|With a dramatic seascape and a backdrop of drumlins and hills, steeped in industrial and strong cultural heritage, Ards Borough is situated on the Eastern coast of Northern Ireland and contains significant and formal Areas of outstanding natural Beauty and Areas of special Scientific Interest. |
The dramatic Irish Sea and Strangford Lough coast line is one of the longest in Northern Ireland, sheltering beautiful coastal villages, superb flora and fauna and the largest Brent Geese migration from Canada anywhere in the world.
Strangford Lough is a large (150km²) shallow sea lough situated on the east coast of County Down, Northern Ireland. The Lough's northern tip is only about 6 km from the outskirts of Belfast.
About a third of the Lough is inter-tidal - best seen from the huge expanses of sand-flats exposed at the northern end at low tide. At high tide this area is covered in shallow water.
The southern entrance to the Lough is a deep channel about 8km long, called the Narrows. From Portaferry across the Narrows to Strangford is just 0.5km. The currents in between are extremely strong and fast
The Lough, although carefully monitored for its environmental fragility, offers an ideal location for nautical sports such as sailing, canoeing, scuba diving or surfing. It is in essence a nautical and maritime paradise and is regarded as a jewel in the crown of Northern Ireland’s seascape.
The Strangford Lough Canoe Trail provides 80 square nautical miles of paddling paradise. One of the United Kingdom’s most scenic areas, it is a canoeist’s dream come true. From its many picturesque islands to its abundance of wildlife including curious seals, it is somewhere that can be enjoyed by canoeists of all abilities. Salt Island owned by The National Trust is one of the eight designated Access Points on the trail.
It is argued by many that the Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) has created a wonderful yet sustainable canoe trail to last, this being the fifth following on from trails developed on Lough Erne, River Blackwater, Lower Bann and Lough Neagh.
Many sailing clubs are to be found on the coast of Strangford Lough, Newtownards Sailing Club offers sailing and wind surfing facilities and has also developed a programme for sailors with disabilities. Portaferry Sailing Club has recently been fully renovated to offer world class facilities for sailing activities and Kircubbin Sailing Club boasts a dramatic backdrop for sailing of all skills levels.
The Strangford Lough Management Advisory Committee is charged with managing, developing and protecting the Lough. Over a number of years, it has developed a development strategy for the Lough in partnership with diverse stakeholders. Some of the recommendations include the sustainable development of tourism and sports activities as means of further developing the economy of this very special area.
At the southern end of the Ards Peninsula, in Portaferry, you will also find Exploris, Northern Ireland’s Aquarium. The Aquarium celebrated its 20th anniversary and it represents a very important environmental, tourism and educational resource for the Lough, the Peninsula and the rest of Northern Ireland and Ireland’s East Coast.
Many creative businesses in arts, crafts and other sectors have made their homes in Ards – the beauty of the location, the warmth of the people and the breathtaking natural resources combine to make all those visiting want to come and stay.