Strangford Lough Drive (St. Patrick's Route) - Newtownards
Strangford Lough drive takes visitors around the largest inlet in the British Isles, measuring 150 kilometres square. This large inlet is located in County Down in the north east of Northern Ireland and is a breath-taking sea lake. The area is almost completely landlocked except for the Narrows and was formed by Ice Age glaciers that carved out the valley and deposited the softly rolling drumlins that line the shore, creating an area of outstanding natural beauty.
It takes around an hour and a half to get from one end of the lough to the other. The Saint Patrick's Route is a linear driving route, the trail is well sign posted and takes in fifteen main Patrician or Christian Heritage sites, all having some relevance to his life, legacy or landscape. It is known as the burial place of Saint Patrick, his grave said to be on Cathedral Hill, in Downpatrick. It is a scenic and fascinating driving route, encompassing a gentle landscape and is a road less travelled. The area is sparsely populated and remains pretty much unspoilt however, visitors will come across unique little towns and pretty villages, estates and distinctive tower estates and many famous ecclesiastical sites.
There is a ferry to take you across the lough, it is an eight minute crossing, taking passengers from Portaferry to Strangford. The ferry has been operating here since 1180, and can accommodate about twenty cars.
The lough is renowned for its marine, plant and wildlife. There are in excess of two thousand species of marine life located in or around the lough. Migrating birds are drawn to the sand and mudflats to the north of the lough, they are exposed at low tide. The area is also home to exceptional wildlife.
The currents here are exceptionally strong and it is the only place in Ireland powered by tidal energy. Underwater turbines utilise the power of the water to provide Strangford villages's electricity.
The lough also contains the wreck of the Empire Tana, a cargo liner used in the Normandy landings that was brought here for salvage following World War II. It has subsequently broken into two, with the bow and stern poking out of the water in low tide, it is popular with divers, who will also encounter four-metre conger eels who reside here. The lough is most parts is less than ten metres deep.
Strangdord Lough also provides many amenities and is excellent for sailing, kayaking, fishing and nature walks.