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Balbriggan Harbour

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Overview





Balbriggan Harbour is a small fishing port on the east coast of Ireland, situated on the north County Dublin coastline, about three miles northwest of Skerries and six miles south of the River Boyne. It offers a small artificial harbour that dries out beyond the head of the pier, and the surrounding bay is shallow out to 800 metres making it only suitable for vessels that can take to the hard.

Vessels that can dry out alongside the wall will find this a good harbour in offshore westerlies or moderate onshore conditions. Access is straightforward as there are no immediate dangers to be avoided and the pierhead is lit for a night entry.
Please note

Balbriggan is a busy fishing port and a vessel may be moved on to allow a fishing vessel alongside. In any onshore conditions or general heavy weather, Howth harbour would be a better option.




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Keyfacts for Balbriggan Harbour
Facilities
Water available via tapDiesel fuel available alongsideGas availableShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaFuel by arrangement with bulk tanker providerSlipway availableShore power available alongsideHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaHaul-out capabilities via arrangementMarine engineering services available in the areaBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaCar hire available in the areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Urban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large city

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pier

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
January 28th 2019

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Water available via tapDiesel fuel available alongsideGas availableShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaFuel by arrangement with bulk tanker providerSlipway availableShore power available alongsideHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaHaul-out capabilities via arrangementMarine engineering services available in the areaBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaCar hire available in the areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Urban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large city

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pier



Position and approaches
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Haven position

53° 36.741' N, 006° 10.673' W

This is inside the pierhead close to the white pierhead light on the north corner of the pier Fl (3) WRG 20s 10M

What is the initial fix?

The following Balbriggan initial fix will set up a final approach:
53° 37.090' N, 006° 10.207' W
This waypoint is 1000 metres northeast of 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.
  • Balbriggan harbour is only suitable for vessels that can take to the hard.

  • All vessels must await the rise to near high water to proceed into the harbour.

  • The entrance is approached from northeast.


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 Balbriggan Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Skerries Bay and Harbour - 1.8 miles ESE
  2. Loughshinny - 3.3 miles SE
  3. Rush Harbour - 4 miles SSE
  4. Rogerstown Inlet - 4 miles SSE
  5. Drogheda & The River Boyne - 5.3 miles NW
  6. The Boat Harbour - 5.4 miles SE
  7. Saltpan Bay - 5.5 miles SE
  8. Talbot’s Bay - 5.7 miles SE
  9. Malahide - 5.9 miles S
  10. Seal Hole Bay - 6 miles SE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Skerries Bay and Harbour - 1.8 miles ESE
  2. Loughshinny - 3.3 miles SE
  3. Rush Harbour - 4 miles SSE
  4. Rogerstown Inlet - 4 miles SSE
  5. Drogheda & The River Boyne - 5.3 miles NW
  6. The Boat Harbour - 5.4 miles SE
  7. Saltpan Bay - 5.5 miles SE
  8. Talbot’s Bay - 5.7 miles SE
  9. Malahide - 5.9 miles S
  10. Seal Hole Bay - 6 miles SE
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?
Balbriggan Harbour
Image: William Murphy via CC BY-SA 2.0


Balbriggan is a large town, with a population of about 20,000 in its environs, fronted with a small artificial tidal harbour. The harbour is formed by a pair of piers that project 150 metres north-northeast from the shore. The railway to Dublin passes through it, running across the head of the harbour. The harbour dries out beyond its entrance and a stream runs through it that tends to drop sand deposits outside the entrance.

Balbriggan Harbour has depths of up to 3.7 metres at MHWS and vessels drawing up to 2.5 metres can usually enter at High Water ± 02:00. The harbour dries to a level bottom of mud when the tide is away.


How to get in?


An interactive 360° view of this image of the harbour area is available here External link.

Convergance Point Seaward approaches are detailed in eastern Ireland’s coastal overview for Strangford Lough to Dublin Bay Route location.



