Carnlough Bay and Harbour, County Antrim, Ireland
Summary* Restrictions applyA completely protected location with straightforward access.
LWS draught1.7 metres (5.58 feet).
Today's local tide estimatesHW 01:00, LW 05:43
HW 11:54, LW 17:55
Now approaching Springs
Swell todayDirection N, height 0.0 metres, period 0.0 seconds, significant wave height of 0.5 metres.
Local weather outlook
Haven position54° 59.590' N, 005° 59.260' W
Where is that position?This is the position of the North Pier Head where a distinctive white tower stands with two black bands Fl G 3s 4m 5M.
What is the initial fix?
What is the story here?Carnlough is located on the northeast coast of Ireland about sixteen miles south of Fair Head. It offers a small very well sheltered harbour situated at the north end of Carnlough Bay and with favourable conditions the possibility of anchoring in the bay itself.
Tucked into the north end of Carnlough Bay under the sheltering Antrim mountains the harbour provides complete protection. Access is straightforward owing to the absence of offshore dangers and two very conspicuous cylindrical towers at the entrance plus leading marks. Drafts may vary to be substantially more or less than what is listed depending upon the build up of kelp and dredging schedule. Hence it is recommended that the harbour should be approached at about half flood tide or enquiries made in advance.
Please note Carnlough harbour should be avoided in any developed onshore winds of force six or above. The harbour is small and constrained. Any vessel beyond ten metres in length will find the location challenging. Although there are berths for visiting yachts Carnlough harbour has limited wall space and is liable to be congested with local boats.
Not what you need?
Magheramorne Point - 13 miles SE
Mill Bay - 13 miles SE
Ballydowan - 12.5 miles SE
Larne Harbour - 11.5 miles SE
Cushendall - 5.4 miles NNW
Cushendun - 8.2 miles NNW
Church Bay - 19.2 miles NNW
Ballycastle - 15.5 miles NW
Why visit here?Carnlough (from the Irish: Carnlach meaning "place of cairns") is a small village situated at the foot of Glencloy, the second of the nine beautiful Glens of Antrim. Located in a stunning part of the country it features a picturesque 18th Century harbour.
The harbour was built of limestone by the Marchioness of Londonderry, who owned the quarries to the west of the village, around 1850. Large quantities of limestone were exported from here transported from the quarries on the hills by a tram road until 1945. The harbour continued in service until the late 1950s when silting became a problem. It has recently been renovated for pleasure and small fishing boats. Akin to the harbour the railway bridge and a former town hall are all built from local white limestone. An unexpected further architectural claim to fame is the Londonderry Arms Hotel, a Georgian house once owned by Sir Winston Churchill.
For walkers the Cranny Falls & Gortin walk lies just behind Carnlough village. This is a return trip off-road path covering a distance of 4.8km to Cranny Falls plus an optional 0.8km detour to the viewpoint in Gortin Quarry. Cranny Falls is a Local Nature Reserve where ‘Cranny’ is Gaelic for "place of many trees". However today the spring carpets of bluebells on the surrounding agricultural fields are all that remain of the former woodlands. There is a viewing platform over the Carnlough river that provides the best view of the falls. It is an easy walk on a very gentle incline and well worthwhile. The path to the Gortin viewpoint is steeper but shorter where there are superb views across Carnlough Bay. Those wishing to take on the walk will find the steps lead uphill from beside the "Harbour Lights" building.
Nearby Glenarm has many other walks, including Glenarm Forest, that is a short distance south of Carnlough. Also Glenariff to the north has the "Queen Of The Glens" with its forest park and magnificent waterfall. So although a quaint and restful village there is plenty to explore in Carnlough and another good base from which to explore the Glens of Antrim.
How to get in?Approaching from the south. The coast to the north of Black Head, marked by Black Head lighthouse, a white 8-sided tower, presents a steep perpendicular cliff. It is composed of black basaltic rocks that at ‘The Gobbins’ is 45 metres high with deep water close in.
