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Dundalk

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Overview





Dundalk Harbour is situated on the northeast coast of Ireland, four miles within the Castletown River that flows through drying sandbanks and training walls into Dundalk Bay. The drying industrial quays are not set up for pleasure craft and are less than prepossessing. However, leisure vessels are welcome to berth alongside and or take to the ground on soft mud.

Dundalk Harbour is situated on the northeast coast of Ireland, four miles within the Castletown River that flows through drying sandbanks and training walls into Dundalk Bay. The drying industrial quays are not set up for pleasure craft and are less than prepossessing. However, leisure vessels are welcome to berth alongside and or take to the ground on soft mud.

Dundalk and the Castletown River provide a vessel with complete protection from all conditions. Copious commercial channel markings and lights make access straightforward in moderate and all offshore winds. With onshore winds, the Castletown River entrance is more challenging. Unfamiliar boats visiting in conditions from southeast round to east to north-northeast should not attempt the entrance in anything above a force four. The southeast is the worst condition for the entrance where dangerous seas build upon the extensive bar.
Please note

Vessels considering Dundalk require a reliable and capable engine to work the channel.




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Keyfacts for Dundalk
Facilities
Water available via tapDiesel fuel available alongsideTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaLaundry facilities availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaCar hire available in the areaTourist Information office available


Nature
Urban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pier

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
1 metres (3.28 feet).

Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.



Last modified
December 17th 2020

Summary* Restrictions apply

A completely protected location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Water available via tapDiesel fuel available alongsideTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaLaundry facilities availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaCar hire available in the areaTourist Information office available


Nature
Urban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pier



HM  +353 87 2847566      Ch.14 [Drogheda]
Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 0.545' N, 006° 23.378' W

At the northwest end of Dundalk’s ‘Quay’ that is situated on the south side of the Castletown River alongside the town, to the southeast of Dundalk Bridge.

What is the initial fix?

The following Dundalk Harbour Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
53° 57.693' N, 006° 16.753' W
This is located one mile from the Dundalk Pile Light Fl 15s 10m 21M. It is set on the leading lights alignment that marks the close approach to the channel; Oc G 5s visible 325.5° - 328.5° T. A course of 326° T leads into the river entrance from here.


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.

  • Confirm that the requisite draft is available for the entry length of the transit.

  • Locate the Dundalk Pile Lighthouse.

  • Follow the marks maintaining a central path all the way.


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 Dundalk for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Giles Quay - 3.4 miles ESE
  2. Greer’s Quay - 4.2 miles NE
  3. Omeath - 4.3 miles NE
  4. Warrenpoint - 4.4 miles NE
  5. Carlingford Marina - 4.6 miles ENE
  6. Carlingford Harbour - 4.7 miles ENE
  7. Killowen - 5 miles ENE
  8. Rostrevor - 5.1 miles NE
  9. Newry - 6 miles N
  10. Greencastle - 6.4 miles E
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Giles Quay - 3.4 miles ESE
  2. Greer’s Quay - 4.2 miles NE
  3. Omeath - 4.3 miles NE
  4. Warrenpoint - 4.4 miles NE
  5. Carlingford Marina - 4.6 miles ENE
  6. Carlingford Harbour - 4.7 miles ENE
  7. Killowen - 5 miles ENE
  8. Rostrevor - 5.1 miles NE
  9. Newry - 6 miles N
  10. Greencastle - 6.4 miles E
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?
George's Quay, Dundalk
Image: Michael Harpur


Dundalk is the county town of Louth and a small fishing and commercial port. It is situated at the head of the estuary of Castletown River, which flows past the town of Dundalk to the sea, about 4 miles in the northwest corner of Dundalk Bay. The town and port are situated on the south side of the river, lying within 1500 metres southeast of Dundalk Bridge that marks the river’s navigational limit for sailing craft. The drying industrial quays are used by cargo ships and fishing boats. Although less than visually attractive and not set up for leisure vessels, it is possible for vessels prepared to work the tide and take to the bottom to come alongside or raft up to a fishing vessel.


George's Quay at high water
Image: Michael Harpur


The narrow channel to the quay dries to 0.9 metres LAT and George's Quay dries to 2.5 metres LAT. Having one of the highest tidal ranges on the east coast, MHWS 5.1m & MHWN 4.2m, the harbour will be easily navigable for leisure craft at half tide and above.

As this is a commercial port and permission is required to enter. Dundalk Harbour is owned by Dublin Port Company and leased to the local firm O'Hanlon and Sons Ltd who operate port on behalf of Dublin Ports. The port Harbour Master may be contacted on VHF Ch.14 [Drogheda], Mobile+353 (0)87 2847566. Alternatively, Dundalk Pilot Mobile+353 (0)87 2847566 or the Harbour Master at Dublin Master office Landline+353 (0)1 8876000. A fender board is advisable for those planning to come alongside the wall.


