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Ballyhalbert Bay

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Overview





Ballyhalbert is located on the northeast coast of Ireland, to the south of Belfast Lough and immediately north of Burr Point the most easterly point of Ireland. It offers an anchorage in the bay off of a small pier that entirely dries at low water.

Ballyhalbert is located on the northeast coast of Ireland, to the south of Belfast Lough and immediately north of Burr Point the most easterly point of Ireland. It offers an anchorage in the bay off of a small pier that entirely dries at low water.

Ballyhalbert Bay provides a tolerable anchorage in southwesterly and westerly winds. However, a heavy sea runs into the bay when winds trend eastward of south and onward through east around to the north. Vessels that can take to the bottom can find good protection inside the harbour at these times. The bay is open and clear of dangers making access straightforward in daylight at any stage of the tide.



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Keyfacts for Ballyhalbert Bay
Facilities
Water available via tapShop with basic provisions availablePublic house or wine bar in the areaPost Office in the areaBus service available in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
5 metres (16.4 feet).

Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
3 stars: Tolerable; in suitable conditions a vessel may be left unwatched and an overnight stay.



Last modified
November 9th 2022

Summary* Restrictions apply

A tolerable location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Water available via tapShop with basic provisions availablePublic house or wine bar in the areaPost Office in the areaBus service available in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration



Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 29.612' N, 005° 26.500' W

This is on the 2-metre contour situated about 300 metres northward of the Ballyhalbert pier.

What is the initial fix?

The following Ballyhalbert Bay Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 30.010' N, 005° 25.633' W
This is ¾ of a mile northwest of Ballyhalbert Pier and on the 15-metre contour.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in northeast Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough Route location.
  • From the north keep outside of Skullmartin.

  • From the south pass offshore of South Rocks, North Rocks Plough Rock, McCammon Rocks and Plough Rock and keep off Burial Island.

  • Ballyhalbert Bay is then a clear and open bay.


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 Ballyhalbert Bay for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Portavogie Harbour - 2.2 nautical miles S
  2. Ballywalter - 2.9 nautical miles NNW
  3. Kircubbin - 3.4 nautical miles W
  4. White Rock Bay - 6.8 nautical miles W
  5. Ringhaddy Sound - 7.2 nautical miles WSW
  6. Pawle Island - 7.2 nautical miles WSW
  7. Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club - 7.2 nautical miles W
  8. Ballyhenry Bay - 7.6 nautical miles SW
  9. Simmy Island - 7.8 nautical miles WSW
  10. Portaferry - 7.8 nautical miles SSW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Portavogie Harbour - 2.2 miles S
  2. Ballywalter - 2.9 miles NNW
  3. Kircubbin - 3.4 miles W
  4. White Rock Bay - 6.8 miles W
  5. Ringhaddy Sound - 7.2 miles WSW
  6. Pawle Island - 7.2 miles WSW
  7. Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club - 7.2 miles W
  8. Ballyhenry Bay - 7.6 miles SW
  9. Simmy Island - 7.8 miles WSW
  10. Portaferry - 7.8 miles SSW
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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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?
Ballyhalbert Bay
Image: Michael Harpur


Ballyhalbert Bay lies immediately northward of Burr Point and is entered to the northwest of Burial Island. It has a pier that extends northeastward from close west of Burr Point that it entirely dries at low water out beyond its head. Nearby is a small village that is largely residential with a population of about 1000 and a large caravan site is drawn to the bay's shingle and sand beaches. It is noted for being the easternmost settlement of Ireland, as Burr Point, Ireland's easternmost point is within Ballyhalbert's environs.


Ballyhalbert Pier
Image: Michael Harpur


Ballyhalbert Bay is a clean open bay where a vessel may anchor and find good shelter from the prevailing southwest winds. Landings are made convenient by Ballyhalbert Pier and the sandy beaches of the shoreline. However, when the wind shifts eastward of south, it sends a heavy sea but vessels that can take to the hard can find the area behind the pier remains well sheltered.


How to get in?
Burr Point and Ballyhalbert Bay immediately northward
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use the details available in the northeast Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough Route location for local approaches. Ballyhalbert Bay, is a clear open bay situated immediately north of Burr Point. The bay is entered to the northwest of Burial Island, the easternmost point of Ireland that is situated 400 metres east of Burr Point.


Ballyhalbert Pier and Burial Island
Image: Michael Harpur


The visible island, to which the name Burial Island refers, is only the highest part of a 400 metres wide ledge or reef of rocks that extends nearly a ½ mile in a north/south direction. The northern portion of the reef is just awash at high water and the small high spot of Burial Island is on the inner edge of the reef near its southern end. This has an elevation of 8 metres above high water springs when it appears very small. On the reef's north and east sides, it is steep-to and clear of danger. But a rocky shoal extends 1 mile southward of it, with a detached patch of 1.5 metres LAT of water over it situated 150 metres southward of its drying southern end.


