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Larne Harbour

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Overview





Larne Harbour is a large commercial port situated on the northeast coast of Ireland and on the western side of the entrance to Larne Lough. The busy harbour area, adjacent to its large town, has no specific arrangments for visiting craft but anchoring is assured with there is the possibility of picking up a spare mooring with other opportunities craft dependant.

Larne Harbour is a large commercial port situated on the northeast coast of Ireland and on the western side of the entrance to Larne Lough. The busy harbour area, adjacent to its large town, has no specific arrangments for visiting craft but anchoring is assured with there is the possibility of picking up a spare mooring with other opportunities craft dependant.

The range of locations and options assure complete protection may be obtained in the harbour area and Lough as a whole. It is fair to say that Larne offers the best shelter along this coast between Belfast and Lough Foyle. Safe access can be had here, day or night, at any stage of the tide and in all reasonable conditions.
Please note

Larne Harbour is Northern Ireland's busiest ferry port with a combination of very fast cross-channel ferries and shipping. Visiting yachts should take care not to impede commercial traffic, and make Larne Port Control aware of approaches once the port limits have been entered.




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Keyfacts for Larne Harbour
Facilities
Water hosepipe available alongsideWater available via tapGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaFuel by arrangement with bulk tanker providerSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaChandlery available in the areaMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometresBicycle hire available in the areaCar hire available in the areaTourist Information office available


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
4 metres (13.12 feet).

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



Last modified
January 13th 2023

Summary

A completely protected location with safe access.

Facilities
Water hosepipe available alongsideWater available via tapGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaFuel by arrangement with bulk tanker providerSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaChandlery available in the areaMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometresBicycle hire available in the areaCar hire available in the areaTourist Information office available


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration



Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 50.394' N, 005° 46.941' W

This on the 5-metre contour in the traditional Yellow Stone anchoring area, southwest of the rock to the south of Ballylumford Power Station.

What is the initial fix?

The following Larne Harbour Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 51.580' N, 005° 47.550' W
This is a ½ mile north of the harbour and approximately midway between Larne No. 1 and No. 2 Light buoys. It is set upon the leading lights alignment of 184.3° T that leads through the centre of the entrance channel.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in northeast Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough Route location.
  • Vessels approaching from the north or northeast can choose to pass either side around the well-marked Maidens and Hunter Rock.

  • Vessels approaching from the south should stand well off Islandmagee’s northernmost and foul Skernaghan Point. The lesser dangerous Barr and Ferris Points should be given a respectful distance.

  • Enter the channel midway between the No. 1 starboard and the No. 2 port buoys, turn southward and continue in along the east or port side of the channel.


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 Larne Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Ferris Bay - 0.7 nautical miles N
  2. Ballydowan - 0.9 nautical miles SE
  3. Brown’s Bay - 1 nautical miles NNE
  4. Magheramorne Point - 1.3 nautical miles SSE
  5. Mill Bay - 1.3 nautical miles SE
  6. Portmuck - 1.9 nautical miles ENE
  7. Ballygalley Bay - 4.5 nautical miles NW
  8. Whitehead - 6 nautical miles SSE
  9. Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina - 7.9 nautical miles S
  10. Greenisland - 9.2 nautical miles SSW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Ferris Bay - 0.7 miles N
  2. Ballydowan - 0.9 miles SE
  3. Brown’s Bay - 1 miles NNE
  4. Magheramorne Point - 1.3 miles SSE
  5. Mill Bay - 1.3 miles SE
  6. Portmuck - 1.9 miles ENE
  7. Ballygalley Bay - 4.5 miles NW
  8. Whitehead - 6 miles SSE
  9. Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina - 7.9 miles S
  10. Greenisland - 9.2 miles SSW
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?
Larne Harbour, Islandmagee and Lough Larne
Image: C LEITCH via ASA 4.0


Larne Harbour is situated on the west side of the entrance to Larne Lough where its large town is situated. It is Northern Ireland’s premier Ro-Ro and high-speed ferry terminus, and there is a continuous flow of ferries plying their way to and fro to Cairnryan, Troon and Fleetwood from its commercial harbour. Port installations extend to both sides of the lough’s entrance where, on the Islandmagee side, the industrial complex of Ballylumford Power Station and its two jetties are situated. This substantive station is Northern Ireland's main power station, providing half of all its electricity.


