Ireland Wildlife Photography Guide: Explore These 7 Unmissable Locations

deer Ireland

Ireland wildlife photography offers a myriad of exciting opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers alike.

Ireland photography
A wintry view of Killarney National Park from Torc Mountain with the highest mountain range in Ireland—Macgillycuddy’s Reeks—in the background and Upper Lake at the bottom.

With its lush landscapes and diverse ecosystems, from expansive national parks to isolated islands and vibrant estuaries, the Emerald Isle offers a treasure trove of chances to capture the beauty of its fauna in their natural habitats.

In this article, we will explore some of the best places for wildlife photography in Ireland, each location a testament to the country’s commitment to preserving its rich biodiversity.

1. Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park is located in County Kerry, in the southwestern part of Ireland. It’s one of the most picturesque and ecologically significant areas in the country.

The park is renowned for its stunning and diverse landscapes, which include mountains, lakes, woodlands, and grasslands. The three main lakes of Killarney – Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and Upper Lake – add to the park’s scenic beauty.

Red deer hind with calf.

Killarney National Park is home to a rich variety of plant life. The woodlands consist of native oak and yew trees, along with a diverse understory of ferns, mosses, and other woodland plants.

The park supports a diverse range of wildlife, including native and introduced species. Red deer, Ireland’s only native deer species, roam freely in the park and are often seen in open areas.

Ireland wildlife
Group of Sika deer hinds in winter coat.

In the 19th Century, Sika deer were introduced to Killarney National Park. Since then, they have become the most common deer species in Ireland.

The woodlands here are home to badgers, foxes, pine martens, red squirrels, and much more.

pine marten Ireland wildlife
Pine martens have been reintroduced to the park and currently established a secure population, so there is a chance that while exploring the park, you might spot them.

Birdwatchers can expect to enjoy spotting a variety of species, including the native red grouse and peregrine falcon in the mountains, as well as wintering waterfowl on the lakes.

Local rivers like Deenagh, Flesk, or Laune attract many dippers, kingfishers, and grey wagtails.

birds of ireland
Eurasian Teal at Lough Leane.

Overall, Killarney National Park is a haven for nature lovers, offering a mix of scenic landscapes, diverse flora and fauna, and cultural attractions. It’s a place where visitors can appreciate Ireland’s natural heritage and immerse themselves in the beauty of the outdoors.

Read more: How to Photograph Red Squirrels

The Red Deer Rut at Killarney

Most photographers visit the park in Autumn to photograph the red deer rut. I highly recommend this opportunity!

October is the month to go, and the best places to visit include Knockreer Estate and Woodlands and the fields close to Mucross House in Killarney town (both in the lowlands). Look to the mountains around Killarney town like Torc, Mangerton, and Cores too.

dawn wildlife photography ireland stag rut
Two stags photographed during the rut at dawn.

Knockreer estate is the biggest area with the largest number of deer.

Over the years, the deer here have learned to coexist with humans and will accept human activity if it occurs on the designated footpaths. You can expect to see deer within a 50-100 meter range, which is perfect if you use a telephoto lens.

It is very important not to try to approach deer as this can stress them and disrupt the rut process.

To access Knockreer estate, you can leave your car at the public car park close to St. Mary Cathedral (GPS coordinates: 52.058883, -9.517143). The entrance to the Estate is opposite the Cathedral, passing Deenagh river bridge.

From the entrance, you have multiple choices of routes around the estate that lead to different fields and woodlands.

deer rut ireland
Young deer stag met at one of the woodland routes at Knockreer.

Read more: How to Improve Your Wildlife Action Shots

Recommended camera equipment

For this location, I recommend you take:

  • Lenses from 300 mm onward with the best range between 500-800 mm.
  • Monopod or tripod
  • Camouflaged, warm, and waterproof clothing!

Read more: What’s the Best Monopod for Wildlife Photography?

2. Great Saltee Island

Great and Little Saltee are situated approximately five kilometres off the coast of Kilmore Quay Co. Wexford in the Southeast of Ireland.

The larger island, Great Saltee, is the most famous bird sanctuary in Ireland and is very popular with both day-trippers, photographers, and birdwatchers alike. These Islands are privately owned by the Neale family and are one of the world’s major bird sanctuaries.

Ireland wildlife
View of the island from the Southwest side looking towards the landing area at the end and cliffs on the right-hand side where you can see most of the birds from the list below.

The Saltees are a haven for seabirds, nurturing an impressive array of birds, from gannets and gulls to puffins and Manx shearwaters. They also lie on an important migratory route and a popular stopping-off place for spring and autumn migrants.

