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Kilkeel Harbour

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Overview





Kilkeel is located on Ireland’s northeast coast three and a half miles northeast of the entrance to Carlingford Lough. It is a small town and very busy fishing port that has no provisions for leisure craft but will accommodate vessels in its harbour if space is available.

Kilkeel’s inner basin offers a vessel complete protection. Access is straightforward night or day but best approached on half tide for vessels of any draft.
Please note

Kilkeel should not be approached in any conditions approaching F5 or above from east round to south. Such conditions make the sea likely to break outside the entrance and also requires a vessel to pass along a lee bank and turn across the seaway on entering the harbour. During a southwest gale, a sandbank builds outside the entrance to Kilkeel reducing the depth to a metre or less.




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Keyfacts for Kilkeel Harbour
Facilities
Water available via tapDiesel fuel available alongsideGas availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore 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 locationCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaHaul-out capabilities via arrangementBoatyard 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 areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Berth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Dangerous to enter when it is Beaufort force 5 or more from ENE, E, ESE, SE, SSE and S.Restriction: may be subject to a sand barNote: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periods

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
2 metres (6.56 feet).

Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.



Last modified
July 18th 2018

Summary* Restrictions apply

A completely protected location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Water available via tapDiesel fuel available alongsideGas availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore 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 locationCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaHaul-out capabilities via arrangementBoatyard 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 areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Berth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Dangerous to enter when it is Beaufort force 5 or more from ENE, E, ESE, SE, SSE and S.Restriction: may be subject to a sand barNote: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periods



HM  +44 28 41762287      Ch.12, 14
Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 3.458' N, 005° 59.291' W

At the head of the South Pier at the position of the light Fl W.R. 2s 8m 8M

What is the initial fix?

The following Kilkeel Harbour Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 2.983' N, 005° 59.027' W
Half a mile south by east of the harbour entrance, in the middle of the South Pier’s white light sector (313°-017°). From here you can track in to the south pierhead light on the harbours’ recommended approach course of 341°


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in eastern Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Strangford Lough to Dublin Bay Route location.

  • Contact the harbour master to see if a berth is available and if so the expected depths.

  • Approach the harbour from deep water to the east on 340° T of the south pierhead.

  • Follow the channels up into the inner harbour.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Kilkeel Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Greencastle - 2.6 miles WSW
  2. Annalong Harbour - 2.8 miles NE
  3. Carlingford Harbour - 4.3 miles W
  4. Carlingford Marina - 4.4 miles W
  5. Killowen - 4.5 miles W
  6. Rostrevor - 4.8 miles WNW
  7. Greer’s Quay - 5.4 miles W
  8. Newcastle Harbour - 5.7 miles NNE
  9. Omeath - 5.9 miles WNW
  10. Warrenpoint - 6 miles WNW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Greencastle - 2.6 miles WSW
  2. Annalong Harbour - 2.8 miles NE
  3. Carlingford Harbour - 4.3 miles W
  4. Carlingford Marina - 4.4 miles W
  5. Killowen - 4.5 miles W
  6. Rostrevor - 4.8 miles WNW
  7. Greer’s Quay - 5.4 miles W
  8. Newcastle Harbour - 5.7 miles NNE
  9. Omeath - 5.9 miles WNW
  10. Warrenpoint - 6 miles WNW
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Chart
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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How to get in?
Small boat pontoon inside the harbour
Image: Eric Jones via CC BY-SA 2.0


Kilkeel Harbour is a small artificial harbour that extends 600 metres inland from its pierheads. The harbour consists of a drying outer harbour that is connected to an inner basin by a narrow walled channel. It is a busy fishing port that services 100 fishing vessels, which is the largest fishing fleet in Northern Ireland. The town of Kilkeel is situated close northwest of the harbour.

Kilkeel is not set up for leisure vessels but leisure craft are permitted to use the harbour provided berthing space is available. Due to space constrictions and the high level of fishing activity, particularly so in the evenings when it’s active fishing vessels return, finding a berth will be an issue but boats are usually accommodated. It is recommended that the harbour master be contacted in advance of arrival. VHF Channel 12 or 14, P: +44 28 417 62287 M: +44 77 0257 3879 Normal working hours are Mon - Fri 8 am to 4.30 pm, Sat 8 am to 12 noon, excluding Sundays and Statutory Holidays.

