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The Boat Harbour

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Lambay Island is a small island on the east coast of Ireland, about 2.5 square kilometres in size, situated two miles off the coast of North County Dublin and approximately six miles north of Howth. This secluded anchorage is off the island's drying boat harbour located on the western and mainland facing side.

Although sheltered to the east by the island it only makes for an exposed anchorage. A swell wraps around the island making it uncomfortable in all but very settled conditions and the tide runs very fast between the island and the coast causing unsettled lumpy water here. It is best suited for a lunchtime stop in settled conditions and would not make for a restful overnight stay. With the exception of a single easily avoided rock, unmarked and covered, access to the boat harbour is unimpeded and the approach is straightforward.
Please note

The pier and island are privately owned and no landing should take place. Visitors must stay aboard and cannot come alongside without prior permission. In most southerly conditions a better option is Saltpan Bay situated close to the northwestern corner of Lambay Island.

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Keyfacts for The Boat Harbour
None listed

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring location

Restriction: landing not recommended, possible or permitted here

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
2 metres (6.56 feet).

4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
2 stars: Exposed; unattended vessels should be watched from the shore and a comfortable overnight stay is unlikely.

Last modified
April 28th 2020

Summary* Restrictions apply

An exposed location with straightforward access.

None listed

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring location

Restriction: landing not recommended, possible or permitted here

Position and approaches
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Haven position

53° 29.630' N, 006° 2.040' W

On the two metre contour 100 metres west by northwest of the pier head.

What is the initial fix?

The following Lambay Harbour initial fix will set up a final approach:
53° 29.595' N, 006° 2.975' W
This waypoint is 1,200 metres west of the pier.

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 outside the marked dangers on the northwest and southwest corners of the island.

  • Come in bearing due east to the clearly visible boat harbour on the western side of the island.

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 The Boat Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Talbot’s Bay - 0.3 miles S
  2. Saltpan Bay - 0.3 miles ENE
  3. Seal Hole Bay - 0.6 miles ESE
  4. Rush Harbour - 1.5 miles NW
  5. Rogerstown Inlet - 2 miles WNW
  6. Loughshinny - 2.2 miles NNW
  7. Malahide - 3 miles WSW
  8. Carrigeen Bay - 3.4 miles SSW
  9. Skerries Bay and Harbour - 3.8 miles NNW
  10. Howth - 3.8 miles S
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Talbot’s Bay - 0.3 miles S
  2. Saltpan Bay - 0.3 miles ENE
  3. Seal Hole Bay - 0.6 miles ESE
  4. Rush Harbour - 1.5 miles NW
  5. Rogerstown Inlet - 2 miles WNW
  6. Loughshinny - 2.2 miles NNW
  7. Malahide - 3 miles WSW
  8. Carrigeen Bay - 3.4 miles SSW
  9. Skerries Bay and Harbour - 3.8 miles NNW
  10. Howth - 3.8 miles S
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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?
Lambay Island boat harbour
Image: Mbaring via CC BY-SA 2.0

Situated two and a half miles off the coast and seven miles north-northeast of the Howth Peninsula, Lambay Island is the most conspicuous feature of this coastline. Its east point, called the Nose of Lambay, is elevated 55 metres above high water, and the 123 metres high Knockbawn is its highest summit. The west side of the island is low, rocky and shallow close to the shore with some outlying dangers that need to be observed off its corners. The rest of the island is made up of high bold cliffs where at least 5 metres of water can be found 200-metres off the southern shoreline and 10 metres of water off the northern and eastern shorelines. Two sandbanks extend north and south from the island. Frazer Bank, made up of sand, with 7 to 9 metres of water over it extends up to a mile to the north and likewise Hoskyn Bank to the south. These banks should be avoided in strong easterlies.

The Boat Harbour is situated on the west side where the buildings of the island are largely located. It is made up of a small harbour enclosing a private drying pier.

How to get in?

Northern Approach Vessels approaching from the north should pass half a mile outside the Skerries Island Group that consists of three islets; Colt, St. Patrick’s and Shenick Islands. They vary from 15 to 18 metres in height and all have extensive rocky foreshores. The islands lie within a mile of Red Island and Skerries Harbour, which although called an island, is part of the mainland.

St. Patrick’s Island, the outermost island, is readily distinguished by the conspicuous church ruins on its southwest end. It is possible to cut through the Skerries Island Group from Skerries Bay and Harbour but this requires much-involved navigation and is not advisable for the unfamiliar - details for this are available in the Skerries Bay and Harbour Click to view haven entry. As a rule, newcomers are better off staying well outside of the Skerries Group.

Offshore vessels will find Rockabill Lighthouse, six miles north of Lambay Island, provides an excellent landfall. Although situated two and a half miles east by north of St. Patrick’s Island, as well as separated from the Skerries islands by a deep and clear channel, it is considered an outer part of this group.