The reliable Yellow Rock anchorage
Image: Michael Harpur


The Lough provides the best shelter available between Belfast Lough and Lough Foyle but despite this, there are no specific facilities dedicated to visiting leisure craft. The options nearest to Larne Harbour and in the upper Lough are close south of the installations on both sides of the entrance. The traditional and best anchorage is to be found opposite the harbour and off the Islandmagee shore to the southwest of the Yellow Stone.


The peninsula leading down to Curran Point
Image: Michael Harpur


A possible alternate is on the mainland side of the entrance and opposite Ballylumford Power Station, between the southern end of the port area and the No.5 buoy off the peninsula leading down to Curran Point. But there is limited space here as it is shallow for a great distance from the shore and the local moorings of the East Antrim Boat Club occupy the limited deep water available leaving little room for visitors to anchor. However, the club holds some spare moorings and it may be possible to pick up a vacant mooring. The best chance of securing one of these is to contact the club in advance Landline+44 (0)28 28 277 204, E-mailhonsec@eabc.club, websiteExternal link. If a club mooring is free it may be made available but remember although all the club moorings are checked annually you are using them at your own risk. A drying berth may be also available alongside Wymer's Jetty or at East Antrim Boat Club’s slip for those that can take to the bottom.


Ballylumford Boat Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


The little Ballylumford Boat Harbour, used by the small passenger ferries to Larne, is the only alongside berth available in Larne. It is situated on the east side of the harbour entrance channel, between the two port hand pile beacons and about 400 metres south of Ferris Point. It has 0.6 metres LWS in the basin and is only 60 x 40 metres in size and gets crowded in summer. As such it is only suitable for small shallow-draft vessels or those that can take to the bottom.


Lough Larne has several anchoring opportunities
Image: © Marek Soltysiak External link


The lower Lough, as a whole, provides many further safe anchorages. But despite presenting a large surface of the water at high tide, it largely consists of drying flats and shoal banks of fine muddy sand, particularly so on the west side. So it needs a modest amount of navigation and the principal anchoring points are further along the Islandmagee shore at Ballydowan Click to view haven, Mill Bay Click to view haven. It is also possible to cross over to Magheramorne Click to view haven. But these three alternates are far from a complete list of berthing opportunities and especially so for shallow draft vessels that can take to the bottom. However, apart from Mill Bay, with its pub immediately ashore, and the club at Magheramorne, Lough Larne is entirely rural.


How to get in?
Ferry approaching the entrance to Larne Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Offshore details are available in northeast Ireland’s coastal overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough Route location. All vessels entering Port Limits must contact Larne Port Control and must make Larne Port Control aware of the intentions. The port limits are as charted from Black Cave Head eastward to South Hunter, then south southwestward to Skernaghan Point. Larne Port Control is may be contacted on [VHF] Ch. 14 [Larne Port Control] or by Landline+44 28 28 872179. Larne Port Control can advise on ship movements, weather, tide, etc.


Larne Harbour is operational 24 x 7 with up to 20 arrivals and departures daily
Image: Mat Tuck CC BY SA 2.00


Visiting yachts should keep a sharp eye out and take great care not to impede commercial traffic when approaching Larne. There are as many as eight thousand ship movements a year here, twenty-four hours a day.

The Maidens Towers
Image: Charles W. Bash vi CC BY SA 4.0


Northern Approach Vessels approaching from the north or northeast will need to navigate around the Maidens. The Maidens are located about 4 miles northeast of Ballygalley Head, a distance of 4½ miles from Larne and consist of two groups of rocks separated by a navigable passage. The rocks are steep-to all around.

