Strangford Lough is a large sea inlet with fast-flowing narrows at its mouth. It borders the Lecale Coast, which together have been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Located on the Lecale peninsula in County Down, Northern Ireland, the AONB covers 31 km2 (~12 mi2) with varied landscape including mountains, hills, marshlands, sandy beaches and rocky bays.
Strangford Lough has been designated as a marine nature reserve – it is an important destination for migratory birds in winter. Three quarters of the world’s Pale Bellied Brent Geese gather here to winter at the Lough. Marine life includes common seals and basking sharks. In Lecale, visitors may spot rare red squirrels. Its scrub and grassland are important nesting areas for birds including linnets, wrens and stonechats.
The lough and rivers that flow into it provide sea and freshwater angling. As this is a conservation area, check locally if a licence is required. Boating is popular, including canoeing, kayaking and the use of powerboats. Windsurfing and scuba diving are also available.
On dry land, the Lecale Way is one of Northern Ireland’s nine way-marked trails and runs from Strangford Lough to Newcastle along Lecale’s rocky coastline. Covering 50 km (~31 mi), there are great views not only of the lough but also of the Mourne Mountains and Murlough Bay. Other activities include bird-watching, cycling and horse-riding.