Prepare to be WOWed! One of the best places to see birds and wildlife in Northern Ireland is now re-open to the public!

Kid birdwatching

RSPB NI’s Belfast Lough nature reserve in the Harbour Estate has undergone an extensive refurbishment and has been re-named Belfast’s Window on Wildlife (WOW).

Belfast WOW is an unexpected product of Belfast’s industrial past. When material dredged from the Lough was pumped here to allow larger vessels to dock, the area was quickly reclaimed by nature.

It is now home to birds and other wildlife from all over the world and more than 100 species have been recorded at the site.

Major construction work has seen the existing visitor centre extended to give even better views of the wildlife on the reserve and state-of-the art interpretation really brings the visitor facilities to life.

Front of WOW

From the visitor centre, you can experience panoramic views of the lagoon but don’t worry if you’re not an ID expert – there are binoculars and telescopes available and friendly RSPB staff and volunteers on hand to help!

The refurbishment includes a new community room, which is available for hire, and a full events calendar makes Belfast WOW a great place to visit all year round.

RSPB NI has also constructed lots of new homes for nature at the site, including a sand martin bank and a swift tower, which will be installed in the summer. Meanwhile two new hides, which have been constructed from shipping containers to tie in with their surroundings, offer different perspectives on the reserve and feature a members-only area, which is perfect for serious birdwatching and photography.

There’s lots to see at the reserve no matter when you visit. In summer artificial islands give common and Arctic terns a safe place to breed and the reserve comes to life with the sound of many warblers arriving from Africa.

In winter, the water is full of wildfowl like wigeon and teal, while black-tailed godwits can be seen digging in the mud for food.

Resident konik ponies also graze the reserve, acting as ‘living lawnmowers’ and creating ideal conditions for ground-nesting birds like lapwings.

This ambitious project was made possible by funding from the European Regional Development Fund administered by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Belfast Harbour Commission and the Alpha Programme administered by Groundwork NI.

WOW view Jan 2015

As a charity, the RSPB is reliant on donations from members and supporters to help run this fantastic site, which is why they have introduced a small entry charge for non-RSPB members at Belfast WOW. For non-members, the charge is £3 for adults and £1.50 for children and other concessions. However you can easily become an RSPB member – just ask one of the team at the reserve. You will then enjoy free access to Belfast WOW, as well as all the other benefits that RSPB membership brings.

For more information, please call the reserve directly on 028 9046 1458 or email

The Belfast Pop up Film Club is also using the premises for their bird themed movies…

Black-tailed godwit. Credit Chris Gomersall(


Belfast WOW is open every day except Tuesday, from 10am to 5pm (February – October) or 10am to 4pm (November to January).

The reserve is located within Belfast Harbour Estate on Airport Road West. Two main entrances lead into the estate and are signposted along the A2 (Belfast to Holywood dual carriageway). From the Dee Street entrance, the reserve car park is two miles on the left. From the Holywood Exchange entrance, it is one mile on the right.

The number 26/26A bus service from City Hall to Holywood Exchange runs past the reserve on weekdays, but there is no service at weekends.

The Titanic Quarter and Holywood railway stations are located two miles from the reserve and the Connswater Greenway links East Belfast and the Harbour Estate via the Sam Thompson Bridge. Visit for more information.

Konik pony, Andy Hay (

Common tern. Chris Gomersall (

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