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Castle Espie Wildfowl Centre.

The history of Castle Espie.

In County Down.

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Castle Espie.

Ireland’s largest collection of ducks, geese and swans are to be seen at Castle Espie. The site was once a series of clay pit, the excavated clay used to manufacture bricks. When the site was abandoned the pits filled with water, and the wildlife took over

Castle Espie probably derived its name from a castle which once stood on the site, this is reputed to have been occupied by a Bishop. The site was first used industrially for the production of lime, the limestone was quarried and burnt in kilns, some of which survive today (More later)

No doubt someone realised the clay which overlay the limestone was itself a valuable commodity, this may have been Samuel Murland as he appears to have been the proprietor when he brickworks was at its zenith around 1874. In that year it is said to have had an output of some 24,000 bricks, 4,000 clay field drain pipes as well as clay tiles and some ornamental articles.

The bricks were fired in a building approximately 250 ft long and 30 ft high, at the time the chimney was said to have been the tallest in Ireland. Coal to fire the ovens was imported to a specially built quay nearby, some of the finished product left from this quay bound for Belfast, Dublin and England, no doubt many of the streets in Belfast and other town and city's were built with bricks produced at Castle Espie, after Murland's death the brickworks survived one year.

The next owner was a keen aviator with his own plane, he demolished the furnace to build a runway, when he acquired a larger plane the Red Row a row of workers houses went also to extend the runway. All that remains of an industry which gave employment to two-hundred people are the foundations of the furnace a few stables and what was possibly a workshop area.

Today tranquility prevails, gone are the steam engines pumping water from the clay pits, the toiling men and horses have passed into history, as is all our fates. The site is now in the hands of The Wildlife & Wetlands Trust and very ably managed by Mr James Orr, assisted by the most pleasant and helpful staff you could wish to meet.

Take a trip to Castle Espie, you won't be disappointed the kids will be especially thrilled. There is an exceptionally well stocked gift shop, where you can buy anything from a bird box to a whisky barrel. After you have a meal in the cafe you can browse an art gallery in which most of the exhibits are by local artists.

Species: to be seen brent goose, shelduck, wigeon, black-tailed godwit, and ruff. There is also a collection of exotic wildfowl. Best within 2 hours of high tide.

Plans are well underway to make significant changes to Castle Espie, the main object is to improve facilities mainly for the birds but visitors will benefit also. As stated earlier Castle Espie was once an industrial site and while the birds obviously relish their surroundings, the management feel that the site could be improved with a view to providing habitat for over wintering species. This may involve the removal of some trees, allowing and disallowing access of the sea to certain ponds, and the building of an eco friendly view point on top of one of the old lime kilns, when this is complete it will provide magnificent panoramic views of Strangford lough.

Castle Espie
78 Ballydrain Rd
Co Down
BT23 6EA
Tel +44 (0)28 9187 4146
Fax +44 (0)28 9187 3857
E Mail
Web Site

I you feel you would like to assist this worthy cause why not become a member, this will give you free access at any time, visit their web site to find our more

Sign posted on the Comber to Killyleagh road.

To find out more about Castle Espie Wildfowl Centre, visit The Wetlands Trust web site.