Burial Island as seen at high water
Image: Michael Harpur


A channel exists between Burial Island and Ballyhalbert Point, narrowed by a spit of gravel extending from the latter with 0.6 metres LAT. This narrows the passage to about 100 metres in width, where it carries the least depth of 2 metres at low water. But this is for the adventurous local boater and passing outside, keeping at least 600 metres east of the island, or on the 15-metre contour, would be the preferred path to proceed into Ballyhalbert Bay. And the southwest end of Ballyhalbert Bay is clean and has no obstructions after Burial Island.


Ballyhalbert Bay is clean and open and may be safely approached
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location From the initial fix, situated ¾ of a mile northeast of Ballyhalbert pierhead, Ballyhalbert Bay is clean and open. Those going away from the pier should note there is a single awash rock on the 2-metre contour off of the beach and a ½ northwestward of the pier.


Anchor off the pier according to draught
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Anchor according to draft and conditions northward of the pierhead. The bottom is generally hard but there are some patches of clay in this location which provides good holding. Expect a south-going eddy in the bay during the second half of the north-going stream.


Local boat coming alongside Ballyhalbert Pier
Image: Michael Harpur


Land at Ballyhalbert Pier which dries out entirely beyond its head or on its slip or adjacent sandy beach.


Ballyhalbert's slipway
Image: Michael Harpur


Boats that can take to the hard will find the area behind the pier small but well sheltered.


Why visit here?
Ballyhalbert derives its name from the Irish 'Baile Thalbóid' meaning 'Talbot’s townland'. It is also called 'Talsbotstoun' in Ulster Scots, as the locals here speak with an accent as broad as any Scot.


Ballyhalbert developed around the natural landing point it provided
Image: Michael Harpur


The Talbot family came from Herefordshire and settled in this country during the reign of Henry II. The locality then took their name 'Talbotyston'. By 1605 this had been Gaelicised to 'Ballitalbot', with 'baile' meaning 'townland, town, homestead', and it finally became 'Ballihalbert' by 1617. The Talbot family did not live long in the area as their stay was during a tempestuous time. In May, 1315, Edward Bruce landed at Olderfleet, in Antrim, and proceeded towards Carrickfergus, with the intention of subduing the country. The Anglo-Norman lords of Ulster marched out to oppose him. But as, 'Spenser's View of the State of Ireland', written in 1596, noted 'Bruce rooted out the noble families of the Audlies, Talbotts, Tuckets, Chamberlaines, Maundevills, and the Savages out of the Ardes... '.


Ballyhalbert Bay stretching north westward from the slip
Image: Michael Harpur


Prior settlements here date back to Ireland’s original inhabitants, as an ancient Bronze Age standing stone standing near the village graveyard indicates. The Vikings would not have overlooked this useful landing point and Burial Island is said to have acquired its name from being once a Danish burial site. However, it is also thought the name might also derive from the Irish for cormorant, 'na broighill', or from the pronunciation of 'Burr Isle'.

Otto Steinbrinck as depicted in 1917
Image: Berlin State Library, Germany via CC BY-SA
What is not in doubt is the mark of the Normans who built a nearby motte as a stronghold after their 12th-century conquest of the area. The Norman Savage family built dominated the Ards Peninsula and several local castles and priories were built. The remains of an 800-year-old castle mound can still be seen near the harbour and the ruins of the medieval parish church. A Benedictine Priory named The Black Abbey, after the monks' black habits, was built here in 1204. Henry VIII dissolved it around 1536 and nothing remains.

The site of the present village was chosen for the shelter provided by the surrounding rocks and the sandy shore on which the inhabitants could beach their boats; they existed on what they could grow and catch. In the main, these inhabitants were families of fishermen who had travelled across the Irish Sea from the Solway Coast. In those days the Ards was an area of marshland and bog and was in a world of its own to the rest of Ireland. The village grew around this small fishing community and attracted other trades to the area such as spirit dealing, grocers and a smithy. Two corn mills were in operation by 1836 and in 1848 the area became much more accessible owing to the Portaferry road being upgraded as part of a famine relief public works program. The now-disused tower on Burr Point was a Coastguard Station that was constructed in 1863. It was one of twelve that made up a Donaghadee district coastal watch.


