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Ballywalter

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Overview





Ballywalter is located on the northeast coast of Ireland, to the south of Belfast Lough, four miles north by northwest of Burr Point. It offers an anchorage off a small harbour that dries out completely at low water.

Ballywalter is located on the northeast coast of Ireland, to the south of Belfast Lough, four miles north by northwest of Burr Point. It offers an anchorage off a small harbour that dries out completely at low water.

Ballywalter provides a tolerable anchorage in south to north-westerly winds. However, a heavy sea runs into the bay when winds trend eastward around to north. Vessels that can take to the hard however will find good protection inside the harbour. Access is straightforward once Skullmartin Rock has been identified, night or day and at any stage of the tide.



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Keyfacts for Ballywalter
Facilities
Water available via tapShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableShore power available alongsideHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaPleasant family beach in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaBus service available in the areaShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet 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
4 metres (13.12 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 11th 2022

Summary* Restrictions apply

A tolerable location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Water available via tapShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableShore power available alongsideHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaPleasant family beach in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaBus service available in the areaShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet 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° 32.258' N, 005° 28.500' W

This is off The Long Sand south of Ballywalter between the 2 and 5-metre contours.

What is the initial fix?

The following Ballywalter Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 32.586' N, 005° 26.257' W
This is 1½ miles out from the pierhead on the 272° T alignment of Ballywalter's pierhead light and the spire of Ballywalter Church and within the white sector of the Ballywalter Light Fl WRG 1.5s 5m 9M.


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 Long Rock.

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

  • Approach from the east on the 272°T alignment of Ballywalter Light and the spire of Ballywalter Church, passing north of Skulmartin Rock and south of Nelson Rock.


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 Ballywalter for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Ballyhalbert Bay - 2.9 nautical miles SSE
  2. Kircubbin - 3.6 nautical miles SW
  3. Portavogie Harbour - 5 nautical miles SSE
  4. Copelands Marina - 6.5 nautical miles NNW
  5. White Rock Bay - 6.5 nautical miles WSW
  6. Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club - 6.7 nautical miles WSW
  7. Donaghadee Harbour - 6.7 nautical miles NNW
  8. Ringhaddy Sound - 7.6 nautical miles SW
  9. Pawle Island - 7.8 nautical miles SW
  10. Chapel Bay - 8.4 nautical miles NNW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Ballyhalbert Bay - 2.9 miles SSE
  2. Kircubbin - 3.6 miles SW
  3. Portavogie Harbour - 5 miles SSE
  4. Copelands Marina - 6.5 miles NNW
  5. White Rock Bay - 6.5 miles WSW
  6. Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club - 6.7 miles WSW
  7. Donaghadee Harbour - 6.7 miles NNW
  8. Ringhaddy Sound - 7.6 miles SW
  9. Pawle Island - 7.8 miles SW
  10. Chapel Bay - 8.4 miles NNW
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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?
Ballywalter with The Long Sand in the backdrop
Image: Michael Harpur


Ballywalter village with a population of about 2,000 stretches along the shore 2 miles southward of Ballyferris Point and 1 mile northwestward of Skulmartin Rock. The south end of the village is fronted by a substantial quay. Built on a ledge of rock it shelters a small drying sandy foreshore that entirely dries at low water.


Yacht anchored off The Long Sand south of Ballywalter
Image: Michael Harpur


Vessels may obtain an anchorage anywhere offshore of the pier or The Long Sand that lies between Ballywalter and Skullmartin Rock in depths from 2 to 5 metres with good sand holding. This makes for a good anchorage in westerly winds. The outlying reefs continue to provide some additional shelter in winds from north and south.


Yahts alongside Ballywalter Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Vessels that can take to the bottom may lie alongside the north side of the quay and have better protection. The berth is subject to a heavy ground swell in southeast gales. 2 to 3 metres can be had at high water and the bottom is hard sand with a layer of soft silt. The quay is also convenient for vessels to temporarily come alongside.


How to get in?
Ballywalter as seen from the south
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. Ballywalter is fronted by sunken ledges and rocks which extend up to 0.8 miles seaward on either side and is approached on a west-to-east bearing of the pier. The Presbyterian Church, which stands nearly in the middle of the village, is a good landmark from seaward.



The 272° T alignment of Ballywalter Light and the church spire
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location The Ballywalter Initial Fix is on the 272°T alignment of Ballywalter Light and the spire of Ballywalter Church situated immediately behind. At night, it is in the Ballywalter Light Fl WRG 1.5s 5m 9M, white sector 267° - 277°T (Green 240° to 267°, Red 277° to 314°). The essential hazard to identify at the Ballywalter Initial Fix is Skulmartin located about a ½ mile to the southwest.


