Strangford Lough

Strangford Lough is a natural sea lough 20 miles long by 5 miles wide, with a 3 metre tidal range. It is located on the eastern coast of Northern Ireland. The lough provides the challenges of coastal sailing, while encouraging exploration and relaxed cruising around the shores and islands. The Strangford Lough Chart sheet number is: 2156.

Useful Weblinks for Notice to Mariners and Tidal Prediction Service.

Aids to Navigation have been installed in Strangford Lough in 2011, making a huge improvement to safety on the Lough and boosting efforts to increase water based recreation for tourism and sport.

Pilotage of the minor channels in the entrance – many hitherto uncharted rocks and many known ones revised shallower. The Irish Cruising Club consider these changes to be so significant that they have revised their Strangford Lough entrance Sailing Directions.

Heritage Afloat

We are not the first people to take to the water in Strangford Lough.  Evidence has been found of our ancestors living by the water’s edge for at least the last 9,000 years.

Strangford Lough Byelaws

Ban on anchoring in the Lough in depths of over 10 metres. (Adobe pdf (620kb))

Source –

Byelaws (Adobe pdf (620kb)) to restrict anchoring, mooring and diving in certain parts of Strangford Lough come into operation on 13 December 2012.

The Lough is a designated a Special Area of Conservation under European law (the Habitats Directive) due to its ecological importance. It is also a designated Marine Nature Reserve under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (NI) Order 1985 .

One of the primary reasons for designation was the presence of Modiolus modiolus (horse mussel) communities, which form biogenic reefs which are important to the unique ecological diversity of the Lough’s marine environment, but these have suffered substantial decline in recent years.  There is an obligation to ensure that this habitat is protected from further decline and restored to a favourable conservation status.  These byelaws are one of a number of management measures which aim to achieve this.

Aids to Navigation in Strangford Lough

New aids to navigation have been installed in Strangford Lough in 2011, making a huge improvement to safety on the Lough and boosting efforts to increase water based recreation for tourism and sport.

The Notice to Mariners 1949/2011 Chart 2156 Strangford Lough includes blocks showing new light-beacons, buoyage and amendments to recommended track.  Notices to Mariners OnLine.

Lights and marks at key points will guide vessels to the Lough’s main mooring areas and will appear on Admiralty Charts.

Any failures to the new Aids to Navigation should be reported to the Estates Management Department in Down District Council (028 4461 0868 or to:

The charts below are also available to view in more detail (Adobe pdf  2.6Mb).

aids-to-navigation-2011-strangford-north aids-to-navigation-2011-strangford-south

The work was funded by European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development via the Down Rural Area Partnership and by the Ards Borough and Down District Councils.  Both local authorities will manage the new system through the Commissioner of Irish Lights.

The system is based on recommendations from the former Strangford Lough Management Advisory Committee, now the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership who worked for over a decade along with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to develop the proposals and encourage the relevant statutory authorities to carry out the work.

Isabel Hood, Chairman of the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership, herself a keen sailor, said “Strangford Lough has the capacity to be a centre for international sailing events and these aids are the first steps towards that aim.”  She commended the efforts everyone who had over many years worked to develop a system that would be acceptable and workable.

Richard Newell from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said; “These new navigation marks will make a significant contribution to improving safety of navigation on the Lough.  It has taken a lot of effort over a number of years to get to this point and I want to thank all those who have put in so much time, commitment and especially finance to get us here.  With the use of the Lough increasing every year. I know this will make it a safer place for everyone to enjoy”

Gil Stevenson of the Association of Strangford Lough Yacht Clubs also welcomed the new system.  “Strangford Lough is a major yachting and boating centre in Northern Ireland, with 12 clubs located on its shores.  We have waited a long time for these important safety features, and now we look forward to both local and visiting sailors benefiting from them.
We are greatly appreciative of the expert help and advice brought to this project from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the Commissioners of Irish Lights, and the Crown Estate Commissioners, and we congratulate Ards Borough Council and Down District Council for bringing the project to completion.
I would like to express my special thanks to the Strangford Lough Management Advisory Committee and the staff of what is now the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership for the support and facilitation provided to the project over the years.”

The vessel ‘Cameron’ owned by Briggs Marine of Fife carried out the installation.  Nell McGill of Briggs Marine commented on the great co-operation his company had received from all concerned as they installed the aids.

Strangford Lough – pilotage of the minor channels in the entrance

Following a recent survey there are significant implications for pilotage of the minor channels in the entrance to Strangford Lough.

Admiralty Notices to Mariners No 5404 and 5428 of 2013 (Adobe pdf 32kb), based on surveys between Killough and Donaghadee, have some very surprising findings including many hitherto uncharted rocks and many known ones revised shallower.