Rockabill Lighthouse - Fl WR 12s position: 53° 35.811' N, 006° 00.297' W

Rockabill consists of two granite rocks rising abruptly from the sea to a height of 9.5 metres. Its lighthouse stands 32 metres high, a white tower with a black band, on the highest part of the south rock. The rocks are clear of danger, with 12 or 16 metres close in, and 20 to 30 at a distance of a quarter of a mile off.

To the south of these keep half a mile off the mainland until Lambay Island clears all dangers.

Southern Approach Vessels approaching from the south will find the coast from Howth to Lambay of a moderate elevation and generally fronted by sand dunes and a clean sandy beach, with 5 metres of depth approximately 150 metres off. Several Martello towers stand along this coast that are easily identifiable and are well marked on the chart.

Convergance Point Lambay Island is positioned nearly in front of the Rogerstown Inlet. The channel between Lambay Island and the mainland is about two miles wide and straightforward for leisure craft with all the dangers on Lambay Island’s western side. This said, if passing Portrane Point, the southern arm of the Rogerstown Inlet, standoff at least 500 metres to avoid its rocky outcrops that include the visible Cable Rock. North of this a vessel should keep the whole of Howth Peninsula, located seven miles to the south, open to the east of Portrane Point to keep a vessel in deep water off the mainland.

The least depth in the channel between Lambay Island and the mainland is 9.7 metres except for Burge Bar, with a least depth of 7.6 metres. It is a straightforward channel for leisure craft to approach the west side of the island.

Vessels rounding in from the north and northeast should pass outside of the Taylor Rock north cardinal buoy situated off Scotch Point, at the Islands northwestern tip. The buoy marks Taylor Rocks a patch that extends 300 metres north by northwest of Scotch Point.

Taylor Rock North Cardinal Buoy – Q position: 53° 30.222’N, 006° 01.871’W

Vessels rounding in from the south and southeast should pass should outside Burren Rocks.
These are marked by a starboard hand beacon 400 metres west of the westernmost point of the island. This is a reef, visible at low water that extends from the island, and a ledge extends a further 30 metres out from the beacon.

Burren Rock Starboard Beacon - position: 53° 29.353’N, 006° 02.460’W

Initial fix location From the initial fix approach the pier that will be readily evident on the shoreline, on a bearing of due east. Be careful not to be pushed northward by a flood tide as an unmarked rock that is covered by 1.2 metres of water is situated about 200 metres out from the shoreline and 200 metres north of the pier. Vessels approaching along the northwest corner of the island may avoid this by keeping at least 300 metres offshore as they progress around the island.

Haven location Anchor about 100 metres out from the mouth of the harbour in shale that provides very good holding. This is a private harbour and island so no landing should take place here unless prior consent has been obtained.

Why visit here?
Lambay Island derives its name from the Viking word 'lamboy', meaning 'lamb' and 'øy', or 'ey', meaning island, so 'Lamb island'. This most likely originated from the ancient practice of sending ewes to the predator-free island for the summer grazing and returning them to the mainland in autumn.

The island's ancient Irish name was 'Reachra' that in Irish means 'place of many shipwrecks'. Indeed the mirroring mainland coastal area 'Portrane' is derived from Port Reachrainn taking its name from the island. This ancient name is aptly depicted in the sad events surrounding the RMS Tayleur discussed in the Seal Hole Bay entry on the island's eastern side.

Although the island has a Nordic name the history of human inhabitation of the island goes way back before the Vikings came here. Lambay has been peopled from perhaps as early 7,000 BC to the present day. Lambay was important in the Irish Neolithic period as a ground stone axe quarrying and production site from about 5,000 BC to 500 BC. Two outcrops of porphyritic andesite, or Lambay porphyry as it is more commonly known, were utilised and they manufactured flint tools here that are believed to be of such high quality that they were of an ornamental standard. The quarry site is also unusual in that it is the only British Isles Neolithic stone axe quarry with evidence of all stages of production, from quarrying to final polishing.

Other findings of ancient inhabitation include a 20th-century survey uncovering the remains of an enclosure to the south of the present church. It suggested a connected moated site with diverse connected graves. A further number of Iron Age burials were discovered in 1927 on Lambay during repair works on the island's harbour. First-to second-century A.D. objects were also recovered from island burial sites. They included some Roman-like metal brooches or fibula, a beaded necklace known then as a torc, bronze discs, and many other objects. There is no evidence today that the Romans made it to the Irish mainland, but it is believed that the island was probably populated by a mixture of Irish, Romano-British, Gallo-Roman, and others, that most likely would have included a few Romans as well. It is strongly believed that a small group of British refugees from Brigantia, fleeing the Roman conquest in A.D. 71-74 came here. The island was known in Roman times, as the Greeks Pliny and Ptolomeo were certainly aware of the island and charted it as Limnios.