Ballywalter Presbyterian Church as seen from the harbour area
Image: Michael Harpur


Lying nearly 1 mile from the shore east by southeast of Ballywalter, Skulmartin Rock is the furthest offshore of all the outlying dangers along the coast between South Rock and Donaghadee.

Skulmartin Beacon – Unlit position: 54° 32.327’N, 005° 27.154’W

It is steep-to on its north and east sides, dries to 1.2 metres and is covered at half-tide. Skulmartin is marked by a conspicuous red 11 metres high mast with cage and flag top mark. It is essential that this is identified before an approach is made on Ballywalter. A lighted buoy is moored about 1½ miles east by southeast of this rock.

Skulmartin Safe Water Buoy - LFl 10s buoy position: 54° 32.393'N, 005° 24.910'W
Please note

In October 2020, the Commissioners of Irish Lights moved the Skulmartin Buoy from the 54° 31.848'N, 005° 24.910' W to the above new position.



Between Skulmartin and the shore, on the southwest side, there is Little Skulmartin reef extending from the shore towards the rock in an east-by-northeast direction. A narrow inshore passage is situated between them with 3 metres of water. However, the passage inside it is very foul and only people well acquainted with the coast should venture inside Skulmartin Rock. So vessels approaching from the south, or exiting southward, can cut close inside of Skulmartin Rock, but it is a thing for the adventurous.

From the Initial Fix, make the approach westward on the 272°T alignment of Ballywalter Light and the spire of Ballywalter Church or in the white sector by night. The passage to Ballywalter quay is between Skulmartin and the drying Nelson Rock, which lies a ⅔ of a mile to the northwest of Skulmartin, a ½ mile east by northeast of the pierhead and 800 metres to the south of Long Rock. Ballywalter Light shows Red over Skulmartin and Green over Nelson Rock.

Once Skullmartin Rock is abeam continue along the 272° T alignment of Ballywalter Light and the spire of Ballywalter Church, south of Nelson Rock, for the pier. Anchor northeast from breakwater head in about 2 metres or turn southwestward into the bay overlooked by The Long Sand, south of the pier, and anchor off the shore with depths from 2 to 5 metres.


Helens Rocks at high water
Image: Michael Harpur


Stand well off the northeast corner of the quay as the drying Helens Rocks extend out 160 metres from its footing and a finger with 1.5 metres LAT extends out 400 metres from the wall. Likewise, those intending on coming alongside the quay, should not stray too far from the quay as the Devils Jacks reef extends from the shore 160 metres northwestward of the pierhead.


Yacht anchored off The Long Sand
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Good sand holding will be found throughout the surrounding area. Land at the pier, at the slip on its southern side of the quay or on the foreshore.


The slip on its southern side of the quay
Image: Michael Harpur


The harbour dries out entirely beyond the pier head but 2 to 3 metres can be found alongside the north side of the quay at high water.


Vessels alongside at Ballywalter
Image: Michael Harpur


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


Why visit here?
Ballywalter, in Irish 'Baile Bháltair', derives its name from Irish 'Baile', meaning 'town' or 'towns land', of the Norman given name of 'Walter'. Walter was a common given name among the Anglo-Normans and it is thought that Ballywalter derived its name from the De Arquilla family.


Ards windmill today at nearby Ballycopeland
Image: Tourism NI


John de Courcy led the invasion and shared the territorial spoils around Dunover, near Ballywalter, with Lucian De Arquilla. The remains of a motte built by Lucian De Arquilla can still be seen in Dunover. Walter De Arquilla inherited the lands from Lucien and it is believed the name stems from his given name. It was recorded as 'Walterstowne' in 1637 but this was then Gaelicised to Ballywalter between the Anglo-Norman invasion and the Plantation period when the area fell into the control of the Gaelic Chieftains.


Ballywalter harbour was constructed in the middle of the 1800s
Image: Michael Harpur


The small village of Ballywalter formed around 17th-century windmills, the remains of which are visible today, where the local population milled corn and grain. The vast majority of its settlers were Presbyterians from Ayrshire. The harbour was constructed in the middle of the 1800s to service the nearby lime kiln. This developed into a busy port largely as a result of being conveniently positioned on a coast adjacent to Scotland. The settlers of the 'Plantation' had to find a convenient site from which to transport their produce to Scotland and England, and they also wished to regularly travel back 'home'. Ballywalter's location suited both these needs and harbour activity steadily grew.


Datestone embedded into the quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Around 1671 Hugh Montgomery came to the area and it is recorded that he became dedicated to the task of building and planting. By the time Hugh died in 1707 the name of the area had changed to Springvale and he had created a fine house with grounds known as Ballymagowan. The house was sold to the Royal Navy captain George Matthews in 1729 who brought to it hordes of interesting and unusual curios from his travels.