The Great Saltee also has a breeding population of grey seals, one of the very few in eastern Ireland. Up to 120 animals are present in autumn and up to 20 pups are produced annually.

puffin photography ireland
Pair of Puffins with flowers in full bloom in the second half of May.

Breeding bird species found on the island include the chough, common guillemot, cormorant, fulmar, gannet, great black-backed gull, herring gull, hooded crow, kittiwake, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, Manx shearwater, mallard, meadow pipit, oystercatcher, Peregrine falcon, puffin, raven, razorbill, rock pipit, shag, Shelduck, skylark, and snipe.

Most photographers come here to capture puffins, gannets, razorbills, kittiwakes, and guillemots.

Read more: 7 Top Tips for Puffin Photography This Summer

Recommended camera equipment

For this location, I recommend you take a range of lenses, from wide-angle to long telephoto. The best will be lenses from 300-600 mm range for portrait shots and 100 to 400 mm for bird-in-flight shots. Most ideal would be a telephoto zoom like 150-600 mm.

A tripod or monopod will be useful but not necessary with hand-holdable lenses.

gannet photography Ireland wildlife
Courting pair of Gannets.

It’s vital to keep a distance from bird nests, especially at the gannet colony, and to not photograph them with wide-angle lenses or drones.

Some puffin burrows might also be under your feet close to the edge of the cliff. Please do not stay too long (the five-minute rule) in one place to let breeding birds land with food for partners or chicks.

Most bird species you will see on the south cliffs of the Island are about 5 to 10 minutes walk from the landing area.

Gannet colonies of a few thousand pairs are at the furthest end of the Island called Head and will require a 20-30-minute walk along the cliffs to get there from the landing site.

Read more: The Best Camera for Wildlife Photography

Getting to Great Saltee Island

Transport to the island is by ferry from April to the end of September, between 10 am to 4:30 pm. Usually, you will have 3.5 to 4 hours on the Island to enjoy it!

puffin bird ireland

The best months to visit are May to July. In May, the Island looks spectacular with blooming sea flowers like Sea pink, Bluebells, and many others during the summer months. They add fantastic colour to your bird portraits!

Read more: 7 Ways to Capture Character in Bird Photography

3. Bull Island

Bull Island is a low-lying island in the northern part of Dublin Bay, County Dublin. It contains a range of natural habitats, including sand dunes and salt marshes. The island is popular for walking and birdwatching.

birds in ireland
Parcel of oystercatchers.

It was the first official bird sanctuary in the country in the 1930s. In 1981, it achieved status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve due to its rare and threatened habitats and species, along with its use by important numbers of overwintering birds.


As wintering birds depart for their breeding grounds in late February/March, spring migrants arrive from Africa. The first arrivals include wheatears, sand martins, and sandwich terns. Look for these birds in areas of scrub.

Willow warblers, chiffchaffs, and sedge warblers are commonly spotted in these areas, with occasional appearances of grasshopper warblers and whinchats.

Arctic and common terns nesting in Dublin Docks can be seen around the island from April onwards.

Read more: Bird Photography Tips – Shooting Bird Portraits


Several pairs of Shelduck attempt to nest annually, but disturbance and dogs pose challenges.

bird photography Ireland
Little egrets are all-year residents around the Island.

Wader numbers are relatively low in the summer, with several hundred present, including moulting/migratory oystercatchers, bar-tailed godwits, black-tailed godwits, curlews, and dunlins.

Ringed plovers and little terns once bred on the island but are now locally extinct due to excessive disturbance at their traditional nesting site.

Read more: Inspiration for Summertime Wildlife Photography


Post-breeding waders arrive in July, with the main passage migration occurring from late August to October. During this migration, you may spot unusual but regular species like little stint, curlew sandpiper, and ruff.

Rare waders such as buff-breasted sandpipers and pectoral sandpipers, along with other North American species, occasionally make appearances.

Teal and wigeon flocks arrive in late August, followed by pintails. Brent geese are seen, with the first appearing in late September and the main arrival in late October.

Read more: High-key Wildlife – How to Create a White Background


Dublin Bay hosts over 30,000 waders, wildfowl, and gulls during the winter months, primarily roosting on North Bull Island at high tide.

Ireland birdlife

Peregrines and merlins are drawn to the large bird concentrations on the saltmarshes and mudflats. Divers, grebes, common scoters, and goldeneyes feed in the deeper waters off the beach and Bull Wall.

Large flocks of finches are often found near the causeway, including the increasingly rare Twite. Occasionally, a few short-eared owls can be seen on the island.

In most years, snow buntings can be found feeding along the beach tide line and dunes closest to the Bull Wall.

