Ballyholme Bay, County Down, Ireland
SummaryA good location with straightforward access.
Exposed today; forecast to be exposed on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
LWS draught3 metres (9.84 feet).
Today's local tide estimatesLW 01:41, HW 07:45
LW 14:13, HW 20:28
We are now on Neaps
Swell todayDirection N, height 0.1 metres, period 0.0 seconds, significant wave height of 0.3 metres.
Local weather outlook
Haven position54° 40.080' N, 005° 39.157' W
Where is that position?This is the seaward end of the Ballyholme Bay Yacht Club jetty. It is located between the two club slipways on the western side of the bay.
What is the initial fix?
What is the story here?Ballyholme bay is located on the northeast coast of Ireland, on the southern shores of Belfast Lough and immediately east of Bangor Bay. The extensive well sheltered bay provides an anchorage that is home to the Ballyholme and Royal Ulster Yacht Clubs.
The bay provides good protection from east round through south to west but is exposed to all northerly component winds. Although unmarked there are no off-lying dangers in the area making daylight access straight forward at any stage of the tide.
Please note regular fast ferries travel in and out of Belfast Lough. If crossing the entrance to Belfast Lough a good watch must be maintained and a vessel should be prepared to be unexpectedly struck by the wash at all times.
Not what you need?
Port Dandy - 3.8 miles E
Chapel Bay - 3.9 miles E
Donaghadee Harbour - 4.4 miles ESE
Copelands Marina - 4.6 miles ESE
Helen’s Bay - 2.8 miles W
Cultra - 5.8 miles W
Belfast Harbour - 9.8 miles WSW
Newtownabbey - 7.6 miles W
Why visit here?Ballyholme continues Bangor’s Victorian seaside resort theme that is well covered in the Bangor Harbour entry. Ballyholme Bay’s excellent beach was the keystone of the Victorian resort success and continues to make the town a popular destination today.
The extensive bay has been a sailing centre for countless decades and prior to the construction of Bangor marina the bay was the town’s primary yacht anchorage. This maritime legacy is carried forward by Ballyholme and the Royal Ulster Yacht Clubs and its sailing popularity remains undiminished. Both of the clubs are situated on the eastern side of the bay and the Royal Ulster Yacht Club’s club house is of particular note. The club was established in 1866 as the Ulster Yacht Club and three years later it received its Royal warrant. The large and very impressive red-brick club house, with its commanding views of the lough and the County Antrim coastline, dates back to 1897 and is now a listed building of historic interest.
Luke's Point also offers a west-bound walker a more scenic route to Bangor by passing Ballyholme Yacht Club and walking around the shoreline of the grassy headland. This longer but more scenic promenade path to Bangor offers views across the lough and out to the Mull of Kintyre and Scotland’s Isle of Arran. Turning east along the pathway into the bay itself is very much a journey away from hustle and bustle to a much quieter environment. A sealed tarmac path follows Ballyholme Bay’s esplanade and promenade making for an enjoyable stroll. Both walks are part of the ‘The North Down Coastal Path’ that begins as far west as Holywood, just outside Belfast, and heads east for more than 20km along the Lough’s southern shore to Orlock Point.
Hikers may find the reduced section of ‘The North Down Coastal Path’ that remains to the east Ballyholme Bay very attractive. Continue around to the car park and children's play area on the eastern side of Ballyholme Bay. From here the path may be picked up by descending to the beach and walking along the sands beside the sea wall for a short distance. The tide however needs to be out to address the short distance alongside the sea wall. Once at the end of the wall come ashore and follow the path along the edge of the field then continue through to Ballymacormick Point.
The next 2 km of coastal heath and scrub crosses property managed by the National Trust. The path is covered in grass or gravel, surrounded by gorse and brambles in places, plus wild gorse covered scrubland that is good for rough walking. Although close to a highly populated area the point is surprisingly secluded and naturally favoured by many species of bird - the combination of rough grass, gorse and rocks forms an inviting habitat for a wide variety of birdlife. Sailing season cruisers will find it a breeding ground for skylarks, oystercatchers, meadow, rock pipits, stonechats, willow warblers, reed buntings and linnets. Sandwich terns arrive in the summer and join the native breeding arctic and common terns. Their eye-catching flights, dives and loops in search of fish are a feature of a summer stroll here. Looking out over Ballymacormick Point’s rocky outcrops to the lough hikers will enjoy a great view. On the northern shore Antrim’s escarpment of black basalt, Carrickfergus, the Knockagh monument, and the coast curving towards Whitehead can be seen. On a clear day the coast of Galloway may be seen in surprisingly sharp detail to the northeast. Sadly the view is slightly tarnished by the dominant profile of Kilroot power station, but aside from this the views here are nonetheless spectacular. Just around the point the beautiful little village of Groomsport can be found. This is shallow harbour is covered in a separate entry.
