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Clandeboye Estate.

County Down.

The estate like many others in Ireland has a tumultuous history, its fertile soil inspiring envy and greed, in English and Gael alike, culminating in battles and confiscations. In 1603 Conn O'Neill owner of Clandeboye was imprisoned in Carrickfergus Castle, from which he is said to have escaped twice. Time permits only a brief chronicling of these events here, the subject is expertly covered in Trevor McCavery's excellent book 'Newtown A history of Newtownards', published by The White Row Press.

The name Clandeboye is derived from the Irish 'Clan Aodh Buidhe' which means the and 'Clan of Yellow Hugh' (O'Neill) the O'Neill's are descended from Nial of the Nine Hostages a tribal leader who was said to have ruled Ulster from 379 to 404 AD When the Romans began to withdraw their legions from Britain leaving its defenses seriously depleted, the Irish took the opportunity to raid the country. It may have been one of Nial's raiding parties who seized St Patrick from western Britain and brought him back to Ireland as a slave.

As a result of warfare and diplomacy, although mostly the former the dynasty Nial founded waxed and waned through the centuries, at various times controlling a considerable portion of Ireland, even claiming the high kingship at one stage. In 1523 the Earl of Kildare defeated Aodh Buidhe O'Neill of Clandeboye capturing Belfast and Carrickfergus Castles.In 1602 Con O'Neill was arrested by Hugh Montgomery a Scottish planter and held in Carrickfergus Castle subsequent events led to the Flight of the Earls, which effectively ended the rule of the native Irish clans and placed their lands in the ownership of supporters of the English crown.

The estate today is in the ownership of The Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava who's ancestors came into possession of it in 1674. It has a total area of 550 hectares (1,359 acres) of which 250 hectares are farmland with the remainder mature woodland. This is a mere fraction of its original size when it covered much of eastern county Down and parts of County Antrim. The present house was built in 1801 to the design of Robert Woodgate.

Today Clandeboye Courtyard is the commercial centre of the estate, the buildings which date from the 18th century have been tastefully converted and are used to host private and corporate events. The gas house is of particular interest, built in baronial style, gas houses were to be found on many country estates, prior to the introduction of electricity.

Standing high on a hill on the estate is Helen's Tower, this was completed in 1858 by Lord Dufferin, in memory of his mother. A replica of the tower was built at Thiepval on the Somme, as a memorial to soldiers of the Ulster Division many of which never saw their native land again.

The Ulster Way crosses the estate from the Crawfordsburn Country Park and Helens Bay beach to the Somme Heritage Centre at Conlig. The path is five miles long and passes the Blackwood Golf Course and Helens Tower. Much of the path is along the original route laid out by James Frazer in 1850 linking Clandeboye House with Helens Bay railway station