Helen’s Bay railway station which was originally called Clandeboye, is undoubtedly among the finest in Northern Ireland. The station was built at the expense of the First Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, and legend has it that he himself designed it in the Scottish baronial style, with crow-stepped gables, arrow slits, coats of arms and turrets. The gables feature an inset panel bearing the Dufferin and Ava initials surmounted by a coronet. His nephew, Harold Nicolson, described the station as “one of the most fantastic in the United Kingdom”.
The station was completed in time for the opening of the railway from the Holywood to Bangor on 18 May 1865. The development of Helen’s Bay as a village was helped by the Railway company’s offer to all new residents of a free season ticket for two years.
Lord Dufferin’s party would arrive at the station down the Carriage Drive. They entered via their own staircase to a magnificent private sitting room furnished with deep red upholstered armchairs, with blue cushions embroidered with a coronet. At one time, there was a stationmaster and four-staff. A fire was always blazing in the ticket office, with a separate ladies waiting room.
By Robin Masefield