How to get in?
The run up to George's Quay from Dundalk Bay
Image: Michael Harpur


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

The extensive Dundalk Bay is situated between Dunany Point and Cooley Point. The south and west sides of the bay are flat and relatively featureless but the north side is made up of an imposing ridge of mountains collectively referred to as Carlingford Mountains. The bay is mostly shallow with less than 15 metres anywhere and from Giles Quay, situated on the northern shore, to beyond the small drying quay of Annagassan, on the southern shore, extensive sand-banks sweep around the bight of the bay uncovering at low water for a distance of up to 2 miles from the high-water line.


The estuary of the Castletown River at low water
Image: Michael Harpur


The narrow channel of the Castletown River leads through these sands to the harbour of Dundalk. This small commercial port lies four miles upriver from the estuary. Dundalk Pile Light, a 10-metre high white house on green piles, is situated at its mouth.

Dundalk Pile Lighthouse - Fl WR 15s 10m 21M position: 53° 58.560’N, 006° 17.714’W

Dundalk Pile Light
Image: Mark Murray via CC BY-SA 2.0
The pile light provides two lights. The top light white sector 284° to 313° that shows the safe approach into Dundalk Bay avoiding the Dunany Shoals on the south side, and the dangers extending from Cooley Point, Imogene and Castle Rock to the north. The latter two are marked by buoys.

Dunany Light buoy - (port hand) Fl R 3s position: 53° 53.530’N, 006° 09.502’W

Imogene Light buoy - (port hand) Fl (2) R 10s position: 53° 57.415’N, 006° 07.042’W

Dunany Point has a drying rock lies about ½ a mile east by northeast of the point. Dunany Shoals, with a least depth of 1.8 metres, lies north of the point. These are marked by a lighted buoy moored about 3½ miles northeast of the point.

The low water depth of the entrance channel is approximately 1.5 metres and the best entry is at half flood when the training walls remain uncovered and visible. Expect the channel to have a depth of 2.5 metres at high water minus four hours, and 3.3 metres at high water minus three hours.

It is advisable to make the harbour office aware of any planned entry and seek clearance so as not to impede any commercial ship movements. Keep Channel 14 open throughout the approach.

Initial fix location The Dundalk Harbour Initial Fix is located 1 mile from the Dundalk Pile Light close to the 2-metre contour. From here steer a course of 320° T towards the Dundalk No.1 Marker Fl.G.3s, a port beacon located ¼ of a mile southward of the Dundalk Pile Light. This takes a vessel into the river entrance.


Soldiers Point Beacon
Image: Michael Harpur


The channel onward towards Dundalk is then well marked and lit all the way. Its general direction from the lighthouse is northwest for 2 miles, then it turns westward for about ¾ of a mile further to Soldiers Point. The outer portion of the sandbanks are confined for much of its length by training walls that cover at high water. Pass the marks on the correct side with the beacons on the west or south side of the channel are even numbers and the east and north side markers are odd numbers. Give the beacons and perches a sufficient berth and use a chart to the detail of Admiralty Chart 1431 ‘Drogheda and Dundalk’ Scale 20,000:1 for this intricate work.


The run up to George's Quay with its prominent grain silos
Image: Michael Harpur


From Soldiers Point to the town, the south side of the river is embanked with an extensive section in front of the town quay. The 50 – 60 metres wide channel runs close along the embankment to the quays and is highly protected. The harbour lies on the south bank of the river alongside the town of Dundalk. Large grain and fuel silos on the eastern end quay will be seen on final approaches.


George's Quay at low water
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location The quay is used by cargo ships and fishing boats. The best location to berth is at the west end of the quay where about 15 cockle-dredging boats berth.


Local boats dried out alongside
Image: Michael Harpur


Come alongside the wooden quay where a metre can be found. Vessels may lie alongside here in a metre, or partly waterborne in soft mud depending on draft. Those who can take-to-the-hard may dry out.


Why visit here?
Dundalk's name is derived from the Irish 'Dún Dealgan' meaning either 'Dalgan's Fort' or 'the fort of thorns'. Though the origins of the town date back to about A.D. 600, history runs much deep in its surrounds and this is an area which is steeped in national antiquity.


Proleek Dolmen
Image: Darran Raff via CC BY SA 2.0


Late Mesolithic shell middens have been excavated at Rockmarshall on the north shore situated at the edge of a glacial moraine that once overlooked a former coastal lagoon at the north side of Dundalk Bay. These shell middens indicated that Mesolithic hunter-gatherers collected oyster, periwinkle, limpet, whelk, mussel and cockles as well as crab – perhaps at various times of the year. There were only a few finds of flint flakes, blades, cores and bevel-ended beach pebbles. Radiocarbon dated charcoal from the site dates it to 4570-4040 BC and a human femur that was discovered here was radiocarbon dated to the late Mesolithic at 4720-4360 BC. Other finds included lithics, mostly blades, flakes and cores. One midden it was observed was situated at a sheltered location on the back of the ridge, at a place where people could have sat and looked back up into the mountain valley above them.

