Donaghadee Motte Reopens to the Public after £300K Investment

Tuesday 10th May 2022

Donaghadee Motte has reopened to the public at weekends, from May until September, following the restoration of the former Gunpowder Store.

A group of people stand in front of an arched gateway and grass covered hill. There is a path behind them leading up to a small castle-like structure on top of the hill.

Known locally as ‘The Moat’, the much-loved Donaghadee landmark has been conserved and restored under the Donaghadee Townscape Heritage Initiative, with funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and match-funding from Ards and North Down Borough Council.

It was originally constructed by the Anglo-Normans in the late 12th century. It was around 1821 that a picturesque castle was built on top of the Motte and used as a gunpowder store to store explosives during the building of the new harbour. The Motte is one of the largest in Ulster.

The Gunpowder Store is now home to the only accessible 'camera obscura' in the country, which means ‘dark room’ in Latin. It is an ancient optical device that lets light in through a small opening on one side and projects an image on the other. The camera obscura housed within the Gunpowder Store is fixed to the lower roof of the building and projects an image from the daylight through a 400mm wide upstand onto a table located inside.

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Mark Brooks, said:

“We are really excited to have reopened Donaghadee Motte and were delighted to see so many visitors during its opening weekend. The Motte is steeped in history and reflects the rich culture and heritage of the town. The project represents a considerable investment of more than £300k in Donaghadee and it is thanks to this investment that the future of this historical site has been secured for generations to come.”

Angela Lavin, Senior Investment Manager at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“We are thrilled to support the preservation of Donaghadee Motte as part of a £1million investment in the townscape. Thanks to National Lottery players, this re-opening strengthens the community by helping local people better understand their heritage and history. Donaghadee is home to fascinating heritage and we know it is a great way of bringing people together and creating a sense of pride of place, that in turn can deliver wider economic benefits.”

Donaghadee Motte is open to the public every weekend from 10am – 4pm (closed for lunch from 12.30pm – 1.15pm), from May until September. Admission is free. A maximum number of six visitors are permitted at any one time. For more information, go to visitardsandnorthdown.com.

Photo caption: (L-R) John Caldwell (Donaghadee Town Advisory Group); Stephen Reid (Chief Executive, Ards and North Down Borough Council); Councillor Mark Brooks (Mayor of Ards and North Down); Angela Lavin (Senior Investment Manager, National Lottery Heritage Fund); Adrian Kerr (Donaghadee Town Advisory Group)