Ballyholme Bay, with its very good anchorage and innate charms, provides the cruising boatman with not alone an excellent base for Bangor but one for Belfast and the entire area.
How to get in?Directions are provided for northern and southern coastal approaches plus a final location approach. If coastal guidance is not applicable, skip directly to the ‘for the final approach’.
FOR A NORTHERN COASTAL APPROACH
Those approaching from Larne Harbour and following the coastline should give Skernaghan Point, the northern most point of Islandmagee, a berth of 500 metres to avoid a rocky outcrop that stretches out northward from it. Upon rounding Skernaghan Point, continue southeast alongside Islandmagee’s 3 miles of precipitous cliffs that range from 15 to 31 metres high as the Isle of Muck and the little harbour of Portmuck will be seen on the starboard bow.
The Isle of Muck is 37 metres high and is a bare, green island presenting perpendicular sea facing cliffs to the east. The island is attached to the shore by a narrow neck of shingle beach. Round the eastern seaward side of the island and keep at least a hundred metres off the north-most point. Please note the island is attached to the shore by a narrow neck of shingle beach that exposes at low water. It is possible to achieve up to two metres at high water springs over the narrow connecting ridge and pass between the islet and Islandmagee shore. However one would need to be paying attention to tides and timing plus a vessels draft to be certain of the requisite depth. Hence we recommend that the island is rounded on the outside.
South of the Isle of Muck to Black Head the coast of Islandmagee presents a steep perpendicular cliff, composed of black basaltic rocks, that at ‘The Gobbins’ is 45 metres high, again with deep water close in to Black Head. There Blackhead lighthouse resides marking the northern extremity of Belfast Lough.
Blackhead Lighthouse - Fl 3s 45m 27M position: 54° 46.016’N, 005° 41.338’W
South of Black Head the entrance to the Lough opens 6.75 miles wide between the headland and Orlock Point on the south. Its navigable area is free of dangers with an average depth of 11 metres.
Between Black Head and Carrickfergus the shoreline presents itself as a vertical black basaltic rock cliff face with three lit jetties associated with Kilroot Power Station. The first is the Cloghan Jetty located to the south of the easily identifiable 90 metres high white limestone cliffs of White Head, a mile and a half inside Belfast Lough to the south-southwest. This jetty extends out from the shore for more than half a mile and is lit at the end Fl G 3s 2M. Beyond the pierhead a green buoy, QG. 0.5M, resides half a mile off the pier head.
Next is the 350 metres long Salt Jetty off Kilroot, with a light Oc G 10s on its outer end. 0.75M W of the jetty is a 198m high chimney marked by red vertical lights.
Finally there is the Kilroot Jetty unloading berth marked by 2 FG (vert) 6m 2M lights.
When crossing Belfast Lough the south shore will appear comparatively low and unremarkable except at Grey Point that is a bluff 23 metre high point. Bangor’s harbour walls plus the towns dominating steeples will be highly visible just under a mile west of Ballyholme bay. The Initial Fix is located one mile north of the bay.
FOR A SOUTHERN COASTAL APPROACH
Vessels arriving from the south or east will find the Copeland Islands of moderate elevation and distinguished by a lighthouse on the westernmost Mew Island. The approach options are to either come up outside the Copelands group or through Donaghadee Sound that resides between the mainland and the Islands.
Those approaching outside Copeland Islands should leave Mew Island well to Port and the run into the initial fix is straightforward across Belfast Lough’s open navigable waters that are free of dangers.
Mew Island Lighthouse - Fl (4) 30s 37m 24M position: 54° 41.923’N, 005° 30.824’W
Please note the ‘Northern Race’ and ‘Ram Race’ that occur at various stages of the tide to the east of Mew and Copeland Islands may be highly uncomfortable in strong conditions and should be avoided.