RAF Ballyhalbert 1945
Image: Whipsaw1337 via CC BY-SA 4.0


Although a quiet and out-of-the-way location Ballyhalbert had some lively moments during World War I and II. In May 1917 U-boat UC65, under the command of the famous Otto Steinbrinck (1888-1849), captured four vessels, the Saint Mungo, Derrymore, Amber and the Morion, and sunk all four in Ballyhalbert Bay. Steinbrinck entered the naval service in 1907 and specialised in torpedoes and artillery. When the war broke out he was the commander of a U-boat. During the course of the war, he sunk 204 ships, 2 warships and also damaged 12 ships and 1 warship. This took a toll as he was withdrawn from active duties in January 1918 due to exhaustion but he had by then won the much-coveted 'Pour le Mérite'. Having had such an acclaimed naval career, Steinbrinck went on to be just as successful in industry which latterly had him supporting the war effort of the Nazi Regime. Steinbrinck was arrested by the Americans in August 1945, trialled in Nuremberg and sentenced to 5 years in prison where he died.


Sculpture by artist Ned Jackson Smyth marking Burr Point being Ireland's most
easterly point

Image: Michael Harpur


During World War II the village played a major role in the defence of Belfast and the eastern half of Northern Ireland. This was via the RAF airfield that opened in Ballyhalbert in June 1941. It consisted of three tarmac runways and two hangers plus a control tower. In its time RAF Ballyhalbert was home to the RAF, Army, Navy and United States Air Force (USAF). It hosted servicemen from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America and Poland and evidence of this can be found today in the two local churchyards that are located a short distance away from the airfield. Here the Canadian, Australian and Polish men who lost their lives whilst serving at Ballyhalbert found their final resting places. One particularly notable visitor inspected the station in May 1944. This was General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces who became the President of the United States in 1953. The airfield was decommissioned in 1946 but the control tower and a lot of the runways are still visible today. In the 1960s it was sold to developers to create several popular caravan parks.


Ballyhalbert is now a quiet place where locals go to enjoy fine weather
Image: Michael Harpur


Today Ballyhalbert is largely a residential area, with a large holiday park on the former air base, with some shops to cater for the needs of the holidaymakers. They come here to enjoy its fine beach and the harbour is a popular spot for watersports. But it is never busy and it is a place where handful of people come and enjoy a fine day. Burial Island close offshore may not have any cormorants but it is a nesting site for terns.


East to west, sunset Ballyhalbert Bay
Image: Tourism NI


From a boating point of view, it offers perfectly protected from the prevailing winds with immediate and uncomplicated access that makes it a highly convenient tide wait location for passage makers. At high water the northbound stream commences, making Belfast Lough, a distance of about fifteen miles, very easy, and Antrim's Glenarm obtainable by most vessels. The southbound stream commences about low water setting up an approach to the entrance to Strangford Lough, which is about the same distance to the south. But the bay is also a joy for a family boat on a sunny day with its fine sand beach perfect for the kids.


What facilities are available?
The remote anchorage area has reasonably good facilities. Water can be obtained adjacent to the pier. The village which serves a domestic population of just less than 500 people, has a good shop that is open seven days a week. Half a mile to the northwest of the pier in Ballyhalbert Village there is a Pub.

By road from Belfast take the A20 to Newtownards and continue onto the Ards Peninsula. At Greyabbey take the B5 to Ballywalter then the A2 south to Ballyhalbert. Ulsterbus (ULB) Service 9 runs between Portaferry. From Belfast use the Laganside Buscentre that stops in Ballyhalbert.


Any security concerns?
Never an incident known to have happened to a vessel anchored in Ballyhalbert Bay.


With thanks to:
Michael Fitzsimons, Groomsport Harbour Master.







Aerial view of Ballyhalbert


About Ballyhalbert Bay

Ballyhalbert derives its name from the Irish 'Baile Thalbóid' meaning 'Talbot’s townland'. It is also called 'Talsbotstoun' in Ulster Scots, as the locals here speak with an accent as broad as any Scot.


Ballyhalbert developed around the natural landing point it provided
Image: Michael Harpur


The Talbot family came from Herefordshire and settled in this country during the reign of Henry II. The locality then took their name 'Talbotyston'. By 1605 this had been Gaelicised to 'Ballitalbot', with 'baile' meaning 'townland, town, homestead', and it finally became 'Ballihalbert' by 1617. The Talbot family did not live long in the area as their stay was during a tempestuous time. In May, 1315, Edward Bruce landed at Olderfleet, in Antrim, and proceeded towards Carrickfergus, with the intention of subduing the country. The Anglo-Norman lords of Ulster marched out to oppose him. But as, 'Spenser's View of the State of Ireland', written in 1596, noted 'Bruce rooted out the noble families of the Audlies, Talbotts, Tuckets, Chamberlaines, Maundevills, and the Savages out of the Ardes... '.


Ballyhalbert Bay stretching north westward from the slip
Image: Michael Harpur


Prior settlements here date back to Ireland’s original inhabitants, as an ancient Bronze Age standing stone standing near the village graveyard indicates. The Vikings would not have overlooked this useful landing point and Burial Island is said to have acquired its name from being once a Danish burial site. However, it is also thought the name might also derive from the Irish for cormorant, 'na broighill', or from the pronunciation of 'Burr Isle'.

