Posted by: chiarraigrrl | November 4, 2010

Exploring the Ards Peninsula – Comber and Castle Espie

Castle Espie 10
Castle Espie

One of the places that the lovely folk at the Ards Tourism board recommended checking out while we were visiting the Ards peninsula was the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, located just outside Comber, not far from Newtownards. So, week’s bus ticket in hand, I headed off for Newtownards and on to Comber. I hadn’t been able to figure out how to get from Comber to Castle Espie on the Translink website, so figured I’d get as far as Comber on the bus and if necessary could get a taxi from there. When I got in to Comber the bus schedules weren’t much more help than the Translink site had been – nothing appeared to go past Castle Espie, so I wandered toward what looked like the centre of the town, hoping to run across a taxi rank.

Memorial garden in Comber
Memorial garden in Comber
There’s a beautiful square in the centre of the village which has a few benches and lovely flowering bushes. The plaque at the entrance of the square reads, “This garden of remembrance is dedicated to the memory of the under-noted men belonging to Comber and District who gave their lives for their King and country in the Second World War 1939-1945”. It’s a lovely spot, and well worth a look. Unfortunately, however, I didn’t see any taxis about, so I headed back toward the bus station for another look around to try to figure out a way to Castle Espie. Stymied, I spotted the Discovery Glass showroom across the road, so I headed across for a look around (on looking at the website she asks people to make an appointment first- whoops!) and to ask if they might recommend where I could get a taxi. Irene McBride, the artist, couldn’t have been nicer to her unexpected visitor- as soon as I explained what I was looking for, rather than send me back into the town she dug out a copy of the local phone directory and insisted on ringing for a taxi on my behalf (ensuring to get a quote of the cost so I wouldn’t be messed around) before giving me the number of the taxi company for the trip back (Comber Cabs- 0044 28 91871777). I was very surprised that she would take time out of her day and do that extra bit just to help me out, it was very kind of her.

View from lunch at Castle Espie
view from lunch at Castle Espie
On arrival at Castle Espie, I decided the best thing to do first was to have some lunch at their cafe, which was fantastic- had a lovely soup with brown bread, the staff couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful and a significant section of seating was set up so that you had a beautiful view through the large windows out to Strangford Lough and across to the Scrabo Tower. Lunch finished, I wandered out for a walk around the wetland centre. Just along the path from the visitor centre is a feeding area where you can feed the birds, and where I saw the most unusual swan-like birds:
Odd birds at Castle Espie feeding area
There were wild birds of all sorts in the feeding area, lots of ducks of course and many that I’d never even seen photographs of. Continuing on out into the main part of the reserve, I was very impressed with their paths and the provisions made for people to watch birds from all around the centre. There’s a brent geese hide on the edge of the lough (apparently there were 28,000+ brent- or Canada – geese on Strangford Lough, approximately 6,000 of which were at Castle Espie, I believe), and a wonderful modern observatory built on the ruins of a lime kiln. There’s also a fabulous section that has educational signs about the area during the Stone Age, and another area where lime kilns had been where they now have signs giving information about the history of Castle Espie during that period.

It’s an absolutely beautiful place, and full of excellent trails to wander to your heart’s content. I had an excellent wander around, and when I got the taxi back to Comber for my bus back to Portaferry the taxi driver seemed delighted I’d had a good afternoon, and equally pleased when I said I’d definitely be recommending people visit. Had a wonderful time.

Brent geese on Strangford Lough at Castle Espie 4

White egret I think at Castle Espie 4

Swamp walk at Castle Espie

Castle Espie 8

More photos on my flickr, as usual…



  1. Hi, I’m putting together a facebook page to help promote Castle Espie. I noticed you have some stunning phtots and wanted to know if you would mind if I used one or two on facebook?


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