Northern Ireland


This guide covers Northern Ireland from the north side of Carlingford Lough to Carrickfergus.

The area described on this page is covered by the following Admiralty charts:

1411 Irish Sea Western Part 1:200,000
2198 North Channel Southern Part
1753 Belfast Lough 1:37,500
2093 Southern Approach to North Channel 1:100,000
2156 Strangford Lough 1:37,500
2159 Strangford Narrows (incl. plans of Strangford at 1:5000) 1:12,500
2198 North Channel Southern Part 1:75,000
2800 Carlingford Lough (incl. plans of Warrenpoint, and Kilkeel Harbour) 1:20,000
44 Howth to Ardglass 1:100,000
1431 Drogheda and Dundalk 1:20,000
633 Plans on the East Coast of Ireland 1:15,000

The area described on this page is covered by the following Imray Charts:

C62 Irish Sea (covers the entire costs described in the Cruising Notes)  


Anchor clear of local moorings. Can be squally with winds gusting off the Mourne Mountains.


Care is need when approaching the anchorage off Greencastle's pier. On account of drying and submerged rocks.


In May 1997, I made on overnight stop in Kilkeel. The port is small and crammed with fishing vessels, which were tied alongside the quays in the small basin up to seven abreast. There is little room to manoeuvre inside, and consequently movements tend to be coordinated. The fisherman there made it clear that yachts were not welcome.

The approach to the port has a bar, and even making the basin involves following a channel through steel faced quays which doesn't have room for two boats to pass. We noted a large trawler there which must have literally squeezed in.


Formerly a drying harbour, work has been undertaken to install a pontoon for visiting craft, 30m in length with 3m of water alongside. Entry cannot be made till at least 1.5 hrs after low water.

Newcastle Harbour

Drying harbour.

Dundrum Bay

A large mostly drying estuary. With a narrow pool of water in the channel where it may be possible to lie afloat with care - though the in and outgoing streams will run hard.

St John's Bay

At the eastern end of Dundrum Bay this anchorage provides shelter in Northerly winds. Should the wind unexpectedly change direction, Ardlgass which provides shelter in all conditions is close by. Bay is popular with ornithologists as sea birds can be seen in rafts especially near Spring and Autumn.


Can be approached in all conditions, though can get choppy just outside the harbour when waves refract from the breakwater and shores of the bay during onshore winds. Outer harbour is used by fishing boats, with the Phennick Cove marina beyond. Marina 24 hrs. Pubs, places to eat, supermarket and sundry shops in village, golf course & club. Chinese takeaway a few minutes walk from the marina.

Interest: A few minutes walk from the harbour is the 15th Century Jordan's Castle.

Benderg Bay

An anchorage to the south of the entrance to Strangford Lough. Anchor between the rocky outcrops, off a find sandy beach. Some protection from the east provided by Craiglewood Rocks (which dry out) over low water but exposed to this wind direction as the tide rises.

Strangford Lough

Make initially for the Strangford fair way buoy. Admiralty chart 2159 shows the transits and approach lines through The Narrows.

Cross Roads

An anchorage not often used which lies within The Narrows.


Instead we nipped over to Strangford to check out the three vacant mooring buoys off Swan island. Though close to the island shelter looked good and to my surprise and delight the wash from the ferry passing at speed was effectively flattened by the fast running tide. We rowed ashore in the dinghy for a few pints of Guinness in the Lobster Pot.

You may see a ferry frequently plying between Strangford and Portaferry, whilst a second is tied up alongside the quay in Strangford. This second ferry is a standby - in case the one in use should experience mechanical problems.

Audley Roads

At the northern end of The Narrows immediately north of Strangford.


After checking out the moorings, picked up one of the outermost moorings near the iron beacon. A well sheltered attractive spot. A seal appeared close by, the sound of cattle and birds.


Description and detail will be added in due course.


Down Cruising Club

Be careful when approaching the pontoon as the tide runs hard past it.

White Rock

Area to south of Skettrick Island contains many local moorings, but there is plenty of room to anchor outside of them. Slip off yacht club - which is situated within it's own fenced compound. If you intend to leave your dinghy within the compound first ascertain as to when the access gates are likely to be locked. The popular "Daft Eddies" pub/restaurant lies on the road leading west from the yacht club. It can be seen situated to right of Skettrick Castle in the image shown above.


Care required on approach to to drying pladdies, a shoreline which dries some way off and shoals. Best option is to anchor off the bay. There is a quay which dries. Village to right of beach. Garage with pump near quay but limited hours of opening.

Ballyhendry Bay

This bay lies immediately north of Portaferry. A number of local boats lie on moorings within the bay. In the mouth of the bay will be seen the hull of a concrete ship.


The tide runs very strongly past Portaferry. So get fenders and warps ready before approaching and take care not to get swept past the pontoon breakwater.

Note the green buoy situated just off the ouyer pontoon breakwater, and that the latter has a red light.

