The Quoile estuary is steeped in legends of Saint Patrick who landed in the area. Steamboat quay, Quoile quay and the timbers of a sailing ship are a reminder that the Quoile was once a busy port for nearby Downpatrick. A tidal barrier put across the estuary in 1957 created the freshwater lake present today and its rich variety of habitats. Oak and ash woodland is slowly developing on the higher, stony shores.
Take a stroll along the river’s edge and watch for otters and the flash of turquoise kingfisher hunting over the water. Use the comfortable bird-watching hide at Castle Island for close up views of waders, ducks and swans. The area is an excellent spot for bird watching as it attracts migrating wading birds in spring and autumn. In summer look for gadwall and graceful swans. In winter there are large flocks of colourful widgeon and tufted ducks. Take a break and enjoy the scenery at the picnic area near the Old Floodgates.
The best time to visit is April to September for breeding waterfowl, kingfishers and butterflies, October to March for wintering teal, widgeon and mallard and all year round for a peaceful walk along the water’s edge and a chance of spotting otters.
There is a superb visitor’s interpretation centre with toilets, picnic areas and a 1.5 mile riverside walk, with extensive car parking facilities on Quay road. The remainder of the reserve has been established as a wildlife sanctuary. A marvellous bird hide is located within the reserve on the Castle Island road. (The hide key is available from the visitor centre at weekends, if not open).
NB. This map is based on the postcode and so may not reflect the exact location.
Opening times:1st Oct 2011 – 31st Mar 2012 12noon – 4pm Sun only
1st Apr – 31st May 2012 1pm – 5pm Sat, Sun & Public hols only
1st Jun – 30th Sept 2012 10am – 5pm daily
1st Oct – 31st Oct 2012 1pm – 5pm Sat, Sun & Public hols only
1st Nov 2012 – 28th Feb 2013 12noon – 4pm Sun only
1st Mar – 31st Mar 2013 1pm – 5pm Sat, Sun & Public hols only
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