The north cluster consists of three small rocks that are arranged in the form of a triangle. The western Russell’s Rock is 1.00 metres above high water, the eastern Highlandman Rock covers one hour before high water, and the southern, or Allen Rock, covers at high water. Rocky ledges extend both to the northward and southeast of the Allen rock whilst the others are steep-to. The northeastmost Highlandman (Highland Rock) is marked by a beacon. They are covered by the red
sector (142°-182°) of the east maiden auxiliary light.

Highlandman (Highland Rock) – unlit 1.5 metres position: 54°57.286'N, 005°43.935'W


East Maiden with The Saddle and the Sheafing Rock in the backdrop
Image: David Maxfield via CC BY-SA 3.0


The southern section consists of two clusters of rocks called the East and West Maiden that are separated from each other by a deep and wide sound. East Maiden on which stands a lighthouse, with a white tower and black band, and West Maiden on which is a tall, disused, tower of a disused lighthouse and other prominent buildings.

East Maiden Lighthouse - Fl (3) 20s 29m 24M position: 54° 55.748’N, 005° 43.709’W


The inactive West Maiden Lighthouse
Image: David Maxfield via CC BY-SA 3.0


West Maiden lighthouse was taken out of service in 1903. Other rocks in the southern group, lying within a ½ mile south of the East maiden lighthouse are; The Bushes, The Griddle, The Saddle and Sheafing Rock. Expect most ships to head directly to Scotland by passing south of the Maidens. Occasionally vessels, that are awaiting berthing space in Larne, do pass to the north and then inside the Maidens.

South Hunter
Image: Commissioners of Irish Lights
Those passing between the mainland and the Maidens will find the 4-mile stretch of water free from dangers. The coastline from Ballygalley Head to Larne Head, a distance of 3½ miles, is entirely clear of off-lying dangers with good depths close in.

Between the Maidens and Larne, there is the singular Hunter Rock that has 0.8 metres of water over it. Hunter Rock is a well-marked shoal with North and South Cardinal Light buoys and it is the only danger here. It lies 2½ miles northeast of the entrance or 036° T from Ferris Point, the entrance’s eastern point. Similar to the Maidens, Larne may be approached on either side of Hunter Rock.

North Hunter - VQ position: 54° 53.046’N, 005 45.114’W

South Hunter - VQ (6) + LFl 10s position: 54° 52.691’N, 005 45.284’W


Southern Approach Local hazards for vessels approaching from the south are few. The key local dangers to avoid are the rocky outcrops that extend from the three northern points of the Islandmagee. Of these Skernaghan Point’s rocky outcrop that stretches northward from the northernmost point of Islandmagee is the most dangerous.


The northern promontories of Islandmagee, Ferris, Barr's and Skernaghan points
Image: Michael Harpur


Skernaghan Point, which translates to 'point of the reef' has been responsible for numerous shipwrecks and should be given a berth of at least 500 metres. This is particularly in the way of a vessel following the coastline from the south and it is essential to take care to stand well off the point. Likewise, vessels approaching should keep at least 200 metres off the ends of Barr's and Ferris Points.



The No. 2 North Pile Beacon in the entrance
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location From the initial fix, situated midway between the No. 1 Green buoy Q(3)10s and the No. 2 Red buoy Fl(2)R6s, steer into the entrance channel if the harbour is free of commercial shipping movements. Turn southward and align to prefer an approach along the east side of the channel passing alongside the port marks.


The tall chimneys of Ballylumford Power Station will be visible
many miles to seaward

Image: Michael Harpur


By night the harbour has leading lights in line 184° T. The Front light No. 11 Beacon is a white diamond, red stripe, on a pile structure 6 metres high in the middle of the Lough. The rear light, No. 12 Beacon is a white diamond, red stripe on an aluminium round tower, 14 metres high approximately 600 metres southward on the Lough's southern shoreline.

