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Newcastle Harbour

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Overview





Newcastle Harbour is located on the north-eastern coast of Ireland on the western shore of Dundrum Bay. It is approximately midway between the entrances to Carlingford and Strangford Loughs. The small drying harbour is used by small fishing boats and leisure craft. It is only suitable for vessels of about ten metres or less that can take-to-the-hard on a clean sandy bottom. Larger vessels may anchor outside and temporarily come alongside on a rise of the tide.

The harbour offers good protection except in strong southeast through east to northeast winds that cause a heavy scend in the harbour. Access to the harbour is straightforward except in developed conditions, again from the southeast through east to northeast, which makes the entrance difficult to negotiate. The harbour can only be accessed on the rise as it dries entirely even on neap tides.
Please note

A vessel should not approach Dundrum Bay in any developed onshore conditions. A considerable in-draught develops here and it is accompanied by a very heavy seaway running into the bay. In these conditions, a sailing vessel could easily get caught within the heads and find it difficult to work itself out again.




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Keyfacts for Newcastle Harbour
Facilities
Waste disposal bins availableGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaBus service available in the areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityScenic location or scenic location 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: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periods

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
July 18th 2018

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Waste disposal bins availableGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaBus service available in the areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityScenic location or scenic location 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: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periods



Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 11.901' N, 005° 53.095' W

This is the position of the light set on the head of the north (or inner) pier inside the entrance. Fl R WG Red 232° to 240°, White 228° to 232°, Green 180° to 228°.

What is the initial fix?

The following Dundrum Bay Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 11.570' N, 005° 46.630' W
This waypoint is approximately 3 miles out from the shoreline. It is set on the 330°(T) line of bearing of Dundrum Castle and situated where it transects the outer 064° white sector limit of the Saint John's Point auxiliary light ( Fl WR 3s 14m W15 R11M. Shore to Red 078°, white 078°W to 064°). A bearing of 275°(T) from here for three and a half miles leads into the harbour.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in eastern Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Strangford Lough to Dublin Bay Route location.

  • Pass to the south of the two Ballykinlar Firing Range Buoys.

  • Steer to the north of the harbour and enter from the north.


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 Newcastle Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Dundrum Harbour - 2.4 miles NNE
  2. Annalong Harbour - 3.4 miles S
  3. Kilkeel Harbour - 5.7 miles SSW
  4. Killough Harbour - 5.8 miles ENE
  5. Ardglass Harbour (Phennick Cove Marina) - 6.6 miles ENE
  6. Greencastle - 7.6 miles SW
  7. Quoile - 7.9 miles NE
  8. Rostrevor - 8 miles WSW
  9. Killowen - 8.1 miles SW
  10. Between Rat & Salt Island - 8.3 miles NE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Dundrum Harbour - 2.4 miles NNE
  2. Annalong Harbour - 3.4 miles S
  3. Kilkeel Harbour - 5.7 miles SSW
  4. Killough Harbour - 5.8 miles ENE
  5. Ardglass Harbour (Phennick Cove Marina) - 6.6 miles ENE
  6. Greencastle - 7.6 miles SW
  7. Quoile - 7.9 miles NE
  8. Rostrevor - 8 miles WSW
  9. Killowen - 8.1 miles SW
  10. Between Rat & Salt Island - 8.3 miles NE
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Chart
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How to get in?


The resort town of Newcastle is located at the head of Dundrum Bay and at the foot of Donard, one of the Mourne Mountains. Its small artificial harbour is situated close to the south of the town and is protected by two breakwaters. The harbour area dries out completely at low water, in places to plus one metre, but offers an attractive berth for vessels that can take to the hard. Likewise, those who want to come alongside for a short time will find it serviceable with a sufficient rise of tide.

Apart from the well-marked firing range and a sewage works outfall close east of the harbour the southern half of Dundrum Bay is clear of any dangers. The sewage works outfall is situated immediately southeast of the harbour on the two-metre contour. It extends out 240 metres to the east of the harbour and is scarcely covered at low water.


Northern Approach Vessels approaching from the north will find St. John's Point, with its black-and-yellow lighthouse, a conspicuous mark. Pass the point, keeping it at least 400 metres off, and the ten miles wide Dundrum Bay opens. The bay is nearly 5 miles deep with 25 metres of water between the points of the bay that decreases to 5 to 7 metres one mile from its shores, and the shoreline is shallow everywhere.

The path between St. John's Point and Newcastle is free of dangers but passes through the southern end of the ‘Ballykinler Firing Practice Area’. This should not be attempted when the range is in use. This is indicated by red flags shown from flagstaffs on the south and east sides of the entrance to Dundrum Harbour. When firing is taking place yachts should keep to seaward and south of the buoys situated in the centre of the bay, which mark the southern extreme of the firing practice area.

