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Portballintrae

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Overview





Portballintrae is situated on Ireland’s north coast and is a small village at the head of a horseshoe shaped bay at the southern end of Bushmills Bay. It offers an anchorage in the middle of the bay with the possibility of landing a tender at the shallow pier or a choice of slips.

The anchorage in the cove provides tolerable shelter in offshore winds, but it is entirely exposed to anything with a northerly element. Access requires attentive navigation as there are outlying reefs on either side of the bay’s entrance, with a covered rock on the eastern side of the entrance that requires particular attention.
Please note

In northerly winds the Atlantic Ocean rolls directly into the cove with a swell that breaks across the mouth of the bay. It is important to keep a watchful eye on the forecast to exit well in advance of such a wind to avoid being trapped in the bay. The direction of the tide should be the central feature of any navigation planning in this area.




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Keyfacts for Portballintrae
Club  +44 12657 32301    
Approaches
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
Shelter
3 stars: Tolerable; in suitable conditions a vessel may be left unwatched and an overnight stay.


Considerations
DANGER: Subject to conditions that could trap and destroy a vesselNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterSailing Club baseSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity
Facilities
Water available via tapShop with basic provisions availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPost Office in the areaBus service available in the areaShore 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* Restrictions apply

A tolerable location with attentive navigation required for access.

LWS draught

3 metres (9.84 feet).

Today's tide estimates

LW 01:53 (0.4m) HW 08:15 (2.1m)
LW 14:10 (0.6m) HW 20:36 (1.8m)
We are now on Springs

Swell today




Approaches
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
Shelter
3 stars: Tolerable; in suitable conditions a vessel may be left unwatched and an overnight stay.


Considerations
DANGER: Subject to conditions that could trap and destroy a vesselNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterSailing Club baseSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity
Facilities
Water available via tapShop with basic provisions availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPost Office in the areaBus service available in the areaShore based family recreation in the area

Last modified
May 30th 2017; suggest a correction?

Position and approaches
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Haven position

55° 13.145' N, 006° 32.880' W

This is in the middle of the mouth of the cove in three to four metres.

What is the initial fix?

The following Portballintrae Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
55° 13.445' N, 006° 33.065' W
It is 600 metres north-northwest of the bay on the 10 metre contour. A bearing of 160° T from the initial fix will lead into the anchoring location in the middle of the mouth of the bay.


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. General approaches to the area, from seaward or utilising the inshore passage through Skerries Roadstead, may be found in the Portrush Click to view haven entry that is situated less than 4 miles to the west.

  • Keep clear of Blind Rock that lies off the eastern entrance point between the cove and Bushfoot Strand.

  • Track in on a line of bearing of due south of the prominent slipway at the head of the cove.



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 Portballintrae for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. Portrush Harbour - 2.4 miles W
  2. Coleraine - 3.9 miles SW
  3. Ballintoy Harbour - 4 miles ENE
  4. Seatons Marina - 4 miles SW
  5. The Lower River Bann - 4.7 miles WSW
  6. Ballycastle - 6.6 miles E
  7. Church Bay - 8 miles ENE
  8. Portnocker - 8 miles W
  9. White Bay - 8 miles W
  10. Portkill - 8.2 miles W
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. Portrush Harbour - 2.4 miles W
  2. Coleraine - 3.9 miles SW
  3. Ballintoy Harbour - 4 miles ENE
  4. Seatons Marina - 4 miles SW
  5. The Lower River Bann - 4.7 miles WSW
  6. Ballycastle - 6.6 miles E
  7. Church Bay - 8 miles ENE
  8. Portnocker - 8 miles W
  9. White Bay - 8 miles W
  10. Portkill - 8.2 miles W
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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Portballintrae is a seaside village set at the head of a small, shallow, horseshoe shaped cove. The cove is readily identified from seaward by its modern housing development on its eastern side and further rows of houses within. It has the only significant cluster of housing along the coastline between Portrush and Ballycastle. The conspicuous ruins of Dunluce Castle are situated on the summit of a cliff that overhangs the sea just over a mile westward of the cove.