Otto Steinbrinck as depicted in 1917
Image: Berlin State Library, Germany via CC BY-SA
What is not in doubt is the mark of the Normans who built a nearby motte as a stronghold after their 12th-century conquest of the area. The Norman Savage family built dominated the Ards Peninsula and several local castles and priories were built. The remains of an 800-year-old castle mound can still be seen near the harbour and the ruins of the medieval parish church. A Benedictine Priory named The Black Abbey, after the monks' black habits, was built here in 1204. Henry VIII dissolved it around 1536 and nothing remains.

The site of the present village was chosen for the shelter provided by the surrounding rocks and the sandy shore on which the inhabitants could beach their boats; they existed on what they could grow and catch. In the main, these inhabitants were families of fishermen who had travelled across the Irish Sea from the Solway Coast. In those days the Ards was an area of marshland and bog and was in a world of its own to the rest of Ireland. The village grew around this small fishing community and attracted other trades to the area such as spirit dealing, grocers and a smithy. Two corn mills were in operation by 1836 and in 1848 the area became much more accessible owing to the Portaferry road being upgraded as part of a famine relief public works program. The now-disused tower on Burr Point was a Coastguard Station that was constructed in 1863. It was one of twelve that made up a Donaghadee district coastal watch.


RAF Ballyhalbert 1945
Image: Whipsaw1337 via CC BY-SA 4.0


Although a quiet and out-of-the-way location Ballyhalbert had some lively moments during World War I and II. In May 1917 U-boat UC65, under the command of the famous Otto Steinbrinck (1888-1849), captured four vessels, the Saint Mungo, Derrymore, Amber and the Morion, and sunk all four in Ballyhalbert Bay. Steinbrinck entered the naval service in 1907 and specialised in torpedoes and artillery. When the war broke out he was the commander of a U-boat. During the course of the war, he sunk 204 ships, 2 warships and also damaged 12 ships and 1 warship. This took a toll as he was withdrawn from active duties in January 1918 due to exhaustion but he had by then won the much-coveted 'Pour le Mérite'. Having had such an acclaimed naval career, Steinbrinck went on to be just as successful in industry which latterly had him supporting the war effort of the Nazi Regime. Steinbrinck was arrested by the Americans in August 1945, trialled in Nuremberg and sentenced to 5 years in prison where he died.


Sculpture by artist Ned Jackson Smyth marking Burr Point being Ireland's most
easterly point

Image: Michael Harpur


During World War II the village played a major role in the defence of Belfast and the eastern half of Northern Ireland. This was via the RAF airfield that opened in Ballyhalbert in June 1941. It consisted of three tarmac runways and two hangers plus a control tower. In its time RAF Ballyhalbert was home to the RAF, Army, Navy and United States Air Force (USAF). It hosted servicemen from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America and Poland and evidence of this can be found today in the two local churchyards that are located a short distance away from the airfield. Here the Canadian, Australian and Polish men who lost their lives whilst serving at Ballyhalbert found their final resting places. One particularly notable visitor inspected the station in May 1944. This was General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces who became the President of the United States in 1953. The airfield was decommissioned in 1946 but the control tower and a lot of the runways are still visible today. In the 1960s it was sold to developers to create several popular caravan parks.


Ballyhalbert is now a quiet place where locals go to enjoy fine weather
Image: Michael Harpur


Today Ballyhalbert is largely a residential area, with a large holiday park on the former air base, with some shops to cater for the needs of the holidaymakers. They come here to enjoy its fine beach and the harbour is a popular spot for watersports. But it is never busy and it is a place where handful of people come and enjoy a fine day. Burial Island close offshore may not have any cormorants but it is a nesting site for terns.


East to west, sunset Ballyhalbert Bay
Image: Tourism NI


From a boating point of view, it offers perfectly protected from the prevailing winds with immediate and uncomplicated access that makes it a highly convenient tide wait location for passage makers. At high water the northbound stream commences, making Belfast Lough, a distance of about fifteen miles, very easy, and Antrim's Glenarm obtainable by most vessels. The southbound stream commences about low water setting up an approach to the entrance to Strangford Lough, which is about the same distance to the south. But the bay is also a joy for a family boat on a sunny day with its fine sand beach perfect for the kids.

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:
Portavogie Harbour - 1.4 miles S
Portaferry - 4.9 miles SSW
Ballyhenry Bay - 4.7 miles SW
Kircubbin - 2.1 miles W
Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club - 4.5 miles W
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Ballywalter - 1.8 miles NNW
Copelands Marina - 5.8 miles NNW
Donaghadee Harbour - 6 miles NNW
Chapel Bay - 7 miles NNW
Port Dandy - 7.1 miles NNW

Navigational pictures


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






































Aerial view of Ballyhalbert



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