Castle Ward has been the home of the Ward family since ca. 1570. Known originally as Carrick na Sheannagh and owned by the Earls of Kildare, it was bought by Bernard Ward, father of Sir Robert Ward, Surveyor-General of Ireland. The 850 acre walled demesne also dates from the 16th century. The Ward family built a succession of homes in their estate; Old Castle Ward, built about 1590 near to Strangford Lough, still survives, but a mansion built about 1720 by Judge Michael Ward was demolished about 1850, although some of the associated landscaping remains.
The architect of the current building, built during the early 1760s for Michael Ward's son Bernard Ward, 1st Viscount Bangor is unknown, although he may have come from the Bristol area, with which the Ward family had associations. It may have been James Bridges who practiced in Bristol between 1757 and 1763 and whose work there has some similarity to Castle Ward.
The property was inherited by a settlement made in 1748 by Bernard Ward's eldest son, Nicholas, 2nd Viscount Bangor, who was clearly insane. When his younger brother, Edward, died in 1812, leaving a young son, the youngest brother Robert took the opportunity to relocate the insane Nicholas into a smaller house in Downpatrick and strip Castle Ward of everything valuable. The house stood empty until the death of Nicholas in 1827, when it was inherited by Edward's son, now the 3rd Viscount. He and his descendants restored the building and its furnishings, but on the death of the 6th Viscount in 1950 the house and estate were given in lieu of death duties to the Government of Northern Ireland, who presented the house and its gardens to the National Trust in 1952.
Castle Ward is open to the public and includes 332 hectares (820 acres) of landscaped gardens, a fortified tower house, Victorian laundry, theatre, restaurant, shop, saw mill and a working corn mill. It has a shore on Strangford Lough. There is a tower house in the estate's farmyard, built as a defensive structure during 1610 by Nicholas Ward.References:
Easter Aquhorthies stone circle, located near Inverurie, is one of the best-preserved examples of a recumbent stone circle, and one of the few that still have their full complement of stones. It consists of a ring of nine stones, eight of which are grey granite and one red jasper. Two more grey granite stones flank a recumbent of red granite flecked with crystals and lines of quartz. The circle is particularly notable for its builders' use of polychromy in the stones, with the reddish ones situated on the SSW side and the grey ones opposite.
The placename Aquhorthies derives from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning 'field of prayer', and may indicate a 'long continuity of sanctity' between the Stone or Bronze Age circle builders and their much later Gaelic successors millennia later. The circle's surroundings were landscaped in the late 19th century, and it sits within a small fenced and walled enclosure. A stone dyke, known as a roundel, was built around the circle some time between 1847 and 1866–7.