Red Bay Pier (Glenariff Pier), County Antrim, Ireland
SummaryAn exposed location with straightforward access.
Exposed today; forecast to be exposed on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
LWS draught3 metres (9.84 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 position55° 3.940' N, 006° 3.170' W
Where is that position?This is the position Red Bay or Glenariff pierhead, where a light stands Fl 3s 10m 5M, at the north end of Red Bay.
What is the initial fix?
What is the story here?Red Bay is a deep and picturesque bay upon Ireland’s northeast coast. It is situated approximately thirteen miles south of Fair Head and entered between Garron Point and Limerick Point. Vessels may anchor in any part of Red Bay in depths according to personal preference.
Red Bay offers the best protection upon this section of coastline. The bay is a good anchorage in all winds between southeast and northwest. Moreover, tucked into the bight of the bay, it is out of the current and has excellent fine sand holding. It is an open bay that is exposed to the north and east. Access is straightforward thanks to the absence of offshore dangers or any tidal restriction.
Please note the direction and velocity of the tide should be the central feature of any navigation planning in this area. In Red Bay even moderate south or southwest winds blow with great violence down the valleys, coming off in heavy squalls. Vessels working their way in should be prepared for this and when these conditions exist expect it to be characteristic of any stay. This is typically not an issue owing to the bay’s highly reliable holding.
Not what you need?
Glenarm Bay and Harbour - 6.7 miles SSE
Magheramorne Point - 17.8 miles SSE
Mill Bay - 17.8 miles SE
Ballydowan - 17.3 miles SE
Cushendun - 3.7 miles N
Church Bay - 14.4 miles NNW
Ballycastle - 10.6 miles NW
Ballintoy Harbour - 15.2 miles NW
Why visit here?Glenariff Pier, or the colloquially Red Bay pier, is named after its two surrounding geographical features. Situated at the foot of Glenariff, the primary name is taken from the impressive Glen. The name Glenariff being derived from the Irish, ‘Gleann Airimh’ meaning ‘glen of arable land’. Glenariff is the largest and most popular of the Glens of Antrim that is often fondly called the 'Queen Of the Glens'.
The pier is also colloquially named ‘Red Bay Pier’ being the operational pier of the bay. Red Bay takes its name from the exposed red sandstone cliffs that rise at the north side of the bay and the eroded reddish sand that washes down to the shore. The glen formed some 10,000 years ago as the result of melting ice caps, forming a classic U cut glacial valley.
The pier was built in 1849 to provide a harbour for nearby Waterfoot - the local village that is also often known as Glenariff – and the larger village of Cushendall immediately north. The bulk of the harbour’s trade came from the extraction of iron ore at the Glenravel mines, south-west of Glenariff, and its shipment to Scotland and England. Business however declined when in 1876 a railway linked the mines to Ballymena enabling the more capable larger ports of Larne and Belfast to take over the trade. The mines themselves failed a few years later.
Close to pier. just above the Red Arch on the road to Cushendall, the ruins of Red Bay Castle reside on a headland projecting into the sea. The full history of the site dates back to the 13th Century when in 1224 John and Walter Bisset were banished from Scotland for the murder of their uncle. Legend has it that they purchased the Glens of Antrim and built the original castle on this site. The area was the scene of various battles causing the castle to be destroyed and restored many times. The remains that may be visited today were built in 1561 by Sir James McDonnell which in turn was destroyed in 1652 by Oliver Cromwell during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.
Whilst walking the in area keep an eye out for the numerous caves dotted around the area. Each cave comes with its own story and history. One was reputed to have been used as an escape route from the Red Bay Castle, another cave was used as a school and yet another housed a blacksmith's forge.
Walking as it happens is the highlight of this area. There are countless spectacular walks here ranging from flat walks along the coast or the more rugged hill walks that provide stunning views over the bay. A highlight amongst hill walks is a visit to the 1185 hectare Glenariff Forest Park. This features a number of walking trails with steps and bridges that take a visitor through scenery with waterfalls and crystal clear pools. The most popular of which follow the rivers Inver and Glenariff, and their associated waterfalls where visitors may avail of a café situated in the park.
Finally visit timing may be key as ‘Feis na nGleann’ was founded in Glenariff in 1904 featuring traditional/folk music and dancing. This enthusiasm for traditional culture has survived into modern times and each July the village Waterfoot hosts the annual ‘Glens Of Antrim Féis’.
