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Ballintoy Harbour

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Overview





Ballintoy harbour is situated on the north coast of Ireland approximately five miles west of Ballycastle and immediately east of Ballintoy Point. The small shallow harbour located at the western end of Sheep Sound offers the possibility to anchor in the outer harbour area or immediately outside the entrance. Small shallow draft vessels may come into the harbour and take a stern line to the shore.

Ballintoy provides an exposed anchorage where the rock stacks and islands afford limited shelter in settled or offshore conditions but an entirely comfortable overnight stop would be unlikely. In northerly conditions the Atlantic Ocean rolls directly into the harbour with formidable force and a ground swell batters the harbour area. Access requires attentive navigation preferably in daylight as there are islands, stacks and covered rocks on one side of the entrance path. The direction and velocity of the tide should be the central feature of any navigation planning in this area.
Please note

It is totally unsuitable from November to March when a heavy swell makes this section of the coast untenable except for the briefest of landings in certain circumstances.




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Keyfacts for Ballintoy Harbour
Approaches
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
Shelter
2 stars: Exposed; unattended vessels should be watched from the shore and a comfortable overnight stay is unlikely.


Considerations
Restriction: may only reasonably accommodate vessels less than a specific lengthNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterRemote or quiet secluded locationScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity
Facilities
Slipway availableHot food available in the localityMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the area

Last modified
May 30th 2017; suggest a correction?

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Now Force

Summary* Restrictions apply

An exposed location with attentive navigation required for access.

LWS draught

2 metres (6.56 feet).

Today's tide estimates

LW 00:22 (0.6m) HW 06:12 (1.2m)
LW 14:20 (0.6m) HW 19:33 (0.9m)
Now approaching Neaps

Swell today




Approaches
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
Shelter
2 stars: Exposed; unattended vessels should be watched from the shore and a comfortable overnight stay is unlikely.


Considerations
Restriction: may only reasonably accommodate vessels less than a specific lengthNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterRemote or quiet secluded locationScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity
Facilities
Slipway availableHot food available in the localityMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the area

Last modified
May 30th 2017; suggest a correction?

Position and approaches
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Haven position

55° 14.735' N, 006° 22.055' W

This is set in the middle of the entrance to the outer harbour.

What is the initial fix?

The following Ballintoy Harbour Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
55° 15.240' N, 006° 21.130' W
This is set one nautical mile out from Ballintoy’ conspicuous 16 metre high white church tower, standing above the harbour, and 600 metres north of Sheep Island. A bearing of 212° T from the initial fix towards the church will lead in to the west of Sheep Island. Once Sheep is abeam 200 metres to port a vessel may turn for the final 900 metres to the harbour entrance; a bearing of approximately 235° T.


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.

  • Pass between Rock-on-Stewart and Sheep Island, keeping a distance of 200 metres to the west of Sheep Island.

  • Once the middle of Sheep Island is abeam to port it is then safe to turn to starboard towards the harbour entrance.



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 Ballintoy Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. Ballycastle - 3.1 miles ESE
  2. Portballintrae - 4 miles WSW
  3. Church Bay - 4.1 miles ENE
  4. Murlough Bay - 5.6 miles ESE
  5. Portrush Harbour - 6.3 miles WSW
  6. Torr Head - 6.8 miles ESE
  7. Coleraine - 7.6 miles WSW
  8. Seatons Marina - 7.8 miles WSW
  9. Cushendun - 8.3 miles ESE
  10. The Lower River Bann - 8.6 miles WSW
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. Ballycastle - 3.1 miles ESE
  2. Portballintrae - 4 miles WSW
  3. Church Bay - 4.1 miles ENE
  4. Murlough Bay - 5.6 miles ESE
  5. Portrush Harbour - 6.3 miles WSW
  6. Torr Head - 6.8 miles ESE
  7. Coleraine - 7.6 miles WSW
  8. Seatons Marina - 7.8 miles WSW
  9. Cushendun - 8.3 miles ESE
  10. The Lower River Bann - 8.6 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.

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Ballintoy Harbour is very small local boat harbour situated on the east side of Ballintoy Point half a mile west of Sheep Island. It is a particularly pretty harbour situated in one of the most picturesque parts of North Antrim.




Eastern Approach Vessels approaching from the east will find Rathlin Sound clear of dangers with the exception of Carrickmannanon off Kinbane Head. 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.



The highly distinctive precipitous basaltic rock Sheep Island will be seen for a great distance. It is situated just over half a mile east by northeast of Ballintoy Harbour and provides an unmistakable mark. Although the initial fix is situated a conservative 600 metres north of Sheep Island it is recommended that a passing vessel keeps a minimum of 300 metres to the north of the island to avoid detached rocks on its northern and eastern sides.




