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Helen’s Bay

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Overview





Helen’s Bay is located on the northeast coast of Ireland, on the southern shores of Belfast Lough and immediately east of Grey Point. It offers an anchorage off a beach in a picturesque location that hosts a country park.

Helen’s Bay is located on the northeast coast of Ireland, on the southern shores of Belfast Lough and immediately east of Grey Point. It offers an anchorage off a beach in a picturesque location that hosts a country park.

The bay provides tolerable protection from all westerly component winds round through south to southeast. There are no off-lying dangers in the area making access in daylight straightforward at any stage of the tide.
Please note

Regular fast ferries travel in and out of Belfast Lough. If crossing the entrance to Belfast Lough a good watch must be maintained and a vessel making way or anchored in the bay should be prepared to be struck unexpectedly by the wash at all times.




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Keyfacts for Helen’s Bay



Last modified
July 18th 2018

Summary

A tolerable location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Top up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometresShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

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



Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 40.510' N, 005° 43.925' W

This is in the centre of Helen’s Bay, within the 2 metres contour, 400 metres off the shoreline.

What is the initial fix?

The following Helen’s Bay Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 40.811' N, 005° 43.412' W
This is about 800 metres northeast of the anchorage. Steering a south-westward course for 500 metres, sounding all the way, leads into the anchoring area.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in the northeast Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough Route location.

  • Close approaches to the lough can be found in the Bangor Harbour Click to view haven entry.
  • The Bay can be approached directly from Belfast Lough's navigable area that is free of dangers.

  • Tracked into the anchorage from the northwest sounding all the way in.


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 Helen’s Bay for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Bangor Harbour & Marina - 1.3 miles ESE
  2. Ballyholme Bay - 1.7 miles E
  3. Cultra - 2 miles WSW
  4. Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina - 2.1 miles NW
  5. Groomsport - 2.5 miles E
  6. Greenisland - 2.6 miles WNW
  7. Newtownabbey - 3 miles W
  8. Whitehead - 3 miles NNE
  9. Port Dandy - 4 miles E
  10. Chapel Bay - 4.2 miles E
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Bangor Harbour & Marina - 1.3 miles ESE
  2. Ballyholme Bay - 1.7 miles E
  3. Cultra - 2 miles WSW
  4. Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina - 2.1 miles NW
  5. Groomsport - 2.5 miles E
  6. Greenisland - 2.6 miles WNW
  7. Newtownabbey - 3 miles W
  8. Whitehead - 3 miles NNE
  9. Port Dandy - 4 miles E
  10. Chapel Bay - 4.2 miles E
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

Resources search



How to get in?


Helen’s Bay is set on the southern shores of Belfast Lough, about halfway along the lough and two miles west by northwest of Bangor. The bay is situated on the eastern side of the conspicuous low lying Grey Point that is easily identified on approach.

Convergance Point Set on the lough's southern shores the directions for nearby Bangor Harbour Click to view haven may be used for approaches to the area. Vessels approaching from the north will find the Belfast Fairway Light buoy, L Fl 10s, situated in the middle of the lough between Carrickfergus and Grey Point on the opposite shore, an excellent mark. Then the Helen's Bay port hand buoy leads to the bay.


Initial fix location From the Helen’s Bay initial fix, situated northeast of the bay, track down 500 metres southwestward towards the shoreline. Keep at least 400 metres off the beach as it is shallow, and a drying ridge stretches out for 150 metres in a north-eastward direction from the eastern side of Grey Point.

Haven location The bay gradually shelves to the beach which offers good holding in sand and silt. Anchor about 300 metres out from the shore according to draft. Land on the beach by dinghy or near the slip at the north end of the beach.
Please note

Grey Point marks the Eastern limit of Belfast Harbour. A vessel planning to proceed westward from here should advise Belfast Harbour radio on VHF Channel 12 or 16 or by telephone on +44 2890 553504.




Why visit here?
Helen’s Bay was given its name by Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, the 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, 1826 – 1902. He named the bay in the memory of his mother Lady Dufferin, née Sheridan, songwriter, composer, poet, and author. Admired for her wit, grace and literary talents, she was a well-known figure in London society in the mid-19th century.


Born into the Ascendancy, Ireland's old Anglo-Irish aristocracy, Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood was a remarkable man. On his father's side, he was descended from Scottish settlers who had moved to County Down in the early 17th century and became prominent landowners. The family were created baronets in 1763, entering the Peerage of Ireland in 1800 as Baron Dufferin, and because they controlled the return for the borough of Killyleagh, they held parliamentary influence. Unusually his father, Captain Lord Dufferin, did not marry into a landowning family and chose instead Helen Selina Sheridan the granddaughter of the playwright. Though this did not bring power and wealth it did bring wider connections to English literary and political circles that must have shaped Dufferin’s dynamic nature.


