Call To Celebrate Strangford Lough

WHETHER you are a salty seadog or likely landlubber, you have been called to celebrate Strangford Lough festival coming soon. The Portaferry-based Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership is getting in ship-shape for the much anticipated ‘Celebrate Strangford Lough Festival’, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund,  which takes place 20-22nd May 2011. With preparations already well underway, the ‘Celebrate Strangford Festival’ programme is a key focus for Lough Lively 2011 and is bursting with intriguing events designed to turn landlubbers into seadogs…. and vice versa! Imagine the Narrows of Strangford Lough as you have never seen it before – a dramatic Tall Ship with huge white sails billowing in the breeze, with a small craft regatta bobbing all around and the shore buzzing with people, laughter and a thrilling range of activities. [caption id="attachment_23672" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Strangford Lough will come alive from 20-22nd with a festival for everyone to enjoy. Pictured is the French tall ship, the Antigua. "][/caption] Expect a spectacular ‘wow-factor’ at the launch on  Friday  20th May as the majestic Antigua sails into Strangford Lough, all the way from Amsterdam, giving aspiring sailors of all ages the opportunity to navigate the lough in true maritime style. Those who step aboard this beautiful Barquentine vessel will enjoy a once in a lifetime cruise under the canvas of a true Tall Ship. From sea safaris, dramatic air sea rescues, have-a-go canoeing and diving to moth mornings, literary and archeology trails, shore seaweed rambles and much more, Celebrate Strangford Lough will bring exciting family entertainment and education together in the best possible way. Caroline Nolan from the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership, who oversees the Festival, hopes the event will inspire as well as entertain. Caroline said, “Undoubtedly it will be a great weekend of fun and entertainment, but on a deeper level it will play a very important role to nurture heritage, education and awareness amongst locals as well as visitors. “One of the overall aims of the Partnership is to protect the many stunning natural and historic treasures of the Strangford and Lecale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Partnership set out to create a unique and vibrant spectacle which will not only attract people to the region, but will also strengthen people’s connection with, and understanding of, the Lough and its beautiful surroundings. “With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Ards Borough Council, Down District Council, the National Trust and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, we have worked closely with all our 22 partnership member  organisations to bring together local yacht clubs, the air sea rescue service, Queen’s University in Portaferry, local artists, local business, local councils and many others for a spectacular weekend of events across the Narrows of Strangford Lough. [caption id="attachment_23676" align="alignright" width="400" caption="Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership is getting in ship-shape for the Celebrate Strangford Lough Festival which takes place 20-22nd May 2011. Pictured is Holywood girl, Sarah Rutherford showing us what good fun it will be at the have-a-go canoeing sessions on Strangford Lough during the festival"][/caption] “Less obvious perhaps but of no less importance to the region are the economic benefits which, research demonstrates, flow from attractions such as these.  The investment which we have made in securing the Antigua for Strangford will bring increased visitor figures over the weekend, with those visitors spending money in local shops, cafes, pubs, hotels and, of course, visiting other local attractions. Many of those who come specifically to see this wonderful ship in full sail will be inspired by our region and will return for additional visits at other times. “These are challenging times for those involved in tourism and hospitality and it is vital that we use the wonderful natural resource of Strangford Lough and Lecale to support the sector to the benefit of everyone in our region.  The beauty of the Lough and its environs has an economic value which, as this venture demonstrates, can be used without cost to the environment.  That is a win-win for all of us who already appreciate and love this fantastic region.” Stephanie Baine, also from the Strangford Lough Lecale Partnership added, “We hope to promote better public understanding of the Partnership’s work over the course of the festival. For example, our fascinating Underwater Wonders Live! event with the NIEA  is a unique way to learn more about what actually lies beneath Strangford Lough. We’ll take the public out by boat on the water to meet the inhabitants of the lough via a remote operated underwater camera. “What a great opportunity to ‘dive’ the lough’s hidden depths without getting wet! Not many people know there are over 2000 marine species in the lough and people will be amazed at the colour and beauty of what lies beneath, “ And Caroline Nolan also added, “We invite everyone to go online and discover more about the depth and breadth of our work and what’s happening at or find us on Facebook – you can even register to become a volunteer with us and really make a difference.” The Tall Ship Antigua will depart from Cook Street Quay, Portaferry and  boarding times are Friday 20th May:   6.30pm; Saturday 21st May,  11:00am &  3.30pm &  7.30pm;  and Sunday 22 May:  9:30am & 1. 00pm and tickets cost £23 per person and must be booked in advance. There will also be a special charity sailing on Sunday 22nd May 4 .30pm, tickets cost £25 per person and all proceeds go to Cancer Research. Tickets for the Antigua sailings and other events in the Celebrate Strangford Lough Festival can be obtained at the following Tourist Information Centres; Portaferry – Tel: 028 4272 9882; Ards – Tel: 028 91826846; Downpatrick – Tel: 028 44612233. Information and tickets are also available at Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership, Portaferry T. 028 427 29005 (Mon to Friay only). The full festival programme of events is available to download online at]]>