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Coastal Overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough

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What is the route?
This is the primary coastal description and set of waypoints for the area between Malin Head to Strangford Lough. The detailed coastal description may be used by those planning to come closer inshore or to approach one of the useful passage havens that are listed along the length of the route. The sequence of description is from west to east turning southward or coastal clockwise.

  • • North of the Garvan Islands and inside Inishtrahull

  • • Inside Rathlin Island

  • • Inside the Maidens

  • • Outside Hunter Rock

  • • Outside the Lucifer Bank

  • • Through Donaghadee Sound.

  • • Outside South Rock.
The preceding northwest coast's set of waypoints and coastal description is available by clicking 'Previous', above, and vessels planning on continuing southwards, through the Irish Sea and beyond, can find the following sets of waypoints and coastal descriptions by clicking 'Next'.

Why sail this route?
This is a coastal sequence for cruisers who want to stay in inshore waters to enjoy the coastal scenery that this simply beautiful sailing area has to offer. The inshore route also benefits from the calmer seas that the lee of land offers from the prevailing south westerlies. It is also conveniently close to the many listed passage havens described along the way.

What are the navigational notes?
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the route. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Clicking the 'Expand to Fullscreen' icon opens a larger viewing area in a new tab.

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The above plots are not precise and are indicative only.


The Malin Head to Strangford Lough route is to a large part that of the North Channel. This is the strait that separates eastern Ulster from southwestern Scotland and connects the Irish Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. The North Channel is deep and clear, and with the exception of the coast between Strangford Narrows and Belfast Lough, and the Maidens, is moderately steep-to on both shores except in larger bays. To the west of Rathlin Island, the bottom can be uneven.

The principal off-lying Islands and dangers in the Malin Head area are the Garvan Isles, a group of small islets about one mile off the coast near Malin Head. Further out there is Inishtrahull, that itself has off lying dangers such as the Tor Rocks. There is also a narrow ridge of coarse sand called Hempton’s Turbot Bank that should be avoided. It is situated nine miles east of Inishtrahull that has overfalls during bad weather.

To the northeast of Ramore Head the Skerries, another chain of rocky islets, need some attention for vessels planning inshore coastal sailing in this area. The nearby isolated patch of rocks called the Storks, situated just under a mile offshore, should also be noted.

Rathlin Island, located about seven miles east-northeast of Fair Head, has the rocky Shamrock Pinnacle and the Laconia Bank, located to the northwest of the island, and races and overfalls upon its corners. Rathlin Sound, between the island and the mainland, should be avoided in bad weather. Extensive overfalls form over its shallowest parts that present a very real danger to leisure craft.

Progressing south the Maidens, consisting of two two dangerous groups of rocks separated by a navigable passage, lie about five miles to the north of Larne. Hunter Rock lies to the south of the Maidens, between them and the entrance to Lough Foyle.

From Belfast Lough to Strangford Lough the Coast has a host of off lying dangers. The Copeland