â€ś Address: Fort Road / HelenÂ’s Bay / Crawfordsburn / BT19 1LD â€ž
Grey Point is one of those little gems that even most local people have never heard of. Nearly everyone in Belfast will have visited Helens Bay and Crawfordsburn Country Park at some point, but even though Grey Point is technically a part of Crawfordsburn Country Park, and little more than a stones throw from Helen's Bay, hardly anyone we know is aware of its existence. The only reason I know about it is that my husband discovered it years ago while looking for a good fishing spot.
Grey Point is not a huge museum. Unless you have a strong interest in amateur radio, or you would simply like to picnic and hike around an isolated but beautiful section of Northern Ireland's coastline, you will not find enough here to occupy a full day. There is however a huge country park nearby and a beautiful sandy beach ( Helen's Bay) and coastal walking path so this could easily be combined with other activities for a wonderful day out.
The fort consists of a small enclosed green with a wooded corner, the main building, which houses a WW1 and WW2 military memorabilia collection and an absolutely massive collection of WW2 radios and communication equipment. There is a separate radio tower, which unfortunately I could not get up the stairs for, but my son says you can go inside part of the tower and look through a window to what looks likes like a restored radio room complete with dummies in military uniform. Then there is the fortification with two large Vickers 6 inch Breech Loading MkVII guns. The children can climb about these and have their pictures taken, and there is lovely view of the ocean from here. My son says one of these guns has empty shells as well. I don't remember these, but he would notice things like this more.
There are two disabled parking spaces right at the gate, and on a normal day these will always be empty. On the military vehicles day these were full but there was parking almost right next to them. The staff are exceptionally helpful and if you speak to them in advance - I'm sure they would do anything possible to accommodate. Most of the site is wheelchair accessible, there are a few spots however that are not - such as the radio tower. I did not use the toilets there, but the women's toilets can only be reached by a very steep flight of stairs. I understand the Men's toilets have a ramp, although this is also considered too steep by todays regulations. Still with someone to help I can't see it being a problem and I would assume that they would allow a woman to use this if needed and just post a guard at the door to keep the lads out for a few minutes. Absolutely everyone there was very kind and helpful, the staff and all the people dressed up for the event we attended. I understand they are working to improve disabled access but this is a little known museum with little funding as well.
Admission to the fort is free - even on special event days. This is one of those really brilliant places to visit on a budget.
Grey Point Fort does not have any shops, cafes or chippies. My advice would be to pack a picnic lunch but there is a cafĂ© in the nearby Crawfordsburn Country Park. When I say nearby though, I mean nearby for visitors with car.
Helen's Bay Tran station is within easy walking distance of this fort. I would advise visitors to contact the fort or I Railways for directions though as my directions have a tendency to result in people getting lost.
Grey Point fort is coastal defence battery. For non military enthusiasts, that is basically a really big gun installed to defend key coastal locations and a small fort built around it. Building began on Grey point Fort in 1904 It was operational from 1907 - 1956. It was intended to defend Belfast harbour against enemy attack. This never happened though, as the attack never came. Only one shot was ever fired in anger from this installation and that turned out to be a mistake. Oops. Apparently a passing ship failed to answer when hailed and a warning shot was fired. Thankfully the ship was not hit and no one was hurt.
The fort is currently the home of the Grey Point Fort Amateur Radios Society, and this is reflected in the huge collection of communications equipment and the expert knowledge of communications of the volunteers.
I love this little museum. It is not large enough to be exhausting and it has a truly unique collection. It is also a beautiful place to picnic and enjoy the outdoors. The best part of the museum by far though is the staff. They are all volunteers and their enthusiasm for what they do is apparent. My boys have both taken an interest in learning Morse Code. We are building Morse code transmitters today, and both came home from their first visit gushing about a wonderful volunteer who let them try on uniforms and gas masks and was kind enough to answer all of their questions and explain all of the equipment to them. He even taught them a bit of Morse code to get them started. The military vehicles exhibition was absolutely brilliant and it was one of the best days out we've had in years.
My oldest son's opinion ( age 8):
I have been to Grey Point twice. The first time I went we were the only visitors and the man who ran it showed us how to send signals in Morse code. The next time there was a big military vehicle exhibition
My favourite things about the fort on a normal day are being able to try on military clothes and gas masks, do the Morse code with the machine that makes beeps and see the machine gun. I also like the big canon guns. Grey point Fort is nice place for hiking or nature walks too. We found blue butterflies, a grey ant, a huge beetle. There are also some wildflowers and different birds. There are picnic tables as well and you can see the beach and coastal path below the fort. the man who taught us to use Morse code was very nice and fun to talk to.
The fort was even more fun when they had the military vehicles day. It has all sorts of things besides vehicles as well. There were army tents and a man was making tea on a small army stove. There were lots of men in army uniforms. My brother and I had our pictures taken in an American army jeep. We got to talk to lots of people about the vehicles and the equipment. The very best part was getting to hold the guns and get our pictures taken with them. There was a sniper rifle, a pistol and a M1 carbine. I liked the M1 carbine the best, but I liked all of the guns.
I also liked getting dressed up to go to this. My brother and I dressed as soldiers, and many of the other boys did too. We brought our own airsoft guns, but we weren't allowed to bring ammo. It was fun sitting around the camps with everyone dressed like army guys and playing with guns.
My youngest son's opinion ( age 4):
The best part was sitting in the American jeep and pretending to shoot people with the guns. I liked the Morse code too.
If you need further information on the fort, directions etc.. I would suggest visiting their website:
http:// www.greypointfort.magix.net/ public/ index.htm
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