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Red Bay Pier (Glenariff Pier)

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Red Bay is situated on the northeast coast of Ireland approximately thirteen miles south of Fair Head and three miles northwest of Garron Point. The expansive bay offers a range of anchoring opportunities in a stunning location.

Red Bay is situated on the northeast coast of Ireland approximately thirteen miles south of Fair Head and three miles northwest of Garron Point. The expansive bay offers a range of anchoring opportunities in a stunning location.

Red Bay provides the best anchoring on this part of the coast. It offers good protection from all winds between southeast, through west to northwest. Additionally, tucked into the bight of the bay it is out of the current and has excellent fine sand holding. Nevertheless, it is an open bay that is exposed to the north and east. Access is straightforward thanks to the absence of offshore dangers or any tidal restriction. However, expect poorly marked marine farms to be in the area.
Please note

In Red Bay even moderate south or southwest winds blow with great violence down the valleys, coming off in heavy squalls. Vessels working their way in should be prepared for this and when these conditions exist expect it to be a characteristic of any stay. This is typically not an issue owing to the bay’s highly reliable holding. The direction and velocity of the tide should be the central feature of any navigation planning in this area.

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Keyfacts for Red Bay Pier (Glenariff Pier)

Aerial footage of the bay

Red Bay and the beach at Waterfoot

About Red Bay Pier (Glenariff Pier)

The pier at Red Bay, in Irish Cuan an Deirg, close to its village of Waterfoot is known by two names, ‘Red Bay Pier’ and ‘Glenariff Pier’.

The place name’s ‘red’ element stems from the ancient Irish name Uaimh Dhearg ‘red cave’. This describes the exposed red sandstone cliffs that rise above the pier and continue along on the north side of the bay. Caves can be seen above the pier today, with the three main ones having been used as dwellings in the past. One of which called Nanny's Cave was last inhabited by a woman called Anne Murray as late as 1847, another cave was used as a smith's forge, and the third was an 18th century school. There is also another cave here that is believed to have been an escape route from the 16th-century MacDonnells castle situated above. In 1849 workmen found two bronze axes, a stone axe and some silver coins in this cave. The ‘red’ name extended to the bay as a result of eroded sandstone washing down from these cliffs and caves to cause residual reddish sands along the shoreline.

Situated at the foot of Glenariff the pier’s other name clearly comes from its close proximity to the impressive Glen. Glenariff is the largest and most popular of the Glens of Antrim and is fondly called the 'Queen Of the Glens'. The name ‘Glenariff’ stems from the Irish Gleann Airimh meaning ‘valley of the ploughman / arable valley’.

This describes the glen’s flat central plain that was formed some 10,000 years ago as the result of melting ice caps. The glen’s classic ‘U’ shape is that of a typical glacial cut valley. The area name for the valley’s wide foot where the village of Waterfoot is situated also reflects the origins of the ‘Glenariff’ name. The townland is called ‘Foriff’ that is derived from the Irish word Foirbh meaning ‘pasture’.

This area is steeped in history as is well witnessed by Tievebulliagh, situated close northwest of Lurigethan, where a famed Neolithic flint factory existed as covered in the, see neighbouring Cushendall Click to view haven entry. The magnificent slopes of the Lurigethan, whose summit towers above Glenarriff, Red Bay, and the town of Cushendall, plays host to an Iron Age promontory fort. Lurigethan, also known as ‘Lurigedan’ or simply ‘Lurig’, derives its name from Irish where ‘lurga’, means a ‘shin’, often applied to a long low ridge or a long strip of land, and ‘eadan’ means the brow or forehead.

Lurigethan’s fort was called Dun Clan na Mourna and was believed to be manned from approximately 500 B.C. to 500 A.D. The name references the Fianna, that was dominated by Clan Bascna, led by Cumhal, and Clan Morna, led by Goll. After the Battle of Knock, Cumhal is killed by the Morna clan and Clan Bascna's treasure bag is stolen. The fort is also known as ‘Lignafenia’ meaning the ‘hollow of the warriors’ that refers to Fionn mac Cumhaill, or Finn MacCool, the leader of the Fianna. He was a mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology who also occurs in the mythologies of Scotland and the Isle of Man. Tradition has it that at one time Lurigethan was the home of Fionn mac Cumhaill and his son the Celtic warrior-poet Ossian. The banks and ditches that outline early promontory ramparts can be clearly seen on Lurigethan’s slopes today. Enclosed within them are a series of oval-shaped barrows and sub-rectangular hollows that could be the remains of sunken houses. Archaeologists likened this to similar promontory forts, of the early Iron Age, in Western Britain and Brittany. Legend has it the megalithic court cairn on a hillside in Lubitavish, near the Glenaan River, is the burial place of Ossian.

