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Strangford Lough Canoe Trail Launched

Salt Island on Strangford Lough was a hive of activity on Wednesday 2nd July as the Strangford Lough Canoe Trail was officially launched.

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) have left the best canoe trail to last, this being the fifth following on from trails developed on Lough Erne, River Blackwater, Lower Bann and Lough Neagh.

The official launch on Salt Island was certainly one with a difference with dignitaries and guests being transferred to the island by boat and then onwards by canoe accompanied by qualified instructors from Clearsky Adventure Centre, providing the exciting opportunity to sample the Strangford Lough Canoe Trail first hand.

Guests were also welcomed inside Northern Ireland’s first ever Bothy which was also opened as part of the launch. The Bothy also owned by The National Trust has been restored from the original cottage dwelling and now offers basic shelter (for up to 12 people) with running water, wood burning stove, and toilets. There are also two official camping areas on the island – one within the Bothy grounds and one on the opposite side of the island.

"Many of The National Trust's properties are popular for recreational activities including Strangford Lough. It's wonderful to restore Northern Ireland's first Bothy and to work with partners on providing access to an exciting canoe trail” Jill Montgomery, Access & Recreation Officer

On officially opening the canoe trail and Bothy, Liam McKibben, Director of Rural Policy, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) said: “As County Down’s tourism infrastructure continues to develop there are tremendous opportunities for many innovative and inspiring projects like this. The trail will be a magnet to canoeists from both the local community and those from further afield. This project has offered DARD the opportunity to work in partnership with CAAN and other key stakeholders from the area to make a positive contribution to the environment, much needed recreational facilities and tourism development."

Strangford Lough has always been a popular venue for canoeing, however the official Strangford Lough Canoe Trail accompanied with interpretation panels, a detailed waterproof guide (available from Tourist Information Centres) and interactive information on now provides a fantastic activity tourism product for the area. It is assured to attract tourists and increase interest in canoeing within the local area.

“The Strangford Lough Canoe Trail provides a product that can be promoted internationally within our CANOE NI brand whilst also encouraging responsible use of Strangford Lough and the surrounding countryside. The Salt Island Bothy in particular will create a magnificent attraction, it is commendable that The National Trust are committed to provide and maintain this facility for the outdoor recreation community” added Dr Caro-lynne Ferris, Director CAAN.

The Canoe Trails have been developed by CAAN and the Canoe Association for Northern Ireland (CANI). The quality of the canoe trails has been proven with the Lough Erne Canoe Trail recently winning the Innovation Category at the British Urban Regeneration Association Waterways Renaissance Awards becoming the first Northern Irish based project ever to receive such recognition.

For more information, click here.

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