Front light Beacon No. 11 - Oc4s position: 54° 49.597N, 005° 47' 806’W


Larne Port Control with the Chaine Tower opposite at the entrance
Image: Michael Harpur


Once within the entrance channel, several landmarks will be clearly seen. On the western side of the entrance to Larne Lough is the Chaine Tower. This is a 28 metres high grey Celtic tower with a conical top standing on Sandy Point.


The Watch Tower of the Port Control Office
Image: Michael Harpur


Approximately 700 metres east-southeast of this on the opposite eastern side is the low and flat Ferris Point upon which stands the prominent Watch Tower of the Port Control Office. This has a conspicuous square white watch tower with a radar scanner on top that is surrounded by white walls. South of this is the Ballylumford Power Station, red brick, with three concrete chimneys. Each chimney is 126 metres high and they will have been visible many miles to seaward. There is also a group of five shorter chimneys at the new power station close southeast. To the west of this, the 180 metres wide entrance channel leads into the Lough with at least 8 metres of water all the way through.


Larne Harbour with port installations either side of the entrance to Lough Larne
Image: Michael Harpur


Track into the mouth of the lough toward these landmarks passing the No. 3 Green buoy Fl(2)G 6s off the Chaine Tower but preferring the eastern side port marks. These are the two port pile beacons in the lough’s entrance channel. The first is the No. 2 North Pile Fl.R.3s, a black metal post, square cage topmark, off Ferris Point. Then after Ballylumford Boat Harbour is the No. 4 South Pile Fl(2) R.6s a white metal post with a cone topmark.


Ballylumford Boat Harbour on the east side of the harbour entrance
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Berthing options, from the entrance inward, is the shallow but completely protected Ballylumford Boat Harbour on the east side of the harbour entrance channel. This will be seen between the two port hand pile beacons and about 400 metres south of Ferris Point.


The Yellow Stone anchorage off of Islandmagee
Image: Michael Harpur


The harbour's best anchorage and most reliable will be found in the upper Lough nearly ¾ of a mile in from Ferris Point Tower, 300 metres beyond the innermost L-shaped 'A' Jetty just off the Yellow Stone. This is a large moss-covered rock on the shore which is occasionally painted. Positioning is key here as it is bounded to the north by an outfall pipeline and to the south by a submarine gas pipe.


The protected Yellow Rock anchorage
Image: Michael Harpur


The outfall pipeline runs north-south from the Ballylumford Power Station. It is marked by a red spar and should be avoided. Further south the Scotland to Ireland gas interconnector pipeline crosses the Lough running 105° from Curran Point. It is marked by yellow diamond signs onshore and four yellow buoys off Curran Point. It is essential to avoid anchoring anywhere near the path of this submarine pipeline. But there is ample space as there is nearly a ½ mile along this shoreline between these underwater obstacles. Yellow Stone offers depths of up to 5 metres where there is very little tide. It offers complete protection against all winds and sea.


Berths off the East Antrim Boat Club
Image: Michael Harpur


The other alternative is to anchor off the opposite shore in the area south from the end of the commercial harbour’s Castle Quay and northwest of a line from the Curran Point to the No.5 starboard buoy and well clear of the interconnector marked by yellow buoys. The area is highly populated by local mooring belonging to the East Antrim Boat Club but it may be possible for them to provide a spare mooring. If an anchoring spot can be located a tripping line should be considered highly advisable in this busy well-used anchorage.


Ballylumford Boat Harbour's slipway
Image: Michael Harpur


Land at Wymer's Jetty, which has LWS 0.3 metres at its head, or at the club slip close by on the west shore or in Ballylumford Boat Harbour on the Islandmagee side that has a slip.


