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Wildlife at Strangford Lough

A grey seal bobbing in the sea at Godrevy
Spot Grey and Harbour seals on the Lough | © National Trust Images/Nick Upton

Strangford Lough is one of only three designated Marine Nature Reserves in the United Kingdom and home to a variety of wildlife unrivalled in Europe. Spot marine animals including porpoises, seals, and otters. Look up to watch flocks of sea birds arriving to nest, or head inland to glimpse red squirrels, find rare flora and fauna.

What you can see in Spring from March - May

  • Arrival of spring migrants from Africa and further afield
  • Bluebells in Nugent’s Wood
  • Irish hare at Ballyquintin
  • Nesting herons
  • Rookery at Gibbs Island
  • Breeding waterfowl on islands across Strangford Lough
  • Breeding tree sparrow and yellowhammer at Ballyquintin
Brown Hare in the wild
Spot brown and Irish hares around East Down | © National Trust Images/Rob Coleman

Marine life to look out for

There are over 2,000 different types of marine creatures living in Strangford Lough. If you venture down to the shore at low tide, you will be amazed at the diversity of life you can discover lurking in the rock pools. Some of the best shorelines to explore include Ballyhenry Island and Kearney Village.

Marine mammals at Strangford Lough

Both common and grey seals can be seen here all year round. The best places to spot them are at Cloughy Rocks and Granagh Bay; on either side of the entrance to the lough. Other marine mammals to keep an eye out for are porpoises and otters. Previously, a humpback whale has even been spotted swimming through the Narrows at Portaferry.

Large mature trees with overhanging branches creating a tunnel on a woodland pathway through Nugent's Wood, County Down.
Woodland tunnel at Nugent's Wood | © National Trust Images/David Armstrong

Exploring the woodland

We care for a number of interesting woodlands around the shores of the lough. Killynether, below Scrabo Tower, has a terrific display of woodland flowers every spring. Nugent’s Wood at Portaferry is a mixed woodland on the shores of Strangford Lough and one of the last refuges for the native red squirrel.

There’s a 1.5-mile path through the 13-hectare woodland with views across Strangford Lough to the Castle Ward Estate. New seating and sculptures have been installed – pull on your wellies, get exploring and see how many of the carvings of woodland and magical creatures you can find.

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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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.

Worn steps winding up the side of a hill overlooking the coast at Orlock Point, County Down.

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 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.

Canoeing and kayaking at Strangford Lough 

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.

Red squirrel sitting on a mossy rock eating a nut

Red squirrel spotting tips 

Find out how to spot red squirrels, the best times to see them and how to tell them apart from grey squirrels.

Young grey seals on the beach at Horsey, Norfolk

Seal-spotting guidance 

Take a look at our guidelines for responsible seal spotting and top tips for seal watching.