St. Colmcille is said to have established a monastic settlement on Lambay circa 530 AD, and Ireland's Viking period began with the first-ever raid here in 795. In 1467, it was provided by statute that the Earl of Worcester, then Lord Deputy, be granted Lambay to build a fortress for England's protection against the Spaniards, French and Scots. Worcester paid the Archbishop of Dublin 40 shillings per annum, and though he had a licence to build a castle on Lambay, it is not certain that it was built. After the 1691 Battle of Aughrim, the decisive battle of the Williamite War in Ireland, the castle was used as a concentration camp for the defeated Jacobite troops. More than one thousand were imprisoned there; some died of wounds and starvation. They were eventually released in the bounds of an oath of allegiance for fear they would join a foreign army and England would have to fight them again. The islands west facing harbour was constructed in the 1820s by the famous engineer Alexander Nimmo. By the standards of the time, it was much larger than required by such a small island, and its construction serves to highlight the strategic importance of its surrounding sea area for shipping bound for the capital.

In 1805, the leasehold of Lambay was inherited by Sir William Wolseley, and in 1814 it was acquired by the Talbot family of Malahide. In 1860 the existing farmers were removed and replaced with English and Scottish tenants. Having sold nearby Portrane House, Count James Considine bought Lambay in 1888, developing the island for hunting.

In turn, the Baring family bought Lambay Island in 1904 for £9,000. Originally the Barings were a German Protestant family who became heavily involved in banking. They founded the Barings Bank that received recent notoriety when it was brought down by the rogue financial trader Nick Leeson. Cecil Baring had been working at the New York branch of the family banking business in the latter years of the 19th century, and he developed a great interest in natural history and travelled extensively in pursuit of this interest. At home, he also developed a great interest in the wife of one of his co-directors, Maude Louise Lorillard whom he fell entirely in love with. She divorced her husband and married Baring and eighteen months after his marriage Cecil saw an advertisement in ‘The Field’ titled “Island for Sale“. He immediately bought Lambay Island to escape to with his beautiful wife.

Once the sale was complete Baring hired Sir Edwin Lutyens, one of the greatest architects of the time, to work on renovation the small late 16th-century fort with battlemented gables and 15th-century blockhouse. The castle was subsequently turned into a fine mansion that was so deftly executed that only a trained eye can tell the new from the old. He was retained many years later to work on other buildings such as the 1930s White House, situated close to the harbour, a largely single-storey horse-shoe shaped house with high roofs and white walls, built for the couple’s daughters Daphne and Calypso and their families. In total the estate includes domestic extensions to the old castle, a village of cottages, a communal hall, two-family houses, a harbour and boathouse and a distinctive open-air real tennis court, the only one remaining in Ireland, plus a chapel located on an isolated promontory. Cecil Baring became Lord Revelstoke in 1929 and died in 1934. He passed on the castle and island to his only son Rupert Baring.

Today the island contains theses grand structures and gardens along with the last surviving substantial elm tree forest in Ireland. It also supports one of the largest and most important seabird colonies in Ireland, with over 50,000 Common Guillemots, 5,000 Kittiwakes, 3,500 Razorbills, 2,500 pairs of Herring Gulls, as well as smaller numbers of Puffins, Manx Shearwaters, Fulmars and other species. Along the shores, Lambay has the largest concentration of grey seals on the east coast, and there are several caves in the cliffs much frequented for giving birth to their pups. Ashore, a herd of about 200 fallow deer were introduced to the island and, oddly, wallabies. It appears Dublin Zoo became overcrowded in the 1980s and some of their numbers were placed on the island. The colony is now four or more strong and may usually be seen at or near the summit, fenced off from the cattle.

The island and its estate are privately owned today by Alex Baring, 7th Baron Revelstoke, who is currently in occupation. The family value their privacy, and also the welfare of the nesting wild bird population and unusual animals, so no landings should take place. However, Alex Baring recently sought planning permission to upgrade the island's infrastructure, including its sewage and electricity systems, and to make alterations to some of the islands numerous residences in preparation to put the island on a commercial footing.

What facilities are available?
There are no facilities on the island and no landing should take place. The island is privately owned by the Revelstoke family and the owners value their privacy.

Any security concerns?
Never an issue known to have occurred anchored off this private offshore island. Vessels are most likely to be alone or in the company of other anchored yachtsmen.

With thanks to:
Burke Corbett, Gusserane, New Ross, Co. Wexford. Photography with thanks to William Murphy, Михал Орела, Brian Lennon, Joachim S. Müller, Dietrich, David Medcalf, Dr Charles Nelson.

A flight over the harbour area and Talbot's Bay.

Lambay Island Pictures featuring views of the buildings ashore

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