As a young man he was a prominent member of Victorian society who had by then published a book on his north Atlantic travels. From this springboard, he was to make his mark as one of the most successful diplomats of his time. His public service career began as the Syria commissioner in 1860. After successfully thwarting French efforts there, Dufferin served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Under-Secretary of State for War. In 1872 he became the third Governor General of Canada and in 1884 he reached the pinnacle of his diplomatic career as eighth Viceroy of India. Alongside these achievements, it is well understood that he averted war with Russia and was responsible for the annexation of Burma. His biographer, Davenport-Hines, described him as "imaginative, sympathetic, warm-hearted, and gloriously versatile."




Dufferin acquired the estate around Helen’s Bay in the middle of the 19th century as his seat was in the nearby Clandeboye Estate. Prior to that, it had been handed down through generations of the Scottish Presbyterian Crawford family. Dufferin aspired to develop a luxury holiday resort in Helen’s Bay that would rival the established seaside resorts of Portstewart and Portrush. The ‘Belfast and County Down Railway’ station was constructed to serve the planned village. Special ‘villa’ or ‘house-free’ rail tickets encouraged the development of the settlements. These entitled holders to free rail travel for a period of time if they constructed houses within one mile of the station. But his business interests were very much in contrast to his successes in Public Service especially so after his retirement from the diplomatic service in 1896. Although he may have charmed the high society of three continents Dufferin cared little for money and his business ventures were too optimistic. Worse still, his final years were to be marred not only disastrous financial investments but also personal tragedy.


His eldest son was killed in the Boer War, another son was badly wounded and his beloved mother broke his heart. She scandalised the society of the time by marrying a second time in 1862. Not only was he Dufferin’s friend, George Hay Earl of Gifford, but he was 17 years her junior. Lady Dufferin was for many years a close friend of Hay but had always refused to marry him. After he had a serious accident in 1862, she agreed "at his earnest request". She explained to his father that this would allow her to devote herself to him, bring him comfort in the last few weeks of life, and then mourn him openly. Irrespective of his vehement disapproval of the marriage Dufferin was devastated when his mother died in 1867. True to his magnanimous nature he dedicated the bay, his station that served it, and the magnificent Helen’s Tower to the memory of his mother. The tower had already been erected as a famine relief project, to give employment to many in a time of destitution, and was completed in October 1861. Situated near Crawfordsburn in the Clandboye estate, on the way to Bangor, the tower is the subject of poems by Robert Browning and Alfred Lord Tennyson. The following subset of Tennyson's poem is inscribed in the tower:

Helen's Tower, here I stand Dominant
over sea and land. Son's love built me
and I hold Mother's love in letter’d
gold...



Today the short stretch of coast immediately inshore, sweeping from Helen’s Bay to Grey Point, is now in public hands and part of Crawfordsburn Country Park. Despite Dufferin’s short-term investment setbacks, he chose the locality well and it is now a thriving suburb of Belfast’s highly privileged. But it was the wooded demesne of his Clandeboye Estate that protected the area’s natural beauty from the overdevelopment that took place here during Ireland’s last ‘Celtic Tiger’ housing boom. The park today is fronted by two excellent beaches which are possibly the best in the Belfast area, with fringing broad tarmac paths to make shoreline waking easy. Further into the park’s tranquil woodland are well-marked walks leading past a pond, river, through dells and deep wooded glens that feature beeches, cypresses, cedars, conifers plus the occasional giant Californian redwood. This natural beauty is surpassed by the wild-flower meadows and the native woodland flowers that have been planted here. This is particularly the case in springtime when there is a spectacular display of bluebells. Amidst this, many animals, such as squirrels, hedgehogs and badgers make their home. The best of the woodlands are to be found at the head of the glen where there is an impressive waterfall. Coastal stretches of Grey Point provide excellent views of Belfast City and the Lough, the south Antrim Hills, and Grey Point also hosts a small military museum within a coastal battery.

Constructed between 1904 through to 1907, and updated during World War II, Grey Point Fort coastal battery was built to protect the mouth of Belfast Lough from enemy invasion. This was one of the last ports to be given coastal artillery defences in the British Isles and it fired its guns in anger shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. Totally oblivious to the war footing, a south Wales collier bound for Belfast docks passed in front of the battery. When it failed to respond to a recognition signal a plugged round was fired across the ship’s bows. This was the first and only shot to be fired in anger from the gun emplacement.


