A great escape from the hustle and bustle of Belfast and Lisburn, Slievenacloy Nature Reserve is located in a valley in the Belfast Hills. Initial impressions may suggest only grassy fields, but the site is in fact a vast wildlife paradise of grassland, meadows, rush and heath. The site is particularly important for orchids, birds and fungi, and offers panoramic views from the Mourne Mountains to the Sperrins and beyond.
But there’s more than spectacular views to see at Slievenacloy - look out for a long list of Northern Ireland priority bird species including: hen harrier, lapwing, curlew, skylark, mistle thrush, song thrush, grasshopper warbler, starling, linnet and reed bunting. Snow buntings are frequent visitors during the winter.
On the ground you’ll find some interesting plants such as great and lesser butterfly orchids, frog orchid and the rare moonwort fern. The range of plant diversity also supports a wide variety of invertebrates such as butterflies, moths and bees.
A good example is devil's bit scabious - the exclusive food plant of caterpillars of the internationally rare marsh fritillary butterfly. Over much of the area, the vegetation is dominated by sharp-flowered rush and Yorkshire fog, but with a wide variety of associated species, including herbs such as cuckooflower, tormentil, marsh willowherb and meadow buttercup.
This site is also a hotspot for brightly coloured waxcap fungi, including the pink meadow waxcap which pops-up in autumn. Irish hare can be spotted here and there have been recent reports of barn owl.
Ulster Wildlife manages this special part of the Belfast Hills, for everyone to enjoy. Nestling in behind Divis and Colin mountains, Slievenacloy Nature Reserve offers a truly wild experience and spectacular views of the Mournes, Lough Neagh, Belfast and Scrabo Tower.