Protected area type: Special Areas of Conservation
Feature type: 
  • Habitat
  • Marine
  • Antrim
Council: Mid and East Antrim
Guidance and literature: The Maidens SAC

Maiden's reef
Maiden's reef
The Maidens SAC is formed by a group of small rocky reefs off north east Larne. Just two of these are large enough to be considered islands, known as West Maiden with an abandoned lighthouse and East Maiden with a functioning lighthouse. 

The rare habitats and species communities found at The Maidens are considered to be a consequence of the regional hydrographic conditions. The Maidens SAC is within the North Channel, which connects the Atlantic to the Irish Sea, experiencing currents of up to 4 knots as the currents from the channel grow when they rise over the plateaus. The region is also in close proximity to deep upwelling water, all of which contributes to the habitats and communities which are of particular conservation interest. There a number of deep water reef species supporting unique hydroid and sponge assemblages, only known to occur in the Maidens, Rathlin Island and a few sites in the Sound of Jura. In addition to the reef habitat, there are also sedimentary habitats such as shallow stable sandy gravels and sand with maerl as well as coarse sediment.

The Maidens SAC was designated based on the following primary marine features: reef, sandbanks which are slightly covered by seawater, grey seal (Halichoerus grypus).

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