The small town of Strangford is situated on the western shore of the narrow channel which forms the entrance into Strangford Lough, this was originally called Lough Cuan or 'Lough of the Harbour', but after the Vikings came to Ireland to raid the rich Christian monasteries that dotted its shores, their name of Strangford, which came from the Norse for strong fjord, eventually replaced the Irish of Lough Cuan.
The strang fjord in the 'Narrows' reflects the strength of the currents generated by the vast amount of water funneled through the narrow gap with each tide, from the Irish sea. This enters through the narrows between Killard point to the west and Ballyquintan point on the peninsular of Ards and the tidal stream in the narrows is the fastest in the British Isles and Ireland running at a rate of 7.8 Knots at spring tides, four hundred million tons of water rush through this narrow gap twice a day.
Recently a environmental underwater generator the 'Sea Gen' had been installed to take advantage of the tidal race and will generate 1.2Mw of power which is enough to supply over 1,000 homes with electricity. The 'Sea Gen has been designed by the Marine Current Turbines LTD of Bristol, who have plans to develop this technology in others strategic places throughout the world which have similar strong tidal currents.
The utilization of tidal power is not a new concept 1,400 years ago the monks of Nendrum on Island Mahee in the north of Strangford Lough used the water from the lough to drive a 'tide mill to grind their grain. The ruins where excavated in1999 and the mil was carbon dated to AD 619.
Strangford Lough is 18 miles long from the narrows to the mud flats at Newtownards. The twisting shores of the Lough amount to about 150 miles it has about 120 islands. And with about 2000 species of marine animals which make it the richest place for marine life in Europe.
In September flocks of Canadian Brent Geese arrive to feast on the swards of Eel grass on the northern mud flats. Wigeon from from Iceland and the Soviet Union, Knots from Greenland join flocks of Turnstones, Lapwings and bartailed Godwits in the salt marches. Later in the year Shelducks and Wooper swans from Iceland are to be seen.
With little human disturbance and so many secluded islands with an abundant supply of food nearby, Strangford is host to about 40 species of nesting birds.
The town of Strangford stands on the eastern shore of the narrows of Strangford Lough. The Vikings came to Strangford in the 9th century where they are said to have established a small trading colony, although there is no evidence of any long term colonization or settlement of the area by any of the Scandinavian invaders .Apart from one high status female burial site at Ballyholme the only other Viking legacy here in Co Down is the name od Strangford Lough.
After the Norman conquest the area around Strangford came under the control of the Audley family and a ruined castle stands sentinel on a high hill just to the west of the town.
The entrance to Strangford Lough has seen many shipwrecks, the earliest recorded and possibly the worst was when in October 1715 The Eagles Wing went ashore there with a loss of seventy six lives, it is not known if this wreck precipitated the writing of the tune The Eagle's Wing, or if the tune was in existence prior to the wreck.Many shipwrecks have occurred within the Lough and particularly in the narrows where there are fifty nine recorded wrecks since 1715 when the Eagle's Wing was wrecked on the Angus Rock with a loss of seventy six lives.
The whole of the Strangford area was once an important centre for the production of kelp.
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