Cú Chulainn, also called Cuchulain, in battle
Image: Public Domain Image by Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874 - 1951)
The Neolithic people came to the area around 3500 BC and left behind one of their most lasting landmarks in Ballymascanlon on the north side of Dundalk. This is the 5000-year-old Proleek Dolmen that stands, not unlike a giant mushroom on three stalks. The megalithic tomb, the name derived from mega lithos 'large stone tomb', is an example of a portal tomb so called because the two large upright stones that support the highest end of the capstone. This acted as a portal or doorway into what was then a burial chamber where the farming communities in the Neolithic period could bury their dead. Burials were normally cremated before they were placed in the tomb and were often accompanied by flint and stone implements, bone beads and pins and fragments of coarse hand-made pottery. The colossal structure's capstone, called 'the giants load', weighs more than 40 tons. It remains an engineering mystery to this day how the Neolithic people hauled this enormous rock on top of its three uprights.

Close to the Proleek Dolmen is a large grave made of rocks. Legend has it that this is the tomb of a Scottish giant who came to Ireland to challenge the hero Fionn Mac Cumhail, and lost. This is an area steeped in legend and most of Dundalk’s mythological tales stem from the 'fili' who were the poets of Celtic society. The most famous of these tales are those of the Red Branch Knights, the 'Táin Bó Cúailnge's, the driving-off of cows of Cooley', commonly known as 'The Cattle Raid of Cooley', and national mythical warrior 'Cú Chulainn' who, reputedly, came from Dundalk. They first settled in north Louth around 500 BC and were lead by 'Conaill Carnagh', the legendary chief of the 'Red Branch Knights'. Immersed in this Celtic mythology the town's crest reads 'Mé do rug Cú Chulainn Cróga' that translates to 'I gave birth to brave Cú Chulainn'.


Castleroche seat of the de Verdun family 10 km northwest of Dundalk
Image: Tourism Ireland


The earliest historical notice of the area occurs in 1180, when the norman John de Courcey, with 1000 men, marching against a prince of Argial who had destroyed one of his ships. Here the conquering norman encountered the native chiefs with a force of 7000 men who defeated his advance with the loss of 400 of his troops. Anglo-Norman power was soon afterwards firmly established by the conquering Norman knight Bertram de Verdon who was granted a town charter for the area in 1189. He founded a priory for Crouched Friars of the Augustine order and in the reign of Henry III, Lord John de Verdon founded a Franciscan friary in the town. The towns’ development benefited from being close to an easy Castletown River bridging point. It was the ideal location for the Normans to construct walls and other fortifications, such as the Castletown motte-and-bailey. In time Dundalk gradually grew alongside these features as an un-walled village or 'Sráid Bhaile'; literally 'street townland'.


Grave of King Edward De Bruce in Faughart Cemetery
Image: Davidmc5585 via CC BY-SA 4.0


Dundalk prospered and developed in the 13th-century due to Anglo-Norman involvement as a result of their direct proximity to Britain, with access to coastal resources and to the suitability of their hinterland and foreland. Individual adventurers and entrepreneurs investment and subsequent involvement with the town was a major contributing factor to its success. Dundalk was operating as a port from at least the late part of the 13th-century when the Mariot of Dundalk shipped "72 quarters [of wheat], boards, timber and nails" from Drogheda to North Wales. Little is known about the topography of the early port but it must have been a difficult port to access with vessels having to negotiate its shallow tidal estuary with extensive sandbanks and saltmarsh.


Dundalk Courthouse in 1906
Image: National Library of Ireland on The Commons


In 1315, Edward Bruce younger brother of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, landed with as many as 6,000 troops in Ulster to pursue his claims in Ireland as part of the family struggle for the Scottish Crown. His army was made up of battle-hardened Scottish soldiers who were well used to fighting the English. They attacked English settlers in eastern Ulster, laid siege to and destroyed the towns of Ardee and then Dundalk defeating each English army sent to fight them. Having taken possession of Dundalk he proclaimed himself King of Ireland in May 1316 at nearby Knocknemelan. He had by then overrun the counties of Down, Armagh, and Louth, and entered Meath but this was his seminal moment as famine and a lack of a supply chain would exhaust his support and army and put an end to his advances. His crown was a hollow title and the Scots occupation was largely confined to the north of Ireland where he would only hold out for two years. The leader of the English army, John de Bermingham, and his army would put pay to it in the late summer of 1318 in a bloody affair at Faughart, also near Dundalk. Edward was slain and his body was quartered and sent to various towns in Ireland, with his head being delivered to King Edward II. Despite this, the grave of King Edward De Bruce is in Faughart Cemetery. Whatever the case, this battle was a major victory for the English that effectively put an end to the Scottish rebellion.



