Looking at the map of County Down, the eye is naturally drawn to a large body of water to the south-east of Belfast. This is Strangford Lough, a large sea loch, and the largest inlet in the British Isles. At the southern edge of the mouth of the Lough is a peninsula called Killard Point, which includes the Killard National Nature Reserve. The reserve is reachable from Ballyhornan, a village to the south, via the Lecale Way from which a lane branches off to the right.
The reserve is rich in both flora, bird life and marine life. The flora includes wild orchids and an array of other wild flowers, while birdwatchers will see skylarks flitting around in the sky above, and other birds such as terns and sand martins. The crystal clear waters off the reserve’s sandy bays are home to seals and starfish. The wild orchids are best seen in June and July. During World War II RAF Bishops Court was located just outside Ballyhornan, and Killard Point became an outpost of the airfield when radars and height finders were installed there. Little remains of these facilities today, as the area was returned to a greenfield site.
About half a kilometre out to sea at Bendberg Bay is Gun’s Island, so named because a French ship called the Amity, which was carrying arms for the 1798 Irish Rebellion, was wrecked just north of the island. Only one crew member survived. On the seaward side of Gun’s Island there are colonies of breeding gulls, cormorants, guillemots and kittiwakes.
|Bendberg Bay. Photo by Michael Diamond, via Wikimedia Commons|