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South Walney

With stunning views across Morecambe bay, this shingle island reserve is full of interest and a fantastic place for bird watching. South Walney Nature Reserve is home to the only grey seal colony in Cumbria. Watch LIVE Seal Cam - click here Find out where tracked gulls go - click here Frequently Asked Questions about the seals at South Walney

Grey seals at South Walney Nature Reserve

The grey seals can be seen playing in the water at high tide, along with thousands of wintering wildfowl and wader birds, from hides elsewhere on the nature reserve. Baby seals are incredibly vulnerable to disturbance, which would cause the mother to abandon it and the pup to starve. There is strictly no access to the area of the nature reserve where the seals are located. Watch LIVE seal cam

Grey seal Grey seal pup on a shingle beach

Find out where our gulls are going

Some of our Lesser black-backed and Herring gulls have been fitted with tiny solar powered trackers. You can see what they are up to and  track their movements around the bay in real time.



  • Spring is the time to see courting eider ducks and catch the returning spring migrants- wheatear, willow warbler and sandwich terns. Thrift and sea campion come into flower.
  • In summer see nesting gulls, eiders, oystercatchers and ringed plovers. Burnet moths and grayling butterflies are on the wing and viper's bugloss, yellow horned poppy and sea lavender are in flower.
  • Autumn catch the flocks of migratory curlew, spotted redshank, redstart and pink-footed geese. 
  • Winter marvel at the high tide roosts of waders and wildfowl. 
  • Throughout the year look out for barn owls, short-eared owls and peregrines and grey seals at high tide. 


Haven for breeding birds

Each spring, large numbers of lesser black backed and herring gulls return to begin to set up nest territories. You can also see breeding eider duck, greater black backed gull, shelduck, oystercatcher, mallard, moorhen and coot.


Many of the 250 bird species recorded however are passage migrants on their way to or from breeding grounds. These include common species such as wheatear, redstart, willow warbler and gold crest, as well as more unusual species, which may have been blown off their normal migration route. In winter you can see large numbers of waders and wildfowl feeding and roosting around the nature reserve both on the gravel pools and the intertidal areas.


Plants at South Walney

Vegetated shingle is an unusual habitat - look out for yellow horned poppy, sea campion and biting stonecrop.  In the small areas of surviving dune grassland survive look out for pyramidal orchid, Portland spurge, restharrow and wild pansy. The old gravel workings have developed their own communities with striking plants such as viper's bugloss, henbane and alkanet. In the saltmarsh in Lighthouse Bay you can find specialists such as as thrift, glasswort and sea purslane.


Shingle island

South Walney forms the southern tip of a shingle island lying at the end of the Furness Peninsula. During the medieval period it was farmed by the monks of Furness Abbey, whilst during the 19th and 20th centuries salt, sand and gravel were extracted leaving large lagoons and some industrial remains. South Walney has been leased from Holker Estates since 1963.


Getting there

By car: From Barrow in Furness follow signs for Walney Island.  Cross Jubilee Bridge onto the Island and follow brown signs left at traffic lights, follow this road for about 1km/0.6 miles then turn left down Carr Lane.  Continue on this road past Biggar Village.  The reserve is 1km beyond the South End Caravan Site.  
By bicycle:  The reserve is 5km/ 3 miles from National Route 72 Walney to Wear.
By public transport: Buses run from Barrow in Furness to Biggar.


Nearby nature reserves

Foulney Island
3 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Next Ness
12 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Heysham Nature Reserve
12 miles - The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Walney Island
Barrow in Furness
Map reference
SD 225 620
Great for...
a family day out
historical interest
overwintering birds
spring migrant birds
stunning views
Best time to visit
Mar - Aug
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
The reserve is open daily 10am to 5pm (4pm in winter). The reserve gate is closed and locked shortly after closing time. There is a small charge for entry onto the nature reserve to non-members. Members entry is free, non-members £3.00 for adults, £1.00 for children. If you are not a member, do consider joining us! During very high tides(9.86m and above) or when there are strong winds, the road to/from the reserve can be cut off for a period of time
Picnic facilities
Disabled toilet
130.00 hectares
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
Special Protection Areas (SPA)

Main track from the car park to Pier Hide and the Lighthouse is reasonably level. Off road mobility tramper available for hire. A kind donation of £5 is appreciated for the use of the tramper. Please book in advance by calling the Reserve Officer on 01229 471066.
Walking information
There are several waymarked trails on the reserve (Red trail 5km/3 miles, blue trail 3km/2 miles).
Car park on site
No dogs allowed
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Sarah Dalrymple
Tel: 01229 471066