Sydenham Intake

Today’s townland is a new one – Sydenham Intake.  It lies between Belfast Lough and the Sydenham district of East Belfast, on land reclaimed from the lough.

Sydenham Intake Clare HouseThe building surrounded by cars in the first photo is Clare House, home to Northern Ireland’s Department of Finance.  The Harbour Estate is filling up with offices like this.  You can also find retail shops like IKEA and Sainsbury’s in the Holywood Exchange.  The Belfast end of the townland is more industrial, with factories and storage facilities for Bombardier aircraft and Phoenix Gas.

BHD runway IKEA docksSydenham Intake is the first townland seen by international visitors to Northern Ireland as they land at the airport, or disembark from cruise ships.

BHD runway IKEA TescoThe airport opened in 1938 as Belfast Harbour Airport, was known as Belfast City Airport for many years, and was renamed George Best Belfast City Airport in 2006, in memory of Northern Ireland’s most famous footballer.

BHD Welcome signThe process of dredging the lough and reclaiming land in Sydenham Intake has created a freshwater lagoon, now managed as a nature reserve by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), under the name WOW! – Window on Wildlife.

RSPBNI WOW signThe best time to visit is at high tide, when birds in the lough are seeking a place to roost.

RSPBNI WOW and shipsThere is a visitor centre with helpful staff who will show you how to use binoculars and telescopes, and help you identify birds.  There are also two birdwatching hides, made from old shipping containers.

RSPBNI WOW hide 1On my visit in May 2016 I saw oystercatchers, black-tailed godwits, black-headed gull chicks, cygnets, coot chicks, a shoveller, and this common tern.

RSPBNI WOW common ternSydenham Intake doesn’t appear on any old maps, so what evidence do I have that it exists at all?

First, it has its own entry on the PLACENAMESNI website, which explains that “intake” is used in England to denote land reclaimed from a moor.  In Northern Ireland, “intake” has a similar meaning, but is also used for land reclaimed from the sea or from lakes.

Second, it appears on the website for rates (a form of local taxation).  Here is a screenshot from the Land and Property Services valuation list.

Heron Road LPS screenshot

more information

Click here for a map of the townland on TOWNLANDS.IE.

Which county is Sydenham Intake in?  County Down

Which townlands border Sydenham Intake?   To the east, Holywood and Knocknagoney.  To the south, Ballymaghan, Ballymisert and Strandtown.

WOW: RSPBNI’s Nature Reserve is open every day except Tuesday, from 10am to 5pm (February – October) or 10am to 4pm (November to January).   Click here for more details.

Click here to read more about the history of George Best Belfast City Airport.

Finally, click here to read more about the name Sydenham Intake on the website of


    • Just keep driving on past B&Q and you’ll be surprised at how long the road is. Airport Road curls on and on, eventually taking you back to the Sam Thompson Bridge at Victoria Park, and the mini-roundabout at the H&W cranes, Dee Street bridge etc. The RSPB place is definitely worth a visit.

      Liked by 1 person

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