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Canoeing and kayaking at Strangford Lough

A family kayaking on the shores of Strangford Lough, County Down. An adult and two children are in a kayak on the water, while other family members stand on the shore.
Kayaking on the shores of Strangford Lough | © National Trust Images/John Miller

The waters of Strangford Lough provide exceptional variety for canoeists to enjoy. Explore the largest sea lough in the British Isles to soak up unique views, spot marine wildlife and see the many islands dotted along this part of the coast.

Please be aware of strong currents

Known locally as ‘The Narrows’ in Portaferry, the fast-flowing waters at the entrance to the lough require a high level of expertise from more experienced paddlers who are looking for a challenge. Take care when approaching ‘The Routen Wheel’, a series of whirlpools, boils and swirling waters, caused by pinnacles of rock on the seabed. This area should be treated with extreme caution.

Discover Strangford Lough

One of the most relaxing places to paddle is the calm waters of Strangford Lough. The name translates roughly from its Irish origin as ‘sheltered haven’. Here you can discover countless routes to explore and see some of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful and inspiring scenery.

Grab your kit and discover the best of the lough on the Strangford Lough Canoe Trail (

A view over the water at Strangford Lough, County Down, from Mount Stewart, with the Mourne Mountains just visible in the distance.
View across Strangford Lough towards the Mourne Mountains | © National Trust Images / John Miller

Explore the islands

One of the greatest draws to this area are the many islands we care for, where you can experience a secluded and peaceful world away from everyday life.

  • Taggart Island: Get a feel of what it must have been like to live and farm here hundreds of years ago.
  • The Boretree Islands: Spot grey and common seals basking.
  • Darragh: Catch a glimpse of short eared owls.
  • Chapel Island: Discover archaeological remains including Mesolithic middens, an early Christian church and historic fish traps.

Please note:

Unfortunately the Salt Island Bothy is currently closed. We will update the website when the bothy is usable again.

We do not encourage visitors to land on islands used by seals for haul outs, by breeding seabirds or where there are grazing cattle.

Please keep your distance when passing islands where there is obvious bird activity.

The Mountains of Mourne seen from across Strangford Lough, County Down, with Canada geese on the tidal flats.
The Mountains of Mourne seen from across Strangford Lough | © National Trust Images/Alex Ramsay

Spot marine wildlife

Strangford Lough is internationally renowned for its diversity of habitats and species. Over 200 marine animal and plant species have been found here and many are unique to the area. Look out for common and grey seals, Arctic terns, porpoises and more.

A view looking from Portaferry Road, across the rippled sandy shore of Strangford Lough, County Down. Scrabo Tower is just visible atop a hill in the far distance beyond the lough.

Discover more at Strangford Lough

Find out how to get to Strangford Lough, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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Things to do at Strangford Lough and beyond 

Explore the largest sea lough in the British Isles, home to a variety of rare wildlife. Head out for walk, discover the local towns and villages and soak up dramatic views.

A view over the water of Strangford Lough, County Down, towards a distant hill with a tower just visible on top of it.

History of Strangford Lough 

Strangford Lough is steeped in history spanning back thousands of years. Find out about the Mesolithic hunter gatherers, Vikings and Norman invaders who all left their mark here.

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