For the 12th weekend we headed to Belfast, not a normal trip for most people from Northern Ireland, the majority usually head the opposite direction. We had good reason, as it was our anniversary and we’d planned to abandon the kids with my parents over night on the 14th for some well deserved rest.


We arrived up a few days early and after a quiet, secluded and rainy 12th the Sunday was bright and sunny. Time for us to get out and do something.


Itching to be going, Orla checked out possible places to visit for an hour, looking for things that would interest the kids and be fun for us too. Eventually she settled on the Waterfowl and Wetland Trust’s bird reserve at Castle Espie, just outside Comber.


€19 in for the family was possibly a little steep, but since the centre is a conservation project, we don’t mind making a charitable contribution once in a while. Special bird food can also be bought to feed the birds around the main pond.


The guide map brings you first to the main pond where the resident waterfowl can be fed. This was the best bit of the day for us.

"Can I have more food for the Ducks"

“Can I have more food for the Ducks”



A part from one overly hungry bird who tried to have one of Orla’s fingers, all the birds were very friendly, relaxed around the visitors. Orla had them eating out of her hand which just goes to show that it’s not just me and her class who she has the power to enthral.

Orla gets the birds on side.

Orla gets the birds on side.



The kids loved it too. Tomás spent the whole time wandering around saying “duc” and trying to make a honking noise to mimic the particularly friendly Eurasian white fronted geese which we had feeding from our hands.

The Geese wanted fed too

The Geese wanted fed too



We walked on then, visiting the different hides looking out over Strangford Lough and activities for the kids to get involved in.

Aoife the maiden of the prehistoric boat

Aoife the maiden of the prehistoric boat



Next we stopped in the adventure play ground to play on the climbing frames, balance logs and play hut. As always they made their presence felt, despite our best efforts to get Aoife to stop shouting instructions to Aidan.





IMG_1691

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Pickaboo

Pickaboo



Kids enjoy the play ground

Kids enjoy the play ground




The Duckery was the last port of call on the walk to see the newly hatched ducklings. The kids were disappointed that they couldn’t handle the ducklings themselves. Unlike a lot of countries swans are very common in Ireland during the year. But locally these tend to be Mute, Bewick and a lot of whooper swans. Castle Espie now has 2 Black Neck Swans who had chicks this spring. `Rather than the dull dirty grey cygnets we all know from the story these were small white fluffy balls.

Black necked Swan at Castle Espie, photo from Castle Espie's FB page

Black necked Swan at Castle Espie, photo from Castle Espie’s FB page



A great afternoon was had by all with a tea, scone and some treats for the kids before heading home. I’d recommend a trip to Castle Espie for the kids. You can take annual membership, as I’m sure there is also plenty to see in the winter out in Strangford Lough as well as the birds in the main pond.

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