Convergance Point General approaches to the area, from seaward or utilising the inshore passage through Skerries Roadstead, may be found in the Portrush Click to view haven entry that is situated less than 4 miles to the west.


Initial fix location The Portballintrae initial fix is positioned 600 metres north-northwest of the bay to keep vessels well clear of Blind Rock that lies off the eastern entrance point between the cove and Bushfoot Strand. The fix is well clear of Blind Rock and a bearing of 160° T from it will lead into the anchoring location in the middle of the mouth of the bay.

Blind Rock is the key danger to identify. It lies approximately 250 metres out from the shoreline and is steep-to with a least depth of 0.4 metres over it. The sea breaks on the rock in quite settled weather along with shoreline reefs that extend out here.
Please note

It is essential that vessels should not try to cut in from Bushmills Bay into Portballintrae as anyone attempting this will most likely come up on Blind Rock and its outreaching reef. Keep a minimum of 300 metres or more out when approaching from the east.



The River Bush can sometimes offer a good indication of tidal flow across the mouth of the cove. After rain, a brown tongue of water enters the sea and its path provides a good guide to the direction of the tide. Just outside the mouth of the bay a good mark is a prominent slipway on the beach with an access road cutting through the banks at the head of the cove. Keeping this on a bearing of due south leads safely past the dangers on each side of the entrance.


Haven location The shallow cove shoals quickly from the centre of the cove’s mouth. 4 metres can be found in between the two headlands inside the entrance, and this drops quickly to 2 metres between the west pier and the southeast pier situated close inside the small bay. The best place to anchor is 200 metres or so northeast of the western pier and slipway. The best landing place is at the southeast side of the bay where the small quay has a least depth of 0.7 metres at its head.


What's the story here?
Portballintrae derives its name from the Irish Port Bhaile an Trá that means ‘harbour or landing place of Ballintrae’. The village of Portballintrae is named from a little harbour in the townland of Ballintrae in which it is situated. Ballintrae is itself derived from the Irish Baile an Trá ‘townland of the strand’.


The little bay lies at the mouth of a shallow river valley that was once the outflow of melting glaciers. Evidence of Bronze Age occupation can be found high above the village on the elevated promontory that divides Ballintrae and Bushmills Bay; accessed today through the Beach Road Car Park. This is the Lissanduff prehistoric earthworks which is a State Care Monument.


The significant historical site consists of a pair of earthen concentric rings with an inner and outer enclosure that is believed to be an ancient Bronze Age water ritual site. The site is often referred to as "The Cups and Saucers" due to its shape. Although as yet unexcavated, theories suggest that the outer ring, with a central spring-fed pool, was designed to hold the water whilst the other served as a fortified settlement. The earthworks are located on a prominent headland, overlooking the sea, the River Bush, the Dooey dune system and Bushfoot strand. It was carefully placed to be a focal point for prehistoric communities and to provide a look-out position on the surrounding landscape.




In a later period a small harbour village formed around a fishing settlement situated at the mouth where the River Bush flows out to the sea immediately east of the horseshoe-shaped Ballintrae Bay. The settlement extended to a cluster of whitewashed cottages in a line along the horseshoe-shaped shore. Many of the old whitewashed cottages that today still stand on the shoreline have been restored to their traditional charm. In addition to these there are other classic examples of Ulster's Architectural Heritage throughout the village, such as the Old Coastguard Station that served the village and Dunluce Castle, and the 18th century bathing lodge ‘Seaport Lodge’.




Rapid growth occurred here in the 1970s that changed the character of the area. Almost all the recent dwellings are being used as second homes along with a considerable proportion of the older housing. The area today has a population of approximately 750 people and less than half of the dwellings in the village remain as permanent residences. Locals and visitors alike are drawn to the areas coastal walks, golden beach, rugged rocks and sand dunes.




