|Headquarters||WWT Castle Espie,
T: 028 9187 4146
F:028 9187 3857
References: Opening times
Castle Espie is a wetland reserve managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) on the banks of Strangford Lough, three miles south of Comber, County Down, Northern Ireland, in the townland of the same name. It is part of the Strangford Lough Ramsar Site. It provides an early wintering site for almost the entire Nearctic population of Pale-bellied Brent Geese. The Castle which gave the reserve its name no longer exists.
It has the largest collection of ducks, geese and swans in Ireland. In addition to the reserve, the site contains The Loughshore Cafe, gift and book shop, The Graffan Gallery, exhibition areas, hides, woodland walks, events and activities, free parking, and a picnic area.
Castle Espie was officially opened as a Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre by Lady Scott on 4 May 1990. The site had previously been a limestone quarry, and also had a brickworks, pottery and lime kilns for producing lime from limestone, as well as part of a farm.
In September 2007, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £2.96 million towards a major wetland restoration project at Castle Espie, the largest investment in biodiversity in Northern Ireland. At the heart of the project, costing £4m in all, will be the restoration and improvement of intertidal and freshwater habitats along the shores of Strangford Lough to encourage more species and greater numbers of waterbirds to feed, roost or breed at Castle Espie, as well as restoring important habitats. A new ecologically sustainable visitor centre would also be constructed,and other improvements would be carried out to hides and observatories.