Piers, Jettys, Marinas & Harbour Villages of Northern Ireland’s Coastline Part 2 (Co. Antrim & Derry Londonderry)
A comprehensive collection of facts and details relating to small ports that lay between Carlingford Lough in Co. Down and Lough Foyle in the N/W of the province.
County Antrim & Derry Londonderry
Port of Belfast
Ireland’s major gateway to Europe is ‘The Port of Belfast’. This port facilitates up to 70% of N. Irelands trade, and 25 per cent of the whole of Irelands sea borne trade. In 1999 it received over 9,000 vessels and about 25% of the maritime trade of the entire island of Ireland.
The three ferry services operating from the Port of Belfast, Stena Line’s HSS to Stranraer, Merchant Ferries’ linking with Heysham and the Norse Irish Ferries route to Liverpool.
There are 80 weekly ferry sailings to these and other UK ports.
Belfast Harbour Estate plays host to many well-known Northern Ireland businesses, such as Harland and Wolff, George Best Belfast City Airport, Bombardier Aerospace, Odyssey, the Catalyst Inc, Titanic Quarter and Titanic Belfast.
Belfast Harbour’s origins date back as far as 1612 when a Royal Charter for the Corporation of Belfast declared the need for a wharf at the confluence of the rivers Lagan and Farset in what is todays Belfast’s High Street.
In WW2 II the Port of Belfast was the port of choice of the Royal Navy as their base for ships that escorted Atlantic and Russian convoys including Captain-class frigates, HMS Caroline was a First World War light cruiser permanently berthed in Belfast Harbour.
Stena Line’s Belfast to Stranraer route and Belfast to Heysham service together carry over 306,000 freight vehicles. This figure represents over 20% of the Irish Sea Ro-Ro market. 125,000 containers and 6.0 million tonnes of bulk cargo were handled in 2009.
Stena Line now sails between Belfast and Cairnryan.
Carrickfergus Waterfront is on the north shore of Belfast Lough. It includes two harbour facilities, several bars, restaurants and a promenade area.
The two harbours have rugged breakwaters, absorbing energy from heavy seas. The harbour is a 12th-century Norman building, made during the construction of Carrickfergus Castle in 1127.
It is in two sections, the larger being closer to the mouth of the harbour and the smaller section being used primarily for smaller boats and is equipped with a slipway. The harbour features a 260 metre quay and is an enjoyable area for fishing and leisurely walks. The promenade and the close by Marine Highway were refurbished in 2010.
Carrickfergus Marina 200 metres west of the harbour opened in 1986. It provides 300 berths, is professionally supervised and offers individual access to water and power. Fuel services are at hand and the complex also provides lifting equipment for wheelchair users. The town is said to take its name from ‘Fergus Mór’, the legendary king of Dál Riata.
It is said his ship ran aground on a rock by the shore which became known as ‘Carraig Fhearghais’ the rock of Fergus. Carrickfergus pre-dates N.I’s capital city Belfast and was for a long time larger and more prominent than the capital city. Belfast Lough itself was known as ‘Carrickfergus Bay’ well into the 18th century. Carrick and the local area, for a time was treated as a separate county.
AES Kilroot Power Station
At Cloghan Point overlooking Belfast Lough, Coal was delivered to the jetty at Kilroot by small colliers typically capable of carrying 8,000 tonnes of coal. Then discharged by the collier onto Kilroot’s conveyors, and transported to the junction tower.
White harbour Whitehead
For many years this old harbour, built around 1849 by David Stewart Kerr lay in ruins, but pictures from 1859 show this little harbour was full of sailing ships. In 1852 a thriving limestone and brick trade, as well as the ferry passenger service from Belfast to Whitehead showed a busy time for the harbour. There was a Harbour Master’s house and a wooden jetty running from the harbour.
The harbour was bought privately by a Mr Murdock and restoration work begun in 1998.
During dredging in the harbour the following year, the remains of an old boat were discovered.
