The anchorage off Whitehead is exposed and only offers protection from offshore winds, west through northwest to north. With no offshore dangers, access is straightforward, at any stage of the tide in all reasonable conditions.
Keyfacts for Whitehead
SummaryAn exposed location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position54° 45.303' N, 005° 42.233' W
This is the head of the yacht club slip.
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 anchoring area off the club slip from the southeast.
- Keeping well clear of the area between the slip and White Head.
Not what you need?
- Mill Bay - 2.8 miles NNW
- Magheramorne Point - 2.8 miles NNW
- Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina - 2.9 miles SW
- Ballydowan - 3 miles NNW
- Helen’s Bay - 3 miles SSW
- Bangor Harbour & Marina - 3.3 miles SSE
- Ballyholme Bay - 3.4 miles SSE
- Groomsport - 3.4 miles SSE
- Portmuck - 3.5 miles N
- Larne Harbour - 3.6 miles NNW
How to get in?
Whitehead is a small coastal town on the northern entrance to Belfast Lough. It is situated a mile to the southwest of Black Head with its lighthouse marking the entrance to the lough. The small seaside town is fronted by a large promenade and is home to the County Antrim Yacht Club.
Whitehead is located at the base of Muldersleigh Hill and with its neighbouring lighthouse of Black Head presents a conspicuous landmark for all points of approach. The initial fix may be freely approached from seaward but vessels approaching from inside the lough should give the Cloghan Jetty a wide berth.
The initial fix is set 500 metres out to the southeast of the yacht club jetty. It sets up a north-eastern approach that clears the outlying Hancock Rock, drying to 0.9 metres, and Cloghan Rock, covered by 0.9 metres. These lie in the area between White Head and the Club Spit along with other inshore rocks, stretching out about 100 metres, which make it important to stay out of this area. A course of northwest from the initial fix will lead into the anchoring area off the club slip.
Keep out and anchor in 3 to 4 metres with very good sand holding offshore, or closer into the slip where sand and gravel will be found. The anchoring area is known to be foul so a tripping line is recommended. Land at the club slipway.
Why visit here?Whitehead derives its name from a direct translation of its original Irish name Kinbaine the conjunction of Cionn Bán ‘the white head’. Located at the foot of Muldersleigh Hill, close behind the contrasting black volcanic cliff of Black Head, its name originates from the distinctive 90 metres high white limestone cliffs that it presents to seaward.
In 1892 the railway company opened up the coastline to Whitehead and Black Head and visitors flocked there from Belfast and the surrounding areas. The potential to bolster passenger traffic, not to mention lighten the pockets of the new moneyed middle class, was not overlooked by canny Victorian railway entrepreneurs. Seeking to maximise Whiteheads' leisure potential a series of cliff paths were constructed to provide for dramatic coastal walks. The railway engineer and architect Berkeley Deane Wise, 1853-1909, was called upon for design and he left his mark here in the ‘Black Head Path’, the ‘Gobbins Path’ as well as the Whitehead Promenade.
The most important of these was the popular ‘Gobbins Path’ seaside walk constructed along the front of the cliffs of Islandmagee near Whitehead. The name is derived from the Irish ‘An Gobain’, meaning 'the points of rock'. Bridges were constructed in Belfast and floated out from Whitehead on barges before being lifted into position above the sea. The scenic path included staircases along the cliffs, dramatic tubular and suspension bridges, that in places trailed as little as a metre above the waves, and caves and tunnels cut out of the Islandmagee cliffs. It eventually stretched more than three miles and the first section of the path opened in 1902.
But its fame came at a price. When Wise retired in 1906 the railway company seemed to lose interest in the walkway. Over time gales and rock falls meant that it required substantial annual maintenance to keep it safe. A lack of funds caused its repairs to lapse and a temporary closure was ordered during World War II. After the war, the Ulster Transport Authority refurbished and reopened the path. But by 1954 the burden of the high maintenance costs forced them to abandon the task. The path was finally closed in 1962 for safety reasons. Photographs of the walkway in its heyday are on show in Belfast’s Ulster Museum. But fortunately, the story does not end there, as at the time of writing 2015, the pathway is currently in the process of being reinstated as a major tourist attraction. In its 21st century reincarnation, it will retain its vertiginous walks along the beautiful cliffs, but will now include a café, exhibition space, and a shop as well as a tourist information point.
The easy path running onwards from the promenade around Black Head, crowned by its lighthouse, is itself well worth a visit. It is largely flat, entirely surfaced in concrete, with a flight of concrete steps up the cliff face to the lighthouse. The path commences with a commemorative stone to Berkeley Deane Wise who created it and transformed the area. What remains unchanged from his time are the walks magnificent panoramic views across the North Channel to the Outer Hebrides in the north and to the Lake District and Isle of Man in the south. On the opposite coast of Belfast Lough, the Copeland Islands, Bangor and part of the County Down coastline, are clearly visible.
Whitehead also retains its historical connection with the sea through its sailing club. The original ‘Whitehead Sailing Club’ held its first Regatta in August 1879 and became known as the ‘County Antrim Yacht Club’ in 1909. In that year they build their current clubhouse that has been added to and improved many times over the past century. It is also the owner and custodian of its boathouse that dates back to the 1870s. Today it is one of the oldest buildings in Whitehead and it was sensitively restored in 2011 retaining a number of its original features, such as ornate timber bargeboards and stone detailing.
Whitehead may not be the most protected anchorage in the area. However, the very pretty seaside town and coastal walks make it a highly appealing stop if an auspicious weather window presented itself to a passing coastal cruiser.
What facilities are available?With a population of just under 4000 Whitehead village is self-sufficient in terms of businesses and services for daily needs, including fuel, shops, pubs, restaurants and recreation. It is the headquarters of the Co. Antrim Yacht Club that provides showers, water and a bar. Club Opening hours are Sunday at 4.00pm, Wednesday & Saturday at 8.00pm and Friday at 6.00pm.
Whitehead is about 20 miles east from the heart of Belfast City Centre. It has good transport connections to Belfast city and from there on to any location in Ireland. Flights to domestic and international destinations operate from Belfast City and Belfast International Airports. There are frequent ferry crossings from Belfast and Larne.
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel anchored off Whitehead.
With thanks to:Terence Stitt, Portmuck Harbour Master. Photography with thanks to Rossographer, Guinness040ST, Will Bakker, Chris Burnell, Albert Bridge, Ardfern, Kenneth Allen
TheTurfBurner and Wilson Adams.
Footage of Whitehead and Blackhead lighthouse
Aerial views of Whitehead with significant motor and wind noise
A video and photo montage of the area
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