The marina and harbour provide complete protection. With no off-lying dangers, safe access is available night or day, at any stage of the tide in all reasonable conditions.
Keyfacts for Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina
Summary* Restrictions applyA completely protected location with safe access.
Position and approaches
Haven position54° 42.575' N, 005° 48.675' W
This is position located at the entrance to the Marina on the outer end of the eastern breakwater. It is marked with a green beacon Q.G 8m 3M.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
- Approaches to the lough can be found in the Bangor Harbour entry.
- Track into the Fairway Light buoy through Belfast Lough's open navigable area that is free of dangers.
- Continue in close north of the first marks of the Victoria Channel.
- Approach the from the south, either the marina or the harbour.
Not what you need?
How to get in?
Carrickfergus Harbour and marina are situated on the north shore of Belfast Lough just over five miles to the southwest of Black Head and the same distance northwest of Bangor Harbour. Overlooked by its signature Norman castle this was one of Ireland’s largest 16th-century ports. Today it is a bustling suburb of Belfast and a centre for leisure craft.
Track into the Fairway Light buoy, L Fl 10s, through Belfast Lough's open navigable area that is free of danger. The Fairway Light buoy is situated in the middle of the lough between Carrickfergus and Grey Point on the opposite shore.
Carrickfergus Castle, sitting on a rocky promontory overlooking the seafront immediately east of the harbour, will be highly conspicuous from anywhere in the bay. The No. 1 starboard hand marker and No. 2 port buoy, marking the entrance to Belfast Lough via the Victoria Channel, will also be seen in the middle of the lough 1.5 miles to the southeast of Carrickfergus.
Between Black Head and Carrickfergus the northern shoreline presents itself as a vertical black basaltic rock cliff face with three lit jetties associated with Kilroot Power Station. The first is the Cloghan Jetty located to the south of the easily identifiable 90 metres high white limestone cliffs of White Head, a mile and a half inside Belfast Lough to the south-southwest. This jetty extends out from the shore for more than half a mile and is lit at the end Fl G 3s 2M. Beyond the pierhead a green buoy, QG. 0.5M, lies half a mile off the pier head.
Finally, there is the Kilroot Jetty unloading berth marked by 2 FG (vert) 6m 2M lights.
It is best to keep offshore between Kilroot and Carrickfergus as a drying shoal extends up to ½ a mile out from the shore there. The area should be given a wide berth by making a seaward approach from the initial fix.
From the initial fix the marina entrance is one mile along a course of 320° T towards triangular leading marks on the head of the western breakwater or, by night, via the Marina Entrance Approach Directional Light.
The entrance to the marina is situated at the eastern end of the basin and is open to the southwest. The approach marks and light are located approximately 30 metres to port of the red navigation beacon on the western breakwater.
The ends of the two breakwaters are marked with red and green beacons showing Qk. Fl. R 7M 3m and G 8m 3M, red not showing from 245° to 305° T. The light has a total beam width of 24° sectored, 9.5° Red, 5° White, 9.5° Green with the initial fix leading into the white sector centre approach line to the entrance. When using the leading lights the entrance will not open up until the vessel is nearly opposite the east breakwater to starboard.
Those choosing to come into the main harbour should take a course of 330° T from the initial fix into the harbour entrance.
The harbour is overlooked by the conspicuous Carrickfergus Castle. The entrance is open to the south and is dredged to 2.3 metres at L.W.S. The ends of the east and west piers are marked with red and green beacons showing Fl. G 7.5s 5m 4M and R 7.5s 5m 4M. The eastern head of Carrickfergus harbour has a conspicuous radio transmitter, now derelict, that can be seen for some distance.
Within the rubble stone breakwaters the marina basin has 280 fully serviced berths to accommodating vessels from 6 – 18 metres. The basin is dredged to depths of up to 2 metres at L.W.S. at the outer pontoons.
Those entering the harbour will find the southern section has depths of 2.9 metres but the north side underneath the castle dries. Navigational marks are located within the harbour defining the approach to the harbour basin. Pass between two navigation perches marking the end of the internal breakwater and revetment. Turn to port to approach pontoons and the marine services site leaving the second breakwater perch to port. There are isolated tubular piles in the central harbour area. They are painted port and starboard and should be left on approach to the inner harbour berths according to their colour.
The harbour’s Marine Services facilities are located at the southern end of the west pier, as is a purpose-built Marina basin accommodating 10 boats on pontoon berths behind rubble stone breakwaters. This basin is partly dredged to give depths of up to 2.9 metres at L.W.S.
Carrickfergus Harbour also has an inner harbour area accommodating up to 36 boats that can take-to-the-hard at low water. The inner north-eastern harbour area behind King William's Pier dries, as does about halfway along the east pier.
Why visit here?Carrickfergus derives its name from the Gaelic Carraig Fhearghais meaning ‘rock of Fergus’. The Carraig or ‘rock’ component of the name refers to the rocky promontory upon which the towns signature Norman castle was built. The second component is believed to be named after Fergus Mór mac Eirc, son of Erc, the sixth-century king and founder of the joint Irish/Scottish kingdom of Dál Riada. Legend has it that the area took his name after he drowned there.