Blackhead Lighthouse - Fl 3s 45m 27M position: 54° 46.016’N, 005° 41.338’W
Muck island, 5 miles to the northward of Black head, is attached to the shore by a narrow neck of shingle beach, its east or sea face presents a perpendicular cliff. It is possible to stop a tide on either side of it. On rounding Muck island, you may choose to come up either inshore of Hunter Rock or between Hunter Rock and the Maidens.
Hunter Rock is covered by 0.8 metres and lies two and a half miles northeast of the Larne Harbour entrance. It is marked by North and South Cardinal Light buoys.
North Hunter - VQ position: 54° 53.046’N, 005 45.114’W
South Hunter - VQ (6) + LFl 10s position: 54° 52.691’N, 005 45.284’W
Further out to sea from Hunter Rock, a distance of 4.5 miles from Larne and nearly 4 miles east of Ballygalley head, consist two clusters of rocks, separated from each other by a deep and wide sound called the West and East Maiden.
The Maidens are steep-to all round and are marked by a lighthouse with a white tower and black band on the East Maiden - plus the remains of a West Maiden lighthouse that was taken out of service in 1903.
Maidens Lighthouse - Fl (3) 20s 29m 24M position: 54° 55.748’N, 005° 43.709’W
Once past Hunter Rock Carnlough Bay is less than ten miles and clear of offshore dangers. Upon the shore the round 89 metres high bulge that is Ballygally Head will be seen. It is a steep cliff; its base is fringed by craggy basaltic rocks. Nearby stands the ruin of the ancient castle of Ballygally.
From there the coastline is backed by a rocky mountain range attaining a height of 380 metres, and terminating in Park head. This is a conspicuous headland of a nearly perpendicular 140 metres high cliff. Glenarm bay then resides immediately to the north of Path head and then Carnlough Bay. The entire stretch of coast line to Park head is clear of off lying dangers with good depths close in.
Carnlough Bay may be considered as part of Glenarm bay, being separated only by a slight projecting curve of the coast called Straidkilly Point. The always visible Black Rock resides off the point here and it should be noted upon the final approach to Carnlough Harbour. A line of bearing of no more that 305° of the head of South Pier will keep a vessel clear of Black Rock. Once clear of this then to the initial fix where the entrance may be approached on a bearing of 310°.
Across the North Channel, the Scottish Islands of North Islay, Mull of Kintyre, Rhyns of Galloway, Paps of Jura and Paddy's Milestone or Ailsa Craig can be seen.
Approaching from the north. The immediate offshore area is likewise free from outlying dangers and the coastline presents a remarkably bold outline. The most significant landmark is the impressive Fair Head that represents Ireland’s northeast corner. The mountain range bordering the coast terminates here in a flat top 190 metre high headland that extends out level with the mainland. A perpendicular cliff rounds the edge of Fair Head dropping down straight for 90 metres to an abrupt slope of boulders. This then descends at an almost uniform 30 degree angle to the water's edge. Fair Head’s surrounding waters are steep-to all round with from 15 to 35 metres of water to be found a distance of 200 metres from the rocks.
Progressing south from Fair Head the rugged Antrim mountain slopes push almost vertically out to the coast. Composed of white limestone overlaid with black basaltic rocks the cliffs were formed from deposits of skeletal remains of fish from when the area was submerged in a warm tropical sea about 140 million years ago. They are a remarkable feature of this coast.
Three miles southeast of Fair Head, and approximately five miles North of Cushendun, Torr Head is the next significant headland. Torr Head rises to 67 metres above the sea and has a disused coast-guard watch-house on its summit.
On closer approach Runabay Head will be conspicuous just over two miles to the north of Cushendun Bay. It is formed by the base of a rugged mountain slope that descends sheer into the sea from a height of 260 metres. Cushendun Bay is next and 3 miles to the north of Red Bay. Garron Point resides to the south of Red Bay and is about 4 miles north of Glenarm. It is a bold precipitous headland that rises abruptly to a height of 230 metres close to the shore, and 396 metres a short distance inland. On closer approach, for those hugging the coast, please note the position of Seal Rock residing 500 metres south of Hunters Point and approximately 150 metres offshore to the northeast of the harbour. Finally drop down to the initial fix to address the harbour from the southeast.