In 1990 the first boat in over 100 years entered the harbour, and was followed in 1993 by the first sailing boat.
An extensive restoration commenced in Spring 2014. The harbour was dredged, new pontoons were put in place and harbour walls and buildings were made structurally sound. The harbour is now welcoming applications for pontoon and quayside berths, along with many other events and activities. It is now the home of ‘County Antrim Yacht Club.
Portmuck is named after ‘Muck Isle’ whose name was derived from the Irish Muc (meaning pig), as the island is supposed to resemble a sleeping pig. Portmuck is situated in the parish of Islandmagee and the historic barony of Belfast Lower. The bay of Portmuck has had its fair share of history as in its time. It has been a coast guard station, a revenue station, an export harbour, the site of a fortress, a monastery and it was also known for smuggling.
It is designated an area of special scientific interest. Islandmagee (meaning “Magee’s island) is actully a peninsula and parish on the east coast of Co. Antrim, between the towns of Whitehead and Larne. Close to the Gobbing footpath.
As part of an agricultural crop rotation programme of old, beans were grown to supply nitrogen to the soil. “Bean Eaters” became a nickname for the people of Islandmagee. It is the site of Northern Ireland’s main power station Ballylumford and the endpoint of the Scotland-Northern Ireland gas pipeline. Portmuck is part of the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, and is a rural community with a long history as far back as the Mesolithic period. In the early medieval period it was known as ‘Semne’, a petty kingdom in Ulaid.
Ballylumford power station produces about half of Northern Ireland’s electricity. It sits on the edge of Larne lough opposite Larne town on the Islandmagee side which separates Larne Lough from the Irish Sea. The lough is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The power station has three chimneys which reach over 120 metres tall. Occasionally there would be a passenger ferry running between Larne and Ballylumford Harbour. Tankers with cargoes of oil would visit the power station jetty regulary. The harbour at Ballylumford has a number of moorings for visiting l small fishing vessels and eisure craft.
Islandmagee Boat Club
Islandmagee Boat Club has a mixture of sailing and motor boat classifications which makes for a diverse crowd but with the same passion for getting out on the water. The club house and compound are located at the south side of Ballylumford Dock.
The Boat Club is one of the region’s premier aquatics sports clubs. With its picturesque peninsula backdrop of Co. Antrim, its club plays host to a mix of motor boats and sailing as well as regular aquatic activities including fishing, sailing and cruising.
East Antrim Boat Club
East Antrim Boat Club was established in the 1950’s and set up by Neil Kitson, Graham Gingles Snr. In 2013 the club was delighted to be awarded the RYA Volvo Champion Club status.
There is an active keel boat fleet, with racing the summer months.
Competitive Dinghy racing all year round, with back to back races in the Winter months.
The Summer Regatta takes place every year and dinghy sailors can look forward to the annual Halloween and festive Christmas regattas.
Larne (Latharna) is an inportant seaport and industrial town. It is a civil parish on the east coast of County Antrim, and has a population of over 19,000. Larne has been used as a seaport for over 1,000 years, and is today a major passenger and freight roll-on roll-off port. Larne is administered by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. Larne is steeped in maritime history, mainly because of its potential as a safe haven for ships. The first written reference of Larne port occurred at the time of the Roman Empire around 204BC.
Viking burial sites and artefacts have been discovered in the area dating from the 8th and 9th centuries AD. Early In the 13th Century the Scots Bissett family built Olderfleet Castle at Curran Point. In 1315 Edward the Bruce of Scotland (brother of Robert the Bruce) landed at Larne with his 7000 strong army on route to conquer Ireland. During the 18 & 19th century, many Scots/Irish emigrated to America from Larne port. The return journey brought imports of tobacco and flax from the new world.
Coal imports were a major feature from the 17th century until the 1970’s. Closed since 1995, the Bank Quay situated on the shore of Larne Lough has imported coal through the Quay along with other cargoes such as china clay. It was also a regular calling point for the Kelly collier fleet.
