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Brown’s Bay

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Overview





Brown’s Bay is situated on the northeast coast of Ireland, on the northern end of the Islandmagee peninsula and immediately off of the approach to Larne. The bay offers a popular anchorage outside Larne Lough in a remote area.

Brown’s Bay is situated on the northeast coast of Ireland, on the northern end of the Islandmagee peninsula and immediately off of the approach to Larne. The bay offers a popular anchorage outside Larne Lough in a remote area.

Brown’s Bay is a good anchorage, especially in conditions with a southerly quadrant, however, it can be subject to swell and any conditions with a northerly component would make the anchorage untenable. Access to the bay is straightforward at any stage of the tide in daylight as it is completely open to the north and clean.
Please note

Larne Harbour is a busy commercial port and is Northern Ireland's busiest ferry port. There are as many as eight thousand ship movements a year here, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Yachts must keep clear of commercial shipping entering and leaving.




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Keyfacts for Brown’s Bay
Facilities
Shop with basic provisions availableShore based toilet facilitiesMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaPost Office in the areaBus service available in the areaShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location 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
3 metres (9.84 feet).

Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
December 7th 2022

Summary

A good location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Shop with basic provisions availableShore based toilet facilitiesMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaPost Office in the areaBus service available in the areaShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

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



HM  +44 28 28 872179      Ch.14 [Larne Port Control] 
Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 51.300' N, 005° 46.250' W

This is in 2.5 metres within Brown’s Bay’s southwestern corner.

What is the initial fix?

The following Brown’s Bay Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 51.900' N, 005° 46.000' W
A ½ mile north of the centre of the Bay offset to the Skernaghan Point side.


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.
  • Approaches to bay can be found in the Larne Harbour Click to view haven entry.

  • Track into the middle of the bay staying well clear of the rocky spit extending northward from Skernaghan Point.


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 Brown’s Bay for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Ferris Bay - 0.6 nautical miles WSW
  2. Larne Harbour - 1 nautical miles SSW
  3. Portmuck - 1.5 nautical miles ESE
  4. Ballydowan - 1.6 nautical miles S
  5. Mill Bay - 2 nautical miles SSE
  6. Magheramorne Point - 2.1 nautical miles S
  7. Ballygalley Bay - 4.1 nautical miles NW
  8. Whitehead - 6.7 nautical miles SSE
  9. Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina - 8.8 nautical miles S
  10. Glenarm - 9.3 nautical miles NW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Ferris Bay - 0.6 miles WSW
  2. Larne Harbour - 1 miles SSW
  3. Portmuck - 1.5 miles ESE
  4. Ballydowan - 1.6 miles S
  5. Mill Bay - 2 miles SSE
  6. Magheramorne Point - 2.1 miles S
  7. Ballygalley Bay - 4.1 miles NW
  8. Whitehead - 6.7 miles SSE
  9. Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina - 8.8 miles S
  10. Glenarm - 9.3 miles NW
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?
Brown's Bay
Image: Michael Harpur


Brown’s Bay is a large sandy horseshoe-shaped bay with a low sandy foreshore on the northern tip of the Islandmagee peninsula. It is entered between the two rocky promontories of Skernaghan Point and Barrs Point that lie east-west of each other a little over a ½ mile apart. The bay is clear of dangers and has good depths that shoal gradually to the shore. Although located in a relatively remote rural setting its safe beach makes it one of the most popular summer tourist attractions of the peninsula.


The protected bay makes Brown's Bay a popular family beach
Image: Michael Harpur


Brown's Bay is a popular anchorage outside Larne Lough. It offers excellent protection except for with northerly component winds with ample depths and easy access. Likewise, should the winds turn northerly, the highly protected Larne Lough is a short distance away and the anchorages in the north end of Belfast Lough are within easy reach.


How to get in?
Skernaghan Point the eastern arm of Brown's Bay
and northeast point of Islandmagee

Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Directions for Larne Harbour Click to view haven may be used for approaches. Vessels approaching Brown’s Bay pass through the outer limits of Larne Port Control and must make Larne Port Control aware of the intentions to anchor in the bay. 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. Leisure craft should take care not to impede commercial traffic approaching Larne.


