Foulney Island

Arctic and little tern breed on this island nature reserve during the summer whilst in autumn and winter it is a great site to see waders.


Near Barrow in Furness
Barrow in Furness
LA13 0QL

OS Map Reference

Sheet no. 96
Grid reference SD 246 640
A static map of Foulney Island

Know before you go

18 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Car park

Bicycle parking


Grazing animals


Walking trails

The walk from car park to the far end of the island and back is 4.6km/3 miles.



During the bird breeding season (1 April – 15 August), access is restricted to designated paths and Slitch Ridge is closed.

The track along the causeway can be muddy and slippery.


Dogs permitted
During the bird breeding season (1 April – 15 August), access is restricted to designated paths and Slitch Ridge is closed. No dogs (except assistance dogs) are allowed on the island at this time to protect birds from disturbance.

When to visit

Opening times

Around high tide the nature reserve may be cut off.

Best time to visit

April to August

About the reserve

Wildlife highlights

  • In spring - an exciting time with courting eider ducks and terns starting to arrive back on the reserve.  Thrift and sea campion are in flower.
  • In summer the three species of tern are busy feeding chicks. Supreme long-distance travellers, Arctic terns, migrate vast distances to nest on the island’s shingle banks after spending winter in the Antarctic. Spot these stunning birds alongside breeding common and little terns in early summer. You can see lots of ringed plover chicks as well.
  • In autumn the sea aster is in flower. Thousands of Brent geese, curlew, dunlin, knot and oystercatcher provide a spectacle in autumn and winter – look for great crested grebe, red-breasted merganser, cormorant and common scoter offshore.
  • In Winter - a great time to spot birds such as  brent geese, wigeon, knot and dunlin. You might also see long-tailed duck, Slovenian grebe or the occasional diver on the sea amongst thousands of eider.

At any time of year you might see grey seals. 

Island of pebbles

Foulney Island is formed entirely of pebbles that were brought from the Lake District to the coast by glaciers during the last ice age.

Once a true island, Foulney Island is connected to the mainland by a man-made causeway built in the 19th century to prevent the Walney Channel from silting up.

The salt marsh to the east of the causeway has developed as a direct result. 

What makes Foulney Island so special?

Breeding birds

Foulney Island is perhaps best known for its breeding terns which travel vast distances to nest on the island's shingle banks.

Arctic, common and little tern all breed here. Other breeding birds include ringed plover, oystercatcher, eider, skylark and meadow pipit.

A warden is resident during the breeding season to monitor and protect the birds.

In autumn and winter, curlew, dunlin, knot and oystercatcher may be seen in thousands and great-crested grebe, red-breasted merganser, cormorant and common scoter are frequently present offshore.

Specialist plants

A haven for many breeding birds, Foulney Island is also a great place to find specialist plants.

The vegetated shingle of the island is internationally important with sea-kale, sea campion and yellow horned-poppy all specially adapted to survive where fresh water is scarce.

Sea-purslane, sea-lavender and glasswort thrive in the saltmarsh. 

Keeping it special

Foulney Island has been leased and managed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust since 1974.

Getting here

By car: From either Barrow-in-Furness or Ulverston take the A5087 coastal road to the village of Rampside. From the village follow the road towards Roa Island. Stop about a quarter of the way across the Roa Island causeway and park in the small car park on the left hand side. From here a path takes you alongside the stone causeway onto Foulney Island. Vehicular access is prohibited on Foulney Island.

By bicycle: The reserve is 10km/6 miles from National Route 70 Walney to Wear (W2W) and National Route 700 The Bay Cycleway.

By public transport: Buses run from Barrow-in-Furness and Ulverston to Roa Island. 

Contact us

Pete Jones
Contact number: 01539 816300

Environmental designation

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
Special Protection Areas (SPA)

Upcoming events at Foulney Island Nature Reserve

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