about the reserve

Hello, welcome to the official Beach Road website. Beach Road nature reserve is in the seaside town of Whitehead, Co.Antrim in Northern Ireland and is a supportive habitat to a wide range of birds, insects and plants.

Enjoy a great family day out and come and visit us.

Whitehead quarry is an excellent example of nature’s resilience by process of natural succession. It demonstrates how a landscape scarred by human activity can be returned to nature.

Wildlife Habitat History Geology Fossils Management Photos

The Wildlife That Live Here

Many different bird species are attracted to the Nature Reserve because it provides shelter and plentiful food supply such as seeds, berries, small insects and grubs.

Look out for Song Thrush, Robin, Chaffinch, Wren, Fulmar, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, Redpoll, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldcrest, Mistle Thrush, Woodpigeon, Bullfinch, Coal Tit, Raven, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit and Dunnock.  These are all species that are found in the quarry and the adjacent coastline.  Most are resident and can be seen all year round:  Willow warbler, whitethroat, house martin and swift are summer visitors to the quarry and can only be seen between April and September. 

fulmarFulmar The quarry supports a population of as many as 20 pairs of fulmar.  Often mistaken for gulls, fulmars hold their wings more stiffly and straighter when gliding and soaring.  They can also be identified by their distinctive cacking call as they wave their heads and bow at their mates or rivals when sitting on the cliff ledges.  Fulmars are seen from January to August and live on a seafood diet of crustaceans, squid, fish and offal.

Raven The raven is the largest of all crows, with a heavy cudgel-shaped bill.  Their diet ranges from carrion to beetles.  The raven’s nest is a massive structure which is rebuilt each year with new material.  Ravens nest early in the season, and can usually be seen around the quarry between February and April.

Peregrine Falcon A pair of breeding peregrines occupy a ledge on
the quarry face about half way up the cliff. They nest from April to July and have bred successfully on several occasions.

peregrineThe Peregrine Falcon the largest and most spectacular of our resident falcons is one of the most interesting and notorious species that is in the Nature Reserve. Peregrines are widely admired as spectacular aerial assailants; they usually attack their prey in mid-air after spotting a victim from a high vantage point.  They ‘stoop’ in a steep power dive on nearly closed wings reaching speeds of 180km/hr or more, killing the prey with a blow to the head with the foot. 

They feed almost exclusively on other birds, but occasionally hunt small mammals such as bats, rats and rabbits.  Perhaps the variety of birds along Belfast Lough makes Whitehead Nature Reserve the best home!

Peregrines are a protected species. It is illegal to disturb the nest.

The environment of dense hedging, trees and wildflowers at Beach Road Nature Reserve attracts a variety of butterflies.  Butterflies need sugar-rich nectar to feed on, and they also need particular plants on which to lay their eggs.  There is a good selection of flowers and plants here to provide food for butterflies and caterpillars.

butterflyOrange Tip (flies April-June) & Green-veined White (seen in spring and mid-summer) both lay eggs on lady’s smock, hedge garlic and hedge mustard.

Large White (flies May-September) prefers wild and cultivated cabbages.

Small Tortoiseshell (seen March-October) love flowers in a sunny position, and lay their eggs on stinging nettles growing in sheltered, sunny patches which can be found in the middle of the quarry.

A Supportive Habitat

Beach Road Nature Reserve is home to a wide range of birds, insects and plants.  To discover just a few of its habitants – stop, look and listen.  The colonisation of the quarry by trees, shrubs and wildflowers has created a home for a diversity of birds and insects.  A wildflower meadow boasting a rich mix of flora and fauna has been created to further enhance the site.  Wildflower meadows are an important habitat for many species of insect, bird and mammals.  Insects need specific plants on which to feed and lay their eggs.

a supportive habitiat

The History Of Beach Road

Beach Road Nature Reserve is set in an old disused quarry. The headland at the old quarry is know as White Head and it was so called because at one time it had an outer formation of limestone.  Very little limestone remains today due to extensive quarrying, but once limestone was plentiful. 

The bulk of the limestone excavated from this area was transported to the Whitehead harbour in bogies hauled by a small steam engine which ran on little railway lines which had been laid from the quarry to the harbour. The limestone was then shipped to various locations.

The Whitehead Harbour better known as the White Harbour is located about one and a half miles south of the quarry in the townland of Knocknagullagh.

After most of the limestone had been removed, a considerable trade in broken stone was carried out. Two railway sidings operated from the main line, one adjacent to the railway tunnel, which runs through the headland, and alongside the Beach Road. Large quantities of these stones were used for ballast from dummy ships in the First World War. The foundations of the first villas built in Whitehead were made with stones from the quarry, as were many roads in the surrounding countryside. The quarry closed in the 1920s and later between 1955 and 1982, it was used as the town dump.


Management Information

For further information on Beach Road Nature Reserve contact Carrickfergus Borough Council’s Parks & Countryside Section on 028 9335 8000 or visit the website www.carrickfergus.org

The Geology Of Beach Road

The two main types of rock exposed in the quarry and on the foreshore are basalt and chalk. The white chalk (the Ulster White Limestone Formation) was deposited between 80 million and 65 million years ago during the late Cretaceous Period.

The chalk is formed from the compacted, microscopic remains of billions of dead animals called coccoliths. They thrived in the shallow, warm seas that covered this area during the late Cretaceous. The fossilised remains of other animals such as belemnites, echinoids, brachiopods and sponges can also be seen. The bands and nodules of greyish-brown material that can be seen in the chalk are made of chert (or flint) and mostly formed as the chalk compacted after deposition.

Overlying the chalk and forming the upper part of the quarry walls is the darker coloured basalt. Unlike the chalk, the younger basalt was erupted as lava through volcanic vents and fissures around 60 million years ago.

The southwest face of the quarry exposes up to 30m of basalt lava flows with columnar jointing, similar to that seen at the Giant's Causeway, but on a miniature scale is visible at the base of the face. Thin bands of reddish-brown material lie between some of the lava flows. They represent a thin soil that developed on top of some of the lava flows between eruptions.

Fossils & Minerals

The Belfast Naturalists visited the area around the quarry and collected many fossils and minerals. A local man Robert Bell (1864-1934) an uneducated shipyard worker made an important collection of local zeolites, which is part of the National Collection of Zeolites, and may be seen in the National History Museum, London.




Visitor information

If you are coming to visit us, don't forget to check out our 'coming to visit?' section which has helpful information on how to get here, maps, safety and visitor information

How to get here
Visitor Information
Location Map

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