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Groomsport

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Overview





Groomsport Harbour is located on the northeast coast of Ireland and immediately inside and on the southern shoreline of Belfast Lough. It has a small shallow harbour where moderate-sized and draught vessels that can take to the bottom may dry by its pier or pick up a single visitor mooring. Deeper draught vessels may anchor outside in offshore winds.

Groomsport Harbour is located on the northeast coast of Ireland and immediately inside and on the southern shoreline of Belfast Lough. It has a small shallow harbour where moderate-sized and draught vessels that can take to the bottom may dry by its pier or pick up a single visitor mooring. Deeper draught vessels may anchor outside in offshore winds.

The bay provides good protection from the southeast through the south to the northwest. Although open to northerly quadrant winds, a great measure of protection is provided against these conditions inside the harbour by its enclosing island and its surrounding rocky shoal, particularly so at low water. Access is tidal restricted and half tide or more is required for entry with attentive navigation to pass the shoal. Although supported by lit transits, daylight entry is advised for any first-time visitor.



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Keyfacts for Groomsport
Facilities
Water available via tapShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPost Office in the areaHaul-out capabilities via arrangementBoatyard with hard-standing available here; covered or uncoveredScrubbing posts or a place where a vessel can dry out for a scrub below the waterlineBus service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometresTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Visitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseScenic 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
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierRestriction: rising tide required for accessRestriction: may only reasonably accommodate vessels less than a specific lengthNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
1 metres (3.28 feet).

Approaches
2 stars: Careful navigation; good visibility and conditions with dangers that require careful navigation.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
November 21st 2022

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with careful navigation required for access.

Facilities
Water available via tapShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPost Office in the areaHaul-out capabilities via arrangementBoatyard with hard-standing available here; covered or uncoveredScrubbing posts or a place where a vessel can dry out for a scrub below the waterlineBus service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometresTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Visitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseScenic 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
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierRestriction: rising tide required for accessRestriction: may only reasonably accommodate vessels less than a specific lengthNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration



HM  +44 28 91278040      +44770 2587566      Ch.16 / 8  [Groomsport HM]
Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 40.650' N, 005° 37.040' W

This is the seaward end of the pier situated at the eastern side of the enclosed bay.

What is the initial fix?

The following Groomsport Harbour Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 41.087' N, 005° 36.583' W
This is a ½ mile out on Groomsport harbour leading marks/lights aligned on 207.5° T.


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 and the Donaghadee Sound Route location for local tidal optimisations.

  • From the north pass Black Head and the Cloghan Jetty to starboard.

  • From the east pass north of Mew, Lighthouse and Copeland Island keeping them well clear to port.

  • From the south, with a favourable tide, pass between the south side of Copeland Island and the mainland coast through the well-marked Donaghadee Sound shipping fairway.

  • Belfast Lough's navigable area is free of dangers and Bangor Bay has no obstructions.

  • Track in on the harbour’s beacons in line 207.5° T, front a slim red metal post, rear a white plain wood pole 20 metres behind, at night both markers flash green. Pass between the head of the pier and the islets eastern edge marked by two starboard beacons.


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 Groomsport for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Ballyholme Bay - 1.3 nautical miles WSW
  2. Bangor Harbour & Marina - 2 nautical miles WSW
  3. Port Dandy - 2.5 nautical miles E
  4. Chapel Bay - 2.7 nautical miles E
  5. Donaghadee Harbour - 3.6 nautical miles ESE
  6. Copelands Marina - 3.8 nautical miles SE
  7. Helen’s Bay - 4.1 nautical miles W
  8. Whitehead - 5.4 nautical miles NW
  9. Cultra - 7 nautical miles W
  10. Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina - 7 nautical miles WNW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Ballyholme Bay - 1.3 miles WSW
  2. Bangor Harbour & Marina - 2 miles WSW
  3. Port Dandy - 2.5 miles E
  4. Chapel Bay - 2.7 miles E
  5. Donaghadee Harbour - 3.6 miles ESE
  6. Copelands Marina - 3.8 miles SE
  7. Helen’s Bay - 4.1 miles W
  8. Whitehead - 5.4 miles NW
  9. Cultra - 7 miles W
  10. Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina - 7 miles WNW
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

Resources search

Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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What's the story here?
Groomsport
Image: Michael Harpur


Groomsport Bay is a mile wide and situated to the east of Ballymacormick Point and to the west of the South Brigs Rocks. It hosts a small harbour of Groomsport set within a cove set into its southwestern end. The small harbour has a pier and the recess is fronted and protected from the Lough by a drying shoal containing two small rocky islets Cockle Islands that is extensive at low water but tiny at high water. In its lee are a couple of dozen local boat moorings.