The bay's principal danger is a rocky outcrop stretching from Skernaghan Point
Image: Michael Harpur


The principal danger to Brown's Bay is a rocky outcrop that stretches northward from Skernaghan Point the northernmost point of Islandmagee. 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 from Larne should keep at least 200 metres off the ends of Barr and Ferris Points.


Brown's Bay is clean gradually shelving to its head
Image: Michael Harpur


As such the Initial fix is located a ½ mile north of the centre of the bay. It is offset to the Skernaghan Point side in order to avoid a southern approaching vessel too close to the rock spit off Skernaghan Point.


Yacht anchored in Brown's Bay inside Skernaghan Point
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location Once the initial fix has been achieved come south by southwest into the bay. Depending on the prevailing wind conditions select either the west or east side of the bay where 2 metres may be found close to either headland or in the centre of the bay. The head of the bay gradually shelves so stay well offshore of the beach. Anchor over clean sand that offers very good holding.

Land on the beach in the southwest corner of the bay which is closest to the bay’s small shop and post office.


Why visit here?
Brown’s Bay, in Irish 'Bá an Bhrúnaigh', is believed to have been named after a local farmer called James Brown. Ulster families named Brown would have originated from England or, most likely in this area, arrived here after fleeing religious persecution in Scotland. James Brown was recorded to be living beside the bay in 1683. The Brown name, along with Wilson, remained the most prevalent families in the area for several centuries afterwards. Their deceased dominate the tombstones of Brown’s Bay churchyard that dates back to 1840. These are surrounded by Scottish names such as McKee, McGea, McKay, McCoy, McHugh, Hay and Hayes that are likely to be descended from the original settlers.


Brown's Bay with the Scottish mainland in the backdrop
Image: Michael Harpur


Although the bay's current name dates back to the 7th-century landowning farmer, the peninsula’s history dates back to the Mesolithic period. In 1962 remains of circular Bronze Age houses and several Neolithic skeletons were found at Brown's Bay. One of the skeletons had bound hands and feet and an arrow in his chest. Several other items were found with the bodies that dated the settlement back to 2000 BC. Within 10 minute's walk of the bay is the Ballylumford Dolmen, known locally as the 'Druid's Altar', which is estimated to have been constructed in the same time period circa 2000-1600 BC.


Brown's Bay in 1888
Image: Public Record Office of Northern Ireland via CC0


Neolithic houses have been excavated throughout the Islandmagee peninsula and finds include Neolithic pottery, flint arrowheads, javelin heads and polished stone axe fragments. Islandmagee was first referred to as 'Rinn Seimhne', the headland of the 'Seimhne' tribe. Its present name is derived from the Magee clan, seventy of whom were later massacred during the 1641 rebellion by Scots militia and forces from Carrickfergus Castle. It is the home to many myths and legends, but none as strange as the home of the last witches to be tried in Ireland in 1711. The eight women were supposed to have bewitched a young girl and made her ill. She survived and as she did not die, two of the women were sentenced to a year in prison with an appearance in the stocks four times a year.


Ballylumford Dolmen with a house built behind in 1914
Image: Public Domain


Today Brown’s Bay is the most popular tourist spot on what is known locally as the 'Island', referring to Islandmagee as a whole. In truth is a peninsula located between the towns of Larne and Carrickfergus, with Larne Lough separating it from the mainland. The 'Island' is eight miles long and contains scattered farms with quiet lanes fringed by hedgerows that divide the green fields. This sense of history is treasured and guarded by the very friendly local community who are proud of their combined seafaring and farming traditions. The people here are locally called 'bean eaters' owing to an old agricultural crop rotation programme in which beans were grown to supply nitrogen to the soil. Like most islanders, they enjoy a self-reliant reputation and reportedly provide more master mariners for its size than any other locality in Ireland. The area has changed little over the years, retaining its own special charm.