Vessels approaching from the north should make a note of the position of Cardy Rocks. They are situated 800 metres off Breymore Point and a mile north by northeast of Balbriggan lighthouse. Cardy Rocks are a half-tide patch that are marked by a port hand beacon. A narrow passage of 5.5 metres of water lies between them and Breymore Point.

Cardy Rocks, port hand beacon, position: 53° 37.912’N, 006° 10.859’W

Keeping Balbriggan lighthouse to the southwest, or westward of this, clears Cardy Rocks. By night these rocks are covered by the green sector of Balbriggan Light.


Initial fix location From the initial fix await the rise in the tide until near high water to proceed into Balbriggan Harbour. Vessels drawing 1.5 metres or less can normally enter the harbour two hours before HW. The harbour will be readily identified by its tower at the seaward end of the pier.

Balbriggan White tower - Fl (3) WRG 20s 10M position: 53° 36.778’N 6° 10.702’W

The tower hosts a sectored light; GREEN from 159° to 193° over Cardy Rocks, WHITE from 193° to 288°, RED from 288° to 305° over the Skerries.



Approach the harbour bearing southwest tracking in towards the beach immediately north of the pierhead light, and enclosed to the north by a Martello Tower. On closer approaches, the harbour’s 20-metre wide mouth will open between its pierheads. Then the track leads east and southeast to pass in through the entrance close to the light on the pierhead.




Haven locationThe harbour itself is segmented into an inner and outer harbour. Once inside the outer harbour a short spur, projecting east from the about the midpoint of the north pier, creates the inner harbour. Make way for the 15-metre wide gap at the end of the spur to enter into the inner harbour.



Come alongside on the south-western quay after the slip. Depths of 3.7 metres can be found at high water and a level bottom of mud alongside at low water. The depth is not consistent throughout the harbour and the best pathway to adopt is only visible at low water.




Why visit here?
The origins of the name Balbriggan, in Irish Baile Brigín, is uncertain. Baile Brigín or Breacain literally means "Breacain’s Town". Brecan was a common medieval first name but there is also the possible link to the local ‘Bracken River’. In this case, the name could have been derived from breicín that means ‘little trout’. Locals, on the other hand, believe that the Irish version Baile Brigín means "Town of the Little Hills" due to the relatively low hills that surround the town. Whichever the case, the area’s history of inhabitation is extremely long and has been traced to as far back as 2500 BC.

The oldest known verified site that proves this history of human inhabitation lies immediately adjacent to the north side of the town in the townland of Bremore. Bremore’s name is derived from the Irish Brí Mhór meaning ‘Big Hills’ that refers to its five mounds, locally known as ‘Fairy Mounds’. A 1960 archaeological survey identified passage graves in these mounds that date back to the same era as the world famous Newgrange, plus Knowth and Dowth of the Boyne Valley. The town itself, however, has no chronological foundation consensus. History records that there seems to have always been a small settlement of fishermen and some sort of agricultural trading post here. Standing, as it does, on the main east coast pathway the annals of the nation’s history have passed its way through it. St. Patrick stopped to baptise people in the River Delvin, near Balbriggan, around 436 AD. Around 600 AD St. Molaga, a beekeeper who introduced farming to the area founded a monastery in Bremore. It is recorded that the slain body of Brian Boru passed through Balbriggan on its way to be buried in Armagh in 1014, after his victory in the Battle of Clontarf that he never lived to see. Likewise, after defeating James the Second in the Battle of the Boyne, the victorious William of Orange set up camp in Balbriggan in 1690. At that time it was recorded that the population of Balbriggan was 30; 26 native Irish and 4 English.


It was the introduction of new weaving technologies plus a new coach road, which ran through Balbriggan, that caused the town to rapidly develop in the eighteenth century. In 1763, Balbriggan Harbour was built by Baron Hamilton at a cost of £15,000, aided by a government grant of £1,500. The inner dock was subsequently added in 1829. Weaving was introduced in 1780 by Baron Hamilton's ‘Smyth and Company’ or Smyco, as it was also known. This became the mainstay of the town for 200 years and area’s biggest employer. The firm became famous as the finest linen weavers in Ireland and had customers from all over the world. They were also suppliers of linens to the Vatican, Embassies of Ireland and the US, and fine hotels worldwide. One of its most noteworthy clients was Queen Victoria who had silk stockings made for her on a special loom here.

