Strangford Lough & Ballyhenry Island

Duration: 1.5 Hours

Starting Point: Outside the Portaferry Hotel, 10 The Strand, Portaferry BT22 1PE

Level Of Difficulty: Easy

A stunning coastal walk along the shore of Strangford Lough, a visit to this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a must for nature lovers. At low tide walk onto Ballyhenry Island, listening to unique stories of the place and its people.

Drink in the views over the Lough to Strangford village; historic Castle Ward (Game of Thrones) and Audleys Castle to the sounds of the area’s abundant bird population. Read More

  • Strangford Lough is one of Northern Ireland’s greatest attractions and one of Europe’s most important wildlife sites. It is 150 square km in area and over 30 km in length.


  • It’s Celtic name Cuan means ‘the quiet lough’ at other times it is turbulent and its Viking name, Strangford meaning strong fjord is a more appropriate description. According to legend there are 365 islands in the lough, one for every day of the year.


  • Teeming with wildlife, the Lough is one of the best bird watching locations in the country. It is recognised globally as a Ramsar site, a designation given to wetlands of international importance for large numbers of breeding or over-wintering birds. Around 70,000 birds come to the lough each year. Birds to look out for include Black Guillemot, Grey Heron, and the Cormorant and Shag.


  • Evidence of early settlement around the lough dates back to around 7,000BC when hunters and gatherers travelled around the area. The Lough was the main means of travel as the landscape was densely forested at that time.


  • There are 21 tower houses in the Strangford Lough area of which 16 are on the shores of the lough.


  • Sam Hanna Bell, perhaps more than anyone, captured the life of folk living around the Lough. His most famous work is December Bride (1951) which was made into a memorable 1990 film, much of it based on Taggart island near Killyleagh and also at Salt Water Bridge.


  • St Patrick arrived in Strangford Lough in 432AD and probably made his way up the little Slaney river to Saul near Downpatrick. St Cooey from Portaferry was a disciple of St Patrick. Patrick died in 493 and is buried beside Downpatrick Cathedral, in a grave with the remains of St Brigid and St Columba.


  • Sites associated with Game of Thrones are found around Strangford Lough and include Castle Ward and Audley’s Castle.

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