Find out the latest news and information about reserve access as RSPB NI responds to the COVID-19 government guidance and advice.

Tuesday 26 May

View of Portmore Lough from Observation Deck

From Wednesday 27 May the outdoor spaces at Belfast’s Window on Wildlife and Portmore Lough reserves will be open for visitors however Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre will remain  closed.

Behind the scenes we've been working hard to make our nature reserves safe and ready for our staff, visitors and wildlife. Whilst outdoor spaces at Belfast WOW and Portmore Lough reserves will be accessible, visitor centres and offices remain closed as well as the enclosed hide and toilet facilities at Portmore Lough.

Please stay local to your nearest reserve and continue to enjoy the open spaces closest to home.

What does this mean for visiting our sites?

Belfast’s Window on Wildlife

We’ve added signage and markers that will help visitors explore our reserve safely and discover wildlife, please adhere to these directions when visiting.

  • Viewing areas at Hide 1 and Hide 2 are open, however the enclosed member and photographers’ areas at the hides remain closed.
  • Hide 1: Accessible from Airport Road West, markers are in place to help visitors maintain social distance.
  • Hide 2: Accessible through a black gate from Airport Road West. There is a short track to Hide 2 with a one-way system in place, please pay attention to directional signage along the tracks.
  • The visitor centre will remain closed and will re-open the centre when we are comfortable that our visitors, staff and volunteers can stay safe.
  • We encourage anyone visiting Belfast’s Window on Wildlife to do so whilst following government guidance on social distancing and be considerate of other visitors.

Please keep any accompanying dogs under control at all times.

For more information on Belfast’s Window on Wildlife visit our website or for directions access Google Maps.

Portmore Lough

We’ve added signage and markers that will help you explore our reserve safely and discover wildlife, please adhere to these directions when visiting our reserves.

  • The observation platform is open for visitors to enjoy the views over the lough.
  • The 500m board walk is open, this is a linear one-way path and visitors must return via the same route.
    Please note the enclosed bird hide at the end of the boardwalk remains closed.  
  • The wildlife garden is open and can accessed via the grass path opposite the community room building. A one-way system is in place and visitors should follow the signage.
  • Picnic benches are available near the community room. These have been arranged to ensure they meet social distancing standards.
  • Toilets remain closed.

Please keep any accompanying dogs under control at all times.

We encourage anyone visiting RSPB Portmore Lough to do so whilst following government guidance on social distancing and be considerate of our neighbours and other visitors.

Tuesday 12 May


While the Northern Ireland Executive has today announced a plan for lifting restrictions, lockdown remains in place in Northern Ireland.

Our reserves at RSPB Portmore Lough, RSPB Belfast’s Window on Wildlife and RSPB Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre remain closed until further notice.

We look forward to welcoming visitors again once it is safe to do so.

Tuesday 24 March

Following the latest clear instructions from the Government for us all to remain at home apart from a limited number of allowed activities, we are closing our reserves to visitors until further notice.

This means we will close car parks, toilets and playgrounds to the public, in Northern Ireland that means that all access to RSPB Portmore Lough is now closed, access to the hides at RSPB Belfast’s Window on Wildlife is no longer available and the planned opening of RSPB Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre will not go ahead at present. These measures are on top of the existing closure of our visitor centres, cafes and shops. It is with great sadness that we ask people to refrain from visiting RSPB but we look forward to welcoming you back in future.

Our efforts will now move to helping the millions of people spending time at home. We are determined to do our bit to try and help connect people with the amazing wildlife to be seen in gardens or from balconies or windows and offer some hope and joy in these difficult times.

Over the coming days and weeks, we will also be helping people to share their wildlife encounters and provide ideas for things they can do for wildlife close to home.

Take care,

The RSPB NI team.

Monday 23 March

Statement from the RSPB Board:

"We will keep our sites open, where it is safe to do so. This includes toilets, hides and carparks. We have had to close some sites because it has been unsafe to keep them open in terms of being able to maintain social distancing and therefore keep our staff, volunteers and the public safe.  We are keeping this under constant review. 

For us to be able to continue to do this, we urge you to please be responsible and continue to practice government guidelines on social distancing.  We also ask that you stay local and only visit those places near to you in order to help us manage capacity, as well as limit unnecessary travel.  

We will be updating any changes to the status of our reserves on our website and through social media, so please do check before you go."

Friday 20 March

As announced on Wednesday, RSPB NI has now closed visitor centres following government advice, but we’re keeping elements of RSPB Belfast's Window on Wildlife and RSPB Portmore Lough reserves open as long as possible so you can still enjoy these free and amazing places for wildlife.

Belfast’s Window on Wildlife

  • Hide 1 and Hide 2 are operational, however the visitor centre as well as the members’ area in both hides will be closed until further notice.

  • Hide 1 is accessible from Airport Road West and Hide 2 is accessible through a black gate from Airport Road West and down a short track.

We encourage those that continue to visit Belfast’s Window on Wildlife to do so whilst following the government’s advice on social distancing. As advised on the reserve signage please maintain at least 2m from other people and follow government guidance on personal hygiene.

Please keep any accompanying dogs under control at all times.

For more information on Belfast’s Window on Wildlife you can visit our website or for directions access Google Maps.

Portmore Lough

The observation platform and the lough side bird hide are currently open. The bird hide can be accessed along a 500m boardwalk. Toilets are open every day from 9am to 5pm.

The wildlife garden can only be accessed either via the hard path from the car park or via the grass path opposite the community room building. Follow the path through the trees and around to the pond. Visitors should return via the same route.

We encourage those that continue to visit Portmore Lough to do so whilst following the government’s advice on social distancing. As advised on the reserve signage please maintain at least 2m from other people and follow government guidance on personal hygiene.

Please keep any accompanying dogs under control at all times.

For more information on Portmore Lough you can visit our website or for directions access Google Maps.

Keep in Touch

Keep informed here on our blog or via @RSPBNI Facebook and Twitter accounts and join our dedicated Facebook groups for Rathlin and Belfast’s Window on Wildlife.

Wednesday 18 March

Following the latest government advice, the RSPB has made the difficult decision to close all our visitor centres, cafes and shops to visitors by the end of the day on Friday 20 March 2020. This is to prioritise the health and welfare of our staff, volunteers, supporters and members of the public.

These are difficult and unsettling times for all of us but we hope that nature can provide a welcome respite in whichever form and wherever you may encounter it. We want to do everything we can to help people and communities safely experience nature at this time, which is why we will keep our reserve trails and car parks open where possible. Therefore, all car parking and entrance charges at RSPB reserves will be waived so people can enjoy these sites at no cost.

We hope that visitors will continue to enjoy these amazing places for wildlife while observing physical distancing measures.

If you are unable to get out into nature physically, then we will be here providing updates, news, photos, blogs and more, to help you keep connected with nature over the coming weeks.  Remember you can follow us on @RSPBNI on Twitter and Facebook, join our dedicated Facebook groups for Rathlin and Belfast’s Window on Wildlife or read this blog.

Our staff and volunteers will be continuing to work tirelessly to save nature on our reserves and through conservation projects and campaigns.  More than ever, your support for nature is vital, and greatly appreciated.

You can find the RSPB’s latest response to coronavirus on our website

And the latest government information and advice on coronavirus can be found on the Department for Health and Social Care’s website.

Most importantly, keep safe and look out for one another.

Take care,

The RSPB NI team.

Anonymous