangford Lough, a few miles outside Newtownards and near Greyabbey, stands Mount Stewart, an 18th century house and garden — the home of the Londonderry family. The house and its contents reflect the history of the Londonderrys who played a leading role in British social and political life. The ninety-eight acre garden at Mount Stewart has been proposed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Largely created by Edith, Lady Londonderry, wife of the 7th Marquess, in the 1920s, it has an unrivalled collection of rare and unusual plants.
To the south of the town lies Newtownards Airport, home of the Ulster Flying Club — Northern Ireland's largest, non-commercial training and flying organisation. Many private pilot owners base their aircraft in the airfield's several hangars. The airport is used for an air display show every June. This is one of the largest in Northern Ireland, with displays by the Red Arrows, TA and Royal Air Force.
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