Donaghadee Sound is the normal route for leisure craft making along this coast when tidal streams are favourable. Although the sound is almost a mile wide, between Copeland Island and the mainland to the southwest, foul ground called the ‘Magic Rocks’ extend nearly half way from Copeland Island’s southwest side. Then Deputy Reef, marked by a red buoy, is situated nearly in the middle of the southern fairway. These contract the channel through the sound to a quarter of a mile in width. This however is well marked for vessels entering and exiting Belfast Lough by the buoyed shipping channel. The key southern entry buoys as follows:
Governor Red Can Buoy - Fl R 3s position: 54° 39.360’N, 005° 31.991’W
Deputy Green Can Buoy - Fl G 2s position: 54° 39.513’N, 005° 31.944’W
Foreland Red Can Buoy - Fl R 6s position: 54° 39.640’N, 005° 32.307’W
Donaghadee Sound streams achieve 4.5 knots in places so tidal planning is essential and great care should be taken during the approach. Pass between the Deputy and Governor buoys and from there to the Foreland Buoy. Once inside Belfast Lough pass the South Briggs Red Can Buoy to port as it marks a dangerous reef extending from the shore.
South Briggs Red Can Buoy – Fl (2) R 10s position: 54° 41.182’N, 005° 35.732’W
From South Briggs the run to the Initial Fix is just under two miles and clear of danger. Keep a watch out for Club Racing Buoys, whilst crossing Groomsport Bay and stay 500 metres off Ballymacormick Point as the headland is foul.
A useful set of routing waypoints for a southern approach to Belfast Lough are available in the route ’Bangor, Belfast Lough - Dublin on 12 hours of favourable tide – both ways’.
FOR THE FINAL APPROACH
From the Ballyholme Bay Initial Fix track south into the gradually shelving bay. Anchor in a depth to your preference in sand with very good holding. Land by dinghy at one of Ballyholme Yacht Club’s two slip or alight on the beach.
Please note reefs extend from Luke's Point, on Ballyholme Bay’s western side, and vessels approaching from the west should keep 250 metres off the headland.
What are the tides here?Today's local tide estimates are based on High Water Belfast +0020
Today's Belfast tides — High waters: 07:25, 20:08, Low waters: 01:21, 13:53
Today's Dover tides — High waters: 07:37, 19:58, Low waters: 02:06, 14:40 (From Tide Times)
We are now on Neaps, need more detailed tidal planning information?
High Water Dover +0100, as Belfast get Dover tides
MHWS 3.2m MHWN 2.7m MLWN 0.9m MLWS 0.3m
Tidal planning for vessels approaching Belfast Lough is essential. Vessels approaching from the south will encounter tides that run hard in the sounds. Likewise vessels approaching from east, or outside the island group, will encounter races with overfalls as they close in upon the Copeland Island group. At the eastern tip of Mew Island the ‘Ram Race’ initiates and extends 1.5 miles south-by-southeast on the flood and up to 1.75 miles north-by-northwest on the ebb.
From Dover HW +0455 to -0115 (Belfast HW +0510 to -0100) the tide floods southeast. Donaghadee Sound’s spring streams can in places reach up to 4.5 knots in both directions making a favourable tide transit a prerequisite for most leisure craft. Streams largely follow the direction of the channel but it should be noted heavy tide rips in a big seaway may cause overfalls to occur across the southeast end of Donaghadee Sound. From the entrance of Strangford lough however, through to the inner passage, the stream is comparatively weak, not averaging more than 1.5 knots on springs.
Copeland Sound tides are not as strong but still attain rates of up to 2.5 knots with Spring tides. This is however not the preferred channel owing to the two challenging and unmarked rocky shoals called ‘Platters’ and ‘Ninaen Bushes’, the latter with less than a metre of cover situated out half a mile off from the north-east point of Copeland Island. Eddies are very strong elsewhere all around the islands group.
