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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 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
July 18th 2018

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° 32.799' N, 005° 28.576' W

This is the anchoring position of the Ballywalter Light that is set upon northwest end of the pier. It is a 3 metre high metal column with a sectored light Fl WRG 1.5s 5m 9M.

What is the initial fix?

The following Ballywalter Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 32.630' N, 005° 26.250' W
The initial fix is a mile and a half east of the pierhead. For a day time approach it is set upon the 272° alignment of Ballywalter Light and the spire of Ballywalter Church situated in the middle of the village behind. By night it is in the middle of the Ballywalter Light Fl WRG 1.5s 5m 9M white sectored light 267° to 277° that lights the safe approach (Green 240° to 267°, Red 277° to 314°).


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.

  • 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 - 2.2 miles SSE
  2. Kircubbin - 2.5 miles SSW
  3. Portavogie Harbour - 3.5 miles SSE
  4. Copelands Marina - 3.7 miles NNW
  5. Donaghadee Harbour - 3.9 miles NNW
  6. Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club - 4.3 miles WSW
  7. White Rock Bay - 4.4 miles WSW
  8. Chapel Bay - 4.9 miles NNW
  9. Ringhaddy Sound - 5 miles SW
  10. Port Dandy - 5 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 - 2.2 miles SSE
  2. Kircubbin - 2.5 miles SSW
  3. Portavogie Harbour - 3.5 miles SSE
  4. Copelands Marina - 3.7 miles NNW
  5. Donaghadee Harbour - 3.9 miles NNW
  6. Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club - 4.3 miles WSW
  7. White Rock Bay - 4.4 miles WSW
  8. Chapel Bay - 4.9 miles NNW
  9. Ringhaddy Sound - 5 miles SW
  10. Port Dandy - 5 miles NNW
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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How to get in?
Ballywalter Pier
Image: CC0


Ballywalter village stretches along the shore within the Skulmartin Rock. Near its south end is a pier, built on a ledge of rocks, sheltering a small sandy foreshore. Use the directions provided for neighboring Ballyhalbert Bay Click to view haven for approaches to the general area.




Initial fix location The initial fix is located about half a mile northeast of Skulmartin Beacon. This is a conspicuous red 11 metres high mast with cage and flag topmark. It is essential that this is identified before an approach is made on Ballywalter.

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

From the initial fix the approach is made from the east on the 272°T alignment of Ballywalter Light and the spire of Ballywalter Church situated immediately behind in the centre of the village. By night, stay in the Ballywalter Light Fl WRG 1.5s 5m 9M, 267°-277°T white sector that stands on the head of the quay. This shows Green over a shallow patch half a mile east-northeast of the pierhead with Nelson Rock, 1.2 metres of cover, being its shallowest point. It shows Red over Skulmartin that is situated nearly a mile from the shore.

The track from the initial fix passes about a third of a mile north of Skulmartin Beacon that marks Ballywalter’s primary danger. Skulmartin is steep-to on its north and east sides, drying to 1.2 metres and is awash at half-tide. Between Skulmartin and the shore, on the southwest side, there is Little Skulmartin Rocks extending from the shore towards the rock, in an east-northeast direction.
Please note

Local vessels approaching from the south may be seen cutting in between the Little Skulmartin Rocks and Skulmartin Rocks. There is a narrow inshore passage here with from 3 to 3.7 metres of water. However, the passage inside it is very foul and only people well acquainted with the coast should venture inside Skulmartin Rock.



Once past Skullmartin Rock continue along the 272° T alignment of Ballywalter Light and the spire of Ballywalter Church. This leads south of a shoal with Nelson Rock that extends 800 metres to the south of Long Rock.




Haven location Anchor in sand, with depths from 4 to 5 metres, 300 metres east of the Ballywalter Light. Land at the pier or on the foreshore.

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. Boats that can take to the hard will find the harbour behind the pier small but well sheltered. Be aware that this berth is subject to a heavy ground swell in south-easterly gales.



Why visit here?
Ballywalter, in Irish Baile Bháltair, derives its name from Irish Baile, meaning town or towns land, of ‘Walter’.

Walter was a common personal name among the Anglo-Normans and it is thought that Ballywalter derived its name from the De Arquilla family. John de Courcy lead 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 Christian 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.

The small village of Ballywalter was 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 grew steadily.

But all was very far from plain sailing between Ballywalter and the Scottish coast as betwixt and between lies a very dangerous sea with a ragged coastline. Strong coastal tides compress and race past the immediate offshore Skulmartin Rock, plus the nearby South and North Rocks that have always been regarded as the two most deadly hazards off the Ards Peninsula. These, amongst many other offshore dangers, caused the lives of many sailors to be lost after the harbour had become active. In the 25 years between 1875 and 1900 alone, 75 vessels were recorded as totally lost together with 29 men.

To address local anxiety at 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.

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. In 1906 the Ballywalter Lifeboat station was also closed. During its 40 years of service, the Ballywalter lifeboat was launched 37 times and saved 154 lives. Shipwrecks continued to occur along the County Down coast and during the first decade of the 1900's 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 Skulmartin Rock is displayed in Ballywalter's Presbyterian Church today.

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 hoards of interesting and unusual curios from his travels. In 1846 the estate was sold to Belfast industrial magnet and mayor Andrew Mulholland who owned a Belfast linen mill which was said to cover 4 acres of land. The linen mill was thought to be the largest of its kind in Europe, and on this pretext, Mulholland commissioned the distinguished artist Sir Charles Lanyon to construct a stately house that was equally as magnificent. This became 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.

Today Ballywalter is a sizable village with a population of just under 1,500 people. It is popular in the summer when the Long Strand, immediately south of the harbour, provides a wide stretch of shore and safe bathing that makes it an ideal base for water sports. Small children’s play facilities are to be found here along with tennis courts.

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.


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. Photography with thanks to Rossographer, Michael Parry, Oliver Dixon, Eric Jones and Albert Bridge.


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





















Aerial view of Ballywalter and the surrounding countryside.




A fishing boat coming alongside the harbour wall



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