England Ireland Find Havens
England Ireland Find Routes
Boat
Maintenance
Comfort
Handling
Safety
Other



NextPrevious

Ballycastle

Tides and tools
Overview





Ballycastle is situated on the northeast coast of Ireland about four miles to the west of Fair Head and tucked into the western corner of Ballycastle Bay. The small town and harbour offers a marina, alongside berths in the outer harbour, or in fair conditions the option to anchor outside the harbour in the bay.

The marina is enclosed behind substantial rock breakwaters which give complete protection. The outer harbour is subject to swell from north or north-westerly quadrants and the bay can only be used in settled or offshore conditions. Although clear of strong tidal streams the bay can be subject to sudden swell. The harbour and bay afford safe access in all reasonable conditions at any stage of the tide as there are no dangers in the immediate harbour vicinity and its pierheads have lights.
Please note

The direction and velocity of the tide should be the central feature of any navigation planning in this area. The tidal streams in Rathlin Sound can attain 6.5 knots at springs. For those approaching from the south the roughest water may be experienced between Fair Head and Torr Head, where just off Torr Head the Ebb runs up to 9 knots during Spring tides. However, if the tides have been well studied and embraced, a well-found yacht should have no difficulty sailing this area in conditions of up to Force 4 or 5.




1 comment
Keyfacts for Ballycastle
 +44 28 2076 8525      info@moyle-org      Ch.80
Approaches
5 stars: Safe access; all reasonable conditions.
Shelter
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.


Considerations
Note: strong tides or currents in the area that require considerationNote: harbour fees may be charged


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationMarina or pontoon berthing facilitiesAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity
Facilities
Water hosepipe available alongsideWater available via tapWaste disposal bins availableDiesel fuel available alongsideGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore power available alongsideShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet via a wireless access point availableDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaTrolley or cart available for unloading and loadingBoatyard with hard-standing available here; covered or uncoveredMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaBus service available in the areaBicycle hire available in the areaTourist Information office availableHandicapped access supportedShore based family recreation in the area

Last modified
May 30th 2017; suggest a correction?

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Now Force

Summary

A completely protected location with safe access.

LWS draught

2 metres (6.56 feet).

Today's tide estimates

LW 01:50 (0m) HW 01:50 (0m)
LW 14:15 (0m) HW 14:15 (0m)
We are now on Springs

Swell today




Approaches
5 stars: Safe access; all reasonable conditions.
Shelter
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.


Considerations
Note: strong tides or currents in the area that require considerationNote: harbour fees may be charged


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationMarina or pontoon berthing facilitiesAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity
Facilities
Water hosepipe available alongsideWater available via tapWaste disposal bins availableDiesel fuel available alongsideGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore power available alongsideShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet via a wireless access point availableDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaTrolley or cart available for unloading and loadingBoatyard with hard-standing available here; covered or uncoveredMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaBus service available in the areaBicycle hire available in the areaTourist Information office availableHandicapped access supportedShore based family recreation in the area

Last modified
May 30th 2017; suggest a correction?

Position and approaches
Expand to new tab or fullscreen

Haven position

55° 12.468' N, 006° 14.348' W

This is in the middle of Ballycastle's outer harbour area.

What is the initial fix?

The following Ballycastle Harbour Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
55° 12.460' N, 006° 14.100' W
This is approximately 150 metres east of the lit northern end of Boyd\'s Breakwater. Track in on 270°, or due west, from here to come south of the northern breakwaters pierhead.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in the east and southbound Route location or north and westbound Route location sequenced 'Malin Head to Strangford Lough' coastal description. Use the Church Bay Click to view haven for general approaches to the area.

  • Pass the North Breakwater well to starboard and continue south until Boyd's Breakwater pierhead, the head of the east facing wall, opens. Pass in between the pierheads.