The harbour developed around the settlements close ties to Scotland
Image: Michael Harpur


But all was very far from plain sailing for the Scottish settlers especially in the Irish Sea betwixt and between Ballywalter and the Scottish coast as this is a very dangerous sea with a ragged coastline. Strong coastal tides compress and race past the immediate offshore Skullmartin Rock as well as the nearby South and North Rocks that have always been regarded as the deadliest hazards of the Ards Peninsula. These, amongst many other offshore dangers, caused the lives of many mariners to be lost after the harbour become active. In the 25 years between 1875 and 1900 alone, 75 vessels were recorded as totally lost here taking 29 men with them.


The Irish Sea off Ballywalter is very dangerous sea
Image: Michael Harpur


To address local anxiety surrounding the grievous loss of life a lifeboat station was established at Ballywalter in 1865 and a boathouse was built the following year. At that time there were RNLI lifeboat stations at the village of Groomsport to the north, established in 1858, and Newcastle to the south, established in 1854. Ballywalter's first lifeboat was a 32 feet long sailing ship with oars 'The Admiral Henry Meynell'. The ship was donated by the Misses Meynell Ingram of Rugeley, Staffordshire, in memory of their uncle, Admiral Henry Meynell. This remained in service until 1885 when it was replaced with a new but similarly designed 34 feet lifeboat, the 'William Wallace', funded from the legacy of William Wallace of Shoreditch.


Ballywalter Park situated on the outskirts of the village
Image: Rossographer via CC BY SA 2.0


But by the turn of the century improvements in lighting and the introduction of steam-driven ships, not wholly reliant on sail, started to improve the safety of shipping. This resulted in a much lower frequency of shipwrecks along the Ards Peninsula, and subsequently, the coastguard stations, placed about every five miles along the shoreline, began to close. And so expired Ballywalter Lifeboat station in 1906. During its 40 years of service, it was launched 37 times and saved 154 lives. Shipwrecks continued to occur along the County Down coast and during the first decade of the 1900s and over 170 serious incidents relating to merchant vessels were recorded, of which 37 resulted in a total loss. A bell from one of the ships that foundered off Skullmartin Rock is displayed in Ballywalter's Presbyterian Church today.


Ballywalter Park could easily be Ulster’s finest Victorian house
Image: Tourism NI


In 1846 the Ballymagowan estate was sold to Belfast industrial magnet and mayor Andrew Mulholland who owned a vast Belfast linen mill. Mulholland commissioned the distinguished artist Sir Charles Lanyon to construct a stately house that would become Ballywalter Park, situated on the outskirts of the village. This significant Grade A listed building could easily be described as Ulster’s finest Victorian house. It has grounds that extend over thirty wooded acres plus a walled garden that includes an extensive rhododendron collection. The main house is in as good a condition now as it was when originally constructed more than 150 years ago. Andrew’s son, John, was an equally powerful man who became a Member of Parliament for Downpatrick in 1874 and was created Baron Dunleath of Ballywalter in 1892. The house remained the home of the Mulholland family and Andrew Mulholland would be the present owner’s Great, Great, Great Grandfather. The house and gardens are open to visitors by appointment or on special occasions. The park also hosts the Northern Ireland Game Fair, which attracts nearly 40,000 people over a single weekend.


The Long Sand south of the harbour area
Image: Michael Harpur


Today Ballywalter is a sizable village that is popular in the summer when The Long Strand offers safe bathing and when combined with the quay it makes an ideal base for water sports. Small children’s play facilities are to be found here along with tennis courts. Ballywalter remains an auxiliary coastguard station.


Ballywalter is ideal for vessels that can take to the bottom
Image: Michael Harpur


From a sailing point of view Ballywalter, akin to Ballyhalbert Bay, provides a highly convenient tide wait location with plenty of interest ashore to warrant inflating a dinghy. It is also well set up for a family boat on a sunny day with its fine sand beach just south of the harbour and perfect for the kids.


What facilities are available?
The remote anchorage area has reasonably good facilities. Water can be obtained on the pier plus coin operated power is also available there. The village, only 500 metres from the pier, has good shopping which serves a domestic population of about 2,000 people. There are unfortunately no petrol stations, fuel depots. Closest fuel, 5 miles in 3 directions by land or Donagedee or Portavogie by sea.

By road from Belfast take the A20 to Newtownards and continue onto the Ards Peninsula. At Greyabbey take the B5 to Ballywalter. From Belfast use the Laganside Buscentre.


Any security concerns?
Never an incident known to have occurred to a vessel anchored in Ballywalter.


With thanks to:
Michael Fitzsimons, Groomsport Harbour Master.







Aerial view of Ballywalter and the surrounding countryside.




A fishing boat coming alongside the harbour wall



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