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Helen’s Bay

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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


A tolerable location with straightforward access.

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

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

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:

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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

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