Discover Bull Island: the perfect place for wildlife lovers

North Bull Island is a national nature reserve in Dublin Bay in the Northern part of Dublin. It is a haven for wildlife lovers as the island holds a Natural Nature Reserve. There are plenty of dune grasslands for walkers and birdwatchers to explore. The beach offers the perfect conditions for kitesurfers.

Only 200 years old

Bull Island is artificial. It was created 200 years ago to stop ships from getting wrecked in silt at the mouth of the River Liffey. It continues to grow seaward, a rare natural phenomenon in Ireland. It is now 5 km by 1 km wide; and covers an area of nearly 15 km² in size.

Bull Island became Ireland’s first official bird sanctuary in the 1930s and in 1981 it obtained UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status. The causeway to the Island was built between 1962 to 1964 bringing more people who could then arrive by car. Before the causeway was built, the Howth Tram used to bring Dubliners to Dollymount Strand Beach.

Bull Island is located in Dublin Bay and was man made. Image via @northbullisland.

A rich wildlife

North Bull Island is located on the northern edge of Dublin Bay. It is a low-lying sandbar, with Dollymount Strand on the seaward side of the island, and an extensive salt marsh lies to the northwest. Extreme low tides cause large mudflats between the island and the mainland. In the middle of the island and the mainland are intertidal mud and sandflats. Bull Island is filled with a very rich wildlife that breathes, eats and multiplies. The island is home to 8,000 wildfowl and 26,000 waders, 180 different bird species and 300 species of plants throughout the year.

Nine habitats and multiple species of the island are protected under the EU Habitats Directive, including petalwort (a species of liverwort), marsh fritillary butterfly, harbour and grey seals, and at least three species of bats, including common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, and leisler’s. Three moss species are also preserved on the island: bryum intermedium, bryum uliginosum, and bryum warneum and one species of plant, lesser centaury, which are protected legally under the National Parks and Wildlife Service Flora Protection Order.

During winter, multiple wildfowl and wading birds, protected under the EU Birds Directive, migrate to the island from as far away as Canada and Africa. The light-bellied brent goose, the black-tailed godwit and the bar-tailed godwit are three species which regularly can be seen in the island.

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Between October and April the Light-Bellied Brent Geese spend these colder months in Ireland after travelling from Arctic Canada. Image by  @budgiephoto via @northbullisland.

A new plan to protect Bull Island’s biodiversity

In April 2023, Dublin City Council announced a new visitor access management plan for North Bull Island to protect biodiversity on the island. The plan proposed by Dublin City Council would prevent people from accessing the salt marsh or northern tip of the island, which will be left untroubled.

According to the council, the salt marsh is home to migratory birds who feed and roost and to seals giving birth. They can build up necessary fat reserves for their long migratory journeys. The behaviour of dog-walkers is also pointed out. While dogs should be kept under strict control on Bull Island, too many of their owners let them run around, but they disturb nests and chase smaller creatures. Dog walkers will have to keep their dog on a lead in the dunes in order to avoid disturbing ground nesting birds.

An area of the beach will be available for dogs off-lead outside of the bathing season and bathing hours (11am-8pm). Colour-coded zones will be introduced for dog-walkers to make the instructions clear on the island.


A new plan from Dublin City Council could help preserve the island’s biodiversity. Image via @northbullisland.

Golf clubs

Bull Island is not only a bird sanctuary, it is also known to have great golf courses. 101 years ago, when St. Anne’s Golf Club was founded, it was only a 9-hole course with a modest clubhouse. Today, the golf club has an 18-hole links course, one of 53 links courses in Ireland. Their modern clubhouse gives beautiful panoramic views of Dublin Bay.

The Royal Dublin Golf Club is another famous golf club founded in 1885 by Mr. John Lumsden. This club also has beautiful links courses and is considered as one of the greatest links courses in the world. The links were originally designed by H.S.Colt, the famous English golf course architect.

Many Irish championships have been hosted at The Royal Dublin Golf Club, starting with the Irish Amateur Open back in 1894. The Royal Dublin Golf Club also hosted The Carrolls Irish Open from 1983-1985 with Seve Ballesteros winning in 1983 and 1985 and Bernhard Langer winning in 1984. The Club has also regularly hosted the Irish Amateur Close and the Irish PGA.

Bull Island is great for a day out near Dublin. This island has a lot to offer if you love natural spaces and observing flora and fauna.

Marylou Prevost
Marylou Prevost

After a Master's degree in journalism and one year as a journalist in France, I landed in Dublin to write for Babylon Radio. I mostly love writing about cultural events in Ireland.

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