Outside the islands the tides turn about one hour later. On the south going flood a vast eddy forms to the south of Mew Island. This circles back upon itself in the five miles area between the entrance to Donaghadee Sound and Ballyferis Point. Hence the streams off Donaghadee Harbour are 1.5 kn rotary in a clockwise direction on the flood. However when this vast circular eddy of water courses around to collide with the flood tide to the south-southeast of Mew and the ill-famed Ram Race shows its true colours. Thus the area is at its worst after the recirculation on the second half of the flood circa HW Dover -0230 to +0015 or about local HW (HW Belfast -0215 to +0030 or about local HW). Likewise the north-northwest race occurs on the latter half of the ebb from HW Dover +0330 to +0630 (HW Belfast +0345 to +0615 or about local LW).
Northern approaches are less complicated however tidal stream remain very strong running up to 5 or 6 kn off salient points to the north of Belfast Lough.
Between Black Head and White Head tidal streams are negligible with light current, the flood running in and the ebb out of the lough off Carrickfergus. In the middle to outer half of the lough tidal streams rotate and are always less than 1 knot.
The above image represents the current tidal stream off this haven in local time. Click [+] to advance the estimate by an hour and click [ - ] to step back. Future tidal planning is best accomplished by extracting the date's Dover Tide HW , and clicking [+] or [ - ] based on the presented Dover offset. Do you need information on the tidal graphics?
What facilities are available?Ballyholme Yacht Club has changing facilities plus showers and Sky television in the Lounge Bar plus a large projection screen in the Jubilee Room for match day sporting fans. During the weekends meals are available plus grounds for BBQs outside. Additionally diving cylinder compressors, air & nitrox, refill is available here plus dinghy parks and winter boat storage are all available here. Vessels drawing less than 1.8m can come alongside the club wall at high water to take on water.
The Royal Ulster Yacht Club is situated up the hill from Ballyholme Yacht Club. It is homed in a splendid red brick building that has a commanding view of Belfast Lough. It offers similar facilities with the addition of a full dining room service afternoon and evenings, seven days a week. Both clubs extend a warm welcome to members of other clubs visiting Belfast Lough.
For all else there is Bangor Marina one mile west. This is Northern Ireland's biggest and most prestigious offering all facilities 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Bangor itself is a prosperous town that itself is 22 km (13.6 miles) east from the heart of Belfast City Centre on the A2. It has excellent transport connections via trains and a bus service to connect to Belfast city and from there on to any location in Ireland. Flights to domestic and international destinations operate from Belfast City and Belfast International Airports. There are frequent ferry crossings from Belfast and Larne.
What emergency contacts are there?Belfast Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC). Operational Area: Northern Ireland/ Irish Republic Border, Lough Foyle to Northern/Irish Republic Border Carlingford Lough. Belfast Coastguard (MRSC) VHF Ch 16, liaises closely with IRCG. Emergencies are worked on 16, 67 and working channel.
Alternatively, or if ashore, phone 999 and 112 and ask for ‘Marine Rescue’. Police, Fire and Rescue are also available on this number. Belfast (MRSC) may be contacted directly on +44 2891 463 933. HM Coastguard's Marine Rescue Sub Centre and a RNLI Atlantic 85 Lifeboat are based in Bangor Marina.
Other useful contacts in this area:
Belfast Harbour Radio on VHF Ch 12 or 16 or +44 2890 553504
Harbour Master Office +44 2890 553015
Bangor Marina Tel: +44 28 9145 3297,
VHF Channel 37/80/11 Call sign "Bangor Marina" (24 Hours)
Bangor Police: +44 2890 650222, Belfast Harbour Police on +44 2890 553000.
Ballyholme Yacht Club, Seacliff Road, Bangor, BT20 5HT
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel:+44 28 91 271467, Bar payphone +44 28 91 454768
Royal Ulster Yacht Club, 101 Clifton Road, Bangor, County Down, BT20 5HY
Tel: +44 28 9127 0568
Any security concerns?Never an incident know to have happen to a vessel anchored off Ballyholme Bay.
What navigational resources are available for this area?British Admiralty 1753 ‘Belfast Lough and Approaches’, scale of 37,500:1, including ‘Donaghadee Sound’ scale of 15,000:1 and ‘Bangor Bay’ scale of 17,500:1. Imray chart C62 – ‘Irish Sea’ plus Discovery Ordinance Survey map 15 (Belfast - scale of 1:50 000) also cover this area. OpenStreetMap provides local maps that include relief details plus walking and cycle routes for this locality.
With thanks to:Michael Evans, Deputy Harbour Master, Belfast Harbour.
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