In 1956 the battery was closed and became derelict. It's two 6" Mk VII naval guns were sold for scrap in 1957 after the disbanding of the coastal artillery. In 1971 it was passed to the department of environment and put under the management of Crawfordsburn Country Park. The gun site’s centrepiece 12 foot by six-inch diameter naval guns were replaced by similar guns acquired from Spike Island in Cork Harbour in 1993 and 1999. Today the site is remarkably complete with the guns in firing order and with their original shields in place. The site is excellently maintained by the Ulster Environment and Heritage Service and well worth a visit.



For walkers, there is a great hiking opportunity on the route of the North Down coastal path. It is also the start of a countryside route to the delightful Helen’s Tower that can be seen in the distance to the south. Golfers will find a nine-hole golf course nestled on a gentle hill in the middle of the village which is very attractive. Founded in 1896, the course openly welcomes visiting individuals and groups.

From a boating perspective, Helen’s Bay presents a very good anchorage in a remarkable natural setting close to the City of Belfast. This provides a relaxing natural retreat with a wide and varied set of interesting aspects that make a shore landing compelling. Catering to a wide variety of interests it has much to offer a coastal cruiser.


What facilities are available?
The small town of Helen’s Bay has all the facilities you would expect catering for a local population of 1,300 inhabitants, including fuel. Helen's Bay flanks Crawfordsburn Country Park that has a visitor centre which is open 10am - 4.30pm from Easter to the end of September, though staff shortage may affect opening hours. The park features toilets, including disabled facilities; picnic tables and a self service restaurant.

Helen's Bay is about 12 miles from Belfast City Centre via the A2 and A4 from Bangor (the entrance is by way of B20 ‘Ballyrobert Road’ through the village of Crawfordsburn, after which turn sharp left down Bridge Road South). Both Bangor and Belfast are connected to the village by rail and bus services. Belfast City has excellent transport connections via trains and bus services, and from there 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 incident known to have happened to a vessel anchored off Helen’s Bay.


With thanks to:
Michael Evans, Deputy Harbour Master, Belfast Harbour. Photography with thanks to Ross, Albert Bridge, Steve Edge, Stubacca, Eric Jones, mary_mac_82, Robert Ashby and Rossographer.


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Please zoom out to see the 'initial fix' for this location.
The above plots are not precise and indicative only.



















































Grey Point fort and Belfast Lough



Views of Helen's Bay


About Helen’s Bay

Helen’s Bay was given its name by Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, the 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, 1826 – 1902. He named the bay in the memory of his mother Lady Dufferin, née Sheridan, songwriter, composer, poet, and author. Admired for her wit, grace and literary talents, she was a well-known figure in London society in the mid-19th century.


Born into the Ascendancy, Ireland's old Anglo-Irish aristocracy, Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood was a remarkable man. On his father's side, he was descended from Scottish settlers who had moved to County Down in the early 17th century and became prominent landowners. The family were created baronets in 1763, entering the Peerage of Ireland in 1800 as Baron Dufferin, and because they controlled the return for the borough of Killyleagh, they held parliamentary influence. Unusually his father, Captain Lord Dufferin, did not marry into a landowning family and chose instead Helen Selina Sheridan the granddaughter of the playwright. Though this did not bring power and wealth it did bring wider connections to English literary and political circles that must have shaped Dufferin’s dynamic nature.


As a young man he was a prominent member of Victorian society who had by then published a book on his north Atlantic travels. From this springboard, he was to make his mark as one of the most successful diplomats of his time. His public service career began as the Syria commissioner in 1860. After successfully thwarting French efforts there, Dufferin served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Under-Secretary of State for War. In 1872 he became the third Governor General of Canada and in 1884 he reached the pinnacle of his diplomatic career as eighth Viceroy of India. Alongside these achievements, it is well understood that he averted war with Russia and was responsible for the annexation of Burma. His biographer, Davenport-Hines, described him as "imaginative, sympathetic, warm-hearted, and gloriously versatile."




Dufferin acquired the estate around Helen’s Bay in the middle of the 19th century as his seat was in the nearby Clandeboye Estate. Prior to that, it had been handed down through generations of the Scottish Presbyterian Crawford family. Dufferin aspired to develop a luxury holiday resort in Helen’s Bay that would rival the established seaside resorts of Portstewart and Portrush. The ‘Belfast and County Down Railway’ station was constructed to serve the planned village. Special ‘villa’ or ‘house-free’ rail tickets encouraged the development of the settlements. These entitled holders to free rail travel for a period of time if they constructed houses within one mile of the station. But his business interests were very much in contrast to his successes in Public Service especially so after his retirement from the diplomatic service in 1896. Although he may have charmed the high society of three continents Dufferin cared little for money and his business ventures were too optimistic. Worse still, his final years were to be marred not only disastrous financial investments but also personal tragedy.


