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Killyleagh

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Overview





Killyleagh is located on the northeast coast of Ireland within and on the southern end of Strangford Lough’s western shore. It offers a very good anchorage and the possibility of picking up club moorings.

Killyleagh is located on the northeast coast of Ireland within and on the southern end of Strangford Lough’s western shore. It offers a very good anchorage and the possibility of picking up club moorings.

Killyleagh offers good protection except with westerly winds. This tends to develop a north-south wave that rolls the boat awkwardly, and it can also get choppy in strong easterlies. The Lough's enclosed body of water provides sheltered sailing in all weather, all tides and ample marks to make daylight navigation straightforward.



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Keyfacts for Killyleagh
Facilities
Water available via tapGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway 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 areaChandlery available in the areaHaul-out capabilities via arrangementMarine engineering services available in the areaRigging services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaSail making or sail repair servicesBus service available in the areaShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationSailing Club baseSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

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

Approaches
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
November 7th 2022

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with attentive navigation required for access.

Facilities
Water available via tapGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway 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 areaChandlery available in the areaHaul-out capabilities via arrangementMarine engineering services available in the areaRigging services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaSail making or sail repair servicesBus service available in the areaShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationSailing Club baseSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration



Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 23.843' N, 005° 38.806' W

At the south end of the town quay.

What is the initial fix?

The following Quoile River Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 23.614' N, 005° 38.195' W
300 metres east of Town Rock off Killyleagh. This is a distinctive red cylindrical brick pillar marker lit with a sectored light, Fl(2)WRG.5s6M, leading between Barrel and Skate rocks.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details for vessels approaching Strangford Lough from the north are available in northeast Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough Route location. Details for vessels approaching from the south are available in eastern Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Strangford Lough to Dublin Bay Route location. Details of the approaches, tidal timings, the run up The Narrows and onward to Killyleagh, on the Lough's western shore, are covered in the Entering and exiting Strangford Lough Route location route description.


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 Killyleagh for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Holm Bay - 0.7 nautical miles NNE
  2. East Down Yacht Club - 1 nautical miles N
  3. Brandy Bay (North Salt Island) - 1.1 nautical miles S
  4. Moore’s Point - 1.2 nautical miles SSW
  5. Don O’Neill Island - 1.3 nautical miles NE
  6. Salt Island (South) - 1.4 nautical miles S
  7. Salt Island (Southwest) - 1.4 nautical miles S
  8. Jackdaw Island - 1.6 nautical miles ESE
  9. Between Jackdaw & Chapel Island - 1.8 nautical miles ESE
  10. Simmy Island - 1.8 nautical miles NNE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Holm Bay - 0.7 miles NNE
  2. East Down Yacht Club - 1 miles N
  3. Brandy Bay (North Salt Island) - 1.1 miles S
  4. Moore’s Point - 1.2 miles SSW
  5. Don O’Neill Island - 1.3 miles NE
  6. Salt Island (South) - 1.4 miles S
  7. Salt Island (Southwest) - 1.4 miles S
  8. Jackdaw Island - 1.6 miles ESE
  9. Between Jackdaw & Chapel Island - 1.8 miles ESE
  10. Simmy Island - 1.8 miles NNE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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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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What's the story here?
The Killyleagh Yacht Club pontoon with the town in the backdrop
Image: Michael Harpur


Killyleagh is on the west shore of the Lough at the entrance of the River Quoile. It is fronted by a bight that dries at low water with the old stone Town Dock on its east side. The village and civil parish of Killyleagh has a population approaching 2,500 and is the largest settlement on the shores of the Lough. The village is best known for its 12th-century castle.


Yacht moored off Killyleagh
Image: Michael Harpur


Killyleagh offers an excellent anchorage anywhere southward of the prominent Town Rock beacon outside the local moorings in 2-3 metres over mud. The shelter is fairly good here from any kind of westerly wind, but not that well protected from a wide east sector of 0-180°, especially on the outskirts of the anchorage.


The Killyleagh Yacht Club pontoon provides for convenient landings
Image: Michael Harpur


The welcoming Killyleagh Yacht Club has a 25 metres long pontoon that has 2 metres LAT on its outer end. There is no overnight berthing at the pontoon but it makes for a good temporary berth and good landing point that makes the town's facilities highly convenient. The club also has yellow visitors' buoys or may be able to arrange a vacant morning: Landline+44 (0) 28 4482 8250, E-mailinfo@killyleaghyachtclub.co.uk with further details available on the Killyleagh Yacht Club External link website.


The apartment complex on the old quays
Image: Michael Harpur


The channel to the old Town Dock is shallow and the bay dries out at low water. In the past vessels carrying more than 3 metres came alongside at high water and dried out. Since the housing development, it is not ideal for berthing, but still more than usable if need be.