St Patricks Cathedral Dundalk
Image: Tourism Ireland


Dundalk recovered to become a significant market town throughout the middle ages and it remained just inside and the northernmost point of the 'Pale' when it was at its largest stretching from Dundalk to Waterford town. The term 'Pale', from a stockade, delimited the area around Dublin which marked the limits of English influence from Norman to Tudor times. Sir William Bereton describes the port in 1635 as a "town seated upon the sea so as barks may come within a convenient distance with the flood; much low, level, flat land hereabout, which is often overflowed in the winter, and here is an abundance of fowl'. These physical limitations would have restricted the size and density of shipping entering the port and the 15 ton Trinitic of Murlington which it is recorded traded with the port several times in 1589 must have been typical of the type and size of the vessel using the port. To date, no physical traces of medieval waterfront structures have been located and the port may have functioned as a tidal beaching facility


Dundalk Courthouse today
Image: Can Pac Swire via CC BY-SA 4.0


Surviving the warfare of the 16th and 17th centuries it emerged into a modern era in the 1740s and 50s employing a re-development plan advanced by James Hamilton. Then the town landlord, Hamilton constructed the streets that lead into the town centre. Many of his ideas were modelled on European cities and sadly, necessitated the demolition of the old walls and castles. The result, combined with the town’s churches and cathedrals, is the modern town experienced today. In the 19th century, the town grew in importance and many industries were set up in the local area. This has left a legacy of many impressive buildings that line Dundalk’s streets and fold around the corners of its gentle streetscapes. This development was helped considerably by the opening of railways, and the expansion of the docks area or 'Quay'. Some of the more impressive are the Dundalk Courthouse built 1819 on the portico design and dimensions of the Temple of Theseus in Athens, and St Patricks Cathedral.


Pub on the quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Today Dundalk is the county town and administrative centre that has evolved into a hub for technology, electronics and engineering. It is the last major town before the Northern Irish border. The area’s rich historical tapestry can be explored in Dundalk’s County Museum one of the finest local authority museums nationally. It is located in an elegantly restored 18th-century warehouse in Jocelyn Street. In three exhibition galleries, it gives an imaginative history of the county, from the Stone Age to the present day with the strength of the museum is in its collections. Exhibits range from the 'Mell' flake, the earliest Irish artefact ever discovered which is a piece of flint made by human hands and transported via an ice sheet. Later period exhibits include Oliver Cromwell’s shaving mirror and the riding jacket worn by William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne and so on. It is the perfect port of call for a location imbued with history.


Local boats alongside the quay at Dundalk
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective, Dundalk offers a completely secure berth for all conditions, although without a doubt the 'Quay' area is industrial and less than attractive. Perhaps, so unappealing that the Dundalk Sailing Club departed Dundalk for the shores of Carlingford Lough in 1999 and changed its name to the 'Dundalk & Carlingford Sailing Club'. Doubtlessly this was for the far more aesthetically pleasing surroundings but also the freedom from tidal restrictions. Nevertheless, it is still a very good berth that is complemented by the outstanding beauty of the Cooley Peninsula that provides a stunning backdrop to an area of deep national historical interest. Likewise, the estuary is a less than attractive expanse but these salt marshes here are home to a bird sanctuary where some very unusual species may be seen. Add to this the facilities of the extensive County Louth town, with a supermarket across the road from the quay and everything else immediately to hand, and this location could become a much more interesting proposition for the coastal explorer than many would think at first glance.


What facilities are available?
Dundalk town has a population of 35,000 and is the second largest town in Ireland. Furthermore within a 40 km radius the catchment area grows to 482,000. It has all the amenities, pubs and restaurants that you would expect to service a population of that size and almost all yachting services a vessel would require except for sail repairs, are catered for. Of particular convenience is a large discount supermarket a few minutes stroll from the quay with the pub just alongside. Water and diesel are also available at the quay.

Dundalk also offers very good connections to Dublin city 86 km to the south, being on the Belfast–Dublin main line of the Irish rail network. It is also at the approximate midpoint of the M1, or E1 Euro Route 1, the motorway between Dublin and Belfast. Dublin international airport is 72 km to the south or 40 minutes away.

Other useful transport contacts in this area:
Dundalk Train Station + 353 42 933 5521
Dundalk Bus Station + 353 42 9334075


Any security concerns?
The quay is an unsecured area in a major provincial town where normal vessel security should be attended to.


With thanks to:
Charles Floody, Drogheda Harbour Pilot for more than three decades.




















The following video presents a low quality image of Dundalk lighthouse.




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