Kilclief Beach on the shores of Strangford Lough is hard to beat.
Watched over by the 600-year-old Kilclief Castle, Kilclief Beach in County Down is a picturesque spot that’s home to an abundance of wildlife.
Below, you’ll find info on everything from where to park and what the story is with swimming to what to see when you’re there.
Some quick need-to-knows about Kilclief Beach
Although a visit to Kilclief Beach is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
You’ll find Kilclief Beach on the western side of the Narrows of Strangford Lough in eastern County Down. It’s a 20-minute drive from Downpatrick and a 45-minute drive from Newcastle.
Kilclief is a pretty quiet spot, but there is a small car park with room for around 14 cars that provides easy access to the beach. There are no other facilities at the site though. You’ll find the car park on the eastern side of Shore Road right in front of the beach.
According to the NI Direct government website, the waters off Kilclief Beach have an ‘excellent’ bathing water compliance level (the highest rating possible). But while the water quality here is good, this is also a pretty rural spot and there are no lifeguards on duty. So only enter the water if you’re a capable swimmer and conditions are good.
About Kilclief Beach
You can’t beat the natural beauty of Kilclief Beach! With over 2000 marine animals and plants recorded, the calm shallow waters of the coast support huge numbers of birds, particularly in the winter (Strangford Lough typically supports between 45,000 and 70,000 watering winterbirds such as wildfowl and waders).
Many of the birds migrate to the area around Kilclief to escape harsher winters further north, though some birds such as terns arrive in the summer from the southern hemisphere to nest and breed.
Behind the beach is the rugged shape of Kilclief Castle. Built between 1413 and 1441, by the bishop of Down John Sely, it’s the earliest datable tower-house in County Down. Admission is free, though there isn’t any disabled access.
Just off the beach is the Angus Rock Lighthouse. Though bizarrely, despite being built in 1853, a light wasn’t actually installed in the granite tower until 1978!
Things to do at Kilclief Beach
There’s a handful of things to see and do in and around Kilclief Beach in Downpatrick. Here are some suggestions:
1. Soak up the views
Kilclief’s wild scenery makes it a great spot for taking in some lovely panoramic views up and down the lough.
Beyond the isolated shape of Angus Rock Lighthouse is Ballyquintin Point, the southernmost tip of the Ards Peninsula.
To the south you’ll get some cracking views of the Killard nature Reserve at Killard point and Kilclief Castle just the right (time your visit well and you’ll be able to watch the sun set behind the castle’s silhouette!).
And on a clear day, you might be lucky enough to see the distant shape of the Isle of Man across the Irish Sea.
2. Go for a paddle and get your feet wet
The sandy shores of Kilclief Beach are great for walking so don’t hesitate to kick off your shoes and go a for paddle, especially during the warm summer months!
The beach is also bookended by some small rocks if you fancy a little scramble over them (also something the kids will enjoy, if you’re here with the family).
And while you’re paddling, keep an eye out for the friendly wildlife of Kilclief Beach. You might end up with a visit from a juvenile harbour seal, oystercatchers, redshanks or a velvet swimming crab.
Places to visit near Kilclief Beach
One of the beauties of Kilclief Beach is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Co Down.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Kilclief!
1. Winterfell Castle and Demesne (12-minute drive)
Did you know parts of Game of Thrones was filmed in Northern Ireland? Ok, you probably already knew that, but one of the huge series’ earliest iconic spots is just a 12-minute drive from Kilclief Beach! Castle Ward’s historic farmyard is the location of Winterfell, the backdrop for the series pilot and much of season one.
2. Struell Wells (13-minute drive)
If you’re interested in nearby historic sites but perhaps want somewhere a little quieter, then Struell Wells could be the ideal spot. Ireland’s most complete Medieval wells, their bathhouses were apparently visited by pilgrims from all over Europe and legend has it that the wells sprung when Saint Patrick visited.
3. Downpatrick for food (17-minute drive)
The town of Downpatrick is only a 17-minute drive west of Kilclief and is a great little spot for getting a feed in. Whether it’s cheesy comfort food from MELT or classic fish and chips from Doc’s, there’s loads of choice in Downpatrick after you’re finished enjoying Kilclief Beach.
4. St John’s Point Lighthouse (25-minute drive)
With its jaunty black and yellow stripes, St John’s Point Lighthouse is a bit more colourful than Angus Rock Lighthouse! But that’s not the only reason to make the 25-minute drive south to this historic lighthouse built in 1844. You’ll also be treated to some gorgeous views of the mighty Mourne Mountains across Dundrum Bay.
FAQs about Kilclief
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What’s parking like?’ to ‘What is there to see?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Can you swim at Kilclief Beach?
According to the NI Direct government website, the waters off Kilclief Beach have an ‘excellent’ bathing water compliance level, however, there are no lifeguards, so only enter the water if you’re a capable swimmer.
Where do you park at Kilclief?
There’s a car park with room for around 14 cars that provides easy access to the beach. It’s on the eastern side of Shore Road right in front of the beach.