Not what you need?
Try our Advanced Havens Search tool to find locations with the specific attributes you need, or click the 'Next', coastal clockwise, or 'Previous', coastal anti-clockwise, buttons to progress through neighbouring havens. Below are the ten nearest havens to Ballycastle for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. Murlough Bay - 2.7 miles E
  2. Ballintoy Harbour - 3.1 miles WNW
  3. Church Bay - 3.3 miles NNE
  4. Torr Head - 3.8 miles E
  5. Cushendun - 5.2 miles SE
  6. Cushendall - 6.4 miles SE
  7. Portballintrae - 6.6 miles W
  8. Red Bay Pier (Glenariff Pier) - 6.6 miles SE
  9. Portrush Harbour - 8.9 miles W
  10. Coleraine - 9.6 miles WSW
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. Murlough Bay - 2.7 miles E
  2. Ballintoy Harbour - 3.1 miles WNW
  3. Church Bay - 3.3 miles NNE
  4. Torr Head - 3.8 miles E
  5. Cushendun - 5.2 miles SE
  6. Cushendall - 6.4 miles SE
  7. Portballintrae - 6.6 miles W
  8. Red Bay Pier (Glenariff Pier) - 6.6 miles SE
  9. Portrush Harbour - 8.9 miles W
  10. Coleraine - 9.6 miles WSW
Alternatively the above can be ordered by compass direction or coastal sequence


How to get in?
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

Expand to new tab or fullscreen





Ballycastle Bay stretches between Kinbane Head and Fair Head and is enclosed to the north by Rathlin Island. The seaside town of Ballycastle is a popular resort situated at the head of the bay. The town is fronted by substantial breakwaters behind which a RoRo service operates to Scotland and there is a large marina in the south side of the harbour.


Convergance Point The details provided for Church Bay Click to view haven on Rathlin Island provides directions for general approaches to the area as Church Bay and Ballycastle Bay face each across Rathlin Sound through which both are approached.

The Marina Office is open during most daylight hours P: +44 28 2076 8525, M: +44 780 350 5084 and listens on VHF channel 80. It is requested that berthing arrangements should be made prior to entering the Harbour.


Western Approach Rathlin Sound is clear of outlying hazards with the single exception of one danger in the path of vessels approaching from the west. This is Carrickmannanon Rock off Kinbane Head that is located two and a half miles southeast of Sheep Island and a similar distance from Ballycastle Harbour.



This small rock is steep to on its outer side and lies 800 metres north by northeast of the headland. Carrickmannanon is normally visible as it nearly always breaks and dries to 0.3 of a metre.

Carrickmannanon Rock – rock unmarked position: 55° 14.029' N, 006° 16.909' W

Local vessels will be seen passing inside the rock but newcomers are best advised not to. The tidal streams of Rathlin Sound rip past Carrickmannanon creating an eddy under its lee. This sets strongly back towards the rock and draws a vessel back upon it. Likewise between the rock and the headland heavy overfalls can be expected at various points of the tide. It is therefore best to entirely avoid the rock and its immediate surrounds. A sight line of Bengore Head open of Ballintoy Point on 275° T passes more than 800 metres north of Carrickmannanon.

Once past Carrickmannanon a course can be shaped to give Ballycastle’s North Quay pierhead a clearance of approximately 100 metres, where the Ballycastle Initial Fix is situated.


Initial fix location From the initial fix turn to starboard and keep Boyd's Breakwater pierhead, the head of the southern and 175 metre long east facing wall, open of the sheltering and substantial North Pier. The North Pier, passed to starboard, is a large breakwater that carries a light Fl (3) G.6s 6M at its head. On the port side is the Boyd's Breakwater pierhead also with a light Fl (2) R 4s 1M.



Boyd's Breakwater pierhead is obscured by the North Pier until a clearing bearing of 261° T is reached. South of this bearing, the southeast facing entrance can be seen to open between the pierheads. Keep a watchful eye out for boat movements on final approach as the harbour tends to be busy in the season. Deep draft vessels should stand out from the North Pier as there is an area with only 2.2 metres LWS situated 20 metres off the pier head’s southeast-most corner.



Alternatively by night come south immediately offshore of the harbour until Boyd's Breakwater light bears 275°T, or is well open of the north pierhead, and then turn in.

Once south of the the outer head of the North Pier, behind the northern breakwater, pass along North Quay that hosts the Campbeltown and Rathlin Island ferry terminals.

Haven location Berthing options include coming alongside in the outer harbour or in the marina which is space constrained and better suited to vessels of less than 10 - 12 metres.



Larger yachts may, if possible through prearrangement with the harbour master, come alongside the pontoon on the North Quay of the outer harbour. This is a more easily addressed berth but can be subject to swell in strong northerly or north westerly conditions. The Old Quay on the south side of the outer harbour cannot be used as it is reserved for commercial fishing vessels.



