It's been a while since I put one of these wee guides together and I had forgotten how much fun it was to show off a place a few of you maybe haven't explored yet. For such a small island it's amazing how many hidden secrets there are that don't require hours in the back of a car. All you need is a free afternoon and a thirst for a bit of adventure! This guide is dedicated to the village of Crawfordsburn. Located only a few miles from Belfast on the North Down coastline, it was a place I had never even heard of before I moved to the city a few years ago. Now it's my favourite haven for winter walks on the beach or for an afternoon spent over a coffee and a scone. There isn't much to the village itself but there's enough character to charm the pants of you - well worth a weekend trip this Autumn! Loaf Pottery This café and pottery is worth a trip all on it's own to be honest. It's part of a wider social enterprise that started in Belfast over 10 years ago that helps young people with learning disabilities and autism receive training and jobs in the catering industry. Creating these employment opportunities has been made an incredible impact on the community and has revived an old pottery that locals feared would fall in to disrepute. The pottery studio at the front of the cottage hosts classes 7 days a week as well as a variety of pop-up events that have garnered popularity in the few months they've been open. This autumn and winter there will be pizza and pottery nights, supper clubs and Italian wine sampling evenings of which you can find out more about here. Anyone fancy a date to the autumn supper club?? If you don't make it to a class then you can at least enjoy a delicious coffee out the back which is perfectly cosy on an autumn afternoon. The Old Inn This thatched piece of loveliness is like something straight out of a George Eliot novel - I half-expect a horse and cart to pull up alongside it rather than the Range Rovers the folk drive about the village! In fact the thatched portion of the hotel is it's oldest part - around 400 years if you don't mind. Plenty of ye olde celebrities frequented it's doors including Swift, Tennyson and the very man himself - Charles Dickens. Nowadays the hotel is a favourite among locals for a Sunday roast and is especially cosy in winter with the fires lit and the lights low. It's still as popular as ever amongst the travellers though and was voted AA Hotel of the Year in 2018 - good job folks. For me it provides a perfect nook to enjoy a quiet pint before a long walk down on Crawfordsburn beach. Sure ye couldn't beat that. Cottage Crafts This wee gem is found right beside Loaf Pottery and is full of beautiful pieces to buy. It's not open on a Sunday so be sure to pop down on a Saturday when you might be tempted to make a few selfish purchases. Crawfordsburn Country Park Ah, my happy place. This woodland never fails to clear my head and each time I go there's another new path to explore. There's no better time to visit than in autumn when the leaves turn gold and the evening light is that bit more golden. My favourite part is the beautiful archways that carry the train overhead, like ancient brick giants. If the woodland itself wasn't enough to make your heart swoon then all you have to do is inch yourself a bit further to the coastline until you hear the sound of crashing waves. Soil gives way to sand and suddenly you're out in the fresh Irish sea air trying your best not to hug ALL OF THE DOGS. This is where I take Andrew each time I try to convince him to get a pupper but then all he sees is the absolute mess the dogs make of their owner's car. Sigh.
I hope this guide has tempted ye up to the coast but if you have your own hidden gem then why not share your secret in the comments below? Share the love!