Nature Reserves

Conserving vital habitats

East Coast Nature Reserve, Co. Wicklow

Officially opened in 2009, the East Coast Nature Reserve is our largest reserve covering 92ha. It forms part of the extensive Murrough Wetlands, an important coastal wetland complex which is designated as a Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation. Originally, the grasslands were intensively farmed, with tree-lined watercourses and a conifer plantation growing within the fen. Now, following management through an EU LIFE project between 2003 and 2007, the reserve offers a variety of habitats, from rare fen to wet grasslands to birch woodland, which can all be explored on foot through marked walking trails and observation hides.

Accessibility & Facilities

Limited parking is available at the main entrance to the reserve along Sea Road (turn left after the Castle Inn, Newcastle) or the coastal car parks at either Six-mile or Five-mile Point. There are marked walking trails between each entrance that offer good views over the whole area; please keep to these trails for your own safety and to avoid disturbance to the wildlife. Please do not open gates or climb over fences. Grazing animals are present throughout the summer months. Please respect the wildlife and other visitors and refrain from bringing dogs onto the reserve, other than Guide dogs.

Opening times: The East Coast Nature Reserve is open all year-round although to reduce disturbance to the wildlife during the winter months the coastal trail is closed so please view these from the adjoining sea bank.

Entrance charges: Free, but donations to help us continue our work here are welcome.

Facilities: Three observation hides overlooking the grassland areas are connected by marked walking trails of either stoned surface, raised boardwalks or uneven grass surface. The main observation hide has wheelchair access.

Information boards are provided at the main entrance gates and at strategic locations around the reserve.


Key Species


Whooper Swan

Similar to the resident Mute Swan but look carefully at the bills to see the characteristic yellow wedge; they also have a distinctive ‘whooping’ call. They arrive here in October and stay until early April when they make their way back to their Icelandic breeding grounds.



With their huge spatulate bills and the males’ dark green heads, white breasts and chestnut flanks make them a very distinctive winter visitor to the shallow flooded grasslands.


Little Egret

A small white heron from the Mediterranean they are starting to make their home in Wicklow, and can now be seen here right throughout the year. Dispersing juvenile birds leads to an increase in sightings in late summer and autumn.



Although not a breeding bird on the reserve, this distinctive summer visitor passes along the coast in their hundreds as the migrate back to Africa, a spectacular site that heralds the start of autumn.

Check out the latest Reserve News

CorncrakeNewsReservesSpecies Conservation and Land Management
August 18, 2023

Positive news for Ireland’s Corncrake population but numbers remain critically low

BirdWatch Ireland welcomes the news that Ireland’s Corncrake population is on the rise but says that cautious optimism is required as numbers still remain critically low. Data released by the…
Great Yellow Bumblebee at BirdWatch Ireland's Termoncarragh Meadows Nature Reserve ReservesSpecies Conservation and Land Management
May 21, 2021

Conserving the Great Yellow Bumblebee in Co. Mayo

BirdWatch Ireland is not just for the birds. A recent paper published in the Journal of Insect Conservation highlights that our reserves on the Mullet Peninsula hold the highest numbers…

Further Information

Site Guide – ECNR


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