Quoile Pondage Nature Reserve

Nature reserves are chosen from among the very best examples of our wildlife, habitats and geology. They contain a wide range of species, communities and geology and their designation is a public recognition by Government of their importance.


Grid Reference: J 49647


The Quoile Estuary is strongly associated with legends of Saint Patrick who landed in the area. Two old quays and the timbers of a sailing ship remind us that the Quoile was once a busy port serving the town of Downpatrick.

The present freshwater lake was created by the construction of a tidal barrier across the estuary of the River Quoile in 1957. The resulting dramatic change from salt water to fresh water is illustrated by the succession of developing habitats rich in wildlife.

The natural colonisation of the former seashore has resulted in marsh plants growing along the river fringes, with reed-beds, rushy grassland and alder or willow scrub in old muddy bays. Woodland of oak and ash is developing on the higher, stony shores. Periodic flooding maintains distinct zones of vegetation.

The Quoile is rich in insects, providing food for fish such as rudd and eels. In turn, these may be eaten by grey herons, cormorants and grebes. An excellent site for birdwatching, the Quoile attracts migrating wading birds in the spring and autumn. In summer, swans and many breeding wildfowl appear, including the scarce gadwall. In winter, large numbers of wigeon and other ducks are easily viewed.

The river bank between the Old Floodgates and Steamboat Quay has been developed as an attractive amenity area with scenic riverside walks. The remainder of the reserve has been established as a sanctuary for the wildlife.


At the Countryside Centre, car park, toilets, picnic areas, birdwatching hide, riverside walks, information points.

The Site manager can be contacted at the Quoile Countryside Centre - Tel. 028 4461 5520.

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