Coastal cruising vessels intending on hugging the coast should avoid the north half of Dundrum Bay, as the ‘The Cow and Calf Rocks’, Long Rock and the Pladdies are located here. These are all part of a reef that extends to the southeast of Craiglea Rock and out to a mile from the shoreline.

Southern Approach Vessels approaching from the south, between Annalong and Dundrum Bay, will clear all dangers by maintaining a distance of three-quarters of a mile off the shoreline.


Initial fix location From the Dundrum Bay initial fix, track in on a bearing of 275° T for just over three and a half miles to the west side of Dundrum Bay. This is about a quarter of a mile to the west-southwest of the southeasternmost Ballykinlar firing range buoy. This is a yellow oval buoy, marked "DZ" that is moored approximately a mile and a half offshore abreast of the range.

Ballykinlar Firing Range Buoy - Oval yellow buoy Fl.2 Y.10s position: 54° 12.039' N 005° 45.035' W

A course of due west to the harbour will pass immediately south of a second range buoy that marks the south-western end of Ballykinlar Firing Range. From there the harbour is little more than ten minutes’ sail and is readily conspicuous.
Please note

Winds from west or northwest make approaches subject to sudden heavy squalls from the Mourne Mountains.



The harbour entrance is located between the heads of the north and south breakwaters and opens to the north. As the harbour draws near, steer to position the vessel immediately north of the entrance so it may be accessed from due north.

Pass through the entrance keeping well clear of the South Pier. Rock armour, covered at high water, extends 15 metres out from the head of the South Pier and continues around its sea facing aspect.
Please note

Care is required within the harbour areas as it is littered with moorings, local angling boats and small leisure boats.



Haven location Vessels carrying any draft should anchor off outside, or temporarily come alongside inside. The harbour’s best short-term berth will be found at the outer end of the north pier between the steps and the head of the pier. Here 2.7 metres of high water neaps can be found over a flat sand bottom.

Those planning to dry out should not use the outer end of the north pier as it is much sought after. Pleasure boats, offering trips around the bay, use this extensively as it is the harbour’s longest serviceable berth for them to take on and set down passengers. At night many fishing boats berth here to be ready to depart on an early tide. This makes the south wall, or further in along the north wall, better drying out locations. With regard to a specific position, it is advisable to take the harbour master’s or at least a local sailor’s advice.




Why visit here?
Newcastle, or an Caisleán Nua in Irish, derives its name from a late 16th-century castle. The settlement originated at a bridging point at the mouth of the Shimna River. On this site, Magennis Castle was constructed by Felix Magennis, of Mourne. Although the castle was subsequently demolished in 1831, by then it had already lent its name to the area.


Newcastle’s early development was around the harbour and foreshore at the southern end of the town. The harbour was created in the 1820s to provide a loading point for the world famous Mourne Mountain granite. Situated alongside the wilder granite topography of the Mournes the stone was extracted from the overlooking hills and shipped worldwide. Mourne blocks were used to create Belfast and Liverpool docks, and for paving stones in many cities including London and New York, and they helped in the construction of the Albert Memorial in London.


Newcastle’s development as a seaside resort was as a result of the arrival of the railway to the town in 1869. The area’s dramatic mountain setting, the strong contrasts between the mountains, the flat dune landscape at the shore, and the series of river valleys which radiate inland from the town made it a very attractive destination for the Victorians. This setting combined with railway access provided the catalyst for the construction of the Slieve Donard Hotel in 1897. The railway eventually closed in 1948 but the town’s seaside expansion had gained a self-propelling momentum that continued.


Today Newcastle is a service centre for the surrounding rural hinterland, a commuter settlement and a holiday and retirement resort. The town continues to derive its trade from the Mournes and the pleasant stretch of sandy beach that fronts the town. It has become the largest seaside resort in County Down that attracts droves of trippers from Belfast on public holidays and summer weekends.


This custom, unfortunately, casts upon Newcastle an aspect of a soulless amusement arcade, fast-food outlet and ‘kiss-me-quick-hat’ souvenir-store strip; but for the cruising family this has its advantages. The Newcastle Centre and Tropicana Complex on the promenade offer indoor activities with swimming pools, water slides and playgrounds to cater for an inevitable rainy day.


But this seaside arcade characteristic is more than overpowered by the mighty Slieve Donard and the Mournes rising up behind the town. Percy French’s very famous ballad ‘The Mountains of Mourne’ is thought to be an anthem to both London and Newcastle.


Oh Mary this London's a wonderful sight
With people here workin' by day and by night
They don't sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat
But there's gangs of them diggin' for gold in the street
At least when I asked them that's what I was told
So I just took a hand at this diggin' for gold
But for all that I found there I might as well be
Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.


