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Newtownards

(3.4/5 based on 1,200+ reviews for top 10 attractions)
Things to do: historic sites, museums, outdoors
Newtownards is a large town, townland and civil parish in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies at the most northern tip of Strangford Lough, 10 miles (16 km) east of Belfast, on the Ards Peninsula. It is situated in the civil parish of Newtownards and the historic baronies of Ards Lower and Castlereagh Lower. Newtownards is the largest town in the Borough of Ards. It is known colloquially by locals as "Ards". It had a population of 28,039 people in the 2011 Census.HistoryIn 545 AD, St. Finian founded a monastery close to present-day Newtownards. He named it "Movilla" (Magh Bhile, "the plain of the sacred tree," in Irish), which suggests that the land had previously been a sacred pagan site. The monastery was destroyed by the Vikings sometime after AD 824. In the 12th century, it joined together with Bangor Abbey as an Augustinian monastery. Later, the monastery was raided by Hugh O'Neill from mid-Ulster, after which the urban settlement at Movilla disappeared and the area around it became known as "Ballylisnevin" ("the town land of the fort of the family of Nevin"). The Normans, who arrived in Ireland after 1169, founded a town in the same place around 1226, named it "Nove Ville de Blathewyc" ("New Town of Blathewyc"; the name of an earlier Irish territory), and established a Dominican priory. The town declined, however, and by the 15th century the land was controlled by the O'Neill clan, with the town virtually abandoned.
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