Strangford Lough Activity Centre

As lockdown lifts, it's time to get outside, get some fresh air and try something new

Adventure activities are becoming more accessible. Recent supermarket deals have seen a spike in consumer demand for outdoor gear with the general public wanting to make the most of this great weather, get outdoors and get some fresh air after too much time being cooped up during lockdown.

Demand for the staycation has increased and domestic tourism is set to be the norm for this Summer at least. That is what Strangford Lough Activity Centre are banking on anyway! This privately-owned mobile activity provider has found a niche in providing unique experiential small group activity experiences in the most beautiful of locations – Strangford Lough.

Strangford Lough is an area of outstanding natural beauty, a site of specific scientific interest and a marine nature reserve. Accolades which make it a highly protected area due to its unique wildlife. With over 2000 species that adorn it’s shores you will be amazed by the breath-taking scenery. It is also home to over seventy rolling drumlin islands formed during the ice age which add to its character and make it a great place to explore by sea.

Owner and operator Rory Martin explains: “I have been working in the activity tourism industry for 25 years and still love introducing people to new places. I’ve always enjoyed creating unique experiences and get a real buzz when people enjoy themselves. I purchased a lot of equipment this year which hasn’t proved to be the best timing however I am delighted with how popular we have become. Our SUP (Paddle Boarding) Lessons, Kayak Tours and Sunset Canoe Trips have been a hit amongst families. Our Sunrise SUP & Island Yoga experience is a hit with the ladies. I grew up in the area and spent most of my life on or around the water, so it’s lovely being able to showcase it to others.

“Being a self-employed mobile activity provider, I am lucky that I can now operate under government guidelines. Many businesses will struggle this year, but thankfully I’m small enough to adapt and survive. I haven’t gone unscathed though. Four months of this years takings disappeared overnight and I was unable to access any of the government help. However since opening after lockdown I have been fully booked every weekend for Paddle Boarding (SUP). Five groups of paddlers per day rushing to be the first to experience the fastest growing water sport in the world in a truly amazing location. Our one-hour SUP lessons help people get to grips with the basics, but we find many are returning to improve their skills, knowledge and ensure that they can operate safely on their own before purchasing a board. We advise everybody to take a lesson or two prior to purchasing. Firstly to ensure that you get the best equipment for you, but also to ensure you don’t become a burden on the emergency services!”

Strangford Lough Activity Centre offer a range of land and water sports throughout Northern Ireland. Kayaking, Canoeing, Wet Bouldering and Paddle Boarding are the best way to explore the area, however for the landlubbers they also offer Climbing, Hill Walking, Laser Tag, Archery and Bushcraft. With plans to develop a glamp site nearby the organisation is quickly developing into a key player for the area.

Whilst the tourism industry may have changed, a fantastic opportunity now exists for tourism businesses to market themselves to key advocates – the NI public. International Tourism will return again, but for now organisations need to make the most of what is on offer. Spending money locally will ensure these small businesses survive and keep the economy going. Improving the services on offer will attract the tourists when we see the back of Covid 19. So do take a staycation this year and remember what it was like before airline travel became the norm.