Read more: How to Photograph Winter Wildlife

Getting to Bull Island

By Bus: Take Dublin Bus 130 from the city center to the Bull Wall (also known as the Wooden Bridge) on the mainland side of the south lagoon. You can check the timetable for this bus service.

By Train: Hop on the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) train from Dublin City to Raheny Station. From there, it’s just a 1-kilometer walk to the causeway, which is the primary access route to the island. You can find the train service timetable for your convenience.

By Car: You can access the island by car via either the Bull Bridge (also known as the Wooden Bridge) or the causeway. While parking is allowed on the causeway, a small section of the beach near the Bull Wall also permits parking. It is very important not to leave any valuables in the car, as there have been lots of theft incidents in the area.

Recommended camera equipment

For this location, I recommend you take any telephoto lens you have – the longer, the better!

Ireland birdlife

Top Tip: Birds usually are closer to shore at high tide, so it is crucial to check tide tables for Dublin Bay. Do not try to walk among mudflats to avoid bird disturbance.

Read more: What’s the Best Lens for Wildlife Photography?

4. Wicklow Mountains National Park

Wicklow Mountains National Park is Ireland’s largest national park, covering nearly 23,000 hectares, and is located south of Dublin.

Its striking landscapes feature open vistas, winding mountain roads, and fast-flowing streams that feed deep lakes in wooded valleys, including the historic Glendalough.

The park’s flora is diverse, with heathers, gorse, and bogland species like sundews. It hosts various habitat types, such as blanket bog, oak woodlands, and corrie lakes, with acidic, peaty soils.

Red grouse Ireland
Red grouse photographed in the misty morning at Wicklow Mountains.

Bird enthusiasts can find species like merlins, goosanders, red grouse, red kite, and peregrine falcons, the park’s symbol.

Mammals like rabbits, hares, foxes, and deer, including red-sika hybrids, inhabit the park. Nighttime brings out at least nine species of bats. For butterfly lovers, the park offers a perfect safari. Explore Glendalough to spot these delicate insects in various locations.

This national park is one of the best places in the country to watch and photograph Sika deer and Sika/Red deer hybrids all year. However, September and October will be the best times when the deer rut is taking place.

Wicklow Mountains National Park is a natural gem, and with its breathtaking landscapes and diverse wildlife, the park promises an unforgettable experience for all who venture within.

Read more: Choosing the Best Lighting for Wildlife Photos

Where to go?

If you’re traveling from Dublin, it’s worth going via the Old Military Road (Dublin-Glendalough), not only to enjoy scenic views but also because there is a good chance that some Sika deer will be close to the road, especially in the early morning and late evening.

There’s also a good chance of seeing red grouse, merlins, and peregrine falcons.

landscapes of ireland
Part of Upper lake with a view of Spinc on the top of the ridge.

Once you arrive at Glendalough car park (GPS coordinates 53.007458, -6.344782), take the route heading to Spinc and Glenealo Valley. It’s an approximately 9.5 km circular route, which will suit those with a moderate fitness level.

The trail ascends steeply up by the Poulanass Waterfall before joining a boardwalk. More than 600 wooden steps lead you to a viewing point overlooking the Upper Lake.

The boardwalk skirts the top of the cliffs before descending through blanket bog and heath into the picturesque Glenealo Valley, home to a large herd of deer.

From the middle of September until the end of October, you can hear truly spectacular sika deer calls echoing with surrounding mountains.

Ireland wildlife photography

A rough track then leads you back down into Glendalough Valley.

Peregrine falcons and merlins are frequently spotted, and herds of feral goats can be seen too.

Read more: How to Photograph Birds in Flight

Recommended camera equipment

For this location, I recommend you go as light as possible, with a focal length of at least 200-300 mm on a full-frame camera. Good lenses might be 100-500mm, 150-600mm, or similar paired with a monopod or tripod.

deer Ireland

Top tip: Some of the deer are very familiar with people close to the track, so it is possible to sometimes still get great images with a smaller lens! Please do not feed the deer.

5. Lough Boora Discovery Park

Capture the enchanting transformation of Lough Boora Discovery Park, where nature’s regenerative power has turned an industrial landscape into a vibrant sanctuary for diverse wildlife.

A photographer’s paradise, the park offers a rich tapestry of subjects, ensuring every image taken tells a unique story.

wildlife ireland
Conservation of grey partridge at Lough Boora has a positive impact on other species like Lapwings or Irish hare.

Delve into the thriving world of Irish wildlife, featuring the native grey partridge, elusive Irish hare, and lapwings gracefully navigating the restored wetlands.

