I first discovered Killynether Wood in December, 2007.
Killynether Wood lies on a hill overlooked by Scrabo Tower, that august landmark and memorial to the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry.
The nearest town is Newtownards in County Down; the Woods are roughly between Comber and Newtownards.
I had no idea, until I was told, that there used to be a large country house here, called Killynether House.
Killynether was the second property acquired by the National Trust since it became established in Northern Ireland
The owner in 1937 was Jessie Helen Weir ( b 1856).
She donated her property that year, including 42 acres of mixed woodland and an endowment of £2,000, to the Trust.
I believe that the house was built in 1858.
In 1907 Killynether House was described in the street directory as Killynether Castle, the owner being Arthur James Weir (b 1863); though in a directory of 1886 the occupier was none other than James Brownlow, a local magistrate; and shortly thereafter Brownlow resigned as Lord Londonderry's land agent.
Andrew Cowan, another local magistrate, also occupied Killynether at one stage.
Killynether and the surrounding land formed part of the Londonderry Estates; and we also know that James Brownlow was Lord Londonderry's land agent in 1886; and that there was a Cowan Inheritance in the 17th century.
This was a Victorian, Tudor-Gothic mansion with a mullioned roof and various towers.
The house was already being used as a youth hostel in 1937, so the Trust agreed that the YHA tenancy should continue.
At the start of the Second World War, the House and grounds were requisitioned by the Army; and the tenure of the Estate, including those austere but functional Nissen huts, was not actually released by the Ministry of Defence till the 31st May, 1949.
The concrete bases of the huts remained, despite considerable pleas from the Trust to the MoD about this.
The NI committee of the National Trust was concerned that the property should be utilized to its full potential following the army's departure, so an umbrella group representing the YHA, Federation of Boys' Clubs, Civil Service Social Service Society and National Council of YMCAs was formed and the Trust granted them a short lease for their activities.
In June, 1947, Killynether House was still found to be in reasonably good condition.
About five years later, in 1952, the youth hostel grouping's tenure expired, though the YHA was permitted to remain until November, 1953.
Regrettably, dry rot had begun to take hold of the house; nevertheless some remedial repairs were undertaken.
At this stage the Trust wished to find suitable private tenants for the property though, sadly, during a period when the house was empty, it succumbed to inevitable vandalism.
Eventually a tenant was found in September, 1955.
The perennial problems associated with dry rot persisted and Killynether House became uninhabitable to such an extent that, by 1966, the matter came to a head and the National Trust felt that regrettably they had no option other than to demolish the old house.
First published in May, 2009.