See a wonderful mix of species and habitats

Greenlee Lough is one of the most important wetland sites in Britain and Europe. It contains unusual aquatic plantlife including several types of pondweed and stonewort (types of algae thriving in very clean water). This has led to its designation as a Special Area of Conservation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve.

One of the Roman Wall loughs, this reserve is owned by Northumberland National Park Authority and is also a Northumberland Wildlife Trust reserve.

The site contains a mix of habitats beyond the open water of the Lough including carr woodland, bog and grassland. There is a good variety of water plants including 11 species of pondweed and stonewort. Around the margins are areas of reed bed with other plants including bog bean and marsh cinquefoil. The Lough is used extensively by wildfowl and waders that feed in the shallow waters and wetlands.

Find out more about the area with our Greenlee Lough Guide.


The landscape here is dominated by the impressive ridge of crags and columns that form the Great Whin Sill – the natural rampart that the Romans exploited when building Hadrian’s Wall.

This geological feature was formed 295 million years ago when, at 10,000 ̊c, molten rock pushed between layers of sandstone and limestone, gradually cooling over the next 50 years.

Loughs and mires

A lough (pronounced loff) is the local word for a lake. In Northumberland loughs were formed by the slow, gradual flow of ice, beginning about 2 million years ago.

Loughs were left when these massive amounts of moving ice were able to carve out deep hollows in soft rock such as mudstones and shale. In shallower hollows, peat bogs have formed made up of plants such as sphagnum mosses that thrive in these permanently wet, acidic conditions.


The site is important for wildfowl (geese, swans and ducks) particularly in the winter when whooper swan, greylag geese, wigeon, teal, goldeneye, tufted duck and mallard can be seen.

In spring and summer you can look for mute swan, mallard, coot, shelduck and great crested grebe. The bird hide is open all year round and has information to help you identify plants, birds and animals of interest.

You can also record what you have spotted. Many visitors have recorded osprey visiting the lough recently so we are hopeful these magnificent birds may choose to breed here.

Getting there

By car

0.5 mile north of the B6318 (Military Road) at Once Brewed. An hours car journey west from the centre of Newcastle and 45 mins east from Carlisle.