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A wildlife paradise nestled in a valley between Divis and Colin Mountains.

A great escape from the hustle and bustle of Belfast and Lisburn, Slievenacloy Nature Reserve is located in a valley in the Belfast Hills. Initial impressions may suggest only grassy fields, but the site is in fact a vast wildlife paradise of grassland, meadows, rush and heath. The site is particularly important for orchids, birds and fungi, and offers panoramic views from the Mourne Mountains to the Sperrins, and beyond!

But there’s more than spectacular views to see at Slievenacloy - look out for a long list of Northern Ireland priority bird species including: hen harrier, lapwing, curlew, skylark, mistle thrush, song thrush, grasshopper warbler, starling, linnet and reed bunting. Snow buntings are frequent visitors during the winter.

On the ground you’ll find some interesting plants such as great and lesser butterfly orchids, frog orchid and the rare moonwort fern. The range of plant diversity also supports a wide variety of invertebrates such as butterflies, moths and bees.

A good example is devil's bit scabious - the exclusive food plant of caterpillars of the internationally rare marsh fritillary butterfly. Over much of the area, the vegetation is dominated by sharp-flowered rush and Yorkshire fog, but with a wide variety of associated species, incluidng herbs such as cuckooflower, tormentil, marsh willowherb and meadow buttercup.  Wetter areas of the site, such as ditches and drains are more species-rich in terms of vegetation and include several rare flowers and sedges.

This site is also a hotspot for brightly coloured waxcap fungi, including the pink meadow waxcap which pops-up in autumn. Irish hare can be spotted here and there have been recent reports of barn owl.

History & Management

The Ulster Wildlife Trust purchased the site from Forest Service to save this special grassland from becoming a plantation forest. This would'nt have been possible without the funding support of Heritage Lottery Fund, Northern Ireland Environment Agency (formely EHS) and Readymix, whose help allowed us to purchase the site and secure its future by installing 18km of fences and gates to manage conservation grazing, plant over 25,000 new trees to restore the hedgerows and put in new walking trails to open it up to the public. 

Species and habitats

Grassland, Heathland, Upland

Nearby nature reserves

Bog Meadows
4 miles - Ulster Wildlife
5 miles - Ulster Wildlife
Balloo Wetland
17 miles - Ulster Wildlife

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Flowbog Road
BT28 3TE
Map reference
Best time to visit
May - Jul
Aug - Sep
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
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Opening Times
Open at all times
125.00 hectares

Walking information
Formal road network and off-road paths (some rough terrain). Refer to on-site maps
Dogs must be on lead
Reserve manager
Ulster Wildlife
Tel: 028 9045 4094