Belfast Lough

Site overview: Belfast Lough is a large, open sea lough located on the north-eastern coast of Northern Ireland. The inner part of the lough comprises mainly mud-flats and lagoons, which are important feeding and roosting sites for significant numbers of wintering waders and wildfowl. The outer lough is made up of rocky shores with some small sandy bays and beach-head saltmarsh. The site is of importance for a wide range of wintering waterbirds. This area has two protected areas which have been designated, Belfast Lough Open Water and Belfast Lough, both of which are Special Protection Areas. There is a proposed Marine Conservation Zone in this area too. They are all types of Marine Protected Area, with each aiming to protect different features of the site. This site aims to protect certain species of bird including the bar-tailed godwit, the redshank and the turnstone. Over winter, the area regularly supports 20,492 individual waterfowl birds including: goldeneye, redshank, turnstone, great crested grebe, cormorant, shelduck, mallard, bar-tailed godwit, eider, curlew, red-breasted merganser, oystercatcher, ringed plover, lapwing, knot, dunlin, black-tailed godwit and scaup.

Designation Status
Last Updated
6 June 2017
MPA Type
Special Protection Area
MPA Purpose
areas of the most important habitat for rare (listed on Annex I to the Directive) and migratory birds within the European Union


54° 39' 59" North,
5° 51' 16" West

Surface Area

4.32 km2
(1.67 mi.2 )

Iconic features protected by this site


  • Tidal rivers, Estuaries, Mud flats, Sand flats, Lagoons (including saltwork basins)


  • Common redshank (Tringa totanus) (Regularly occurring migratory species)