Special Protected Area



Hook Head is a Special Protected Area (SPA) under Irish & EU legislation. SPAs are areas that are of European importance specifically for bird species established under the EU Birds Directive (79/409/EEC). As a member of the EU, it is required that Ireland designates any site that meets the ecological criteria laid out. The network of SPAs in Ireland includes important wintering waterfowl sites and sites supporting rare species.

Wexford is a county rich in biodiversity. Habitat diversity includes reefs, sea caves, coastal dune systems, lagoons, lakes, rivers, grasslands, marshes, woodlands, and peatlands. Many habitats throughout Wexford are rich in species diversity; they provide important roosting or feeding sites as well as being valuable wildlife corridors.

The Hook Head area is of special importance due to the presence bird species, fossils, sea-life and its vegetated sea cliffs. Visitor flow is managed to discourage visitors from entering the protected areas. We are committed to environmental conservation and education.


Geodiversity may be defined as “the natural range (diversity) of geological (rocks, minerals, fossils), geomorphological (landforms, processes) and soil features. It includes their assemblages, relationships, properties, interpretations and systems” (Gray 2004). Rocks, sediments and soils form the land on which we live and on which plants and animals thrive. Without rocks, no soil or nutrients can be created; without soil and nutrients, there is no starting point for plants and animals. Geomorphological processes, for example the effects of erosion and weathering, shape the landscape. Fluvial processes have created a diversity of river habitats and coastal processes are vital to the well-being of coastal biodiversity. Geodiversity underpins biodiversity since habitats have a geological foundation. If the geological foundation is not taken care of, biodiversity will suffer from it as it will be deprived from a vital supporting element.

County Wexford has a unique geodiversity: from rocks as old as 620 million years to exceptionally preserved fossils recording a teeming tropical sea life to volcanic rocks, glacial features and present coastal processes.

At Hook Head a continuous section of rocks of Devonian to Carboniferous age outcrops on the Hook Peninsula along the coast. Well preserved fossils can be seen around the lighthouse in the Carboniferous limestone: corals, crinoids (sea lilies), brachiopods, bryozoans and echinoids (sea urchins), remnants of a teeming sea life, 350 Million years ago. The coastal section is part of the Hook Head NHA and SAC and is recommended for NHA status.


This rare sighting of a humpback whale off Hook Head, in Co. Wexford, was captured by Padraig Whooley of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. Whale and Dolphin watching is a popular pastime on the Peninsula.

Humpback Whale off Hook LighthouseThe Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (http://www.iwdg.ie) monitor sightings of whales and dolphins around the coast. In 2010 there were reports of a number of Fin whales and a Humpback whale sited off the coast at Hook head. The whales made a welcome return to Hook head annually.

The majestic and rare sight of giant humpback whales exploding out of the water, Fin Whales breaching can been seen from the shoreline around Hook Head with a good pair of binoculars in the winter months as they arrive to feed on the huge shoals of herring.

Humpback whales are amongst the largest creatures on earth. They can grow to 50 feet long and can weigh 40 tonnes.

Boat trips are also available locally from Duncannon village.

Boat owners intending to try to see the whales should be aware of the Marine Notice 15 of 2005 – “GUIDELINES FOR CORRECT PROCEDURES WHEN ENCOUNTERING WHALES AND DOLPHINS IN IRISH COASTAL WATERS”.
Latest news and pictures from Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

We are so lucky to have these amazing creatures visiting the waters just off the coast each year.

Hook Head is also a Special Protected Area (SPA) under Irish & EU legislation. SPAs are areas that are of European importance specifically for bird species established under the EU Birds Directive so keep watch and enjoy nature at its finest on the Hook Peninsula.


Vegetated sea cliffs can be divided in to two categories: hard (or rocky) cliffs and soft (or sedimentary) cliffs. Hard cliffs are composed of rocks that are resistant to weathering and can be vertical or steeply sloping. Vegetation tends to occur on ledges and in crevices or where a break in slope allows soil to accumulate. Soft cliffs tend to be less steep and more vegetated than hard cliffs, however, they are prone to slumping and landslides. Coastal cliffs provide important resting, roosting and nesting areas for sea birds. The faeces produced by the birds are rich in phosphorus and nitrogen which can influence the composition of the vegetation present. Vegetated sea cliffs display a widespread geographical distribution in Ireland, with a greater frequency of soft cliffs along the eastern seaboard. The best examples of sea cliffs in Wexford occur at Hook Head cSAC and the Saltee Islands cSAC. At Hook Head the sea cliffs extend for a distance of c.15 km and are mostly low, usually not more than 10 m although they extend up to 30 m near Baginbun Head. Both clay and rock cliffs are represented. The cliffs are also of ornithological interest for breeding Choughs, Ravens and Peregrine Falcons, and there is a small sea bird colony, mainly of Guillemots, near Baginbun. The headland is also a noted landfall point for migrants


The sponge Tethyspira spinosa has a limited distribution in Ireland but occurs at two or more sites at Carnsore Point cSAC. This species is only known from the Saltees, Hook Head and Roaring Water Bay.