Wild camping on Salt Island, Strangford Lough

The south west corner of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland is strewn with beautiful islands and inlets with evocative names like Shark Island, Chapel Island and Brandy Bay. The lough is the largest inlet in Great Britain and Ireland, covering 80 square nautical miles and is a fantastic location for coastal packrafting.

I caught the ebb tide out towards Shark Island, then looped back round to Brandy Bay on the north side of Salt Island. Aside from a small copse on the south side of the island it's grassy, undulating and unihabited with the exception of a few marrooned sheep. Huge beds of what look like daffodils from afar ring the island, but on closer examination turn out to be yellow iris. 

The island is owned and managed by the National Trust who allow wild camping at Brandy Bay on the north side. I had the island to myself. It was a beautiful location to spend the night even if the weather closed in and the paddle back in the morning was overcast.

Strangford Lough has a well established and signposted Canoe Trail, however I was short of time so kept it short with a 5 km paddle out and 2.5 km paddle back to the car which I had parked in a lay by near the Quoile River Reserve. 


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The bothy on the island was once a cottage which fell into disrepair. In 2008 it was restored as part of the Strangford Lough Canoe trail but has unfortunately been subject to repeated vandalism and has now been closed for a while, whilst the National Trust repair it and work out how to manage it in the future. It has two sheltered barbecues built into the enclosing wall and an outhouse that is currently locked along with the bothy. The adjacent stretch of woods could possibly be used for hammock camping. 

The island was in pristine condition, with no litter or sign of damage from other visitors.

Well worth a visit!

Tim Clark