How to get in?
Killyleagh situated on the west shore of Strangford Lough
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Details of the approaches, tidal timings, the run up The Narrows and onward to Killyleagh, on the Lough's western shore, are covered in the Entering and exiting Strangford Lough Route location route description.


The Town Rock Beacon
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location The Initial Fix is situated 300 metres east of Killyleagh's Town Rock beacon and a ½ mile as well as the equal distance from both Barrel and Skate rocks. Town Rock is a highly distinctive red brick pillar marker, that looks not unlike the Rook chess piece. At night it is lit with a sectored light, Fl(2)WRG.5s6M, with the white light sector leading between Barrel and Skate rocks.


Town Rock with Skate Rock uncovered (top left), and Green Island (right)
Image: Michael Harpur


The most dangerous for a vessel entering/exiting the Lough is the Skate Rock which is very much in the way of a direct path from the Narrows to Killyleagh and the Quoile River entrance. It uncovers at four hours ebb and normally has a pole. The racing Mark K is also normally moored close south of it.


Town Rock with Don O'Neill Island in the backdrop and Barrell Rock dry
Image: Michael Harpur


Barrel Rock uncovers at low water and normally has a perch. The racing Mark 4 buoy is also moored close to its north side. A useful transit to pass between the Barrel and Skate rocks is to keep Portaferry pier open upon Chapel Island astern.
Please note

Do not be tempted to cut directly towards the river after passing between Barrel and Skate rocks as the normally unmarked Riggs Shoal lies in the way of that cut.




The entrance to the River Quoile as seen from Killyleagh
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location From the Quoile River Initial Fix the anchoring area will be immediately apparent to the southwest outside a large community of local boats.


Anchor outside the moorings
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Anchor in depths to your preference between 2 to 4 metres south-southwest of the Town Rock beacon or pick up a visitor mooring at the outer perimeter of the privately owned moorings. Excellent holding will be found on the verge of the anchorage in dense mud.


Land at the yacht club pontoon jetty
Image: Michael Harpur


Land at the yacht club pontoon jetty. If space is available it is permissible to come alongside for loading and unloading but no vessel should berth overnight. Approximately 2 metres can be found here at LWS.


The old quay at low water
Image: Michael Harpur


The Town Quay, to the northwest of the Town Rock, is no longer in commercial use and dries to 0.25 metres over a mud bottom. With a 3.5-metre range, the quay can service vessels carrying up to 3 metres draft and a yacht drawing 2 metres can go alongside for a short stay at high water ±0200.


Schooner alongside the quays at high water
Image: Dinny Geeeyethree via CC BY 3.0


But this is berthing below domestic residences and public walkways which may not be to everyone's preference. There are ample ladders but a pedestrian railing along the walkway also has to be scaled to come above.


The inner harbour leading to the Dibney River bridge
Image: Michael Harpur


Nevertheless, it is a safe berth with good ladders all along the quay wall. Those attending to use it should approach with the spire a little open to the west of the quay. The old quays and their ladders also make for an alternate landing point when the water is in.


Why visit here?
Killyleagh is derived from the Irish 'Cill Uí Laoch', meaning 'church of the descendants of Laoch'. It is the largest town on the shores of Strangford Lough and is dominated by the splendid Castle that was originally built after the Norman invasion in 1205.


The drying bight fronting Killyleagh has been used as a harbour from ancient
times

Image: True Scot via CC BY-SA 4.0


The origins of the history of Killyleagh date much further back to prehistoric man, as is evidenced by the many 'raths', 'old defensive positions' still visible around Strangford Lough. The natural indentation was an important port previous to the Norman conquest of Ireland and the port along with the adjoining barony of Kinalearty, formed part of the territories of the native sept of the McCartans. Killyleagh was settled in the 12th century by Norman knight John de Courcy who built a fortification on the site of the present castle in 1180. It was the principal part of a series of fortifications around Strangford Lough for protection from the attacks of that powerful chieftain and the Vikings.


Killyleagh Castle
Image: © Daria Casement


In 1356, Edward III appointed John De Mandeville as warden of this castle, which subsequently fell into the hands of the O'Neills, and he maintained possession of it till 1561. Then Queen Elizabeth granted it and the adjoining territory to Hugo White. Shortly afterwards he erected a castle at Killyleagh into which he removed his warden from Castle Dufferin. Shane O'Neill besieged this castle in 1567 and meeting with powerful resistance retreated setting fire to the town. He subsequently allied with the McCartan clan and the strength of their joint forces took the castle and control of the entire province.