Vessels entering the marina should round hard to port to circle the head of Boyd's Breakwater and leave the old quay to starboard; there is plenty of room to manoeuvre. The Marina is situated in the east part of the harbour and has 72 pontoon berths for craft up to 12 metres in length.


It is possible to anchor in sand 200 metres off the pier head as convenient. But do not anchor close in to the east of the harbour as there is a submarine power cable that runs out to Rathlin Island in this area. This extends north-eastward from the foot of Boyd’s Wall and passes 100 metres from the head of the North Pier. Vessels anchoring to the north of the North Pier should also keep well clear of the North Breakwater as the rock armour extends well out from the wall at all points.


The area outside the harbour is sheltered from east through south to west but liable to sudden swell. It is exposed to a northwest swell and should only be considered in settled conditions or with offshore winds. Easterly or south-easterly winds make the smoothest water outside the harbour.




With westerly winds there is generally a heavy ground swell along the whole coast to the west of Fair Head. This is always greatest with the east-going or flood tide, creating a heavy surf, which often gets up without any apparent cause.


What's the story here?
Ballycastle derives its name from the Irish Baile an Chaistil meaning "town of the castle". The townland was named from a medieval castle that was situated in the middle of the present town on the site of which another castle was erected in 1609 by Randal Mac Donnell, 1st Earl of Antrim. These castles were situated very close to where the Holy Trinity Church is today, near 'The Diamond' where all Ballycastle roads converge, but no trace of the former castle remains today and very little of the later Mac Donnell castle.


Ballycastle has been a significant landing-place since ancient times. A small hamlet grew up at the mouth of the little River Margie which flows into the sea east of Ballycastle. The river’s name originates from the Irish An Mhargaigh meaning ‘the boundary river’ and the hamlet was known as ‘Margietown’. An ancient fort would have existed here and the area was sometimes called ‘Market Town’, and later ‘Port Brittas’.


St. Patrick came here in the 5th century and founded the Rathmudhain. Ramoan, monastic settlement. The old graveyard at Ramoan stands on the original site but the ruins seen today are that of a later building. The oldest surviving building in the area is that of the Bonamargie Fransican Friary. Its name is derived from the Irish Bun na Margaí meaning ‘foot of the river Margy’ which describes its location close to the east bank of the river. The friary was established in 1485 by Rory MacQuillen and built of red sandstone, granite and dark basalt. It was shut down in the 1530s as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution of monasteries. The church was burned in 1584, but the McDonnells, who acquired the friary in 1559, added a private chapel next to the ruin in 1621. Locked vaults hold the remains of the celebrated chieftain, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, who was interred here in 1590 along with other Earls of Antrim.



The legendary Clan leader Sorley Boy was born here in 1505, when it was known as Port Brittas, and his clan held Antrim by force of arms during his tenure. On the Kinbane headland that projects into the sea two miles to the west of Ballycastle, his brother Colla McDonnell built Kinbane Castle in 1547 and died within its walls in 1558 more than thirty years before Sorley Boy. Sorley Boy was constantly at war with the crown forces sustaining terrible losses. A horrendous example of which was recorded by the Earl Of Essex, who described Sorley Boy MacDonnell haplessly watching Essex’s massacre of his entire family on Rathlin from Ballycastle ‘likely to run mad from sorrow’. Early in the seventeenth century Sorley Boy’s son Randal MacDonnell became clan leader. Although he had fought the crown with the O'Neill clan as a rebel for some years, in 1602 he deserted the lost cause and became reconciled with the Government.



He received the honour of knighthood and became the owner of vast estates stretching from Coleraine to Larne. Later he was created Viscount Dunluce and ultimately became first Earl of Antrim. When he built a castle in the centre of the old town it took on the name of Ballycastle. Sir Randal, though a Catholic, planted his own lands in County Antrim with Protestants, most of them Presbyterians, and was an effective manager. But after the rising and subsequent defeat of the native Irish chieftains in 1641 Ballycastle was reduced to a deserted town. In 1699 the tenements of the town occupied merely an area of three acres.




