Sunday, 12 July 2009

Salt Island: A Guide

This is the most comprehensive information I have published, to date, about the National Trust's most wonderful little gem of an island in Strangford Lough.

If any reader wishes to contribute anything which they feel may be of further interest - historical, anecdotal or otherwise - please do feel free to share it on this site at the Comments section.



Salt Island is a truly special place.

Those of us who visit it regularly cherish it as an unspoiled haven for wildlife, wild flowers and even a place to escape the pressures of everyday life.

It’s a little island which instills a sense of adventure combined with relaxation and peacefulness.

Brandy Bay, on the western side of the Island, may well inspire those of you with a vivid imagination to think of smugglers several centuries ago, who might have used the Island as a stopping-off point for illicit liquor on its way to eager customers on the mainland!

The Island itself is small, comprising about 51 acres.

It was acquired freehold in 1980 from William Thompson.

It lies 1¼ miles east of Delamont Country Park and 1¼ miles south of the nearest village, Killyleagh.

There is a small jetty near the Bothy, on the south-eastern side of the Island, which is accessible for up to 2½ hours either side of high tide.

This side of the Island has shallow water and extensive mud-flats at low tide which can be treacherous.

However, Brandy Bay, on the western side, is accessible, with care, at all times and is about five minutes' walk to the Bothy.

Brandy Bay has no jetty, so if you arrive by boat you may still need to step into shallow water or, indeed, row ashore in a tender.

Salt Island is one of eleven canoe access points of the circular Strangford Lough Canoe Trail.

This trail was officially launched at the Bothy on the 2nd July, 2008.

Three other National Trust access points are located at Castleward, Island Reagh and Horse Island.

For further information visit Canoe NI.

Directly behind the Bothy you will see a plantation of trees.

These were planted by volunteers in about 1987.

There is a stile at the rear of this plantation.

You shall also notice a small, fresh-water pond at Brandy Bay; and there are signs that it is being used by the occasional otter.

The Island consists mainly of clay soil.

The highest point, at the northern end, is 54 feet above sea-level.

In the past, there were several wells on the island as indicated by old maps.


We are still undertaking research to discover more about the history of Salt Island.

However, we know that, in 1836, the island was owned by Lord Bangor (who lived at Castle Ward).

Salt Island changed hands several times before the National Trust finally purchased it in 1980.

It appears that there were no dwellings on the Island in 1836.

A cottage did exist, though, at some time thereafter; and its stones were used for the construction of the present Bothy.


The Bothy was built in the 1980s.

Its construction is triple-layered, up to one foot thick and stones from the original cottage were used on its exterior.

The Bothy provides basic shelter for visitors, ranging from campers to canoeists; youth & school groups; families and adventure organizations; indeed anyone can stay there.

It can accommodate up to twelve people and offers running water, toilets, a wood-burner stove, kitchen area, table and chairs.

There is no cooker, so you need to bring your own cooking equipment, such as a Trangia or gas stove.

The Bothy has a drying-room beside the toilets.

The National Trust has provided a modest supply of kitchen utensils, cutlery and crockery.

However, it is best that you aim to be self-sufficient and bring your own.

Don’t forget to bring everything you need with you to the Island, including toilet paper, washing-up liquid, pots and pans etc.

Whilst many of these items may be in the Bothy, this cannot be taken for granted!

In fact, we’d welcome any donations of useful items of furniture, cooking utensils, even the odd bottle of cooking oil or ketchup would be greatly received for future visitors.

The Island has no electricity supply, so you are welcome to bring your own portable generator in order to provide power to the Bothy’s existing power-points and fittings.

There are two permanent barbecues outside the Bothy.

One is situated at the corner of the wall in the grassy area to the front of the Bothy.


There is no charge for rough camping at the northern part of the Island, near Brandy Bay, although this means that you do not have access to the Bothy facilities.

For rough camping, there is a drinking-water tap, close to the water trough, at the fence surrounding the plantation behind the bothy.


Otters are known to pay occasional visits to Salt Island.

They use the pond near Brandy Bay for fresh drinking water.

Otters are shy creatures and mostly nocturnal.

Porpoises are regular visitors to Strangford Lough.

They are closely related to dolphins, but smaller; and they often swim in small groups, or “schools” as the collective term is known.

The Irish hare, Lepus Timidus Hibernicus, was once prevalent on Salt Island.

These animals have long ears with black tips; the body is russet brown; and their hind legs are longer than rabbits too.

They seem to have died out, although there are still plenty of rabbits here.