Why visit here?
Larne is derived from the Gaelic 'Latharna' meaning 'descendants of Lathar'. 'Lathar' was one of the twenty-five children of 'Úgaine Mór', Hugony the Great, a pre-Christian king of Ireland. His son 'Lathar' was granted a section of the Antrim coast from Glenarm to Larn's River Inver which became known in the Gaelic as 'Latharna'. The area became known as 'Lathar-na', or the lands of 'Lathar', that in time softened to Larne.

The coastal area around Larne was inhabited countless millennia before the arrival of 'Úgaine Mór'. This area is thought to have been one of the earliest inhabited areas of Ireland with its early human populations believed to have come across the North Channel from Scotland. Knockdhu, north of Larne, was the site of a Bronze Age promontory fort and settlement. The early coastal dwellers are believed to have had a sophisticated culture and traded with many Scottish settlements on the opposite shore, which in the case of Larne and its surrounds is visible across the Irish Sea.


Larne Standing Stone
Image: © Brian


There is compelling evidence that early Greek and later Roman explorers visited Larne Lough as they refer to areas that describe Larne on ancient maps. The ancient Greeks detailed the Antrim Coast, and Ptolemy the astronomer and geographer of the 2nd century AD, clearly referred to Islandmagee on one of his maps. The location of the Lough was also recorded by the Romans when Emperor Severus described how, in 204AD, a Roman slave galley bound for Scotland was blown off course to a place called 'Portus Saxa'. 'Portus Saxa' translates to 'Port of the Standing Stones' which would most likely have been Larne Lough and its surrounds.


Ruins of Olderfleet Castle in the late 19th century
Image: Public Domain


From the end of the 8th century until about AD 950 the Vikings raided Ireland and the east and north coast took the full brunt of the raids. In time the Vikings established camps here by the Lough, and also to the south by Strangford Lough, and to the east by Lough Neagh. Eventually, they stopped raiding and settled down to trade and live among the locals. At this time Larne Lough took the name of its Viking king 'Ulfrich' with the conjunction of 'fleet'. The latter 'fleet' was derived from the old Norse 'fljot' meaning "inlet". In time this became anglicised to 'Wulfrichfjord' and eventually Olderfleet at Curran Point. However, it is also possible the 'Older' component may have come from the Norse 'oldu' meaning 'wave'.


Larne Harbour 1888
Image: Public Domain


In the 13th century the Scots-Irish Bissett family built a castle here. In 1315 Edward the Bruce of Scotland, brother of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, landed at Larne with his 6000-strong army hopeful of winning the kingship of Ireland. He was welcomed by the Bissets at Olderfleet Castle then thought to be called Curran Castle. Edward saw Ireland as another front in the ongoing war against Norman England and Olderfleet Castle was of strategic importance in his bid to take it down. After his death, the castle was seized by the crown to guard against another Scottish invasion. The MacDonnells, successors to the Bissetts and later the Earls of Antrim, repeatedly tried to reclaim it. In 1569 Queen Elizabeth I, Queen of England and Ireland, appointed Sir Moyses Hill as the governor of Olderfleet Castle as it was seen as strategically important for any Tudor to rein in the wild Gaelic Clans of Ulster. In 1621 it was granted the 'great planter' to Sir Arthur Chichester. It remained the property of the Chichester until William Agnew obtained a permanent lease of the Curran in 1823.



Larne Circa 1900
Image: National Library of Ireland on The Commons


During the 17th century Larne would provide a major port of entry for the Plantation of Ulster but not be part of it. Its many Scottish settlers had also arrived through the private settlement which they had been doing for countless millennia before. Boats used to land at a small quay at the end of the present Quay Street. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the tide would turn the opposite way and the port of Larne became a port of embarkation from where many Ulster-Irish emigrated to America. It was from Larne that in May 1717, the 'Friends Goodwill', the first immigrant ship to sail from Larne left for America and landed in Boston. Many Irish Bostonians descend from immigrants either from the Larne area or who left Ireland through Larne. By the end of the 18th century, Larne was increasingly becoming a major industrial and commercial centre that drove the need to develop the harbour area.