Red Bay provides the most sheltered anchorage on this part of the coast, out of the tide, and safe in winds between southeast and northwest. Access to the bay is straightforward as it is non-tidal and available at all times plus free of off-lying dangers save for the fish farm that is well lit. It is the ideal location to seek protection from these quarters on this coast.
Moreover with the Antrim coast enduring some of the strongest tides of the whole country, Red Bay offers the ideal stop off to await a tide for the next leg. It is also an ideal staging post for those wishing to cross the north channel to Scotland as the Mull of Kintyre. Either are only fifteen miles or so away and visible all the way, with Cambeltown Lough less than the same again.
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, and the Maidens Lighthouse is abeam, Cushendun is about 16 miles to the northwest and clear of offshore dangers.
Upon the shore the round bulge, 89 metres high 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 resides immediately to the north of Path head.
Five miles north of Glenarm is Garron Point that resides to the south of Red Bay. 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. Red Bay resides around Garron Point, between it and Limerick Point three and a quarter miles northwest. It is a deep and open bay where inland hills rise to a height of over 350 metres. Keep 400 metres off Garron Point when rounding the headland. The entire stretch of coast line to Garron Point is clear of off lying dangers with good depths close in.
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 as close as fifteen miles off. The North channel is scarcely 11 miles wide here and 140 metres deep and clear of hidden dangers.
From here a vessel, approaching from the south, has two options for the final run to the pier or the Red Bay anchorage area in general. The first is to continue north to the Red Bay initial fix, described further below, or alternatively proceed in along the shoreline of the southern part of the bay. Both approaches enable a vessel to pass, north-around or south-around, a fish farm that resides in the south side of the bay just under a mile and a half east of the pier. The fish farm is noted on Admiralty Chart 2199.
Red Bay Fish Farm – in the vicinity of: 55° 03.790’N 006° 00.910’W
Those that choose to come in alongside the shoreline should stand-off a distance of 250 metres or more. This will enable a vessel to pass clear of a couple of shoreline rocks and old ruined piers that reside on the southern side of the bay. Apart from these and the fish farm there are no off lying dangers or shallows in the south end of the bay.
Approaching from the north 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. Again the entire stretch of coastline from the north is clear of off-lying dangers with good depths close in.
Once past Cushendun Bay head for the Red Bay Initial Fix. This is 1.9 nautical miles from the pier and a bearing of 255° (T) set on Lurigethan, an unmistakable steep 350 metre high mountain with a flat top, leads into the pier from here. The pier may be difficult to pick out approaching from seaward, however tracking in at 255° (T), Lurigethan and the pier are in-line.
Vessels may anchor in any part of Red Bay in depths according to personal preference. A sandy bottom shoals gradually to the shore on final approach. In strong south or southeast winds the best anchorage is to be found in the southern-most corner of the bay. This is inshore of the inner of the two ruined piers that reside upon the southern shore. This derelict pier runs out 110 metres and a vessel should anchor to the west of the ruin, approximately 400 metres north of a white stone arch on the shore where 3 to 4 metre of water will be found. In west or northwest winds south of Glenariff Pier is the best location to anchor. 5 metres will be found off the pier head with depths decreasing gradually to the shore.
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 –0015 Dover
MHWS 1.6m MHWN 1.5m MLWN 0.3m MLWS 0.2m
The stream sets round Garron point at the rate of 5 knots on springs, running in a direct line between it and Tornamoney Point at the north side of Cushendun Bay. At half ebb there is an eddy round the shores of Red bay, which sets out pretty strong along the south shore, causing 9 hours stream to the eastward there. There is also an eddy along the western shore with the flood, after half tide, but there is little stream in the bight of the bay. Particularly so inside the 10 metre depth contour where the Red Bay or Cushendall anchorages are situated.
Further north, the tide sweeps round the headlands at the rate of 5 knots close to the shore. The spring ebb tide has been observed to run at 9 knots close off the tip of Torr Head causing a large eddy about 100 metres northeast of the head and great overfalls.
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?Some basic stores are to be found at Waterfoot that serves a small population of 500 people. The village is situated on the A2 coast road between the separately covered towns of Carnlough to the south and Cushendall that resides immediately to the north Cushendall offers best provisioning.
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. An auxiliary coastguard station and an inshore lifeboat are stationed at Cushendall.
Other useful contacts in this area:
Cushendall Sailing & Boating Club, Phone: +44 28 2177 1673
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel anchored off in Red Bay.
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. 5 and 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:Burke Corbett, Gusserane, New Ross, County Wexford.
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