Boats bows too alongside the pier
Image: Michael Harpur


Vessels of any size can anchor off outside the harbour in offshore conditions. Smaller, shoal draught vessels may enter the harbour but it is shallow and at least a half tide is required to support a vessel with a draft of up to 1 metre in the harbour area.

Local boat moorings behind Cockle Island
Image: Michael Harpur


A single visitor mooring is made available by the Cockle Island Boat Club or a vacant one may be found. This can only accommodate vessels up to 7.5 metres (25 feet) LOA and with a draught of 1 metre or less. Vessels that can take to the bottom may lay alongside the pier if space is available.

The harbour office immediately above the pier
Image: Michael Harpur


All berthing arrangments are made by contacting the Harbour Master VHF Ch. 16, working channel 8 [Groomsport HM], Landline+44 28 91278040, Mobile+44 (0)7702 587566. The Harbour Master charges harbour dues which are [2021] £7.00 for one tide, £14.00 overnight, with a maximum stay of one month costing £44.00. As the options are limited inside the harbour it is best to make contact well in advance to avoid disappointment.


How to get in?
Groomsport Harbour and Ballymacormick Point
Image: Jimmy McNulty (ireman) via CC BY 2.0


Convergance Point Set on the southern entrance to Belfast Lough the Bangor Harbour Click to view haven, situated 2 miles west by southwest, provides general approach directions to the area. Donaghadee Sound Route location provides tidal optimisations for vessels approaching from the south.


Groomsport set into the southwestern end of Groomsport Bay
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location From the Groomsport Harbour Initial Fix track in on the harbour’s alignment beacons of 207.5° T a ½ mile out. During the day the front marker will be seen to be a slim red metal perch with a square top mark, off of the front of the pier.


Groomsport Harbour's eastern entrance marks
Image: Michael Harpur



The rear marker is a red pole about 20 metres behind and on the pier, seen close left of the flagstaff when in transit. These are supported at night by Groomsport Harbour's vertical leading lights both flashing green.

The two starboard perches as seen from the pierhead
Image: Michael Harpur


The alignment leads into the preferred eastern entrance on the east side of the two Cockle Islets and the surrounding rocky shoal that encloses the small harbour. A port hand buoy may be found offshore tracking in and two further starboard perches will be seen marking the extremity of the reef opposite the pierhead.


The preferred eastern entrance into Groomsport Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


It is essential that these are not confused with the single port and starboard perches on the western entrance.


The western entrance to Groomsport with its pair of perches
Image: Michael Harpur


This is also navigable but makes a less clear-cut approach than that on the eastern side adjacent to the pier.

The moorings sheltered by Cockle Island
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Anchor outside the harbour according to draught or conditions. Those intending on entering the harbour to pick up moorings proceed in through the perches and pick up the mooring as directed by the harbour master between the islets and the inner shore. Land at the slip by the pier as promptly as possible as much of the inner harbour area dries only having approximately 0.4 meters LWS in the centre.


The inner slipway
Image: Michael Harpur


Those intending on drying out alongside should round the pierhead to berth at the wall if there is sufficient draught to come in, and space available.
Please note

Do not anchor in the harbour area. The local moorings are braced by a grid of heavy mooring chains. These are laid across the inner harbour and will most likely foul any vessel that attempts to anchor here.




Why visit here?
Groomsport derives its name from the Irish 'Port an Ghiolla Ghruama', meaning 'port of the gloomy servant'. The original Irish name was partially anglicised to 'Gillgroomsport' which over the years contracted, to its present form.


The sheltered waters behind Cockle Island made a perfect longboat base
Image: Michael Harpur


The harbour was originally thought to host a small Viking settlement in the 9th or 10th century. Nestled in behind the two small rocky outcrops, known as Cockle Island, the natural harbour makes for an ideal base. Cockle Island provides the bay with excellent shelter. Though it appears tiny at high tide an extensive surrounding reef that uncovers at low water and the enclosed area south of the island is always separated from the shore and has, at least, nearly half a metre of water. This made it ideal for the light draught Viking longboats.