In 1177 John De Courcy, the youngest son of a Somerset knight, led the conquest of Ulster at the head of an army of 22 knights and 300-foot soldiers. De Courcy personally chose the site of Carrickfergus Castle and started construction soon after his arrival. The stronghold was designed to guard the approach to Belfast Lough and provide essential protection from the native Irish population that were attempting to drive the Normans out.
In 1315 Edward Bruce invaded Ireland and the combined Scottish and Irish forces defeated the king’s army at the ‘Battle of Connor’. The retreating army fell back to Carrickfergus Castle and Edward Bruce laid siege to it. They held out for a full year until they were starved out, reputedly after resorting to eating some of their Scottish prisoners by this time. Edward Bruce retained the castle as his base until his death in the battle at Faughart, near Dundalk, in 1318. It was then retaken by the crown forces when during the later medieval period, a time characterised by the resurgence of the Gaelic Lords, it was often the only fortification of any significance held by the crown in Ulster. In 1575 Somhairle Buidhe, Sorley Boy, Mac Donnell captured the town and castle in revenge for the Earl of Essex’s massacre of 600 people, mostly women and children, on Rathlin Island.
Carrickfergus Castle still functioned as an English garrison up until 1928. Then the castle passed to the people as an ancient monument. Except for one final use as a Second World War air-raid shelter, after 750 years of continuous military occupation, the castle's military career had come to an end. This made the castle the longest-serving of any in Ireland.
Today it is one of the best-preserved Norman castles in Ireland. The castle’s vibrant past is illustrated today through life-size models of historic figures dotted through the interiors. A museum may be found in the keep with exhibitions that provide an insight into medieval life including a banqueting hall with medieval clothes on display.
The towns 18th-century houses are also highly attractive and it retains Ireland's only surviving fully restored coal gasworks. The ‘Timeless Trail’ can be relied upon to guide walkers round the essential historic sights of the town. At the end of which is ‘Dobbins Inn’ on High Street, which has been a hotel and watering hole for more than three centuries and is a good spot to settle a thirst. Visitors intending on visiting near the end of July should try to coincide their visit with the annual Lughnasa festival, a lively medieval-costume entertainment.
With such a historic legacy and with Carrickfergus Castle standing to the east of the harbour, Carrickfergus wears its past proudly. Set on a rocky promontory overlooking the seafront the castle is a beacon for approaching boatman. Yet for most people, the town will perhaps be most famous for being the subject of the classic Irish folk song "Carrickfergus". This 19th-century translation of an Irish-language song Do Bhí Bean Uasal opens with the line "I wish I was, in Carrickfergus" and is perhaps one of Ireland’s finest ballads.
Carrickfergus today is a large town that is part of the Belfast Metropolitan Area. Along with its history, there are some lovely parks, gardens and scenic walks, and great golf courses to explore. The yachting facilities bear testament to the town's importance as a sailing centre and boatmen that arrive here come to enjoy a town steeped in history.
What facilities are available?Drinking water and electricity – a daily charge for visitors - are provided to all berths 24hrs daily, and toilets & showers with full services are available in the exclusive berth holders’ area. Separate disabled shower/toilet facilities are also available. A laundry service is available at Marina reception during the hours of 8am-4pm. There is a fuel berth and pump-out station and chemical toilet disposal unit on the visitors' pontoon within the Marina basin. Two public payphones are situated at the marina building, and there are restaurants and bars in the Waterfront complex, or in the town. Carrickfergus Sailing Club has its clubhouse on the east side of the Marina and welcomes visiting yachtsmen. It also has showers and a bar that is open most evenings, and also at weekends when meals are available.
A comprehensive range of marine services are available in Carrickfergus, including a 45 tonne Travel Hoist, hard standing, chandlery, boat and engine and electric repairs, plus cabin soft furnishings made to order. A slipway that can take boats up to 1.5 metres of draught is available within the Harbour area and can be used by arrangement through the Marina Office. The slipway may be accessed 2hrs +- HW (dependent on draft) - please note the presence of isolated tubular piles in the central harbour area and leave these piles to port on approach to the harbour slipway from the lough.
With a population of over 27,000 people, the town has excellent shopping facilities and there are several hotels and restaurants in the immediate area of the Waterfront Complex. It has good road and rail communications with Belfast which is 18 km (11 miles) away with access to its international Airports, and taxis are freely available.
Any security concerns?The marina is a secure complex with security and reception 24 hours a day. Pontoon access is via personalised swipe cards that are provided to visitors at the time of registering their visit. CCTV is in operation throughout the marina complex and security officers patrol during the night.
With thanks to:Terence Stitt, Portmuck Harbour Master and Julie Ferguson Customer Services Officer (Carrickfergus Marina). Photography with thanks to Eric Jones, Adam Bishop, Ardfern, Kenneth Allen, Adam Bishop, Eric Jones, Ross, Albert Bridge, Rossographer, Stewart, Donna and Jennifer Boyer.
Scenes of Carrickfergus
Aerial views of the harbour and the castle (with a lot of wind noise)
Add your review or comment:
Ron Lub wrote this review on Jun 19th 2019:
Good friendly harbour 2.60 mtr pay for one night get a seccond night free.
very friendly helpful staff.
good place to visit the Gobbins (train) electric not free but you pay 0.10 Kw, very clean showers and also a big bath!
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