The Celtic Chaine Tower marking the west side of the entrance
Image: Philip Hay via cc BY SA 3.0


At the beginning of the 19th century, a wooden quay was constructed at the Curran close to Olderfleet Castle. In 1834 the famous naval architect William Agnew, also responsible for the Maidens lighthouses and the then Larne Lough Lighthouse, built another larger quay in the area of the present harbour. By this stage, sail was beginning to give way to steam. The new and more reliable technology caused the shorter Donaghadee to Portpatrick packet service to be revised and in 1850 it was moved to Larne with its corresponding Scottish port moved to Stranraer. The new ports had become accessible to steam-driven boats and much more protected. The packet service was to be the first of two transforming factors for Larne.

Chaine Tower with its inscription above the door
Image: Neill Rush via ASA 4.0
Then in 1866 the progressive entrepreneur James Chaine saw the potential to establish passenger services to Stranraer and America. He bought the Curran pier to cater for these services and was instrumental in the construction of the narrow-gauge railway to Ballymena. He also built the Olderfleet Hotel for visitors arriving at the harbour. It was the combination of his vision and financial resources that were to transform Larne into the successful commercial port that it remains to this day. In 1888 the replica traditional round 'Chaine Tower' was built on the western side of the entrance in memory of James Chaine MP. Its inscription above the door reads:

"THIS TOWER was erected and THE ROAD leading to it by the contributions of every class in this mixed community irrespective of creed or party all cordially united in esteem and affection for the Memory of JAMES CHAINE of Ballycraigy and Cairncastle Co. Antrim who represented this County in the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland from February 1874 till 4 May 1185 when his early and lamented death in his 44th year off his age deprived his native County of one who had worked indefatigably for its interests, especially in developing and improving the natural capabilities of the harbour of Larne and establishing its connection with Great Britain, the United States of America and with the inland parts of this County. "


Major Crawford and arms dealer Benny Spiro 1914
Image: Public Domain
In the 20th century, Larne would be the scene for an episode that would shape the development of what is now Northern Ireland. Known as the 'Larne Gun Running' and organised by Major Frederick H. Crawford and Captain Wilfrid Spender, this was a bid by the Ulster Unionist Council to equip the Ulster Volunteer Force. Opposed to Redmond's Home Rule Act of 1914 they prepared for armed resistance. In the dead of night, April 24th, 1914 the Clyde Valley entered Larne Lough laden with German rifles and ammunition. There then followed a precisely executed operation, where hundreds of private cars and lorries offloaded the arms and speedily dispersed them throughout the local countryside. In all 25,000 German rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition were landed when the Clyde Valley had also landed in Donaghadee, Bangor and Belfast. But the 'Larne gun-running' was to be the signature event of this episode and it is thought to have been the first time in history that motor vehicles were used "on a large scale for a military-purpose, and with striking success".

The Irish Volunteers arranged their 'Howth gun-running', see Howth External link entry, in July 1914. They transported the guns from a private yacht and unloaded them in daylight at the harbour, in front of a crowd. The corresponding episodes heightened tensions in Ireland, pulling it closer to the brink of a north-south civil war which was interrupted by the outbreak of World War One.

Ulster Unionists show their firepower
Image: Public Domain
Subsequently, partition prevented this north-south civil war from occurring. The event, however, escalated the political crisis and marked a major step in cementing the right to Ulster Unionist self-determination, with the recognition of such a right ultimately leading to the creation of Northern Ireland. During the 'Troubles', which was to be the continuing legacy of Partition, Larne was a loyalist stronghold and today still retains a strong loyalist outlook.

