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Strangford Lough

Portaferry, Co. Down

Location Guide

Strangford Lough is in County Down, Northern Ireland, separated from the Irish Sea by the Ards Peninsula and just 13 miles from Belfast. It is a popular tourist attraction noted for its fishing and the picturesque villages and townships which border its waters. It is a sea lough, the largest inlet in the UK and in the island of Ireland as a whole, covering 150 kmē and 350 million litres of water flow in and out twice a day. Almost totally landlocked, it is approached from the Irish Sea through the 8km long fast-running tidal narrows, which open out into more gentle waters where there are 70 islands. Countless tidal rocky outcrops called pladdies litter the lough and mudflats, along with marshes, rocks, bays and headlands.

Folklore has it that there are 365 islands in the lough, once for every day of the year!

Strangford Lough is a conservation area and has an abundance of flora and fauna. It is an important winter migration destination for many wading and sea birds. Animals commonly found here include common seals, basking sharks and Brent Geese. Three quarters of the world population of Pale Bellied Brent Geese winter in the lough. In all over 2000 marine animals and plants have been recorded in and around it.

You can see both Common Seals and Grey Seals at the lough. It is one of the most important breeding sites in Ireland for common seals who give birth in June and July. There are fewer Grey Seals seen here but when they about to give birth they do so on the rocky haul-outs close to shore between September and November and remain on land for 3-4 weeks whilst weaning their pups.


Being a place of natural beauty makes it a popular place with locals and tourists who put it to great use. Some of these include:-

  • Being a national highway (Portaferry-Strangford ferry)

  • For water activities such as sailing, kayaking, bird watching, diving and more.

  • At Exploris Aquarium - you can learn more about the lough and its wildlife.

  • Birdwatching - including 20,000 light bellied Brent Geese who return each autumn after travelling 3,000 miles from the Arctic circle.

  • Bird Island which you can see from a boat trip is home to 400 pairs of cormorants.

  • Walking

At the southern end of the loch there is Killard Point Nature Reserve which during the spring gives fantastic displays for flora, including the bright yellow Kidney Vetch and the Frog Orchid.

The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust of Castle Espie is situated on its shores.

Best Times to Visit:  June for Flowers, July and August for butterflies at Killard Point, October for Brent Geese.

Location: Strangford Lough, nr Portaferry, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

Grid Reference: NW669175 Ceremonial County: Co. Down

Map Link: Multimap

Aerial photo:

Getting there: Located 13 miles from Belfast - To reach Castle Espie by car, take the A22 from Belfast to Comber.  For Killard Point which is situated to the south of Strangford Lough north of Ballyhornan.

Access: Varies depending on what point you access from the many available
Website: Own
Other Useful Websites: BBC      Wiki
Email: uslwcw@smtp.ntrust.org.uk
Address: 78 Ballydrain Road, Comber, Northern Ireland.
Postcode: BT23 6E Telephone: 028 9187 4146 - Castle Espie
Opening Times: All year round.

Charges: Free access to main lough, charges apply for activities and nature centres etc

Nearby Locations: Castle Espie
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By: Tracey Park Section: Birds Key:
Page Ref: strangford_lough Topic: Wildlife Last Updated: 05/2009

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