As harbour gems go, Strangford twinkles brightly. The harbour may be on the modest side, but that’s exactly what works for it
Rows of quaint seafront houses adorned with flowers, plus plenty of chatty locals make for a warm welcome. There’s a calm here that gives you the feeling that you're the first sailor to discover it.
You’re not, of course, but St Patrick may well have felt the same when he arrived here on his second visit to Ireland around 432AD.
From what we know, The Cuan Hotel and its award-winning restaurant wasn’t around for Patrick's arrival. Should he have clapped eyes on their seafood platter, chances are he would have stuck around.
In a stroke of sailing serendipity, the port here sits on the lip of Strangford Lough and is a playground for water sports. Once you've explored the mainland, you can island-hop by boat to forested isles, great for lazy picnics.
To scope out the sailing at a port, you need to go to source. For the inside scoop on sailing in Strangford, we tracked down Honorary Secretary of the Strangford Sailing Club, Philip Sandford. Being, as Philip describes, “born and bred on the shores of the lough” there could be no better man to explain the attraction of sailing there.
“Strangford Lough is a large inland sea lough with 365 islands. Those islands mean endless areas to explore for anyone in a large or small craft.
"The other thing is that, due to the lough’s strong tidal influence, its history above AND below water makes it an area of special scientific interest.”
Several sailing clubs for all levels
According to Philip, beginners will find themselves well catered for at Strangford: “There are several sailing clubs at Strangford who all cater for learners. Being inland, the lough is protected from normal sea ‘swell’ and the worst of the weather. Whilst keeping a close eye on the tidal influences, it provides a safe and varying waterscape.”
Any special moments or anecdotes from all his time sailing there?
“Do you have a few hours? From winning races to late evening barbeques on the islands, to seeing killer whales, basking sharks, porpoises, and so on.
"But, to be honest, sailing on the lough is what you make it. You can have peace and tranquility or the company of hundreds of other lough users.”
For Philip, though, the real charm of sailing at Strangford is the intangible: “My favourite thing about sailing here has to be the lough’s ever changing personality.”
As a born and bred Strangford boy, he seems to know what he’s talking about.
Don't forget to drop your anchor with us in Ballycastle, Dun Laoghaire and Cobh ports, too.