North Down Museum packs a lot into a small space, telling the history of the area from the Bronze Age to the present day. But you have to find it first. it was only a few miles from where my granddaughter lives, in a town where she had been in adult education, and yet she had never heard of it! We faithfully followed the blue line on the sat-nav until it eventually curled round to the rear of the Town Hall, AKA Bangor Castle!

The museum is situated within the former laundry and stables of the Castle which was built for the Hon. Robert Edward Ward in 1852. According to Wikipedia he was the fourth son of Bernard Ward, 1st Viscount Bangor and his wife Lady Ann Bligh, daughter of John Bligh, 1st Earl of Darnley and his wife Theodosia Bligh, 10th Baroness Clifton. His older brothers were Nicholas Ward, 2nd Viscount Bangor and Edward Ward. Following the latter’s death in 1812, he conveyed the by-that-time-insane 2nd Viscount out of his residence Castle Ward and plundered it!

I’m very grateful for whoever set up the Museum as it was very well laid out and informative, we had fun, a decent Sunday Lunch and furthermore there’s no entry fee!

On the day we went we were met at reception by a very friendly guide who gave us a comprehensive introduction to the whole museum even before we had moved another step.
To be sure, everything he told us about was laid out in the many rooms as we wended our way round the building until we found the excellent café in the stable yard.

When I set off from Gibraltar in my vehicle I did not know how far I would get, in a way I was stepping out in faith. Some would not plan such a long drive in an old car, but she has been reliable so far. It was not the only reason for calling my trip a ‘pilgrimage’ I had packed camping gear and was ready to use it as my budget for the time I planned to spend on the road would not stretch to many stays in hotels. I knew there would be nights under canvas in the temperate British weather.

Here in Bangor was the first time I came so close to being a pilgrim that I was in fact dressed in sackcloth, with a knotted cincture around my waist and a cowl to shade my face from the sun. We had been invited to make ourselves at home in the Christian Heritage Gallery, at the Castle behind me to the right is a typical monk’s cell from those times with a thatched roof, wooden furniture and a coracle for transport and fishing.

Only five minutes walk from the Castle, the ancient Abbey of Bangor was founded in 558AD by Comgall. Famed for its learning and austere rule, it was considered one of the most important monasteries in early Europe. Comgall taught many men, most famously Saints Columbanus and Gall, who established many monasteries across Europe. He also taught Saint Laiseran, who later founded Holywood Priory.

Bangor was sometimes written ‘Beannchor.’ The place was also called the ‘Vale of Angels’ because, according to a popular legend, St. Patrick once rested there and saw the valley filled with angels.

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