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The town of Holywood is a welcoming gateway to North Down, located just off the main Belfast to Bangor carriageway. Visitors will be impressed by the variety of unique and specialist shops. A cluster of historical and welcoming pubs is complemented by award-winning restaurants, cafes, delicatessens and wine bars. Its essentially Victorian character is well preserved with many of its newer businesses such as public relations, design and media consultancies operating in tastefully renovated old buildings.
Dominating the centre of the town is Ireland's only remaining Maypole, which dates back to 1700. An annual May Day Fair is held with market stalls, entertainment and traditional dances by local children around the Maypole.
During its annual Jazz and Blues Festival in June, a colourful New Orleans style band parades along High Street playing the jazz classic "When the Saints Go Marching In". This is highly appropriate as Holywood's foundations were laid by Saint Laiseran who founded an Abbey in the woods in AD620. His Celtic Abbey was later destroyed by Norman invaders and replaced by Holywood Priory built about 1190 as a daughter house of Bangor Abbey. From about 1615 to 1844 it was the Parish Church and the small tower dates from 1800. The Normans also built the Motte (off Church Road), one of a string of defensive mounds stretching the length of County Down from Holywood to Newry.
Holywood Library is housed in an impressive and imposing building of historic interest which was completely refurbished in 1992. It was built as Sullivan National School in 1862 on the site of an old Blacksmith's forge. The money was provided by Dr. Robert Sullivan who was born in Holywood in 1800 and had a distinguished academic career. Facilities include a lending and reference library, reading and study areas, and Conference Rooms with kitchen facilities. Other services range from children and teenage reference collections, CD Roms, photocopying and fax facilities, career information, health care and much more. Facilities for the disabled include ramped front and rear entrances, lift, parking and toilets.
The "Johnny the Jig" bronze statue can be seen outside the children's playground in the centre of the town. Created by the eminent Holywood sculptress Rosamund Praegar in the 1950's, it commemorates a boy killed on the roads and preaches the sanctity of children’s lives.
Several wooded parks surround Holywood and offer spectacular panoramic views of the City of Belfast and across the Lough to Carrickfergus. Seapark in particular comprises bowling greens, soccer pitches, tennis courts and a putting green. Landscaped areas and a children's playground area good starting point for the North Down Coastal Path, which runs 16 miles to Portavogie.
Sporting facilities include Holywood Yacht Club and two Golf Clubs, while the Queen's Hall acts as a venue for concerts and community events.