Killyleagh's quays were completed in 1625
Image: Michael Harpur


In 1602 Gaelic chieftain Con O'Neill of Clandeboye owned large tracts of North Down, including Killyleagh. But it was confiscated on the suppression of the Tyrone rebellion of Shane O'Neill and the manor and district of Killyleagh was subsequently granted to a Scot, Sir James Hamilton in 1610. In about 1625 Hamilton moved from Bangor to Killyleagh Castle, where he built the courtyard walls and started establishing Killyleagh as a plantation town. Although a section of the castle dates from as early as the 15th century the largest part of it was built in a Scottish style for Hamilton by 1624. The port's gridiron layout and the form of the surrounding village are estimated to have been completed at this time. The castle was sieged and taken by Gen. Monk for the Republican army, in 1649, and was partly demolished in this war.


Sir Hans Sloane statue in Hans Sloane Square close to the quays
Image: Michael Harpur


The castle was substantially repaired in 1666 after the Restoration by Henry the second Earl. This was six years after Sir Hans Sloane (1660 – 1753) was born in Killyleagh who was destined to become the town's most famous son. Sloane was a physician, naturalist, and collector, with a collection of 71,000 items which he bequeathed to the British nation. These provided the foundation of the British Museum, the British Library, and the Natural History Museum, London.


Killyleagh Castle with the centre of the village leading to the quays
Image: Michael Harpur


The village thrived with the arrival of Hamiltons and throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the port run a brusque trade. Textile manufacturing flourished as a result of the success of the Killyleagh and Shrigley mills. The brick Town Rock Beacon was built sometime in the 19th century to help guide vessels into Killyleagh. Originally it had had an open fire burning atop at night or in bad weather, rather than a light, to guide vessels in. The textile businesses were the town's mainstays for centuries thereafter until an economic downturn resulted in the closure of the Shrigley mill in 1931 and the Killyleagh Yarns in 1997.


The port run a brusque trade throughout the 17th and 18th centuries
Image: Michael Harpur


Today Killyleagh is dominated by its splendid Castle. Although originally dating back to its Norman origins the building today is essentially a 17th-century structure much altered and enlarged from 1847 to 1851 when it acquired its fairy-tale silhouette.


The castle's turrets and conical roofs dominated the adjacent town and the
countryside

Image: Michael Harpur


Its exotic skyline of turrets and conical roofs dominated the adjacent town and the rolling natural countryside for miles around. Although its grounds are not extensive and no garden of note is maintained, fine mature trees grace the surroundings.


The Hans Sloane Chocolate Festival at the castle
Image: Michael Harpur


More like a grand French chateau, or a Disney pile, the castle is one of the most romantic houses in Ireland. It is one of the oldest castles in Ireland that remains inhabited and it has remained the home of the Hamilton family to this day. They host occasional concerts and festivals and it is one of the oldest castles in Ireland that remains a family home. Interestingly the Dufferin Coaching Inn built in 1803, predates most of the castle. A listed building nestling amid up-market shops, its main entrance was once part of the Ulster Bank.


Killyleagh is a wonderful town with convenient access for mariners
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective, Killyleagh is a must on the Strangford Lough cruising circuit. Prettily situated on the western shore it has the spectacle of the castle seated in the spectacular scenery of this designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Killyleagh offers a wonderful small town with fine walks, numerous National Trust properties, good provisions, convenient pontoon landings and a welcoming yacht club with good facilities.


What facilities are available?
Fresh water is available on the pontoon but no power. There are showers and a bar in the yacht club, and alternative hotels and pubs in the immediate vicinity a short stroll from the jetty. With a population of almost two and half thousand the town has good shopping plus a basic chandlery, garage, bank, taxis and buses. A five tonne crane is available for hire on the quay and some boat and rigging repairs can be addressed here. It is situated on the A22 road to Downpatrick which is a sizeable town that serves as a commercial and administrative centre for the locality.


Any security concerns?
Never a problem known to have occurred at Killyleagh.


With thanks to:
Brian Crawford, local Strangford Lough boatman of many decades. eOceanic would like to thank Quoile Yacht Club External link for hosting our survey boat during the survey of Strangford Lough.







Aerial overview of Killyleagh




Aerial views of Killyleagh castle



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Add your review or comment:


Rodolphe Thimonier wrote this review on Jul 30th 2016:

Good holding on the verge of the anchorage in dense mud. Fairly good shelter from any kind of westerly wind, but not that well protected from a wide east sector 0-180°, specially on the outskirts of the anchorage.

Average Rating: ****


Michael Harpur wrote this review on May 22nd 2018:

Thank you Rodolphe,
I have added your insights into the main body text.

Average Rating: Unrated

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