Why not keep a record of the birds, insects and animals you see in the visitor-book?

Other visitors will find it fascinating and useful.


Salt Island Bothy provides an exciting overnight camping experience for groups.

The bunkhouse provides basic shelter, accommodation and camping facilities.

It is very popular with canoeists, boat users, youth groups and families.

Salt Island is one of 11 canoe access points on the circular Strangford Lough Canoe Trail.


The bothy can accommodate up to Ten people sleeping inside and offers toilets, an outdoor barbecue and a lean-to area for hanging wet gear etc.

There are some movable wooden platforms which can be slept on, but no mattresses or bedding.

There's a small table and some chairs, a wood-burning stove, a kitchen area with sink but no cooker.

Users must bring their own means of cooking such as a Trangia or gas stove, along with any fire-wood needed and drinking water.


All bookings for the Bothy are coordinated through Mount Stewart (Tel. (028) 4278 7387).

The charges, which go towards running, administration and maintenance costs, must be paid in full before your stay.

Charges for 2019 are as follows:
£10 per person per night sharing
£80 for exclusive use of the bothy

The Bothy can be booked by contacting Mount Stewart Estate (Tel. (028) 4278 7387).

These charges include full use of the walled camping area at the front of the Bothy.

Please note that, if you have booked exclusive use of the Bothy, you have the right to ask others to vacate these areas should you so wish.

Rough camping at the northern side of the Island is free, but does not entitle you to use of the Bothy or its facilities.


We want you to have a wonderful time on Salt Island.

We’d really like you to help us to keep the Island and the Bothy in good condition for others to enjoy.

Here is the Salt Island Code:-

  • Please respect the Island, the Bothy and its contents during your visit for others to enjoy. Treat others as you’d wish to be treated yourself.
  • Do leave the Bothy and its surrounding area clean and tidy during and after your stay. In particular, leave all utensils and surfaces clean and please wash them before you leave.
  • Any breakages must be reported to the National Trust wardens.
  • Cutting or felling trees and branches on the Island is forbidden. The plantation and woodland will be unsustainable otherwise. Although there may sometimes be a small supply of fire-wood, this is not guaranteed. Fire-wood can be collected from the shore-line or from dead wood lying around the Island.
  • Please bring your own fuel and fire-wood to the Island. Coal may also be burned.
  • There is a brush, mop and bucket provided. Please wash the floor before your stay ends.
  • All litter must be taken off the Island before you leave, so please bring bin bags with this in mind.
  • Dogs are welcome on the Island, but must be kept under control due to sheep grazing.
  • Smoking is not permitted in the Bothy.
  • Please don’t climb on to the dry stone walls; the stones are heavy and loose, and accidents may occur.
  • Please remember to keep the gate at the front of the Bothy open, so that the sheep can enter to feed on the grass, thus omitting the need for a lawnmower!
  • You can help us, and others, by replenishing stocks of fire-wood. You can do this by scavenging throughout the Island for fallen branches etc. please try to keep the fire-wood container, outside the Bothy, well filled at all times.
  • Aim to leave Salt Island in an even better state than when you arrived! Good campers never leave any trace of their whereabouts. Why not spend an hour picking up any litter from the shore? This would be a great help to us; do remember to take it away from the Island when you leave, though!
  • Take care when lighting camp fires; keep them well under control and tidy up the area the next day.
  • In the event of an emergency, contact the National Trust Wardens.


Seven principles which we can all aspire to:-

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize impact and use of fire
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors


You may be interested to know that the National Trust has established a “Friends of the Bothy” group in order to help keep Salt Island and the Bothy in good condition.

Why not spend a few hours with one of the National Trust Volunteer Groups each month?

It can be rewarding and an opportunity to meet new friends with similar interests.

A typical volunteer day might even include a trip to one of our islands, building dry stone walls, hedge-laying, or possibly herding goats!

There is always plenty of wildlife to observe. Contact the Warden for more details.


The National Trust is a charity and is completely independent of Government.

We rely for income on membership fees, donations and legacies, and revenue raised from our commercial operations.

We now have 3.5 million members and 52,000 volunteers who gave 2.3 million hours in 2007/08.

More than 12 million people visit our pay-for-entry properties, while an estimated 50 million visit our open-air properties.

We protect and open over 300 historic houses and gardens and 49 industrial monuments and mills.
But it doesn’t stop there.

We also look after forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, downs, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, castles, nature reserves, villages - for ever, for everyone.

No comments :