Depiction of the Mayflower in Plymouth
Image: William Halsall (1882) painting via Public Domain


In later years fishermen took advantage of the naturally sheltered bay, and a row of fishermen's cottages grew to fringe the harbour. During the 17th century, Groomsport Harbour activity was significant enough, with both legal and illegal trade, to warrant the construction of a customs house with a customs officer to oversee the port's trade and commerce. As a mark of its importance, it was from this small harbour that the very first emigrant ship from Ulster sailed out to America the 'Eagle Wing'. This would turn out to be a dismal but somehow glorious failure that has made it one of the most celebrated events of the formative Ulster-Scots community.

Mayflower depicted enduring heavy weather
Image: Public Domain
The voyage departed Groomsport on September 9th, 1636, 16 years after the voyage of the 'Mayflower' successfully transported around 100 pilgrims from the south coast of England to Cape Cod. The small ship had 140 men, women and children aboard for the journey to a new life in America. They were Presbyterians, driven by the desire for the religious freedom that Ireland and England, at that time, denied them. The 'Eagle Wing' made steady progress until it began to draw close to Newfoundland. Then the full weight of the North Atlantic winter came down upon her and all aboard. A series of fierce gales broke the rudder, tore apart its mainsails and the waves that incessantly swept the deck began to feel their way down below.

On November 3rd, 1636, after enduring eight weeks of bad weather at sea, the company returned to Carrickfergus Bay and finally dropped anchor in defeat. Remarkably only two people died during the journey and their number was increased by the birth of a child that, as legend has it, was given the name 'Seaborn'. Though they failed to complete the journey, it marked the beginning of thousands that followed in the wake of this small ship. In all over 250,000 Ulster Scots would subsequently depart these shores and transformed what was to become America.


Mayflower II (1956 replica) of which Eagle Wing would have been similar
Image: Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism via CC BY 4.0


But Groomsport’s most notable place in history was to be firmly established fifty years later on the 13th of August 1689. Then Marshal Schomberg, originally von Schönberg, commander-in-chief of the Williamite War in Ireland, landed ten thousand raw and undisciplined men here to defend the Williamite cause against the Jacobite supporters of James II. After capturing Carrickfergus he marched unopposed through a country desolated before him to Dundalk. Knowing his enemy was superior in numbers and battle experience he entrenched himself within Dundalk and declined to be drawn beyond its circle of defences. This turned out to be a bad decision as within the walls disease took more of his number during the winter than they would have sustained by a military defeat.

Frederick Schomberg, 1st Duke of Schomberg
Image: Public Domain
No advance southward was made until his forces were joined by William III who landed at Carrickfergus in 1690. At the decisive Battle of the Boyne, July 12th, 1690, William had planned to strike at the Jacobean forces across the river and then flank the retreating army in a pincer movement. Schomberg did not agree with the plan but commanded the centre. Whilst riding through the river without his protective breastplate to rally his men, he was surrounded by Irish horsemen. In the ensuing malee, he was wounded twice in the head by sabre cuts and finally shot in the neck which instantly killed him. The pincer movement failed but the terrified James nevertheless ran for Dublin conceding the battle and the rest is history. It is believed that some of Schomberg’s Scottish soldiers stayed after the battle eventually settling in various parts of Northern Ireland.

After the seismic events of the 1600s passed into being a quiet fishing port that by the mid-19th-century has a relatively large fishing fleet of 20 vessels and 80 fishermen. Between 1858 and 1920 a lifeboat station operated from here to provide the fleet with protection. In 1865 the coming of the railway from Holywood to Bangor made the village much more accessible and it became a popular destination for visitors. Fishing, agriculture and loom weaving continued to be the mainstay throughout the Victorian and Edwardian periods until the 1920s.


Battle of the Boyne showing the death of Schomberg in the bottom right-hand
corner

Image: Public Domain


Today, Groomsport is a picturesque and sleepy fishing village that has developed to become a water and shore-based recreation centre. Although a holiday spot with several caravan parks situated around the village, it still retains its small harbour village identity and character. The layout has a clear focus on the anchorage and pier with the main street extending off it, together with its historic street pattern.