Western Approach Vessels approaching from the west or northwest will find few hazards west of Sheep Island as far as the entrance of Lough Foyle. The mainland coast is composed of a rugged broken shore that is subject to a heavy surf. The predominant feature of this coast is black basaltic cliffs alternating with limestone, and inland hills rising to heights of 180 metres in places. There are some outlying rocks, but there are no hidden dangers beyond a quarter of a mile from the shoreline.


On closer approaches Ballintoy Point has an old coastguard station on its summit, a white church and many straggling rocks off it. These may be cleared by keeping Fair Head well open of the rocks north of the highly distinctive Sheep Island. On its north and east sides are some detached rocks.







Initial fix location Ballintoy Point may be identified from the sea by a conspicuous white church tower, 16 metres in height, located on a hill above the harbour and an old coast-guard station on its summit. It is best approached from the north and the initial fix is set 600 metres north of Sheep Island and one nautical mile out from the church.


The key rock to be observed on any approach to Ballintoy's harbour is Rock-on-Stewart. This dangerous rock has 1.6 metres of cover LWS and dries to 0.8 metres with a further portion with 1.3 metres LWS that extends northeast from it. It is situated approximately 700 metres to the west of Sheep Island and 1000 metres north of the church. It breaks continuously in rough conditions but may also be seen to break even in settled weather. There is a chain of drying rocks between Rock-on-Stewart and the shore.


The best route into Ballintoy is to pass between Rock-on-Stewart and Sheep Island into the harbour, keeping a distance of 200 metres to the west of Sheep Island. Once the middle of Sheep Island is abeam to port it is then safe to turn to starboard towards the harbour entrance. A bearing of 212° T from the initial fix towards the church will lead in between Rock-on-Stewart and Sheep Island. Then once abreast of Sheep Island’s northwest corner is 200 metres on the port side a vessel may turn on to a bearing of about 235° T for the final 900 metres to the harbour entrance.


An alternative approach is a sight line provided on Admiralty Chart 2494 of Ballintoy Church tower open of the old Coastguard Station clearing Rock-on-Stewart 199° T. This leads to the southeast of Rock-on-Stewart but those who use this approach should be aware that the church tower becomes obscured by the high cliffs close inshore.





Haven location Boats carrying a sizeable draft should anchor in 4 to 5 metres in the area immediately outside the harbour. Although subject to swell it is reasonably sheltered from the Atlantic by a chain of black basalt stacks and islets that terminate in Rock-on-Stewart and its northeast outlier. These are steep-to to the southeast, and the immediate area around the south side of the bay is all sand and clear of dangers.



Shallower draft vessels planning on stopping temporarily in settled conditions may use the rock bound cut that forms the outer harbour. Faced with a concrete quay this outer harbour area is 70 metres long by 40 metres wide and has a reported depth of about 1.3 metres LWS.




Very shallow vessels or a vessel that can take to the hard may use the inner harbour. A minimum depth of 0.8 metres can be found alongside the quay west of the boathouse. The inner harbour is full of small local craft moorings and is best used for landings only.





What's the story here?
Ballintoy’s name is derived from Irish Baile an Tuathaigh ‘townland of the ruler of the tuath’. The word tuath signifies a petty Irish kingdom but the history of the name is uncertain.




The coastal area around Ballintoy is not only visually striking but of great geological interest. For volcanic basalt and sedimentary limestone are found here in unusually close proximity and this attracts large numbers of geologists to Ballintoy. White Park Bay, situated immediately east of Ballintoy, is also remarkable and of special geological interest. In geological terms it is known as a 'raised beach'. Historically the ocean would have washed into the raised curved cliff face and Ballintoy harbour would have been submerged. As the ice age came to a close the land mass gradually rose creating the sweeping curve of the existing bay. Several carbon dated Neolithic sites and arrow heads have been found by observant walkers who pass through this ancient sand dune system which is rich in flora and fauna.




The flat topped Sheep Island immediately offshore of Ballintoy is also a remarkable feature. With steep cliffs on all sides it could more accurately be described as a large sea stack. It derives its name from a time when sheep were taken out by boat and grazed on its high grassy slopes during the summer months. It was bought by the National Trust in 1967 and, after the island’s rats were exterminated, it was left to birds to colonize. This has been very successful and it has since become an important nesting site for Puffin and Cormorant. Landing is possible by dinghy on Sheep Island at a couple of points, although a visit may require an exposed climb to get to the high grassy area. This should not be underestimated as the rock is loose and the slope steep depending on the approach and it is advised that you take local advice if you plan a visit.





The superb blackness of the basalt and the white cliffs also speak of treacherous waters here during the winter. Though utterly beautiful in the summer the area is just as interesting a location to visit in the winter, but without a boat. For here a visitor can truly apprehend the power of an Atlantic storm as it pounds into the natural defences that protect Ballintoy harbour. The area of rocks between White Park Bay and Ballintoy harbour, known locally as the Park End, pick up some of the biggest swell waves along the north coast. Add to these strong tidal currents and rips between the islands that break the waves, and the basalt receives constant wave action with even the tallest stack getting washed by winter storms.


