Things to do at Strangford Lough and beyond
Explore the largest sea lough in the British Isles, studded with islands and home to a variety of rare wildlife. Head out for a coastal walk, wander through woodland, or ramble across farmland to soak up dramatic views and see fairy-tale castles. Discover the local towns and villages steeped in history, where you can pick up an antique, visit the art galleries, or treat yourself in the cafés.
Head out for a walk
Pull on your walking boots and stride out for a scenic walk around the largest sea lough in the British Isles. With miles of footpaths, there are lots of places to explore along this island-studded coastline.
- Ballymacormick Point
- A lovely coastal walk. Leave the car in Groomsport and follow the road down the side of the green, before veering left and following the path along this protected coastline to Ballyholme Bay.
- Killynether Wood
- A great woodland trek with very steep hills and rewarding views. Leave the car in the car park off the Scrabo Road and follow the woodland path. This is a looped path. Killynether Wood is managed by NIEA under lease from the National Trust.
- A brisk coastal walk. Put ‘Orlock Point’ into Google Maps – it’s between Donaghadee and Groomsport. Park the car in the layby and you’ll see the wooden gate with the National Trust sign. You can follow the coastal path to Groomsport.
- Nugent’s Wood
- A scenic woodland walk in Portaferry. Park your car near the Aquarium, walk down towards the seafront, turn right and the entrance to the woodland is behind a stone wall at the end of the row of houses.
- Kearney coastal path
- A rugged coastline walk. Park in the Kearney village car park – please take care to respect the space of the residents. You can follow the path out of the village and along the coastline.
- A woodland walk on Strangford Lough. Drive down towards Nendrum Monastic Site. Islandreagh is just before Nendrum, serviced by a small car park with a National Trust sign. You can walk along the shore, or through the mixed woodland.
- A pleasant farmland walk with fantastic views. Head south from Portaferry along the Bar Hall Road. There’s a small car park on the right-hand side at the end of a long farm lane. Please respect the privacy of the local residents. From the car park, head through the gate and you will find a long walk through farmland to a former Second World War lookout point.
- Gibbs Island
- An island adventure with spectacular views. This route is normally accessible via a short causeway, except during very high tides. Keep an eye on the water and check high tide times before you go. Drive past Delamont Country Park and turn left down Island Road. Park at the bottom of the road, then walk through the pillars, across the causeway and onto the island.
- Lowry's Wood
- The wood is relatively young and was planted in 2011/12 by National Trust staff, volunteers and local community groups, on what was formerly an intensively managed field. It is named in memory of the gentleman who left the farmland at Orlock to the National Trust and is also one of the Woodland Trust’s Jubilee Woods. The wood covers 3.5ha and comprises a lovely mix of native species. Lowry's Wood is situated along the A2 between Groomsport and Donaghadee. Follow the circular path to explore the wood.
Picnic with a view
If you don’t fancy a walk, you could always enjoy a car picnic. There are lots of little car parks around the Ards Peninsula that have beautiful views. Pack a flask and sandwiches, put the window down and enjoy some brisk fresh air.
Spot rare wildlife
Strangford Lough is one of only three designated Marine Nature Reserves in the United Kingdom. It's a special place of national importance for nature conservation with a wealth of wildlife unrivalled in Europe. Over 2,000 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.
Explore the islands by kayak or canoe
The many islands we care for are perfect for canoeing or kayaking to. On Taggart Island you get a feel for what it must have been like to live and farm here hundreds of years ago. Meanwhile on Chapel Island you can discover archaeological remains including Mesolithic middens, an early Christian church and historic fish traps.
Explore the local towns and villages
Strangford Lough is surrounded by many unique little towns and villages that are steeped in history and waiting to be discovered.
- Discover this popular antiques centre which has several antiques specialists in the village as well as some interesting Georgian and Victorian buildings. The village derives its name from a Cistercian abbey-monastery still standing to the north of the village, dating from 1193.
- This small village is best known for its 12th-century castle with a riot of turrets and battlements which rise like a fairy tale vision. The castle is a private residence and is said to be the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland, home to the Hamilton family since the 17th century.
- Newtownards is overlooked by the 100-foot-high Scrabo Tower, built as a memorial to Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry in recognition of his concern for the plight of his tenants during the great potato famine. Visit the exhibitions inside the tower or over at the Somme Heritage Centre. Just outside Newtownards stands Mount Stewart, the 18th-century home of the Londonderry family. Cared for by the National Trust, you can step inside the house to see its historic collection and explore the world-class gardens and demesne – all 98 acres of it. You can also stop by Ark Open Farm, which is home to rare and endangered species of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry, many of which are no longer seen in Ireland today.
- Comber is most famous for being the birthplace of the Titanic ship builder Thomas Andrews, who died in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Today you can enjoy the town’s many cafés, art galleries and shops.
- A small town near the Narrows at the entrance to Strangford Lough, Portaferry is well known for the annual Galway Hookers Regatta. You can visit the Aquarium, take a stroll along the marina or hop on the ferry across to Strangford, less than one mile away.
- This small village at the mouth of Strangford Lough has a striking 16th-century castle near to the harbour.
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.
Strangford Lough is one of only three Marine Nature Reserves in the UK and home to a huge variety of wildlife. Here’s what to look out for and where to explore on your next visit.
Grab your kit and explore the largest sea lough in the British Isles. Soak up unique views, spot marine wildlife and see the many islands dotted along this part of the coast.
Discover the volunteering opportunities available at Strangford Lough, and how you can get involved.