Ballyquintin National Nature Reserve

Nature reserves are chosen from among the very best examples of our wildlife, habitats and geology. They contain a wide range of species, communities and geology and their designation is a public recognition by Government of their importance.


Grid Reference: J 621458


Wild, windswept and remote, Ballyquintin Point forms the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula. It lies on a low, exposed, rocky coastline consisting of small promontories, bays, inlets and islands. The point is formed by a raised beach of shingle and cobble stones, gently sloping inland to low cliffs. Such deep banks of raised beach shingle, vestiges from the last ice-age, are found nowhere else around the Ulster coast.

Thin soils support only sparse, dry grassland which briefly comes to life in May and June with a colourful display of wild flowers. Patches of low-growing burnet rose flower profusely from May to July and produce their unusual, purple hips soon after. Curious wind-dwarfed blackthorn scrub survives on the exposed cobbles, barely 12 inches high.

The undisturbed cobbles on the surface are covered in an intriguing patchwork of lichens, in shades of grey and sometimes yellow, resembling an ancient map.

Pockets of saltmarsh nestle amongst the mosaic of rocky outcrops and shingle towards the shore. Gorse or whin provides excellent cover and nesting opportunities for stonechats, whitethroats and linnets.

The point is a good spot to see Irish hares, which feed on the grassland and along the shoreline. Migrant butterflies such as Red Admirals cross the Irish Sea and can occur abundantly here in some years.

How to get there

From Portaferry head south along the Bar Hall road, which runs along the eastern shore of the Lough. Ballyquintin is the first turning on the right, 3 miles from Portaferry.

The Site manager can be contacted at The Quoile Countryside Centre Tel: 028 4461 5520

Parking is available for less able people at Ballyquintin Farm, while the main visitor car park is located at Port Kelly some 200m away.

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