The River Bann provides complete protection and all-round shelter. River access is straightforward between well-lit stone training walls assisted by alignment beacons and leading lights. Once through the entrance, there are no issues progressing up the well-marked river to Coleraine Marina. The entrance, however, is subject to swell, outflow overfalls, and a dangerous surf in moderately adverse conditions where careful planning is required. In the worst case, with north and northwest gales, the sea breaks right across it rendering it impassable. Consequently, no attempt should be made by a newcomer in any onshore winds of Force 6 or above.
Keyfacts for Coleraine
Summary* Restrictions applyA completely protected location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position55° 8.660' N, 006° 40.590' W
This is immediately adjacent to the north-western most pontoon of Coleraine Marina.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
- With the river entrance situated less than five miles west by southwest of Ramore Head the coastal directions provided for Portrush may be used for general approaches to the area.
- Approach Barmouth's conspicuous training walls east of north and identify the leading marks.
- Steer in keeping the transits in-line on 165°T and then follow the marks upriver.
Not what you need?
- Seatons Marina - 0.5 miles NW
- The Lower River Bann - 1.7 miles WNW
- Portrush Harbour - 2.4 miles N
- Portballintrae - 3.9 miles NE
- White Bay - 6.1 miles WNW
- Portnocker - 6.2 miles WNW
- Cornashamma Bay - 6.3 miles WNW
- Magilligan Point - 6.5 miles WNW
- Portkill - 6.5 miles WNW
- Silver Strand - 6.5 miles WNW
What's the story here?
How to get in?
Image: Castlerock Golf Course
With the river entrance situated less than five miles west by southwest of Ramore Head the coastal directions provided for Portrush may be used for general approaches to the area.
Barmouth where the River Bann enters the Atlantic between stone training walls, is situated two miles southwest of Portstewart Point. It is made highly conspicuous by its large stone breakwaters projecting 400 metres out from the shore.
Just over a mile before the entrance on the western side is the conspicuous classical Mussenden Temple situated on the edge of the rocky cliffs. This is a white tower approximately five metres in height overlooking Castlerock Strand that leads to the entrance. By keeping at least half a mile offshore the approaches to Barmouth will be clear of all dangers.
The River Bann Entrance initial fix is approximately six hundred metres north-northwest of the river mouth and set on the 165°T leading lights alignment.
Barmouth East Pierhead - Fl R 5s 6m 2M position: 55° 10.323'N, 006°46.338' W
The west pierhead has a green metal post, Fl G 5s 4m 2M. This is set about one-third of the way back along the West Mole. It is obscured from north round to west.
Situated on the west bank of the river are the leading light beacons that are 6 metres and 14 metres in elevation. The front is situated south-southeast of the entrance and it is a five-metre high white pyramidal metal tower; Oc 5s 6m 2M. The rear is situated approximately 300 metres further south-southeast and it is a white square concrete tower; Oc 5s 14m 2M.
Barmouth rear Alignment Marker - Oc.5s.14m2M position: 55° 9.869' N 006° 46.173' W
From the initial fix, set east of north on transit, identify the leading marks and steer in keeping them in-line on 165°T. Expect to pass over the sandbar which is constantly moving on this transit. It is dredged to a minimum depth of approximately 3.5 metres.
Enter the 45-metre wide channel between the pierheads where the least depth in the entrance is 2.9 metres. Keep well clear of the area off the ends of the pierheads and tend towards the east wall as the western wall is foul with boulders.
The only exception is the first port hand marker on entry with the port mark off Ballyaghran Point and opposite the leading marks. This mark oddly appears almost centre channel with a Lt Fl R 3s. Nevertheless, pass this to port as depths reduce abruptly outside the marked channel in the River Bann.
The first marina encountered is the private Seatons Marina on the northeast bank that potentially has some visitor berths and is covered separately. It is situated approximately three miles from the entrance and just over a mile before Coleraine.