Close alongside the Chaine Tower is the memorial to the MV Princess Victoria which is one of the saddest maritime events in the history of the port. Built in 1947 the ship was one of the earliest roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ferries and she operated from Stranraer to Larne. During the extreme storm on the night of January 31 1953, she became engulfed by what would later be known as the 'Great Storm'. Ferocious gales of more than 112 kmph whipped the channel standing up 15 metres high waves and causing the worst North Sea surge ever recorded. Caught amid raging seas the crew battled to overcome the conditions, but rescue services failed to reach them before the ship flooded and sank. Of over 170 passengers and crew, 133 were lost. Included in this number were all the women and children on board of which many were local to the Larne area. The sinking remains the deadliest maritime disaster in United Kingdom waters since World War II.


MV Princess Victoria
Image: Public Domain


Today Larne's heritage is visible in many of the surrounding areas. It presents its ancient history at sites such as its pre-history burial tomb known locally as 'the Druids Altar' at Islandmagee, and its mysterious souterrains above Cairncastle village, the atmospheric standing stones that litter the countryside. Archaeological digs in the area have found flint work and other artefacts that have been assigned dates from 6000 BC onwards. They speak of an ancient culture that lived on the shores of the North Channel and traded with people from the Scottish coast. Likewise, 10th and 11th-century Viking burial sites and artefacts have been found and recently the body of a warrior has been successfully dated to that time. The remains of the Tower House at Olderfleet alongside East Antrim Boat Club are a reference to its medieval past.


Larne Town Hall today
Image: Tourism NI


Larne retains its formative link with Scotland with its ferry connections. Today it is one of the most modern and busy roll-on/roll-off terminals in Northern Ireland with continuous streams of ships taking passengers and goods to and from Scotland. More than 300,000 freight units are handled annually, as well as 220,000 tourist vehicles and 845,000 passengers. It is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with up to 20 arrivals and departures daily. Larne is to Northern Ireland as Dover is to England.


Larne offers the coastal cruiser a safe harbour to run to night or day
Image: © Roy Greer


From a sailing perspective Larne, at first glance, may appear less than prepossessing. It is subject to the ceaseless hustle and bustle surrounding the ship movements, plus the concrete overpasses to support this traffic. Add to this the huge chimneys and industrial complex of the Ballylumford Power Station opposite the harbour and the area's visual aesthetics are less than alluring. But once these aspects are set aside the haven truly shines.

Larne provides the coastal cruiser with the best-sheltered anchorage between Belfast and Lough Foyle with safe access that is well-marked for day and night access. All facilities are close to hand albeit it requires some toing and froing. Moreover, although the immediate location may be industrial, the lower Lough is largely rural and undeveloped so if a quiet natural location is desired all that is required is a short move. It is also a good stop for cruising vessels to combine a historical past with a modern port, good transport links for a crew swap and great provisioning.


What facilities are available?
Larne is classified as a large town and with a population of over 18,000 people, it has all the fresh provisions you would expect to serve its community. Freshwater is laid on at Wymers Pier where a hose is available and a road tanker supplies fuel oil. Vessels can come alongside the commercial quays to get fuel via an arrangement with the harbour office. Minor repairs can be undertaken by local firms and significant repairs can be dealt with in Belfast. There is a passenger ferry from Islandmagee to Larne P: +44 28 2827 3785 for a timetable. East Antrim Boat Club also welcomes visitors and provides access to their showers and bar.

The port operates the shortest sea route to mainland Britain and there are frequent vehicle ferry services, including fast craft, to Cairnryan and freight services to Troon and Fleetwood. This shipping activity is well connected to public transport networks. Larne has two train stations, Larne Town, and Larne Harbour at the ferry terminal. Larne Town provides an hourly Belfast Central service whilst the ferry terminal service is timed to connect with the ferries. The Belfast Central journey takes an hour and excellent onward connections are available. Belfast International Airport 32 km SW has international air services, and Belfast City Airport caters for domestic flights only.


Any security concerns?
Never a problem known to have occurred in Larne Harbour.


With thanks to:
Terry Crawford, local boatman of many decades.







Aerial views of the Larne's entrance.



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