Copeland Island Bird Observatory

Places to See | Co. Down, Northern Ireland

The Copeland Islands is a group of islands in the North Irish Sea, situated 3.6km off the coast from Donaghadee in County Down, Northern Ireland.

Noted for their varied bird population, there are three islands included in the Copeland Islands: the Big Island, the Lighthouse Island (which does not have a lighthouse now) and Mew Island which does have a lighthouse.

Over a century ago the Lighthouse Island had a population of about 100, including a school master with 28 pupils. As the islands were a danger to ships a light beacon was made on the Lighthouse Island in about 1715, it burned over 400 tons of coal every year.  In 1884 the lighthouse was abandoned and a new lighthouse was built on Mew Island.

Lighthouse Island is now owned by the National Trust and operated by volunteer members of the Copeland Bird Observatory. The ruins of the original keepers’ house have been rebuilt to house a bird observatory.  Its main aim is the collection of data on migratory and breeding birds, which may be used for their general conservation. It is operated on a part-time basis by local amateur ornithologists.

Apart from the birds, the Island is available as an ecological study centre and is a valuable educational resource for all levels of student. There is accommodation for up to 23 overnight visitors in the converted ruins of the old lighthouse. There are four bedrooms (two dormitory-style and two family rooms) a self-catering kitchen, a comfortable lounge and a flush toilet. Overnight accommodation is available only by arrangement with the Bird Observatory.

Although not generally open to the public (the observatory) weekend and day bird watching trips can be arranged. Access by boat from Donaghadee.

NOTE: Permission required in advance from Bookings Secretary.

Address: Copeland Island Bird Observatory, Lighthouse Island, Copeland Islands, Co. Down Northern Ireland

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