His eldest son was killed in the Boer War, another son was badly wounded and his beloved mother broke his heart. She scandalised the society of the time by marrying a second time in 1862. Not only was he Dufferin’s friend, George Hay Earl of Gifford, but he was 17 years her junior. Lady Dufferin was for many years a close friend of Hay but had always refused to marry him. After he had a serious accident in 1862, she agreed "at his earnest request". She explained to his father that this would allow her to devote herself to him, bring him comfort in the last few weeks of life, and then mourn him openly. Irrespective of his vehement disapproval of the marriage Dufferin was devastated when his mother died in 1867. True to his magnanimous nature he dedicated the bay, his station that served it, and the magnificent Helen’s Tower to the memory of his mother. The tower had already been erected as a famine relief project, to give employment to many in a time of destitution, and was completed in October 1861. Situated near Crawfordsburn in the Clandboye estate, on the way to Bangor, the tower is the subject of poems by Robert Browning and Alfred Lord Tennyson. The following subset of Tennyson's poem is inscribed in the tower:

Helen's Tower, here I stand Dominant
over sea and land. Son's love built me
and I hold Mother's love in letter’d
gold...



Today the short stretch of coast immediately inshore, sweeping from Helen’s Bay to Grey Point, is now in public hands and part of Crawfordsburn Country Park. Despite Dufferin’s short-term investment setbacks, he chose the locality well and it is now a thriving suburb of Belfast’s highly privileged. But it was the wooded demesne of his Clandeboye Estate that protected the area’s natural beauty from the overdevelopment that took place here during Ireland’s last ‘Celtic Tiger’ housing boom. The park today is fronted by two excellent beaches which are possibly the best in the Belfast area, with fringing broad tarmac paths to make shoreline waking easy. Further into the park’s tranquil woodland are well-marked walks leading past a pond, river, through dells and deep wooded glens that feature beeches, cypresses, cedars, conifers plus the occasional giant Californian redwood. This natural beauty is surpassed by the wild-flower meadows and the native woodland flowers that have been planted here. This is particularly the case in springtime when there is a spectacular display of bluebells. Amidst this, many animals, such as squirrels, hedgehogs and badgers make their home. The best of the woodlands are to be found at the head of the glen where there is an impressive waterfall. Coastal stretches of Grey Point provide excellent views of Belfast City and the Lough, the south Antrim Hills, and Grey Point also hosts a small military museum within a coastal battery.

Constructed between 1904 through to 1907, and updated during World War II, Grey Point Fort coastal battery was built to protect the mouth of Belfast Lough from enemy invasion. This was one of the last ports to be given coastal artillery defences in the British Isles and it fired its guns in anger shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. Totally oblivious to the war footing, a south Wales collier bound for Belfast docks passed in front of the battery. When it failed to respond to a recognition signal a plugged round was fired across the ship’s bows. This was the first and only shot to be fired in anger from the gun emplacement.


In 1956 the battery was closed and became derelict. It's two 6" Mk VII naval guns were sold for scrap in 1957 after the disbanding of the coastal artillery. In 1971 it was passed to the department of environment and put under the management of Crawfordsburn Country Park. The gun site’s centrepiece 12 foot by six-inch diameter naval guns were replaced by similar guns acquired from Spike Island in Cork Harbour in 1993 and 1999. Today the site is remarkably complete with the guns in firing order and with their original shields in place. The site is excellently maintained by the Ulster Environment and Heritage Service and well worth a visit.



For walkers, there is a great hiking opportunity on the route of the North Down coastal path. It is also the start of a countryside route to the delightful Helen’s Tower that can be seen in the distance to the south. Golfers will find a nine-hole golf course nestled on a gentle hill in the middle of the village which is very attractive. Founded in 1896, the course openly welcomes visiting individuals and groups.

From a boating perspective, Helen’s Bay presents a very good anchorage in a remarkable natural setting close to the City of Belfast. This provides a relaxing natural retreat with a wide and varied set of interesting aspects that make a shore landing compelling. Catering to a wide variety of interests it has much to offer a coastal cruiser.

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:
Bangor Harbour & Marina - 1.3 miles ESE
Ballyholme Bay - 1.7 miles E
Groomsport - 2.5 miles E
Port Dandy - 4 miles E
Chapel Bay - 4.2 miles E
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Cultra - 2 miles WSW
Belfast Harbour - 4.7 miles SW
Newtownabbey - 3 miles W
Greenisland - 2.6 miles WNW
Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina - 2.1 miles NW

Navigational pictures


These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Helen’s Bay.






















Grey Point fort and Belfast Lough



Views of Helen's Bay



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