Restoring the boardwalk at Murlough National Nature Reserve
Murlough became Ireland’s first Nature Reserve in 1967, and the original boardwalk was built in the early 1970s to limit the erosion of the path. Thanks to generous donations, we’re now undertaking a project to restore the 3km pathway, ensuring the protection of the ancient dune system and its rare habitats for generations to come. Read more about this vital conservation work here.
Restoring the boardwalk at Murlough
When the original boardwalk was installed, the boards lasted about 30 years due to a chemical treatment which is no longer in use. Nowadays, boards usually last around 10–15 years, which means they need replacing more often.
Testing sustainable boards
With increasing damage caused by wear and tear, a large portion of the boardwalk needs replacing to ensure the protection of the ancient dune system and its rare habitats. As well as using douglas fir boards, we’re also testing out some recycled plastic versions to ensure the longevity and sustainability of the boardwalk.
‘Large portions of the 3km of boardwalk now need replacing, which is vital for the habitat of the reserve. The deterioration of the paths leads to erosion of the dunes creating an unstable surface. The three-year project will allow us, as the wardens did in the 1970s, to test out different techniques to ensure the future of the boardwalk.’
– Patrick Lynch, Countryside Manager at Murlough
Help us to protect local habitats
The project which started in 2018 has been partly funded by DAERA and around 2km of the full 3km has been restored so far. You’re likely to run into Boardwalk Ranger Phil and his volunteers hard at work on the next section, so do stop and ask how the project is going.
How you can help
You can help us to protect this historic landscape by donating to the boardwalk appeal at the bottom of this page. It’s thanks to generous donations that we can care for places like Murlough Nature Reserve for generations to come.
Building the original boardwalk
When the National Trust took on ownership of Murlough in 1967, damage to the Nature Reserve was already evident. Erosion was visible on the paths between the beach and adjoining caravan parks from the volume of visitors, vehicles and even use of the reserve by the American Army in the 1940s.
Providing access and limiting damage
The team needed to come up with a solution to protect the rare habitat. Jo Whatmough was one of the original wardens at Murlough and recalls their work: ‘From 1968 to 1972 we trialled a number of methods of stabilising the paths, and with funding, one method using douglas fir boards was found the most successful at providing access and limiting damage to the surrounding landscape.’
In 1972 the Murlough Boardwalk was introduced across the reserve.
The Murlough method
The Murlough design consists of individual douglas fir boards strung like beads on two lengths of heavy wire. Another common method is to arrange lighter planks on top of horizontal risers, but Murlough’s undulating landscape required a design which allowed for the twists and turns of the dunes. The design has been so successful that the ‘Murlough method’ has been adopted elsewhere.
A visit to Murlough National Nature Reserve is a wildlife lover’s dream with hundreds of insects, swathes of beautiful wildflowers, mammals and birds all to be discovered.
A 5 year project is taking place to remove the invasive sea buckthorn at Murlough. Partially funded by NIEA, the team is on track to remove 4 hectares over the next few years.
The dune system at Murlough is estimated at being up to 6,000 years old. Discover the history of the dunes, and how Murlough came to be Ireland’s first national nature reserve.
Discover the volunteering opportunities available at Murlough National Nature Reserve, and how you can get involved.