Sheskinmore Nature Reserve
Sheskinmore refers to a large area of sand dunes, lake and marsh that lies between Kiltooris and Ballinreavy Strand, north west of Ardara, Co. Donegal. It is regarded as one of the most important Nature Reserves in Ireland and has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), a Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Wildfowl Sanctuary. Sheskinmore is open to the public all year round, and offers families & nature enthusiasts many of the beautiful wonders of nature unique to Ireland. The area is easily accessed from the gate at Mullyvea opposite Kiltooris Lough.
The area is mostly a fixed sand dune system, which includes machair grassland, dune slacks, Sheskinmore lough and the surrounding marsh, fen and reedbed. There is some oak and hazel scrub with heath on the drier northern slopes behind the lough and there is also coastal heath on the Carrickalagh headland. Sescenn Mór literally means “big marsh” and the marshy plain contains much of the areas’ interesting flora and fauna. South and west of the flat marshy plain there are sandy machair grasslands which evolve into high undulating sand dunes along Trawmore Strand and Ballinreavy Strand.
A visit at any time of year is always interesting for birdlife. During the winter a small flock of Greensland White Fronted Geese feed undisturbed here. Chough and Twite also feed here in Winter. Brent Goose, Whooper Swan, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and Golden Plover are other winter visitors. Lapwing, Mallard, Teal, Snipe and Mute Swan are found all year round as are Linnet, Skylark, Meadow pipit, Stonechat and Reed Bunting. Summer visitors include the Grasshopper, Sedge and Willow Warblers and Wheatear, Swallow and Cuckoo. Birds of prey species use this vast open undisturbed site to hunt.
Sheskinmore Nature Reserve
Plants and Animals
The fixed dune and machair are managed to enhance their species richness. Orchid species include the Marsh Helleborine, Bee Orchid, Frog Orchid and the rare Irish Orchid. There is a succession of colour throughout the summer months in the dunes and on the marsh, from yellows and whites in spring through to the pinks and purples of the late summer. Rarieties recorded in the area include the aquatic slender naiad and pipewort, the tiny petalwort, also quillwort, hoary whitlow grass and many stonewort species.
Rabbits, badgers and foxes are the most common mammals recorded at Sheskinmore. Otter have been seen in the lough. Frog and newt breed in and around the dune slacks and the common lizard breeds on the drier slopes. The protected tiny marsh snail species Vertigo geyeri is found in the fen habitat west of the lough. The area is also noteworthy for the variety of butterflies and dragonflies that breed here. Marsh fritillary and dingy skipper both breed at Sheskinmore along with 18 other butterfly species. Sheskinmore lough and associated wetlands is the most species rich site in Donegal for dragonflies and damselflies. Fifteen species have been recorded, the most interesting being the Black-tailed Skimmer and the small Blue tip.
Access & Safety
There are three signed access points. The main entrance is at the Mullyvea gate opposite Kiltooris Lough. There is access from the east side at both Murveagh and Sandfield of the R261. Walkers should be cautious of grazing animals between October and May and dogs should be kept on a lead and under control at all times. Some of the land within the site is still privately owned so be careful to close gates and not to damage walls or fences. Appropriate walking clothing and a map and compass are recommended. Any damaging activities should be reported to NPWS at Gleanveagh National Park 074 -9137090 or NPWS at Ballinafad, Co. Sligo, 071 9666700
Donegal Cottage Holidays is part of the Visit Donegal Network