From the Carnlough Initial Fix come in on 310° until the harbour entrance becomes visible. There are two six metre cylindrical towers, white with two black bands, on either side of the harbour clearly marking the entrance. Both are lit with the North Pier Head Fl G 3s 4m 5M and the South Pier Head Fl R 3s 6m 5M and the entrance between them is 18.5 metres wide.
Closer in the harbours leading marks, consisting of two inverted red triangles with a white vertical line (in-line bearing 310°). The rear leading mark is lower than the front one making it difficult to identify and it is situated on the side of the shop store room. Come straight in on transit to avoid the rocks on either side of the entrance that cover at high water. Depth in the approach channel can be limited as silting takes place but it is reported that there is 1.7 metres in the channel when the ledge on the port hand wall is covered.
The 152 metre long Main Quay lies on the west side of the harbour and is directly ahead upon entry. Turning to port will take a vessel to a well sheltered inner harbour with a 60 metre long South Quay located in the south-eastern side of the harbour. If all berths are occupied in the Main and South Quay the Northern breakwater may be availed of. However a vessel should not come in closer than half way between the slipway and outer end of the wall here.
In offshore winds it is also possible to anchor in the bay 200 metres outside the harbour in sand and gravel. Here at the head of the bay it is reasonably shallow and it affords a good anchorage with westerly and north-westerly winds; but is exposed to easterly winds from north-northeast to south-southeast.
Please note the harbour tends to silt up and is dredged periodically so depths may vary dramatically. It is best to avoid Carnlough with a fresh to strong onshore winds. Also expect poorly marked marine farms to be in the surrounding area about a mile offshore.
What are the tides here?Today's local tide estimates are based on High Water Belfast +0006
Today's Belfast tides — High water: 11:48, Low waters: 05:37, 17:49
Today's Dover tides — High water: 11:41, Low waters: 06:54, 19:17 (From Tide Times)
We are now approaching the next tidal event that will be Springs, need more detailed tidal planning information?
High Water Dover +0010, Belfast +0009
Rise (HW) approximately 1.8-1.5 metres (-1.6 metres on Belfast)
Tidal streams outside of Hunter Rock run in line with the general direction of the coast. Inside Hunter Rock the streams gradually shift to run across the entrance to Larne Lough. Carnlough and Glenarm bays are out of the run of the strong North Channel tides.
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?Fresh water is available from a stand pipe in the inner harbour and a slip for small craft; fuel is available nearby. General shopping and a post office (hosting a tourist representative) in the village’s small shops that services a local population of 1500. Refreshments are available in the many hostelries and small cafes in Carnlough village all near quay. Public toilets are also available beside the car park at Herbert Street.
A bus is available to Larne 15 miles (24.2km) to the south along the A2 Coast Road plus Taxis can be called upon. Hull repairs, engineers and electricians are available in the vicinity.
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.
Other useful contacts in this area:
Harbour Master: Tom McKnight
Phone: +44 28 272677 Mobile: +44 7703 606763
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred in Carnlough.
What navigational resources are available for this area?British Admiralty 1411 ‘Irish Sea - Western Part’ 2199 ‘North Channel – Northern Part’ scale of 75,000:1 and 2198 ‘North Channel - Southern Part’ scale of 75,000:1 are good planning charts for the area. Also Imray chart C62 – ‘Irish Sea’ Chart C64 ‘Belfast Lough to Crinan and Islay’ plus Northern Ireland Ordinance Survey No. 9 at a scale of 1:50,000 for inland details. OpenStreetMap provides local maps that include relief details plus walking and cycle routes for this locality.
With thanks to:Terry Crawford, local boatman of many decades and Charlie Kavanagh - ISA/RYA Yachtmaster Instructor/Examiner - navigation and sail trainer - details: http://www.sailsoutheast.com/
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