The pretty little Ballintoy Harbour set into the middle of all this goes back to the eighteenth century. It was originally constructed by a reputedly slippery character called 'Graceless' Stewart, to enable low cost coal to be shipped to Dublin. In the late nineteenth century it subsequently developed a trade in sett stones that were used to pave streets. At peak production more than one hundred men were employed at ‘Brockie Quarry’ near Larry Bane hewing and shaping sett stones. A small rail track moved the processed stones and limestone to the quayside for transport to Irish cities such as Dublin, Wexford, Cork, Limerick and across to Scotland. Evidence of this industrial past can be seen in the lime kiln that still stands today in the harbour along with the limestone blocks from which the harbour itself is constructed. Indeed Ballintoy has shaped the district as its burnt lime was used in the construction of numerous stone cottages and rural halls in the area.


This includes Ballintoy Parish Church situated on the hill above the harbour. This is an unusual building as the sixteen metre high square tapering tower has an unusual aspect that gives an impression of a Norman tower or even a Mediterranean building. Originally this was the site of a castle, and then an older church stood at this location, before the current structure was developed. The narrowed square tower looks odd because it originally supported a steeple. This was taken away in December 1894 by a hurricane leaving the church with its 'unique' appearance.




Today the small harbour remains a working harbour for small open boat fishermen, although a number of pleasure craft also use it. Although in recent years it has been somewhat upgraded, Ballintoy is very far removed from its industrial past and is more a place in graceful repose. It is a simply beautiful harbour with a stunning panorama looking out to Sheep Island and across the sound to Rathlin Island with Scotland in the backdrop. The beautiful White Park Bay to the west can be accessed by a short walk from the harbour.


The harbour and village are separated by a mile long narrow winding road travelling down Knocksaughey hill. What is particularly striking is ‘Bendhu’ the first house on the left of the winding road up from the harbour, overlooking the sandy cove. Named after Bendhu or ‘Bendoo’ a nearby headland that overlooks Boheeshane Bay, it was created by the artist Newton Penprase. He started the house in 1936 and continued organically constructing rooms primarily around views letting his imagination and expression run free long after his retirement in 1953. The cubic outcome is a wonderful expression of one man’s creativity and imagination and though odd, the architecture blends seamlessly into the environment. It is now a listed part of the coast’s Architectural Heritage.


Ballintoy is also famous for the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge located on the coast just outside the village. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny Carrick Island, and it is thought salmon fishermen have been erecting bridges to the island for over 300 years. The site is now owned and maintained by the National Trust and an admission fee is charged for crossing the bridge. Now open all year round this bridge crossing is an exceptional experience. The swinging rope bridge spans 20 metres and is 30 metres above the rocks below and attracts almost a quarter of a million visitors each year to test their nerve.


From a purely sailing perspective Ballintoy could never be described as the best anchorage on this coast; far from it. But it is close to the completely protected Ballycastle or Rathlin Island’s Church Bay depending on conditions. So should a weather widow change there are close-by alternatives which makes it a very attractive location to visit or indeed to stay a night in favourable weather. For the location offers the coastal cruiser a picture perfect harbour situated in one of the most picturesque parts of North Antrim. In visual coastal terms the location has it all; sheep-speckled pastures, unusual buildings, corkscrew roads, sea stacks, rocky islands, pools and a quaint historic harbour looking across the blue sea to Rathlin Island and the Scottish Isles; the scenery here is simply stunning. As well as all the visual scenery the area has exceptionally good walking with unusual experiences such as White Park Bay and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge situated close by.






What facilities are available?
There are no supplies in Ballintoy Harbour but there is a tea room and café. The harbour has a car park, picnic area, and access to the coastal path. The village of Ballintoy is located about one kilometre from Ballintoy Harbour and has modest commercial and social facilities that serves a small population of little more than 150, and includes tourist accommodation, restaurants, several small shops, and two churches. It is located alongside the B15 coast road, 28 kilometres (17 miles) north-east of Coleraine, 8 kilometres (5 miles) west of Ballycastle and between it and Bushmills. Nearby Ballycastle Marina offers a full service marina where almost all yachting requirements are catered for.


Any security concerns?
Never an issue known to have occurred to a boat on anchor in Ballintoy Harbour.


With thanks to:
Terry Crawford, local boatman of many decades. Ross, Bob Jones, Bruce Durling, Grace Smith, Kenneth Allen, Rossographer, Anne Burgess, Eric Jones, Detunedweirdo, Kyle Monahan, Yvonne Wakefield, Dr Neil Clifton, Horslips5, Alan Bruce, Andrew Hurley, William Marnoch and Andrew Hill.


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










































The following video may help first time visitors familiarise themselves with Ballintoy.


The following video presents aerial footage of Ballintoy.




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