Strangford Lough

Strangford Lough

Strangford Lough, inlet of the Irish Sea, 17 mi (27 km) long and 4 mi (6.4 km) wide, between Ards and Down dists., E Northern Ireland, entered through a 5-mi (8-km) strait. One of the largest of the inlet's many small islands is Mahee island, which is the site of ancient monastic ruins.

Strangford Lough (describing the fast-flowing narrows; and Loch Cuan in Irish meaning the calm lough describing the gentle waters of the mud flats) is a lough in County Down, Northern Ireland, separated from the Irish Sea by the Ards Peninsula. It is a popular tourist attraction noted for its fishing and the picturesque villages and townships which border its waters. These include Portaferry on the Ards Peninsula, which is connected to Strangford across the lough by a car ferry.

The island studded sea lough is the largest inlet in the United Kingdom and in the island of Ireland as a whole, covering 150 km². Almost totally landlocked, the lough is approached from the Irish Sea through the eight kilometre long fast-running tidal narrows, which open out into more gentle waters where there are 70 islands. Countless tidal rocky outcrops called pladdies litter the lough and mudflats, along with marshes, rocks, bays and headlands. The lough is a conservation area and its abundant wildlife recognised internationally for its importance.

Flora and Fauna


  • A brown seaweed named Sargassum muticum, originally from the Pacific (Japan) was discovered on the 15th March 1995 in Strangford Lough at Paddy's Point. The plants were well established on mesh bags containing oysters. The bags had been put out in 1987 containing Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) imported from Guernsey. This Sargassum is known to be a highly invasive species.
  • Maerl is a calcareous deposit, in the main, of two species, of calcareous algae Phymatolithon calcareum and Lithothamnion glaciale which form free-living beds of unattached, branched corallines, living or dead, in Strangford Lough.


Strangford Lough is an important winter migration destination for many wading and sea birds. Animals commonly found in the lough include common seals, basking sharks and Brent Geese. Three quarters of the world population of Pale Bellied Brent Geese winter in the lough.

Tidal Electricity

In 2007 Strangford Lough became home to the birth of a new industry as the world's first commercial tidal power station was installed in the narrrows. The 1.2 megawatt underwater tidal electricity generator, part of Northern Ireland's Environment and Renewable Energy Fund scheme, takes advantage of the fast tidal flow in the lough which can be up to 4 m/s. Although the generator is powerful enough to power up to a thousand homes, the turbine has a minimal environmental impact, as it is almost entirely submerged, and the rotors turn slowly enough that they pose no danger to wildlife.

See also


Further reading

  • Boaden, P.J.S., O'Connor, R.J. and Seed, R. 1975. The composition and zonation of a Fucus serratus community in Strangford Lough, Co. Down. J. exp. Biol. Ecol. 17: 111 - 136.

External links

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