One of Ireland’s leading attractions is its unspoiled environment. In an effort to ensure the island’s flora and fauna will thrive into the future, nature reserves have been established across the country. Here you will find details of some of Ireland’s leading nature reserves.
The Strand on the west shore of Lough Beg is a large expanse of wet grassland that is flooded each winter, and which has never been agriculturally upgraded. The nature reserve, with Church Island as its focal point, comprises 300 acres of this habitat.
In spring and autumn, migrating birds on their way through may pause on their journey to rest and feed. Black-tailed godwit, green sand piper, wood sandpiper, greenshank, and knot are seen every year. In early summer the sky above the nature reserve is alive with the calls of breeding waders, such as snipe, redshank, and lapwing.
Many rare plants including pennyroyal and the Irish Ladies’ tresses orchid share this habitat with the birds. Winter brings floods and with them hundreds of wildfowl to feed on the inundated grasslands. Church Island , formerly known as Inish Toide, was the site of a pre-Viking monastery.
Wild Fowl Reserves Broadmeadow
The natural valley in which most of north county Dublin lies contains large areas of wetlands, where slow-flowing rivers and the sea meet, or where the sea itself invades and retreats, creating fascinating wetland and broadmeadows. These areas provide a natural habitat for a huge variety of sea birds and other flora and fauna.
Coole was once the home of Lady Gregory, cofounder with WB Yeats of the National Theatre Company of Ireland. It is now a nature reserve with a unique matrix of habitats populated by red deer, squirrels, badgers, and a great variety of birds. The restored Courtyard has an Interpretative Centre and Tea Rooms.
Lough Neagh Discovery Centre
Oxford Island, Craigavon, Armagh
The Lough Neagh Discovery Centre provides a series of interesting audio-visual shows, interactive games, and exhibitions to illustrate the history and wildlife of the Lough. The wonders of Oxford Island itself include its natural history, wildlife, and family walks – all in a spectacular setting on the water’s edge.
The area’s varied birdlife can be viewed from one of several hides or by strolling the winding shoreline on a peaceful guided walk. Lough Neagh can be toured on a boat trips. A range of home-cooked fare is available at the Loughside Café.
Wexford Wildfowl Reserve
North Slob, Wexford, Wexford
A dyke, built in the 1840′s, created over 1,000 hectares of mudflats and islands which now form a world renowned wildfowl reserve at Wexford’s North Slob. Nearly half the world’s population of Greenland white-fronted geese winter here, and the reeds and shallows harbour over 190 species of water-fowl and waders.
An information centre displays illustrations of the main species to be seen, and the wild fowl can be viewed from hides along the entrance driveway.
Ballymaclary Nature Reserve
This reserve contains some dune slack communities seldom seen in Northern Ireland. One particular moss (Rhytidium regosom) that flourishes in these dunes has not been found anywhere else in Ireland. Low lying dune slacks periodically flooded in winter are home to a rich and varied range of summer flowering plants, including large numbers of the otherwise rare Marsh Helleborine. Management activities include grazing and scrub cutting. Around Ballymaclary the shoreline is currently eroding, but this is part of the overall cycling of sediments in the Magilligan/Tunns Bank system. Ballymaclary reserve is entirely within a danger zone on Ministry of Defence property and is not normally accessible by the general public, but occasional guided walks through the area are led by the Warden.
Peatlands Country Park
33 Derryhubert Road, Dungannon, Tyrone
Peatlands Country Park in Tyrone offers short and longer excursions on special steam trains. Transport museums and railway centres display engines, coaches, and memorabilia from the golden age of steam. The first railway in Ireland opened in 1834, and the network quickly reached into all corners of the island. By 1920 almost 3,500 miles of track threaded the countryside and no Irish town was more than 10 miles from a railway station. Ireland’s national railway gauge is 5ft 3 inches. This, together with the widespread use of the 3 ft narrow gauge, makes Irish railways quite distinctive.
Wild Fowl Reserves Liffey Valley
A particularly beautiful wildlife area has been created where the river Liffey forms the south-west boundary of Fingal near Lucan. The Strawberry Beds between Chapelizod and Lucan provide enchanting and picturesque views.
The area is covered by a Special Amenity Area Order.