A large undisturbed sand-dune system, Umbra consists of dune grasslands, wetter dune slacks and a small hazel copse. An impressive display of flowering plants in the meadows and sand dunes are a colourful summer attraction and support an incredible diversity of insect life.

Situated eight miles north-west of Coleraine, nestled between Benone complex and Downhill Beach, unique habitats of special conservation value and many distinctive species make this nature reserve a real gem. Approximately 45ha in size, one of the chief attractions is the summer display of flowering plants in the meadows and sand dunes, and these in turn support an incredible diversity of insect life - butterflies, moths and bees being the easiest to observe. The nature reserve is noted for a number of rare plants; bee orchid, pyramidal orchid, fragrant orchid, frog orchid, marsh helleborine, adderstongue, moonwort, variable horsetail, hairy rock cress, downy oat-grass, fern grass and early forget-me-not. Interesting butterflies such as Real's wood white, grayling and dark green fritillary are found here, as well as the rare small eggar moth. Keep an eye out for Northern Ireland priority bird species; skylark, mistle thrush, song thrush, bullfinch and linnet. Offshore, a variety of seabirds can be spotted, together with harbour porpoise and seals.

Current conservation work at the Umbra

More than half a hectare of sea buckthorn has been removed from the Umbra, thanks to funding by the Landfill Communities Fund, with follow-up works planned for 2019. This non-native species was a direct threat to the species-rich dune grassland found here. 

Also, the non-native pine plantation at the Umbra has been removed too – a truly landscape-scale change to this site. The project was completed thanks to a partnership with NIEA and Drenagh Sawmills Ltd. Several hectares of trees (3.5ha) were removed which will benefit both the grassland species and the wet dune slacks that make this site so important.


Species and habitats

Coastal, Grassland, Woodland

Nearby nature reserves

Ballynahone Bog
25 miles - Ulster Wildlife
Glendun Farm
30 miles - Ulster Wildlife
Moyola Waterfoot
32 miles - Ulster Wildlife

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Seacoast Road
BT49 0LH
Map reference
Best time to visit
Jun - Aug
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times but access by permission only, contact the Ulster Wildlife.
45.00 hectares
Members Only

Grazing animals
Walking information
No formal path network so hiking boots are required
Park on Seacoast Road and enter through the gates beside the house next to the level crossing
Dogs must be on lead
Reserve manager
Ulster Wildlife
Tel: 028 9045 4094