Schomberg Memorial in Groomsport today
Image: Michael Harpur


One of Groomsport’s main visitor attractions is a vestige of its fishing heritage, the Cockle Row Cottages. These are two 17th-century fishermen's cottages situated at the water's edge, close to the foot of the pier and made obvious by the innermost cottage’s traditional thatch. The 350-year-old dwelling houses indicate their age by being built at right angles to the sea which provided shelter from fierce coastal storms. The cottages were inhabited until the 1950s and were saved from demolition and restored to illustrate the home of a fishing family at the turn of the last century. Furnished with great care to depict the target year of 1910 they offer the visitor an opportunity to step into a little piece of history. Within the building, there is a Tourist Information Centre, a heritage centre, a shop, craft demonstrations plus frequent art exhibitions. Admission is free and they are open daily from June through August. Paintings propped up along the external walls are typically for sale.


The Cockle Row Cottages overlooking the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


Throughout the summer months from June through August, the Cockle Row Cottages host a variety of entertainment every weekend afternoon including live music. Activities range from 'teddy bear's picnics' to wildlife road shows and craft activities where you can try your hand at craft making. Groomsport community hall is situated in the historic boathouse that dates back to 1884 and it is here that the 35 years old 'Cockle Island Boat Club' has its home. The heroic attempt of the 'Eagle Wing' is commemorated in the village's annual 'Eagle Wing Festival' in July, a lively three-day celebration of the considerable contribution made by Ulster folk to the American way of life.


The gable of the Cockle Row Cottage showing the annals of time
Image: Michael Harpur


Hikers may wish to take on the full length of the 'The North Down Coastal Path' that commences here and continues westward along the southern shore of Belfast Lough to finish 21km (13 miles) away at Holywood near Cultra External link just outside Belfast. The path forms part of the Ulster Way and is well surfaced for most of the journey. The duration of the entire walk in one direction is 4.5-5 hours and offers an easy stroll past several harbours, sandy beaches, secluded woodlands and sites of historic interest.


Groomsport's Presbyterian Church overlooking the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


In rough sea conditions, some sections of the route are awash at high tide, so if a big swell is running it may not be possible to complete the walk. Refreshments are available along the walk in the villages and towns of Helen’s Bay, Bangor, and the Woodlands Café offers a wide range of lunches and snacks in Crawfordsburn Country Park.


The two Cockle Row cottages
Image: Michael Harpur


Excellent public transport links are available along the route so the walk may be completed in its entirety or broken into shorter sections. Likewise, the walk is just as easily accessible from any of the locations we have listed on the south side of Belfast Lough. It is recommended that walkers take a shortened section around Ballymacormick Point, described in the Ballyholme Bay External link entry, that is easier to access from Groomsport.


Groomsport Harbour is a pretty historic location to visit
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating point of view, this is very much worth a day stop or even long draught and weather depending. Few coastal villages can compare with Groomsport for scenic charm, tranquil beauty and historical heritage. It also makes an ideal tidal wait for southbound vessels wishing to optimise the tides in Donaghadee Sound. For those vessels that meet the size restrictions of Groomsport harbour, it is a real pleasure that should not be missed. Although there is only a single visitor mooring there are ninety local moorings alongside, making it a hive of sailing activity.


What facilities are available?
Groomsport harbour is owned and maintained by North Down Borough Council and has two slipway launching points with low tide tie-up posts for boat cleaning and maintenance. Slipway hard-standing areas are available for winter storage, dinghy and trailer storage. Each autumn and spring boat club members organise crane hire for launching and lift-out days - any queries regarding these facilities please contact the Harbour Master.

Groomsport's main street has public toilets, a small supermarket that includes a post office, a pub, a coffee shop, and a renowned fish and chip shop, which cater for a domestic population of less than a thousand, but one that can triple during the summer. The park area overlooking the harbour has a recently refurbished children's play area. A bus service is available to Bangor, which is only a few miles away.

Bangor is a prosperous town that is 22 km (13.6 miles) east from the heart of Belfast City Centre on the A2. It has excellent transport connections via trains, and a bus service connection 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.

For everything else maritime, Bangor Marina is just three miles to the west. This is Northern Ireland's biggest and most prestigious marina offering all facilities 24 hours a day 365 days a year.


Any security concerns?
Never an incident known to have happened to a vessel moored in Groomsport Harbour.


With thanks to:
Michael Fitzsimons, Groomsport Harbour Master.