The remains of the 16th-century MacDonnells castle overlooking the pier took its ‘red’ name from a cave in the red sandstone cliff underneath it. Situated on a headland that projects into the sea the location commanded magnificent views of the bay and coast. The site was originally a Norman motte-and-bailey built-in 1224 by John and Walter Bisset who purchased the Glens of Antrim from the Earl of Ulster, Richard De Burgo. The Bissets ruled until 1399 when John Mor MacDonald, 3rd chief of Dunnyveg, married Margery Bissett of the Glens of Antrim and acquired the castle of Red Bay as part of her dowry. His descendants known as the ‘MacDonnells of Antrim’ extended and rebuilt the castle in the 16th century. In 1565, it was burned to the ground by Shane O'Neill chief of the O'Neills of Tyrone. It was later rebuilt by the legendary MacDonnell clan leader ‘Sorley Boy MacDonnell’ who then let it fall into disrepair. In 1604 the castle was restored once again only to be finally destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in 1652, during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, after which it was abandoned.

The pier was built in 1849 to provide a harbour for nearby Waterfoot and the larger village of Cushendall immediately north. The bulk of the harbour’s trade came from the extraction of iron ore at the Glenravel mines, south-west of Glenariff, and its shipment to Scotland and England. However business declined in 1876 when a railway linked the mines to Ballymena enabling the more capable larger ports of Larne and Belfast to take over the trade. The mines themselves failed a few years later. Vessels that anchor of Red Bay's southern shore will use the White Arch, over the coast road, as a good marker. This is the remnant of a railway bridge constructed in the 1870s to carry iron ore from the Cloughcor Mines in Glengarriff to the White Arch Harbour, the remains of which are on the shoreline. Between White Arch and Cloughcor, a distance of 6.4 km (4miles), ran a narrow-gauge railway line and the terrace of limestone houses near the arch were built by the company to house the miners.

Today the beautiful Glenariff, ably crowned by the magnificent peak of Lurigethan on the north side, is the main draw of the area. This is a walker’s paradise with countless spectacular walks ranging from flat walks along the coast, or the more rugged hill walks that provide stunning views over the bay. A highlight among the hill walks is a visit to the 1185 hectare Glenariff Forest Park. This features a number of walking trails with steps and bridges that take a visitor through scenery with waterfalls and crystal clear pools. Amongst these is Altnagowna, or the ‘Grey Mare's Tail’ as it is better known, which is one of the tallest and most spectacular waterfalls in Glenariff and in all of Antrim. The diversity of topography, woodland and wildlife habitats formed here provide visitors with superb natural beauty, tranquillity and panoramic views of the Irish Sea and Scottish Coasts. The most popular approach is to follow the rivers Inver and Glenariff, and their associated waterfalls, where visitors can make use of the café situated in the park.

From a sailing perspective Red Bay provides the most sheltered anchorage on this part of the coast, out of the tide, and safe in winds between southeast and northwest. Access to the bay is straightforward as it is non-tidal and available at all times plus free of off-lying dangers except for the fish farm that is well lit. It is the ideal location to seek protection from these quarters on this coast.

Moreover with the Antrim coast enduring some of the strongest tides of the whole country, Red Bay offers the ideal stop off to await a tide for the next leg. It is also an ideal staging post for those wishing to cross the north channel to Scotland to the Mull of Kintyre and the Western Isles, which are visible all the way.

Other options in this area

Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Alternatively here are the ten nearest havens available in picture view:
Coastal clockwise:
Carnlough Bay and Harbour - 3 miles SSE
Glenarm Bay and Harbour - 4.2 miles SSE
Ballygalley Bay - 7.4 miles SE
Magheramorne Point - 11 miles SE
Mill Bay - 11.1 miles SE
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Cushendall - 0.4 miles N
Cushendun - 2.3 miles N
Torr Head - 4.7 miles N
Murlough Bay - 5.5 miles NNW
Church Bay - 8.9 miles NNW

Navigational pictures

These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Red Bay Pier (Glenariff Pier).

Aerial footage of the bay

Red Bay and the beach at Waterfoot

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