A fountain on the promenade commemorates the popular Irish songwriter.


The close proximity of this magnificent mountain range makes Newcastle the ideal point of departure for any serious walking or climbing. In this respect, the stunning Mournes have a lot to offer. Close to the town, there are plenty of straightforward hikes that require no special equipment and have obvious tracks that lead to the more scenic parts. Plus for those who want more serious walking or climbing a wide range of further opportunities are dispersed throughout the range.

The obvious climbing choice immediately to hand is Slieve Donard. At 848 metres it is both the highest peak in the Mournes and all of Ulster, yet the ascent is relatively easy on a well-marked trail. The mountain is named after Saint Donard, a follower of Saint Patrick who founded a monastery at Maghera, north of Newcastle. According to tradition, he was appointed by Saint Patrick to guard the surrounding countryside from the mountain summit. He is supposed not to have died, but to have become a "perpetual guardian". At the summit, there is a cairn and a small stone tower, which was built as a shelter along the Mourne Wall that passes over the mountain's southern and western shoulders. Those who want to scale the mountain should take the Annalong road to the Bloody Bridge from which the trail ascends to a small stone tower at the summit. Climbers will find the views across the mountain landscape and Dundrum Bay quite spectacular.

For those more inclined towards gentler local walking, there are several pleasant parks in the vicinity of the town. There is the Mourne Coastal Footpath along the shoreline that is deservedly popular, and Donard Park is a pretty public park situated at the foot of Slieve Donard next to the Glen River. Indeed it is a nice walk from Newcastle town centre to the park along the pathways that surround the River Glen. Two miles inland from Newcastle, along the Bryansford Road, is Tollymore Forest Park. This 630 hectares park with the Shimna River flowing through it, offers a variety of trails with pleasant scenery.

The town and its setting contain a number of listed buildings, archaeological monuments and sites of nature conservation interest. It retains many examples of late 19th-century architecture, associated with its development as a resort, particularly in Main Street and on South Promenade and King Street. A visit to the Newcastle tourist office, or the Mourne Countryside Centre, will provide excellent information on the access to walks as well as the local ecology, along with pony trekking, and fishing options on the river.

Golfing enthusiasts may be tempted by Newcastle's Royal County Down championship golf course, which has a reputation as one of the most challenging links courses worldwide. It has played host to events such as the 2007 Walker Cup and 2006 Ladies British Open Amateur Championship. Amateurs might prefer to take advantage of the golf driving range at Donard Park, which also provides a number of sports pitches.

Today the harbour is much quieter playing host to some small fishing and pleasure craft used for water sports. Its founding stones of Mourne granite are still being used today. Recently the stone was used to create the base for the 9/11 memorial in New York.



From a boating perspective, this could only be described as a good berth for vessels that can take to the hard. But when the excellent provisioning and the access to the magnificent Mourne Mountains are added, it truly warrants serious consideration of any coastal cruiser passing along this coast.


What facilities are available?
The town of Newcastle stretches along the shore to the north of the harbour. With a population of almost seven and a half thousand there is a wide selection of shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes available. Hence almost all provisions and necessities can be obtained including fuel and a post office.

The harbour has toilets and facilities for waste disposal and a harbour master is available between April and September. The Newcastle Sailing Club clubhouse and dinghy park is situated beside the harbour on the main road to Killkeel. The clubhouse itself is normally only open during racing or club events. It also has premises beside the RNLI house where there is a concrete slip for launching dinghies at high water, plus showers when open. There is another small launching slip 200 metres north of the harbour.

Newcastle is located approximately 30 miles from Belfast, along the A24 road, and approximately 85 miles from Dublin. Downpatrick is about 12 miles away. The town has its own Coach/Bus Station (+44 28 4372 2296) on Railway Street at the eastern end of Main Street - a couple of hundred yards east of the promenade. The very helpful tourist office is close by at 10-14 Central Promenade (July & Aug Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 2-7pm; rest of year Mon-Sat 10am-5pm; +44 28 4372 2222). The nearest major railway Station is in Newry just over 20 miles away. Newcastle is about 30 miles from Belfast International Airport, and over 85 miles from Dublin Airport taking approximately 2 hours' travelling time.


Any security concerns?
Never an issue known to have occurred in Newcastle Harbour. However in an open harbour normal security provisions should be adhered to.


With thanks to:
Fred Curran, Custodian of Ardglass Marina. Photography with thanks to Eric Jones, Henry Clark, Ardfern and Albert Bridge.


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The above plots are not precise and indicative only.

























































Aerial footage of the harbour




Newcastle Harbour (at the 6 minutes 40 seconds point)




The Mountains of Mourne by Jim Brannigan



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