Tweed’s Port Slipway
Carnfunnock Bay slipway has provided private sea access for over 100 years. Originally constructed by the owners of Cairndhu House. Cairndhu Rowing Club and others such as Larne Sea Cadets and a few local diving clubs having enjoyed the use of the slipway in recent years.
The water depth in the bay rises significantly at high tide which gives sufficient depth for most water sports including small rowing boats. Although Carnfunnock Bay is classified as open sea it has good access to the emergency rescue services as there has been a dedicated National Lifeboat Station launching from Larne Harbour into the waters of East Antrim and the North Channel since 1994.
Carnfunnock slipway is not suitable for deep keeled yachts and there is a height restriction barrier present to restrict access to the site. However there are other local harbours and slipways which specifically cater for the launching of larger boats e.g. Glenarm, Carnlough, Ballylumford, Ballygally.
Ballygalley (meaning Geithleach’s townland) is a village in County Antrim which lies on the Antrim coast, approximately 3 miles north of Larne. Ballygally has a modern jetty and double slipway which is steep so suitable for boats with a deep keel. In the 1990s archaeological excavations were carried out in Ballygally and remains of a number of Neolithic houses on low ground about 500m from the shore of Ballygally Bay.
Notable features include the distinct headland of Ballygally Head. Ballygally beach is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike especially during the summer months.Ballygally Castle is now a modern luxury hotel and is reputed to be the oldest occupied building in Ireland. Cairncastle is a prime filming location for the famous ‘Game of thrones TV series’.
Many of the first episodes were filmed in this area. Cairncastle is a townland of 769 acres.
It had a population of 821 in the 2011 Census and is located within the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council area.
Glenarm (meaning ‘valley of the army’) is a village in County Antrim which lies on the North Channel coast north of the town of Larne and the village of Ballygalley and south of the village of Carnlough. It is situated in the civil parish of Tickmacrevan. Glenarm, first of the nine Glens of Antrim is said to be the oldest town in Ulster having been granted a charter in the 12th Century.
The most recent development in the village is the restoration of its distinctive harbour which is limestone built. The restoration cost over £3.2 million and was grant aided by Heritage Lottery Fund and Northern Ireland Tourist Board. The small marina is fully serviced for the residents and visiting mariners in a deep, attractive and secure harbour setting. Glenarm has long been a port of call for sailors and yachtsmen travelling to and from Scotland’s island studded western coast and has proved a welcoming haven to visitors from around the world.
Dating back to Norman times, the village is the family seat of the MacDonnells, who once occupied Dunluce Castle on the north coast. The village is now a Conservation Area, and its main street (Altmore Street) leads directly to Glenarm Forest. The magnificent Glenarm Castle can be seen from the forest. The Castle dates back as far as 1750. The imposing entrance to Glenarm Castle is the Barbican Gate which spans the river in the heart of the village.
Glenarm village is part of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and had a population of 1,851 people in the 2011 Census. Glenarm takes its name from the glen in which it lie, and is the southernmost of the nine Glens of Antrim.
Carnlough is located at the foot of Glencloy and is one of the nine Glens of Antrim. On the shores of Carnlough Bay this sheltered and compact harbour is the focal point of Carnlough village.
The Marchioness of Londonderry built the harbour around the 1800’s and it was used to export limestone until 1945 when the nearby Glencloy quarries closed. Carnlough Harbour was eventually acquired by Larne Borough Council in 1981. The harbour has undergone extensive refurbishment since that time.