Aerial views of the harbour


About Groomsport

Groomsport derives its name from the Irish 'Port an Ghiolla Ghruama', meaning 'port of the gloomy servant'. The original Irish name was partially anglicised to 'Gillgroomsport' which over the years contracted, to its present form.


The sheltered waters behind Cockle Island made a perfect longboat base
Image: Michael Harpur


The harbour was originally thought to host a small Viking settlement in the 9th or 10th century. Nestled in behind the two small rocky outcrops, known as Cockle Island, the natural harbour makes for an ideal base. Cockle Island provides the bay with excellent shelter. Though it appears tiny at high tide an extensive surrounding reef that uncovers at low water and the enclosed area south of the island is always separated from the shore and has, at least, nearly half a metre of water. This made it ideal for the light draught Viking longboats.


Depiction of the Mayflower in Plymouth
Image: William Halsall (1882) painting via Public Domain


In later years fishermen took advantage of the naturally sheltered bay, and a row of fishermen's cottages grew to fringe the harbour. During the 17th century, Groomsport Harbour activity was significant enough, with both legal and illegal trade, to warrant the construction of a customs house with a customs officer to oversee the port's trade and commerce. As a mark of its importance, it was from this small harbour that the very first emigrant ship from Ulster sailed out to America the 'Eagle Wing'. This would turn out to be a dismal but somehow glorious failure that has made it one of the most celebrated events of the formative Ulster-Scots community.

Mayflower depicted enduring heavy weather
Image: Public Domain
The voyage departed Groomsport on September 9th, 1636, 16 years after the voyage of the 'Mayflower' successfully transported around 100 pilgrims from the south coast of England to Cape Cod. The small ship had 140 men, women and children aboard for the journey to a new life in America. They were Presbyterians, driven by the desire for the religious freedom that Ireland and England, at that time, denied them. The 'Eagle Wing' made steady progress until it began to draw close to Newfoundland. Then the full weight of the North Atlantic winter came down upon her and all aboard. A series of fierce gales broke the rudder, tore apart its mainsails and the waves that incessantly swept the deck began to feel their way down below.

On November 3rd, 1636, after enduring eight weeks of bad weather at sea, the company returned to Carrickfergus Bay and finally dropped anchor in defeat. Remarkably only two people died during the journey and their number was increased by the birth of a child that, as legend has it, was given the name 'Seaborn'. Though they failed to complete the journey, it marked the beginning of thousands that followed in the wake of this small ship. In all over 250,000 Ulster Scots would subsequently depart these shores and transformed what was to become America.


Mayflower II (1956 replica) of which Eagle Wing would have been similar
Image: Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism via CC BY 4.0


But Groomsport’s most notable place in history was to be firmly established fifty years later on the 13th of August 1689. Then Marshal Schomberg, originally von Schönberg, commander-in-chief of the Williamite War in Ireland, landed ten thousand raw and undisciplined men here to defend the Williamite cause against the Jacobite supporters of James II. After capturing Carrickfergus he marched unopposed through a country desolated before him to Dundalk. Knowing his enemy was superior in numbers and battle experience he entrenched himself within Dundalk and declined to be drawn beyond its circle of defences. This turned out to be a bad decision as within the walls disease took more of his number during the winter than they would have sustained by a military defeat.

Frederick Schomberg, 1st Duke of Schomberg
Image: Public Domain
No advance southward was made until his forces were joined by William III who landed at Carrickfergus in 1690. At the decisive Battle of the Boyne, July 12th, 1690, William had planned to strike at the Jacobean forces across the river and then flank the retreating army in a pincer movement. Schomberg did not agree with the plan but commanded the centre. Whilst riding through the river without his protective breastplate to rally his men, he was surrounded by Irish horsemen. In the ensuing malee, he was wounded twice in the head by sabre cuts and finally shot in the neck which instantly killed him. The pincer movement failed but the terrified James nevertheless ran for Dublin conceding the battle and the rest is history. It is believed that some of Schomberg’s Scottish soldiers stayed after the battle eventually settling in various parts of Northern Ireland.

After the seismic events of the 1600s passed into being a quiet fishing port that by the mid-19th-century has a relatively large fishing fleet of 20 vessels and 80 fishermen. Between 1858 and 1920 a lifeboat station operated from here to provide the fleet with protection. In 1865 the coming of the railway from Holywood to Bangor made the village much more accessible and it became a popular destination for visitors. Fishing, agriculture and loom weaving continued to be the mainstay throughout the Victorian and Edwardian periods until the 1920s.