Witness over 130 bird species, including wintering wonders like Whooper swans, greylag geese, hen harriers, and golden plovers, creating a mesmerizing spectacle against the backdrop of the park.

Ireland birds
An adult water rail feeding one of the chicks.

Many ponds and lakes in the area are a haven for birds like little grebes or moorhens, coots, or for very shy water rails.

Read more: How to Harness Light in Bird Photography

Amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates

Capture the subtle movements of amphibians and reptiles in the park’s lakes and wetlands.

toads and frogs Ireland wildlife

During spring and summer, photograph the flutter of activity with the emergence of butterflies, dragonflies, and moths, adding a burst of colour to your portfolio.

Read more: How to Create a Wildlife Photography Portfolio

Photography logistics

Conveniently located in County Offaly, Lough Boora Discovery Park is easily accessible from Tullamore, Birr, and Clonmacnoise. Use coordinates (N 53°13’24.9”, W 007°43’44.5”) and Google Maps integration for seamless navigation.

birds in Ireland pheasant

There are multiple tracks around lakes and through boglands and a few birdwatching hides. Appropriate camouflage clothing is always welcome.

It is best to go early in the morning or late in the evening not only because of the wildlife activity but also because the place is very crowded during the day.

Read more: How to Photograph Wildlife at Golden Hour

When to go

March until June is the best time to visit Lough Boora as you can see very active breeding Irish hares, but also lots of migrating birds who stop there mostly on green fields around the discovery parks.

However, the place offers a great variety of species all year round.

6. Rogerstown Estuary and Turvey Nature Reserve

Rogerstown Estuary, a sea inlet located just north of the Donabate-Portrane Peninsula and south of Rush on Ireland’s East coast, stands as a testament to the country’s rich biodiversity.

This designated nature reserve, Special Area of Conservation, and Ramsar site, cover an area of 3.63 km2 and play a crucial role in supporting various ecosystems.

The estuary’s diverse water network showcases a complex landscape of saltwater marshes, raised salt marsh, wet meadows, and riverine shallows and creeks.

wading birds ireland

Internationally recognized as one of the most important sites on Ireland’s east coast, Rogerstown Estuary is a vital habitat for wintering wildfowl, waders, and migratory birds.

Birds, including those from the Arctic, flock here, making it a critical location for their passage and wintering. Notably, it hosts an internationally significant population of Brent geese and 14 other bird species of national importance.

The Estuary is divided by a causeway and bridge built in the 1840s to carry the main Dublin–Belfast railway line, so there is an ‘outer estuary’ and ‘inner estuary.’ Both are great in winter for birdwatchers and photographers.

Read more: 7 Top Tips for Coastal Wildlife Photography

How to access the outer estuary

Use the GPS coordinates 53.513045, -6.129348 in satellite navigation and it will get you to the estuary road from which you might see, for example, Brent geese, pintails, shovelers, goldeneyes, golden plovers, lapwings, knots, curlews, dunlins, little egrets, and many more.

gull bird Ireland
Common gull with Sculpin fish at low tide.

Grey seals and otters can also be seen.

Read more: How to Photograph Animals in Their Habitat

How to access the inner estuary

Drive to GPS coordinates 53.507031, -6.173927, where you’ll find a small car park and a sign saying “Rogerstown Estuary hide.” Follow the track for about 700 meters, which leads you to a spacious birdwatching hide.

kingfisher bird Ireland
Kingfisher female preening.

It’s a very good place to photograph birds in flight, especially large flocks, and birds of prey like peregrine falcons, buzzards, kestrels, hen harriers, red kites, and sparrow hawks. Kingfisher can be seen here too!

Access to the South inner estuary can be achieved via Turvey Nature Reserve.

Read more: 10 Top Tips for Taking Better Bird Photos

Turvey Nature Reserve

Situated along the Rogerstown Estuary, this reserve features allotments, walkways, hedgerows, hay meadows, and Fingal Forest planted by local volunteers and schoolchildren.

It was once a grazing pasture on reclaimed land. Now, it is in the process of being restored to salt marsh, creating crucial habitats for birds.

short-eared owl Ireland wildlife
Short-eared owls are frequently seen at Turvey Nature Reserve between October and May.

During high tides, the inundation of the salt marsh with seawater becomes a significant event, providing safe roosting sites for wintering wildfowl and waders.

The brackish grasslands and inter-tidal creeks become vital feeding areas, particularly during the winter months.

The diverse bird species, including golden plover, grey plover, lapwing, curlew, black-tailed godwit, dunlin, red knot, sanderling, common redshank, oystercatcher, grey heron, greylag goose, and many species of ducks, make this area their home.

stonechat Ireland wildlife
Stonechats are commonly seen here.