The harbour is now used by pleasure and small fishing boats and offers opportunities for sea angling. Pleasure cruises are also available with ‘Carnlough Bay Boat Tours’. Carnlough Harbour is a must see when traveling along the Causeway Coastal route for Game of Thrones® fans. Fans will recognise the stony staircase leading down to the sea, filmed as part of the Free City of Braavos Canal, where Arya Stark crawled up from the waters after being stabbed by the Waif. These steps are now known locally as ‘Arya’s Steps’s’
The Glenariff Iron Ore and Harbour Company (GIOH) was a railway and harbour company in Glenariff, County Antrim. It operated Red Bay Pier on the Antrim coast and about 4 miles of narrow gauge railway between the pier and Cloughcor Mines. The railway carried iron ore from the mines to the pier, where it was loaded onto cargo ships for export to ironworks in Scotland and England.
The pier and railway were completed in 1873, making it the first 3 ft narrow gauge railway in Ireland. A bridge carried the railway across the Antrim Coast Road near Waterfoot.
There were two Ulster White Limestone piers and the embankment approaching one of the piers still survive. The piers are called the White Arch.
Waterfoot harbour is situated on the Co. Antrim coast road at Red Bay between the towns of Carnlough and Cushendall. It is one of the most sheltered harbours on the Antrim Coast.
The bay gets its name from the red sandstone cliffs above the north side of the bay. It was likely to have been used as far back as the 7th century by the Vikings.
Red Bay Pier was erected in 1849 to create a harbour for nearby Cushendall and Waterfoot.
The most of its trade would have been the export of iron ore to Britain from the Glenravel mines, south-west of Glenariff. After 1876, business declined when a railway linked the mines to Ballymena, and on to the larger ports of Larne and Belfast.
Waterfoot is a typical coast road village, with one main street passing through and a beach that overlooks the harbour situated a short distance across the bay. Fishing boats can be hired at the harbour. Pleasure boating is also welcome.
Cushendall lies at the heart of the Glens of Antrim on the shores of the sea of Moyle between the towns of Carnlough and Cushendun. The area’s natural beauty was officially confirmed when it was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Cushendall has a small and lively harbour, known locally as the Waterford Slipway. It has a caravan camping site situated with beautiful views of north and south headlands and on a clear day Scotland and some of its western islands are also visible. This area is a popular place for fishing, picnics, sailing and water-sports and has good diving and yachting facilities.
The R.N.L.I lifeboat house is one of nine lifeboat stations in Northern Ireland providing search and rescue cover for a large part of the Antrim coast. The inshore lifeboat at Red Bay has been operating an for over 30 years. The station now has a state of the art Atlantic 85 class lifeboat B843 Geoffrey Charles was placed on service on 29 July. Lifeboat B728 Dorothy Mary has been withdrawn.
Cushendun Harbour (meaning foot of the brown river) is the nearest harbour to Scotland, some sixteen miles away. It offers a safe and sheltered anchorage at the mouth of the River Dun.
It has been a landing place and ferry point between Ireland and Scotland since the Antrim coast was first inhabited. There was a constant passage of travellers from Cushendun to the opposite coast of Kintyre, who carried back with them cattle and pigs.
Several factories were built beside the south quay, including a ropewalk (a long narrow shed for spinning rope) and starch works, to which later was added a steam-powered flax-mill – the only one in the glens. The village is a peaceful area with just a few small fishing boats tied up along the riverside. The village is another filiming location for the Game of Thrones® hit series.
This small harbour and salmon fishery of Portaleen lies below the mighty Torr Head mountain which shelters it from prevailing winds. The tide’s around Torr Head are treacherous even on a still day, when a flood tide is running, it roars with the sound of a fast flowing river around the headland.
On weekdays during the late spring and summer, a net could be seen stretched across the bay (from the former coastguard station) to catch salmon nosing their way along the coast in search of their birth river.
Torr Head is Ireland’s closest point to Scotland. just a mere 11 miles away.
The slipway is quite shallow and can only be used for small boats without a keel.
Ballycastle has been an important landing place since at least the mid 1400’s. It was the main port for coal boats when coal was mined at Fairhead. In recent years the harbour has become extremely popular with fishermen and deep sea divers.
Ballycastle Marina was officially opened in June 1999. All of the 74 berths have fresh running water and a power supply within easy reach.