Battle of the Boyne showing the death of Schomberg in the bottom right-hand
corner

Image: Public Domain


Today, Groomsport is a picturesque and sleepy fishing village that has developed to become a water and shore-based recreation centre. Although a holiday spot with several caravan parks situated around the village, it still retains its small harbour village identity and character. The layout has a clear focus on the anchorage and pier with the main street extending off it, together with its historic street pattern.


Schomberg Memorial in Groomsport today
Image: Michael Harpur


One of Groomsport’s main visitor attractions is a vestige of its fishing heritage, the Cockle Row Cottages. These are two 17th-century fishermen's cottages situated at the water's edge, close to the foot of the pier and made obvious by the innermost cottage’s traditional thatch. The 350-year-old dwelling houses indicate their age by being built at right angles to the sea which provided shelter from fierce coastal storms. The cottages were inhabited until the 1950s and were saved from demolition and restored to illustrate the home of a fishing family at the turn of the last century. Furnished with great care to depict the target year of 1910 they offer the visitor an opportunity to step into a little piece of history. Within the building, there is a Tourist Information Centre, a heritage centre, a shop, craft demonstrations plus frequent art exhibitions. Admission is free and they are open daily from June through August. Paintings propped up along the external walls are typically for sale.


The Cockle Row Cottages overlooking the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


Throughout the summer months from June through August, the Cockle Row Cottages host a variety of entertainment every weekend afternoon including live music. Activities range from 'teddy bear's picnics' to wildlife road shows and craft activities where you can try your hand at craft making. Groomsport community hall is situated in the historic boathouse that dates back to 1884 and it is here that the 35 years old 'Cockle Island Boat Club' has its home. The heroic attempt of the 'Eagle Wing' is commemorated in the village's annual 'Eagle Wing Festival' in July, a lively three-day celebration of the considerable contribution made by Ulster folk to the American way of life.


The gable of the Cockle Row Cottage showing the annals of time
Image: Michael Harpur


Hikers may wish to take on the full length of the 'The North Down Coastal Path' that commences here and continues westward along the southern shore of Belfast Lough to finish 21km (13 miles) away at Holywood near Cultra External link just outside Belfast. The path forms part of the Ulster Way and is well surfaced for most of the journey. The duration of the entire walk in one direction is 4.5-5 hours and offers an easy stroll past several harbours, sandy beaches, secluded woodlands and sites of historic interest.


Groomsport's Presbyterian Church overlooking the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


In rough sea conditions, some sections of the route are awash at high tide, so if a big swell is running it may not be possible to complete the walk. Refreshments are available along the walk in the villages and towns of Helen’s Bay, Bangor, and the Woodlands Café offers a wide range of lunches and snacks in Crawfordsburn Country Park.


The two Cockle Row cottages
Image: Michael Harpur


Excellent public transport links are available along the route so the walk may be completed in its entirety or broken into shorter sections. Likewise, the walk is just as easily accessible from any of the locations we have listed on the south side of Belfast Lough. It is recommended that walkers take a shortened section around Ballymacormick Point, described in the Ballyholme Bay External link entry, that is easier to access from Groomsport.


Groomsport Harbour is a pretty historic location to visit
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating point of view, this is very much worth a day stop or even long draught and weather depending. Few coastal villages can compare with Groomsport for scenic charm, tranquil beauty and historical heritage. It also makes an ideal tidal wait for southbound vessels wishing to optimise the tides in Donaghadee Sound. For those vessels that meet the size restrictions of Groomsport harbour, it is a real pleasure that should not be missed. Although there is only a single visitor mooring there are ninety local moorings alongside, making it a hive of sailing activity.

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:
Port Dandy - 1.6 miles E
Chapel Bay - 1.7 miles E
Donaghadee Harbour - 2.2 miles ESE
Copelands Marina - 2.3 miles SE
Ballywalter - 6 miles SSE
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Ballyholme Bay - 0.8 miles WSW
Bangor Harbour & Marina - 1.3 miles WSW
Helen’s Bay - 2.5 miles W
Cultra - 4.3 miles W
Belfast Harbour - 6.9 miles WSW

Navigational pictures


These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Groomsport.






















































Aerial views of the harbour



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