Portaferry boatpark has a berthing master who collects dues In May 1999, charged £8. Charges calculated on a basis of £1 per metre, minimum £8 - except for short stays limited to between 0600 hrs - 2400hrs and charged at £0.50 per metre minimum £4 with I think a further restriction in that the stay must not exceed 6 hours.

Fourth view shows the jetty close N of the boatpark, you can just make out a concrete ramp which is in frequent use by the ferry plying to and from Strangford.

Interest: Aquarium.


Depths of 2 - 5 m within the bay. Bottom rock, weed and gravel. I re-laid the anchor 3/4 times (Plough type) without getting a good grip - it simply "skitted" across a hard bottom - probably rock. The extent of the sand appears limited but does not extend to the position of the anchor on Chart 2156. I was not happy with the set, having moved from depths of 7.5 to 5m - quite an area as the bay shoals very gradually. The wind was light offshore and conditions quiet.

No town or village forming the backdrop to the bay just a few houses, a Victorian gothic castle and a tower on the northern side. But if you appreciate the sound of water lapping on the beach, the "plop" of fish rising to the surface, and the cry of birds unseen in the dark...

South Rock

A rather exposed anchorage in 6-7 m, perhaps suitable as a temporary stop in settled weather whilst awaiting for wind or a favourable north or south going tide. Some shelter from coast to the west, and very limited protection from rocks which just dry to the north.

The image above shows the South Rock lightship after the anchorage gets it's name, and was taken from seaward (not from the anchorage). Ships travelling along the Northern Irish coast pass close east of the lightship.

Ballyhalbert Bay

The anchorage to north of the harbour shelter in S to W winds. There may be room for boats able to take the ground to dry out inside the harbour which has a flat bottom. Village is a short walk northwards along the coast road.

Just SE of the harbour lies Burial island. Passage between island and harbour not recommended.

Ballywalter Bay

A drying harbour, to be approached with care due to rocky outliers. Possible to anchor outside in offshore winds.

Approach is given by the transit of the church tower in line with the end of the pier (272şT).

Anchored around 1.5 cables east of the harbour in 8.4 m of water. Had something to eat before pumping up the dinghy and rowing into the harbour. The harbour in well maintained condition, but not looking as if it sees much activity (certainly not from yachts). Two fishing boats, another possible being repaired for non-fishing use, two motorsailers - all in alongside berths. No clean quay face, large timber uprights. I can never figure the purpose of these to save damage to the pier or the boats ? The timbers would certainly dissuade many from going alongside. The central part of the harbour filled with dinghies. Two water taps, and a coin operated electricity supply with a notice saying 1 coin for 30 minutes, but no indication of what monetary value the coin should be. A couple more motor cruisers/motorboats on the hard.

Back onboard, I was beginning to get irritated by two speedboats and wet bike using my boat as a turning mark.


Harbour formed by one quay joined to the shore on its southern side and a detached breakwater to the north. Harbour partially dries. Limited space for visitors, one visitors buoy where there may be insufficient water for deep drafted yachts. Village, and nearest pub to quay "The Skipper".

Just south of Donaghadee is a small marina "Millisle". However, it has a tricky entrance which leads between rocky heads and which is not conventionally buoyed. The marina itself is tiny and surrounded by unattractive barbed wire topped fencing.

Copeland Island

The most used anchorage is Chapel Bay, which provides shelter from west through to north and suitable for use as an overnight stop.

From the anchorage a tiny  jetty/landing steps with be seen in the centre of the bay's fore shore, a couple of cottages nearby. Two notices read "Visitors are reminded. They are permitted only on the shore ..... Trespassers will be prosecuted ...... Will not be permitted to visit again. Warden/keepers appointed".

On the west side of the island is a small cover suitable as a temporary anchorage only, i.e. daytime in settled conditions.

The image above shows the SW corner of the island, as the boat heads from Belfast into the west end of Donaghadee Sound.

Ballyholme Bay

No yachts on moorings in Ballyholme - just racing yacht marks set around the bay. Ashore, a quay - two yachts on its' hard standing, and plenty of dinghies.


Excellent marina. Good shelter. Friendly helpful staff. Office manned 24 hrs a day. Fuel berth. Always room for visitors. Lively town. Chandelry in town. Very helpful Class A Chart Agents - Todd Chart Agency. BJ Marine adjacent to marina buildings.

July 2003 £16.80 for 32ft boat for one night.


Plenty of room to anchor clear of moorings, and quiet enough in offshore winds - but one significant drawback. When planning to row ashore and land by dinghy always keep an eye out for high speed ferries in the approaches to Belfast - as they generate waves which could prove dangerous if they reach the shore at the same time as you try to effect a landing.

Carrickfergus Marina

The images above show the entrance to Carrickfergus Harbour (indicated by a red line) and Carrickfergus Marina (indicated by a blue line).

July 2003 £16.80 for 32ft boat for one night.

Access is restricted. There is not much water in the approach for 2hrs either side of LW. If you need diesel you need to motor round to the adjacent Carrickfergus Harbour.

Carrickfergus Harbour

Entrance shown in image under Carrickfergus Marina.


Norman Castle opens to the public. All facilities expected in a town.