Rebirth came in the eighteenth century through Colonel Hugh Boyd who has created the town that exists today. Under his guidance the town flourished and the population returned. Boyd brought economic prosperity to the area by investing in local natural resources. By the middle of the century he had coal mines, ironworks, salt pans towards Fair Head and tanneries, a brewery, soap works, bleach works and glass works around the town. The latter produced bottles, window and plate glass and was situated on Glass Island; between the old harbour and the Margie River. Local natural resources such as limestone producing chalk, sand, sea water, fireclay and seaweed that was burned to make kelp producing many useful chemicals, were all used to facilitate these industries. A pier and safe anchorage was also built here in 1748 but was subsequently damaged in storms. Several harbours followed and were washed away over the centuries until the present substantial harbour was set in place.




Today Ballycastle is a charming town where the old seafront shops and bars look out across the marina and harbour. It is a small uncrowded town surrounded by dramatic scenery. Situated on the most north-easterly tip of County Antrim, it has the spectacular Fair Head to the east, Kinbane Head with Colla McDonnell’s castle to the west, plus a blue flag beach ‘The Strand’ reaching out eastward from the harbour along the south of the bay. Out to sea are views across to Rathlin Island and the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland, whilst behind is the northern mainland limit of the Antrim Coast and Glens Area- two of which Glentaisie and Glenshesk converge here. With such varied scenery all round, one is compelled to pursue and explore the natural beauty at hand.


Immediately of interest will be the slopes of the easily climbed Knocklayde which is 517 metres high crowned by Carn na Truagh, ‘the cairn of sorrow’. This is a massive heather covered mountain inland from Ballycastle and just off the Moyle Way footpath. It is an ideal destination to completely take in the scenery. Here you will also find Glentaise, the most northerly of the Nine Glens of Antrim, situated at the foot of Knocklayde mountain, and also a forest which is worth visiting. There is also an attractive cycling route from Ballycastle to Cushendun, via Torr Head, that offers spectacular views and scenery. The whole of Moyle, the North Channel, may be seen from the road above Torr Head. Every year, on the last Monday and Tuesday of August, Ballycastle hosts a 400-year-old traditional folk music festival ‘Auld Lammas Fair’ in ‘The Diamond’ town square.


From a cruising perspective Ballycastle has it all; spectacular surrounding mountain ranges, forests, glens, lakes and coastline plus a secure 74-berth marina where a yacht may be left in security. It is an ideal northern base to explore the Antrim Coast Road, and Glens of Antrim, as well as the Causeway Coast.





What facilities are available?
Ballycastle Marina berths provide power, water and a launderette, and fuel is available at a fuelling berth to the north of the marina. Fresh provisions including gas can be obtained from the town immediately southwest of the pier. This is a sizable town servicing a population of about 5000. A slip is available that can accommodate craft up to 10 metres in length with a draught of 1.5 metres.


Any security concerns?
The marina has 24 hour security and access to it is via a gate which is kept locked. A numbered code is issued to all boat owners who can unlock the gate whenever they wish to access their craft.


With thanks to:
Terry Crawford, local boatman of many decades. Photography with thanks to Henry Clark, Grace Smith, Ardfern, Paul McIlroy, Jennifer Boyer, Nik, Jane Dickson, Anne Burgess, Brian O’Neill, Kyle Monahan, Gareth James and Jo Turner.


Expand to new tab or fullscreen
Please zoom out to see the 'initial fix' for this location.
The above plots are not precise and indicative only.




































The following videos may help first time visitors familiarise themselves with Ballycastle.


This video presents a 360 degree view of Ballycastle.




Add your review or comment:


Jim Williamson wrote this review on Jun 16th 2012:

The brand new toilets and showers at the harbourmaster's office are excellent. Computer broadband is available. Visitors pontoons are not marked but the harbour master indicated that, if coming in when the office is not open, to use any of the hammerheads or the east side of the pontoon facing the harbour entrance though this is preferably left for longer yachts.

Average Rating: *****

Please log in to leave a review of this haven.



Please note eOceanic makes no guarantee of the validity of this information, we have not visited this haven and do not have first-hand experience to qualify the data. Although the contributors are vetted by peer review as practised authorities, they are in no way, whatsoever, responsible for the accuracy of their contributions. It is essential that you thoroughly check the accuracy and suitability for your vessel of any waypoints offered in any context plus the precision of your GPS. Any data provided on this page is entirely used at your own risk and you must read our legal page if you view data on this site. Free to use sea charts courtesy of Navionics.