The hedgerows and green fields of Islandmagee
Image: Michael Harpur



Brown’s Bays' principal draw is its beautiful 300-metre-long sandy beach nestling between its two rocky promontories. The rural setting and Islandmagee's relative remoteness give the well-protected cove an 'away-from-it-all' feeling. It had a popular caravan park run by the council but that closed recently in 2012 for operational reasons. The National Trust purchased 90 acres of the land area surrounding Skenaghan Point in the mid-1990s and made it available so that the public is free to wander its many informal walks over the headland.


It is the sandy beach that is Brown's Bay's principal attraction
Image: Michael Harpur


The name Skernaghan translates as 'Point of the Reef' and the rocks on this part of the coast have been responsible for numerous shipwrecks, including in 1905, the 'Peridot' on route from Scotland to Carnlough with a cargo of coal. An easterly gale forced the small coaster to run for the safety of Larne and she ran up on Skernaghan Point. She broke in two and the nine local sailors lost their lives with the sole survivor being the ship's dog. To visit the headland simply follow the promenade along to the east end and up the stony path towards Skernaghan Point. A well-worn 'right-of-way' grass path, that initially runs through bushes, then opens to the grazing lands alongside the rocky coastline. Follow the coastline either at sea level or from the vantage of the field at the top. Those following the coastline will pass a local landmark called the 'Rocking Stone' along the way.


The protective headlands and gradual shelving makes Brown's Bay safe for
children

Image: Michael Harpur


Today it rocks no more as a concrete plinth has been built around it. The stone is a large 12-ton basalt rock deposited when the ice sheet retreated after the last ice age. Rocking stones were used in ancient times to denote a person's guilt - the suspect would be required to walk around the stone and if it shook would be declared guilty and required to face punishment. This local landmark once rumoured to rock under the pressure of one finger, is now cemented in place and has been brightly painted by locals.


The headlands of the Antrim coast as seen over Barr's Point
Image: Michael Harpur


The only indication that the walk has finished is a fence line and the view north across the horizon. It is truly beautiful with five headlands showing up the Antrim coastline with Ballygally Head, Park Head and Garron Point easily discernible. One also gets a clear view of the Maidens rocks far out in the North Channel, and their two lighthouses, only one of which is now in operation. On the mainland the outer edges of the town of Larne, and the uplands of Agnew’s Hill and Hightown, Sallagh Braes and Scawt Hill are all visible. All the time local seabirds will be feeding around the bays’ rocky coastline. Expect to see cormorants, shag, oystercatchers, curlew and redshank. Return by retracing the outbound track or by walking back on the higher ground that gives a different view. The National Trust property also extends a considerable distance inland where it is permitted to cross fields using the stiles provided.


Brown's Bay has a great beach upon which to let the kids loose
Image: Tourism NI


From a boating point of view, Brown’s Bay offers a good anchorage with a sandy beach to land upon to enjoy the northern promontories of Islandmagee. Those who feel like striding out will find an excellent walk out and those with young children aboard will find an extensive safe beach on which to let them loose. It provides easy access to Larne and makes an ideal hassle-free lunch stop or tide wait location for passage makers.


What facilities are available?
Public Toilets are available at Brown's Bay and Steele's shop has some provisions plus a post office.

Brown's Bay beach is 6 miles from Carrickfergus using the A2 and B90. There are two bus services to and from Brown's Bay beach each day, route 169. There is a railway station at Ballycarry and from there it is 5 miles to the beach. However, those intending to walk should note that there are no footways on these roads. Whilst traffic is generally not heavy, a 60 mph limit operates on the country roads and there are many blind bends.

A closer alternative is Larne Harbour Station via the small ferry from Ballylumford that takes 5 minutes to cross the mouth of the lough. There is a footway for all of the 1.6 KM (1 mile) journey, and traffic is light from Brown's Bay to Ballylumford where the small passenger ferry departs. The small ferry takes no more than 12 people and booking is essential P +44 28 2827 3785.


Any security concerns?
Never a problem known to have occurred in Brown’s Bay.


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







Brown's Bay aerial views



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