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Walk of the Week: Kiltonga Nature Reserve

By Linda Stewart

This short circular walk allows you to get up close and personal with a variety of birdlife including swans, mallards, moorhens and coots. In July 2000, Kiltonga Nature Reserve became the first site in the UK to be awarded BT Millennium Miles status.


Kiltonga Nature Reserve is located half a mile from the centre of Newtownards, on the Belfast Road. The walk itself is a short circular route on flat, tarmac paths. Picnic benches are provided, giving walkers the chance to stop and observe nature all around them.

This walk will suit all ages and abilities and provides loads of opportunities for young people to get up close with a variety of birdlife. There is even an observation platform where you can feed the birds.

The backdrop

Newtownards traces its name back to the Gaelic ‘Baile Nua’ or ‘new town’ with the suffix Ards relating to the surrounding hills. At one stage, the Strangford area was second only to Dublin as a centre of Scandinavian power.

The Christian influence is represented by such names as Kiltonga, the ‘Kil’ meaning ‘church’. There were early Christian communities in the district — St Finian founded the abbey of Movilla in the 6th century, and William de Burgh established a Dominican Friary in 1244.

Kiltonga Nature Reserve is home to a variety of wildfowl including ducks, geese and swans. As the seasons go by the landscape, colours, contrasts and animals are always changing in Kiltonga.

The circular pathway and viewing platform enables closer inspection of the birds. Be sure to watch out for the following on your visit, either in the water or around the lake: swans, mallards, grebe, moorhens, coots, moorhens, bullfinches and song thrushes, among others.

As you walk around the nature reserve, there are excellent views of Scrabo Tower and Killynether Wood, which are close by.

Scrabo Tower, situated on the summit of Scrabo Hill, is one of Ireland’s best known landmarks. The Tower was built in 1857 as a memorial to Charles Stewart, the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry who was one of the Duke of Wellington's generals during the Napoleonic Wars.

It is open to the public from Easter to the end of September each year and provides the visitor with some of the finest views in the country. Strangford Lough is of international importance for its wildlife — more than 2,000 different types of marine animals claim Strangford Lough as their home, from starfish and corals to sea anemones and sand eels. During the winter months two-thirds of the world’s pale-breasted Brent geese take refuge in the shelter of the Lough.

Further Information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (formerly CAAN) in association with Belfast Telegraph has provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

Walk Name: Kiltonga Nature Reserve.

Area: Strangford Lough Area.

Nearest big town: Newtownards.

Distance: 0.6 miles.

Terrain: A gravel pathway around a lake setting which provides access for all users.

Access Restrictions: Kiltonga Nature Reserve provides year round access. The gravel pathway makes it suitable for prams and those with limited mobility.

Refreshments: Public toilets are available in Newtownards and there are a variety of restaurants and cafes for refreshments.

Publications: For further information on Kiltonga Nature Reserve and other walks in the Ards Borough Council area, visit

Walk Developed By: This walk was developed and is maintained by Ards Borough Council.

Map: Kiltonga Nature Reserve is included in the LPSNI Strangford Lough Activity Map; LPSNI 15 map; and also the Newtownards, Comber and Donaghdee Town Maps. Both maps are available to purchase from Ards Tourist Information Centre, 31 Regent Street, Newtownards or from

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