North Bull Island is a national nature reserve in Dublin Bay on the Northside of Dublin. It is technically man-made, as it is a direct result of the North Bull Wall being constructed over 200 years ago.
During the 17th to the 18th centuries, Dublin City gradually became more prosperous leading Dublin Port to become much busier as the main point for goods to be brought into the country. However, the bay was prone to silting with sand banks developing at the mouth of the river and coupled with very stormy weather, proved extremely hazardous for ships coming in and out. The South Bull Wall was constructed in the mid 1700’s to try and remedy the situation, and while it gave some help, it didn’t solve the silting. After a couple of disastrous shipwrecks, Captain William Bligh was tasked in 1800 with doing an in depth survey of the bay. He made the recommendation for a second wall to be built, the North Bull Wall, to mirror that of the south.
Started in 1820, the wall was completed in 1825 and it created a natural scouring action that would deepen the river channel and greatly improve the access to the Port.
While the basic structure of the wall has remained unchanged since the late 19th century, a significant addition was that of a statue of Réalt na Mara ('Our Lady, Star of the Sea'). Installed in 1972, the statue depicts Our Lady with a halo of 12 stars made of Waterford glass. Perched atop a globe, she watches over Dublin port workers and seafarers alike. The monument is floodlit at night and visible across Dublin Bay
As a result of the North Bull Wall, the sandbanks which ships once ran aground on, grew larger and developed into an island above the water. Over the last 2 Centuries it has naturally developed into a haven for local and visiting wildlife. It continues to grow towards the sea, which is an unusual occurrence for Ireland, and currently spans 5km in length and 1 km wide.
There are long stretches of dunes and beachfront to enjoy here, known as Dollymount Beach.
The North Bull Wall stretches out beyond the beach and keeps the waters calm, warmer than most beaches and ideal to paddle with children or non-swimmers. When the tide is out you can walk for ages to the horizon and the waters are shallow for a few hundred metres before getting deeper. An added bonus is being able to watch the large cruise liners coming in on the opposite side of the wall into Dublin Port.
The island as a whole contains a wide range of natural habitats which include intertidal mudflats, salt marsh, freshwater marsh, dunes, and beach area. These individual habitats are vital to an extraordinary wealth of wildlife which live, breed and eat on Bull Island. The area has several nature conservation designations for the habitats and species it supports. It is designated as a special amenity area for both its aesthetic and recreational value and is an integral part of the Dublin Bay Biosphere. The island is home at various times of the year to 8,000 wild fowl and 26,000 waders, 180 different bird species and 300 species of plants. There are six mammal species on the island including Irish Hares, European Rabbits, Brown Rats, Red Foxes, Hedgehogs and Field Mice.
The grasslands are ideal for walkers and birdwatchers to explore and you will often see kite surfers taking advantage of the wind that whips around the bay.
It is a fantastic opportunity to introduce children to wildlife and their natural surroundings, so close in proximity to a City and just 20 minutes drive from the Castle Hotel.