It now has a rock surround ensuring that it will be here for some time to come.
The adjoining harbour has also been upgraded to allow access for two ferry services. A small ferry which transports cars, people or even sheep from Ballycastle to Church Bay, Rathlin Island on a daily basis and a pedestrian fast service.
Rathlin Island Harbour
Rathlin island marina facilities include, anchorage, safe mooring, fresh water, shorepower, a provisions store and a slipway. Rathlin Island is an ideal stop for sailors, birdwatchers and divers.
The island has spectacular cliffs and is world known for its colonies of guillemots, puffins, kittiwakes and razorbills. The waters around Rathlin have strong tides and are strewn with wrecks. The harbour in Church Bay has pontoon accommodation for ten to twelve yachts. It also has a ferry service to Ballycastle.
Ballintoy is situated about 5 miles west of Ballycastle. The present harbour was built in the 17th century to facilitate shipping of coal to Ireland. During the late nineteenth century the harbour was extensively used for the shipping of sett stones a small rail track once existed for moving the piles of sett stones and limestone to the quayside. Ballintoy is still a working harbour for local fishermen.
In recent years the harbour has been upgraded and is still a working harbour for local fishermen dealing mainly with salmon and lobster fishing. It is also used as a base by deep sea divers.
A number of pleasure craft use the harbour. It is sheltered from prevailing winds by scores of basalt islands. The harbour mouth looks towards Sheep Island. Ballintoy was a principle film location for The Game of Thrones. In the series the harbour was referred to as, ‘The Iron Islands’.
The harbour at Portbraddon
Portbraddon or Portbraddan (meaning “port of the salmon”) is a hamlet in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The hamlet has an ancient salmon fishing station. A popular saying states that Portbraddon contained the smallest church in Ireland. The church, which was named after St. Gobban, and measured 11 feet 4 inches long, 6 feet and 9 inches wide, was demolished in 2017 by the new owner.
Just 10 minutes away from the thrilling Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. If you’re brave enough to walk across the 100 ft high bridge, you’ll be rewarded with a bird’s eye view of the enchanting Cliffs below. Another 10 minutes away is the of Giant’s Causeway’s iconic basalt columns. There you can join a guided tour or pick up an audio guide to discover more about this natural marvel. There’s also a visitor centre, café and gift shop.
Dunseverick (meaning ‘Sobhairce’s fort’) is a small hamlet near the Giant’s Causeway about seven miles west of Ballycastle close to the small village of Dunseverick and the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim. The harbour is where many local people began their long emigration trail, during the mid 1800’s. Emigrants were rowed out to catch a passing schooner bound for Glasgow or Londonderry where they would embark on one of the many emigrant ships to New Zealand, Australia or the Americas.
The harbour is still used by local fishermen. A number of pleasure craft use the harbour.
Dunseverick Castle and earthworks are Scheduled Historic Monuments in the townland of Feigh, in Moyle District Council area. The Causeway Cliff Path leads to Dunseverick Harbour on the east and to the Giant’s Causeway. Saint Patrick is recorded as having visited Dunseverick castle in the 5th century AD, where he baptized Olcán, a local man who later became a Bishop of Ireland.
The original stone fort that occupied the position was attacked by Viking raiders in 870 AD.
Portballintrae (meaning port of the beach settlement) situated at the mouth of the River Bush 3 miles east of Portrush and 3 miles west of the Giant’s Causeway. This small sheltered harbour is home port to several local fishermen. Portballintrae was originally a fishing village with whitewashed cottages around Ballintrae Bay. Many of the older buildings have been restored and maintained.
The ruins of Dunluce Castle sit on the edge of a cliff near Portballintrae and Portrush.
The castle was the stronghold of the MacDonnell chiefs of Antrim.
The Giant’s Causeway railway runs through the sand dunes above the largest beach in Portballintrae, locally known as Runkerry Strand, and Bushfoot Golf Club. This railway runs between The Giants Causeway and Bushmills.