The access channel to Kilkeel has a maintained depth of 1.5 metres LAT and the inner harbour has 1.3 metres LAT but 2 metres can be expected MLWS. Any vessels of 1.5 metres draft, or greater, should not enter the harbour until at least 2 hours after low water.

Outside the harbour entrance is a moving sandbar that has reduced depths to 1.2 metres LWS. During a southwest gale, a sandbank builds outside the entrance to Kilkeel reducing the depth to a metre or less. The natural flow of the Kilkeel River clears a shallow channel through this. But this takes time and after such weather conditions, it is essential to seek advice as to the degree of silting that has occurred and plan to work the tides accordingly. At least three metres over the bank is a fair expectation at half-tide.




Southern Approach Vessels approaching from the south will find the coast from Carlingford Lough for the most part composed of low ranges of clay cliffs, based on a foreshore of rocks and boulders. This is backed by the lofty summits of the Mourne Mountains. Tracking a path in line, or immediately outside Hellyhunter and the Kilkeel Bay Buoy, clears all dangers of which the majority are situated off the Cranfield Point area.

Kilkeel Bay Buoy – Outfall buoy Fl.(4).Y.12s position: 54° 3.252' N 005° 58.573' W




Northern Approach Vessels approaching from the north should keep 500 metres off the shoreline, and or in no less than 10 metres of water, to the low lying Lee Stone Point. Lee Stone Point, situated about 600 metres to the northeast of the harbour entrance, has a rocky beach with a huge granite boulder at its extremity.



From Lee Stone to Kilkeel the shoreline becomes foul and it is advisable to keep at least 1,200 metres off. Steering to pass close east of the Kilkeel Bay Buoy clears all dangers.
Please note

A shallow area with 1.9 metres of cover resides 100 metres to the northwest of the mark.






Initial fix location From the Kilkeel initial fix, track in on the harbour’s recommended approach line of bearing 341° T to the head of the South Pier. A good mark for finding the pierhead is the conspicuous red brick coastguard station with a white flagstaff situated approximately 300 metres west by northwest of the South Pier light. At night the navigation Lights are South Pier - Fl WR 2 sec, Meeney's Pier, the North Breakwater behind, Fl G 3 sec.
Please note

The access channels are very narrow and only one vessel may pass through at a time. A sharp lookout for other vessel movements should be maintained when entering or leaving to avoid a collision. A radio watch, vessel to vessel, VHF Channel 12 must be used.





When closing in to within 100 metres of the South Pier alter course to starboard until the pierhead is on a track of 010° to 015°T and the side of the pier opens. This passes clear of the edge of the bank on the northeast side of the entrance.



Enter the outer harbour on this line between the heads of South Pier and Meeney's Pier, a breakwater on the north side. Then the track immediately turns northwest into the harbour rounding and staying close to the pierhead of South Pier.



The entire area behind ‘Meeney's Pier’ or breakwater, dries and is rarely used. Once inside the heads proceed to the northwest taking the 13-metre wide walled channel that leads to ‘Meeney's Dock’, or the ‘Old Dock’.




Haven location Berth as directed by the harbour master. ‘Meeney's Dock’ is a small basin with a slipway at its head which provides for turning room and the potential to come alongside if directed.



Continuing past ‘Meeney's Dock’ the channel widens and another 12-metre wide opening leads into the ‘Inner harbour’ at the northwest end. The ‘Inner Harbour’ has depths of at least 2 metres LWS with some deeper holes.



The most likely berth will be alongside the southwest wall or rafted up to a fishing boat there. The northeast side of the inner harbour should not be used.

The pontoons at the head of the harbour are normally shallow and fully occupied by small fishing craft.




Why visit here?
Kilkeel takes its name from its Irish name Cill Chaoil meaning "narrow church". This refers to the ruined 14th-century church that stands in the centre of Kilkeel overlooking the town today.

Kilkeel's history goes back much further than that and it was known as the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Mourne. It is still called the capital and there are many historic sites in and around the area. References to Kilkeel date back as far as the 11th century, and within the site of the church is an early Christian ring fort. The ruined church itself was constructed by a noble Spanish family in 1388 and dedicated to "St Colman Del Mourne’’. Although Kilkeel was very sparsely populated in the Middle Ages this was thought to be one of the area’s principal Churches.