In the summer, Turvey Nature Reserve is a breeding ground for lapwings, while the surrounding trees attract a variety of summer visitors, such as willow warbler, chiffchaff, and blackcap.

Managed by Fingal County Council and Fingal Birdwatch Ireland, the Turvey Parklands feature two bird hides, offering enthusiasts the opportunity to observe and appreciate the diverse avian population.

To access Turvey car park, use GPS coordinates 53.493116, -6.181285

The south hide location can be found using GPS coordinates 53.499173, -6.164249

7. Phoenix Park

As one of Europe’s largest enclosed public parks, Phoenix Park seamlessly blends historical charm with natural wonders, providing a sanctuary for diverse wildlife and offering a tranquil escape within the city.

fallow deer Ireland
An adult and juvenile fallow deer bucks.

In many cases, it is the first time Dubliners have encountered wildlife and marks the beginning of their journey into wildlife photography.

Read more: How to Take Creative Urban Wildlife Photos

Fallow deer

At the heart of Phoenix Park lies a majestic herd of fallow deer, descendants of those introduced in the 1660s. This captivating spectacle, featuring approximately 600 deer, adds a touch of wilderness to the cityscape.

Wander through the park’s western end, where Farmleigh and Mount Sackville frame the landscape, and you might encounter other fascinating mammals like foxes, hedgehogs, and rabbits.

Read more: How to Take Impacting Portraits of Wildlife


Phoenix Park emerges as a very good location for birdwatchers, boasting around 72 bird species throughout the year. As you stroll along the park’s various trails, you’ll encounter a rich tapestry of avian life.

birds of Ireland

Keep an eye out for conservation-worthy species like the shoveller, golden plover, black-headed Gull, and herring gull. The presence of kestrels and skylarks, especially near the city centre, adds a touch of the extraordinary to this urban oasis.

Read more: 10 Top Tips to Improve Your Urban Wildlife Photos

Bats in the twilight sky

As dusk descends, witness the ballet of bats over the park’s lakes and woodlands. Six of Ireland’s ten bat species call Phoenix Park home, including Pipistrelle varieties not previously recorded in Dublin City.

Discover evidence of large roosts, such as the chimney in St Mary’s Hospital Complex, providing a unique glimpse into the park’s nocturnal life.


Phoenix Park’s wetlands, including lakes, ponds, streams, and drainage ditches, support a diverse range of wildlife. Rare species find refuge in these watery havens, making them a critical component of Dublin’s ecological landscape.

Coarse fish, and amphibians like frogs have made these wetlands their home. The emergent vegetation around Glen Lake and the Fish Pond in Dublin Zoo enhances both the aesthetic appeal and ecological significance of these wetlands.

wild rabbit Ireland
Wild rabbit.

For photographers seeking to capture these moments, the park offers an abundance of opportunities. From the timeless beauty of fallow deer against historical backdrops to the dynamic avian life and the serene charm of wetland landscapes, there is so much to see!

Planning Your Visit

Conveniently located, Phoenix Park is open 24/7, allowing you to tailor your visit to your schedule; however, dawn and dusk time are always the best as the park is not crowded.

deer Ireland wildlife photography

The optimal time to experience the magic of Phoenix Park is during September and October when the Fallow deer rut takes place.

Early mornings, especially cold, foggy ones, offer a unique opportunity for stunning shots of rutting bucks engaged in their natural behaviours.

In conclusion

In every corner of Ireland, from the rocky islands to the heart of its bustling cities, the country’s commitment to environmental conservation is evident.

badger Ireland
In May, bluebells cover large parts of Killarney National Park woodlands.

Each of these wildlife photography destinations not only showcases the incredible diversity of Ireland’s flora and fauna but also underscores the importance of preserving these habitats for future generations.

It’s worth noting that the list presented here is by no means complete; Ireland’s natural beauty extends far beyond these highlighted locations.

As you venture into the world of wildlife photography, consider it an invitation to explore the countless other hidden gems that await discovery across the Irish landscape.

Visit Karol's website

Karol Waszkiewicz is an acclaimed nature photographer and environmentalist residing in Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland. Recognized in numerous Irish and international photo competitions, his work reflects a profound passion for capturing the beauty of nature. Karol is dedicated to preserving and promoting environmental awareness through his impactful imagery.

Download our free ebook
Grab Our FREE eBook!

Get our best tutorials sent straight to you, and enjoy a copy of "10 Ways to INSTANTLY Improve Your Nature Photos".

Get Free Ebook