From a nautical context Portballintrae is world famous for being the operating bay for the greatest recovery of Spanish Armada treasure. The story dates back to a wild October night in 1588 when more than two dozen fleeing ships from the Spanish Armada came too close to Irish shores. One of these was the Girona that had sailed on the 16th October from Killybegs for Scotland, and which was one of the most seaworthy of the Armada's ships. She had about 800 survivors from two other Spanish shipwrecks, the La Rata Santa Maria Encoronada, which ran aground in Blacksod Bay off the coast of County Mayo, and the Duquesa Santa Ana, which went aground at Loughros Mor Bay, Donegal. With these survivors came their individual ships treasures fully intact tripling the riches that the Girona carried.


On the night of 28 October 1588, caught in the eye of a hurricane that was one of the most ferocious ever to hit the area, the Girona crashed down on the razor sharp reefs of Lacada Point located one headland northeast from the Giant's Causeway. The ship was quickly ripped apart and nearly 1,300 desperate and terrified Spaniards, including members of Spain’s noblest families, drowned in a cauldron of writhing surf beneath the dark towering cliffs of Antrim. There were only nine survivors, and only 260 bodies were recovered from the sea.


Sorley Boy MacDonnell, then master of magnificent Dunluce Castle situated a mile westward of Portballintrae Bay, sent these nine survivors on to Scotland. He recovered three brass cannons and two chests of treasure from the wreck. The cannons were installed in the gatehouses and the rest of the cargo sold, the funds being used to restore his castle. After this the ship lay untouched for 380 years during which time its timbers were dissipated by the wild local seas.


It was not until the summer of 1967 that the hunt for the lost treasure was taken up by the Belgian marine archaeologist Robert Sténuit, along with a team of Belgian divers. The historic account of Sorley Boy’s recoveries and the fact that Lacada Point had been locally known as Port na Spaniagh narrowed the area of search. The wreck site was quickly located and the team excavated what remained in the cracks and crevices off the point. They retrieved an unprecedented collection of gold and jewellery including 12,000 artefacts that were all brought ashore in Portballintrae. Items included gold and silver coins, jewellery, silver plate, a bronze cannon, and eleven of twelve 'lapis lazuli' cameos. The recovered gold jewellery is preserved for all to see and exhibited at Belfast's Ulster Museum.



Portballintrae may not be the best anchorage in the world but it is set on a very beautiful coastline location and central to several key attractions that are within a short walk. The Giant's Causeway, designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated two miles to the east and the spectacular Dunluce Castle a mile to the west. A mile upstream is Bushmills, Portballintrae's more famous inland neighbour, which is home to the world renowned Bushmills and Black Bush Whiskies. All of these conspire to make Portballintrae, in settled or offshore winds, a highly attractive anchorage for the coastal cruiser intent on exploring Antrim’s wonderful historic legacy.




What facilities are available?
In Portballintrae Harbour there is a public slipway, a boat club and public toilets in the car park alongside. Water is available at the harbour. Fresh provisions from a village that serves a population of 750, and twice that during the summer, can be found here. In addition there are plenty of restaurants, a hotel and a post office.

Nearby Portrush is a busy and friendly holiday town with all the pubs, good restaurants, wine bars and cafe resources you would expect in such a location. Portrush railway station is the last stop on the Coleraine-Portrush line, where travellers can connect with trains to Derry, Belfast and beyond. Translink run a regular bus and train service to and from Portrush. The nearest airport is at Aldergrove 77 km.


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


With thanks to:
Terry Crawford, local boatman of many decades. Photography with thanks to Richard Webb, Kenneth Allen, sydh2010, Jim (codepoe), Ty, Corey Taratuta, IrishFireside, Tate, Grace Smith, Chris Hood and Tom Bennett.


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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 videos may be useful to help first time visitors familiarise themselves with Portballintrae.


The following video presents aerial views of Dunluce castle and the coastline to Portballintrae from 10 minutes into the video.




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