Smyco built an enviable world brand and a mark of their success was ‘Long Johns’ being called Balbriggan’s with the synonym being introduced into the dictionary. The term is often heard in John Wayne movies where he says he has to ‘put his balbriggans on'. Smyco held the record in its day of being the second longest standing member of the Dublin Stock Exchange, the oldest being Guinness, until its closure in 1980 which was a devastating blow to Balbriggan. The business continues today from another location as the old mill in the town centre has been redeveloped.



The nineteenth century brought some of the town’s major features that dominate the harbour area today. The Martello tower, overlooking the King’s Strand, was one of a number built as a defence against Napoleon's army under the 'national defence Act of 1804'. In 1838 the construction of the Dublin to Drogheda railway was started and later the massive Balbriggan Viaduct carrying the line across the harbour was built between 1843 and 44. It is made up of eleven brick arch rings, of 30 ft. span with a rise of 10 ft. each. The total length of the viaduct is 390 ft. that carries the line over four roads and the town’s small river. The rail service opened in 1844 and with it came direct contact with other commercial centres that further spurred the town’s development.


During the early years of the 20th century the town was sadly noted for one of the more infamous acts of the Irish War of Independence. The event, known as the "Sack of Balbriggan", took place on the 20th September 1920. It was an assault on the village's population by the British Black and Tans from the nearby Gormanston military barracks. They were a force of Temporary Constables, many brutalised by the trenches of world war one, recruited to assist the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). The attack resulted in the destruction of 54 houses and a hosiery factory, and the looting of four public houses. The event received much international attention due to Balbriggan's position close to foreign news correspondents in Dublin. A subsequent delegation from the United States pledged to rebuild thirty homes in the village, and a local factory. Other deaths followed during the war, most noticeably those of Séamus Lawless and Sean Gibbons who were bayoneted to death by the British forces on 21 September 1920. A plaque on Bridge Street in the town commemorates their murder.

Today the railway continues to play a very important role in the life of Balbriggan, taking a large commuting population to work north and south each day. The town offers visitors pleasant seaside walks and secure bathing off its sandy, lifeguard patrolled, principal beach. The River Delvin, said to be the christening site of St. Benignus, the successor to St. Patrick, is well stocked with trout. A visit to Ardgillan Castle is recommended, as this 18th Century Manor is renowned for its beautiful gardens. The Balbriggan Viaduct represents a strong identifying element within the town. It has footpaths along each side of the line from which there is a commanding view west, towards the town and beyond, plus off its eastern side over the harbour.



From a boating perspective, it is principally a fishing harbour, but it is also popular with small craft that can make use of its shore facilities. This is an excellent location for shallow draft vessels that can take-to-the hard to easily provision or take advantage of an extended stay. Balbriggan, as a town, is also worthy of a visit from a tourist perspective.


What facilities are available?
Fresh water, fuel, gas and electric power are all available at the quay. In addition to this there are excellent engineering facilities that support the fishing vessels plus a nine ton travel-lift and laying up facilities. There are basic provisions available in the immediate vicinity of the harbour along with restaurants and bars.

Balbriggan is 32 km north of Dublin city, on the Belfast–Dublin main line of the Irish rail network. Dublin Bus routes 33, 33A and 33X as well as Bus Eireann routes 101 (Dublin-Drogheda) and 104 (Balbriggan Town service). The town is also located next to the M1 motorway and Dublin International Airport is a taxi ride away.


Any security concerns?
Normal security provisions should be carried out if leaving a vessel unattended alongside this unsecured public quay.


With thanks to:
Charlie Kavanagh - ISA/RYA Yachtmaster Instructor/Examiner. Photography Michael Harpur and Brian Lennon.


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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 video of Balbriggan from Bremore, showing The Harbour, Martello Tower and Bremore Castle.




Balbriggan - A Birds Eye View




Scenes From Balbriggan



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