It was at the coast of Portballintrae where a team of Belgian divers brought up the greatest find of Spanish Armada treasure ever recovered. Much of the Girona’s recovered gold jewellery is now on show in the Ulster Museum in Belfast.
Portrush Harbour On the North Coast of Northern Ireland is situated approximately ten miles east of the entrance to Lough Foyle, on the west side of the Ramore Head promontory.
It is a small harbour enclosed by two piers where it is possible to berth alongside a pontoon or to pick up moorings in the harbour area. It has moorings for over 90 craft of up to 10m in length. Visiting craft are welcome with quayside fuelling and fresh water facilities available.
Behind the promontory there is substantial breakwaters, providing good protection and shelter from most elements in all reasonable conditions. However in very strong north or north westerly conditions shore swell enters the harbour making it slightly uncomfortable.
There is a minimum of two metres in depth at the entrance at LWS. However Portrush Bay is subject to a slight groundswell that runs across the harbour entrance making it hazardous to attempt in any west or north-westerly winds over force 3 to 4.
Portstewart is famous for its long sandy strand and harbour beach, which is ever popular with surfers. It is the second largest resort on the north coast after Portrush. Portstewart serves as the resident port for the pilot’s vessel which guides the cargo ships up the River Bann on its course up the winding tidal stretch to Coleraine.
The harbour lies within a natural rocky inlet with a blowhole which is spectacularly powered by Atlantic break waves. It is a seaside resort neighbouring Portrush. Its harbour and scenic coastal paths form an Atlantic promenade leading to over a long of golden sand (Portstewart Strand).
Portstewart was a popular holiday destination in Victorian times to middle-class families.
Its long seafront promenade is sheltered by rocky headlands.
Although it has been little more than a fishing village since the mid 18th century, Portstewart has been inhabited since the Neolithic era. Portstewart developed to a modest size seaside resort in the mid 19th century. From the 1950s until into the 1980s the town’s main development thrust was as a residential area, with steady construction of new dwellings mainly for owner occupation.
West of the town stretches Portstewart Strand, a long blue flag beach, ownd by the National Trust. Portstewart Strand has been the most popular attraction of Portstewart to holiday-makers in recent times. Saint Patrick’s well can be found at the head of the strand. The strand which was used for horse racing in the 19th century and early 20th century. The beach finishes at the mouth of the River Bann next to Castlerock.
Beneath the convent is a cliff path which stretches along the coast from the Promenade to the Portstewart Strand. From here it is a popular walk to the Barmouth, where the Bann meets the Atlantic Ocean. The cliff path has panoramic views across the Strand and Downhill with Donegal in the background. The Barmouth is a sanctuary for waders, wildfowl and nesting birds. Beyond the Barmouth lies Castlerock, Mussenden Temple, Benone Strand and the Magilligan Strand.
Magilligan Point Harbour
Magilligan Point heads the mouth of Lough Foyle and is home to Lough Foyle Ferry and Martello Tower. The Lough Foyle Ferry Company runs a frequent vehicle ferry service from Magilligan Point to Greencastle in Donegal for the summer months.
Magilligan is a peninsula at the entrance to Lough Foyle. It is a massive 80,000 acre coastal site. It is situated within the Causeway Coast and Glens district. A short beach walk through a National Nature Reserve provides opportunities for visitors to spot birdlife or explore the beach.
Earliest references to Londonderry Harbour have been found in as early as the 6th century. It was in the 16th and 17th centuries when the English focused their attention on the natural resources of the region that Derry had to offer.
Today the harbour is mostly an import facility however, a number of products are also exported. The locations move to Lisahally was particularly important for bulk commodities, that can now be scoured directly from deep sea destinations and has enabled Port users to realise economies of scale and to source markets from further ports.
Londonderry Port can now handle a wider range of liquid and dry bulk trades. The port throughput figure in 1999 was over 1,200,000 tonnes.
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