The modern settlement began to take shape in the late 18th and early 19th century when Viscount Kilmorey laid out the Square and established a church, a Presbyterian meeting house, a market house and hotel. The settlement was initially concentrated around this square, and the Newry and Greencastle Street junction, making it unusual as although located directly adjacent to the coast its central development was concentrated inland. Only with the establishment of the new harbour in the second half of the 19th century did Kilkeel expand to become an important fishing port and centre for the export of agricultural produce and granite. The development of the pier and dock resulted in the expansion of the town along arterial routes to the coast. Further expansion occurred in Kilkeel after 1950. The agricultural land between the harbour and town centre, stretching from Manse Road to Rooney Road, was developed for housing and a large recreational area was created along the seafront.


Today the town has taken on a coastal setting around the harbour. Two rivers flow through the town leading to the harbour, namely the Aughrim River, also known as the Little Kilkeel River, and Kilkeel River. There is farming in and around this picturesque harbour settlement, but its most important occupation is undoubtedly fishing. This is the main County Down fishing harbour and it hosts the largest fishing fleet in Northern Ireland. Overlooking all of this is the Nautilus Centre, where visitors may dine, or purchase freshly caught seafood, and enjoy its heritage exhibition.


The surrounding area is characterised by open, flat and stonewalled countryside. Occasional large clusters of mature trees associated with historic parks or gardens can be seen, and smaller clumps of mature trees surrounding established farm groups or older houses. All of this has a stunning northern backdrop provided by the Mourne Mountains. The Mourne Mountains provide excellent walks and particularly around the Silent Valley Reservoir. The Silent Valley Reservoir was built to gather water from the Mourne Mountains and is the main water supply source for most of County Down and a large part of Belfast. Ringed by mountains and situated approximately 6.5 km (4 miles) from Kilkeel, 'The Valley', is set within the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and features beautiful parkland, lakes and a pond. It attracts around 50,000 visitors per year most of whom come to enjoy the peace and solitude of this mountain area with its unique landscapes and varied wildlife. Northern Ireland Water has provided a number of visitor facilities at the site including a restaurant and information centre housed in two old colonial style bungalows that provide delightful views over the parkland.



A local heritage trail helpfully guides visitors around the various local attractions. This embraces a number of ancient monuments that include the church and St Colman's graveyard. The cemetery was used for burials until 1916. The last burials at the cemetery were victims of a collision between two steamers the Retriever and the SS Connemara in Carlingford Lough.



Although not specifical set-up for pleasure craft, the harbour’s location is less than an hour from the Carlingford Lough entrance makes it a very helpful staging point, excellent for provisioning, gives complete protection and is an interesting town with beautiful surroundings, which all make it an attractive destination.


What facilities are available?
Diesel fuel by tanker, fresh water and gas are all available at the harbour, and most other provisions can be had from the town of Kilkeel situated three quarters of a mile from the harbour. With a population in excess of 6000, it has supermarkets, shops, Post Office, banks, ATM's, pubs, restaurants, internet access, doctors, and a chandlery. Showers, café and sea food meals are available at the Nautilus Centre overlooking the harbour. Hotels, pubs and laundry are all available in the immediate vicinity.

Being the major fishing port on this side of the coast, all repairs can be undertaken except for sail work. There is a 350 tonnes capacity slip; two patent 150 tonnes capacity slips at the head of the old dock; plus a 10 tonnes crane. Belfast international airport is 96 km away.


Any security concerns?
Kilkeel is a completely open harbour where normal security precautions should be attended to.


With thanks to:
Michael Young - Harbour Master Kilkeel and Thomas Cunningham - Harbour Master for ‘Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission’. Photography with thanks to Eric Jones, Marksie531, Garry Harper, Rossographer, Julie Berlin, Neil Mitchell, Harry Clark and Albert Bridge..


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
















































A short film about Kilkeel's plans to develop an offshore wind farm




Excellent scenes of Kilkeel harbour since it's overhaul in 2012.




Kilkeel Harbour (at 1 minute and 45 seconds)



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