Coleraine marina is situated on the northeast bank just over four miles from the entrance and approximately a mile upriver and to the north of the town. The 60 berth marina has depths of 3 metres alongside the outer end pontoons, reducing to 1.4 metres nearer the bank. Fifteen berths are available for visitors and typically most boats visiting Coleraine stay here.
Why visit here?Coleraine takes its name from the Irish Cúil Raithin meaning ‘corner/nook of ferns’ or 'ferny corner'. Legend has it that this name goes back to the 5th Century and the coming of St. Patrick.
But Ireland’s history runs much deeper here than the 5th century. Coleraine is home to the Mountsandel site on the east bank of the river. Ancient wooden houses were excavated here that were carbon dated to 7,000BC. At 9,000 years old this makes it the oldest site with evidence of human settlement in Ireland. The impressive Mount Sandel fort may be accessed through Mountsandel forest with the closest entrance being near to the side of Coleraine Courthouse.
Being situated at the lowest bridgeable point of the River Bann, where the river is 90 metres wide, Coleraine has always been a strategic area that has been hotly contested through the centuries. It was placed under siege twice by both Kings of Munster and Ulster. The town was also subject to the Elizabethan, Cromwellian and Williamite wars. Finally in the 17th century with the 'Plantation' of English and Scottish settlers, backed by the companies of the city of London, a commercial basis was created from which Coleraine developed from two urban communities. The slightly skewed street pattern of Coleraine's town centre is legacy of that early exercise in town planning. Traces of the lines of ramparts that provided the Plantation town with its defences are also visible.
The town’s rich history is reflected in its architecture that may be easily explored via walks around it and along the scenic river banks. The Visitor Information Centre in Coleraine provides a Walking Heritage Trail, ‘Around the Ramparts’ and also a historical touring route to explore the 17th-century plantation town. Within the historically significant Mountsandel forest there are two linear paths, one along the top of the slope and the other at the foot of the slope, partly following the line of the river. Walkers can combine the two paths to form a circular route or make use of the steps at the Fort to create alternative routes. Immediately south of the town there is a weir where the migrating salmon can be seen leaping through a series of steps on their route to their hatching grounds. Alongside this Coleraine has a wide range of local activities available that the visitor centre can best advise on.
From a purely cruising point of view, Coleraine offers complete protection with the potential to securely leave a boat, and visit the Giant's Causeway, a twenty-five-minute bus ride away, and the distillery village of Bushmills, also well-served by buses. The Mussenden Temple, seen atop a precipitous cliff, is also close by overlooking County Donegal in one direction and Scotland in another. The river offers the option to cruise Lough Neigh, highlighted separately in the Lower Bann entry, plus the excellent provisioning available here.
What facilities are available?Coleraine Marina offers visiting Cruisers all facilities and caters for vessels up to 60ft. in overall length. Berths are furnished with water and electricity, and the modern marina building offers changing & showering facilities plus a chandlery that caters for bottled gas. Diesel and petrol are also available and there is a slipway that provides launch capabilities for vessels up to 20ft. Car and cycle hire can be arranged at the office. The marina has a travelift for launching vessels up to 40ft in overall length and 13 tons displacement, and a hard standing for 25 boats.
With a population of almost 25,000, shopping in Coleraine is excellent. Likewise transport connections are good to Belfast 55 miles (88.5 km) to the northwest, and to Derry 30 miles (48.3 km) east, both of which are linked by major roads and railway connections. Therefore the City of Derry Airport, and Belfast International Airport, the main regional airport to the south, and George Best Belfast City Airport to the southeast, are all relatively accessible from Coleraine. The Riversdale Quay in Coleraine has a 35 tonne derrick crane available for lifting yachts where some maybe lifted with masts rigged. Some space is available for wintering here on the hard, in the open or undercover.
Any security concerns?The marina has twenty four hour security.
With thanks to:Terry Crawford, local boatman of many decades. Photography with thanks to Colin Park, mvghuber, Albert Bridge, Alex Mc Gregor, Willie Duffin, Lindy Buckley, Des Colhoun, Rossographer and Kyle Monahan.
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