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Carlingford Harbour

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Overview





Carlingford Harbour is a tidal harbour located on the southwest shore of Carlingford Lough inlet, which is set into Ireland's northeast coastline. The small pretty harbour dries beyond its pierheads and is only suitable for vessels that can take to the bottom. There is a popular anchorage outside the harbour area with good depths and the possibility of picking up club moorings.

Carlingford Harbour is a tidal harbour located on the southwest shore of Carlingford Lough inlet, which is set into Ireland's northeast coastline. The small pretty harbour dries beyond its pierheads and is only suitable for vessels that can take to the bottom. There is a popular anchorage outside the harbour area with good depths and the possibility of picking up club moorings.

This harbour offers good protection but can be exposed in northwest round to northeast conditions when it would be more comfortable elsewhere within the lough. However, a good measure of protection is afforded to all vessels drying out behind the harbour’s protective piers in all reasonable conditions. The harbour is accessed via Warrenpoint Port’s lit deep water shipping channel, which runs the entire length of the lough. Careful navigation is generally required for this location owing to exceptional currents in the lower lough and at the entrance.
Please note

It is essential to proceed to No.18 port marker buoy to round the Carlingford Bank before commencing a final approach. This requires a vessel to pass the harbour to port, in the channel outside the bank, and then to double back to approach the harbour from the north inside the bank. Vessels cutting directly across will most likely wind up on the Carlingford Bank. During northwest winds, the inlet is subject to heavy squalls that descend from the hills.




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Keyfacts for Carlingford Harbour
Facilities
Water available via tapGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableHot 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 areaMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaBus service available in the areaBicycle hire available in the areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Dangerous to enter when it is Beaufort force 5 or more from NE, ENE, E, ESE, SE and SSE.Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierRestriction: strong to overwhelming tides in the localityNote: fish farming activity in the vicinity of this locationNote: could be two hours or more from the main waterways

Protected sectors

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

Approaches
2 stars: Careful navigation; good visibility and conditions with dangers that require careful navigation.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
September 9th 2022

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with careful navigation required for access.

Facilities
Water available via tapGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableHot 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 areaMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaBus service available in the areaBicycle hire available in the areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Dangerous to enter when it is Beaufort force 5 or more from NE, ENE, E, ESE, SE and SSE.Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierRestriction: strong to overwhelming tides in the localityNote: fish farming activity in the vicinity of this locationNote: could be two hours or more from the main waterways



Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 2.580' N, 006° 10.930' W

The end of the east pier that is lit; Oc.R.4s 5m 3M

What is the initial fix?

The following Carlingford Lough Entrance Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 0.100' N, 006° 2.052' W
500 metres due south of Hellyhunter, a south cardinal buoy Q(6) +FL1.15s. From here the line of the entrance’s leading light beacons may be picked up.


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 and directions for the run up the lough are available in the Warrenpoint Click to view haven entry.
  • From the entrance follow the well buoyed and lit commercial channel up the lough to the No.18 port hand marker.

  • Do not be tempted to cut across directly before the mark as this will bring a vessel upon the Carlingford Bank.

  • Round the No.18 port hand Channel Buoy Fl R (4) 8s and approach the Carlingford Harbour 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 Carlingford Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Carlingford Marina - 0.6 nautical miles NNW
  2. Killowen - 2 nautical miles N
  3. Rostrevor - 2.3 nautical miles N
  4. Greer’s Quay - 2.6 nautical miles NW
  5. Greencastle - 2.8 nautical miles E
  6. Omeath - 3.7 nautical miles NW
  7. Giles Quay - 4.1 nautical miles SSW
  8. Warrenpoint - 4.1 nautical miles NW
  9. Kilkeel Harbour - 6.7 nautical miles E
  10. Dundalk - 7.6 nautical miles WSW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Carlingford Marina - 0.6 miles NNW
  2. Killowen - 2 miles N
  3. Rostrevor - 2.3 miles N
  4. Greer’s Quay - 2.6 miles NW
  5. Greencastle - 2.8 miles E
  6. Omeath - 3.7 miles NW
  7. Giles Quay - 4.1 miles SSW
  8. Warrenpoint - 4.1 miles NW
  9. Kilkeel Harbour - 6.7 miles E
  10. Dundalk - 7.6 miles WSW
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?
Carlingford Harbour with the entrance to Carlingford Lough in the backdrop
Image: Tourism Ireland


Carlingford is situated on the southwestern shore of Carlingford Lough, about 5 miles from Haulbowline Light House, which marks the entrance to the Lough, and 2 miles to the northwestward of Greenore Point with Slieve Foy mountain as a backdrop, sometimes known as Carlingford Mountain. It is the main town of the Cooley Peninsula and is fronted by a small pretty tidal harbour. The harbour is made conspicuous from a distance by the ruins of an old castle that stands at its northern end. Two piers enclose the harbour that are both used by fishing boats and leisure craft.


Carlingford Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


The westernmost of the harbour's enclosing piers, the most convenient for the town, is called the Quay and it has 2.7 metres at HW and a bottom of deep soft mud.


The Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


The eastern 'Pier' has a depth of 3.4 metres at MHWS and a firmer bottom that is reportedly the best option for those choosing to dry out.


Vessels alongside the eastern Pier
Image: Michael Harpur


Between the piers, the silted harbour exposes soft black mud at the bottom of the tide which dries to 1.5 to 2 metres and is not suitable for drying.

The harbour dries at low water
Image: Michael Harpur



The local Carlingford Sailing Club provides eight complimentary visitor moorings that are available by arrangement.


Carlingford Sailing Club just outside the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


The club may be contacted by VHF Ch. 16 [Carlingford Sailing Club], Landline+353 (0) 42 937 3238, Mobile+353 (0) 87 980 7774, E-mailinfo@carlingfordsailingclub.net and have a web site for further information Websitewww.carlingfordsailingclub.


How to get in?
Carlingford in the southeast end of the Lough with the marina in the backdrop
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Seaward approaches are detailed in eastern Ireland’s coastal overview for Strangford Lough to Dublin Bay Route location. Use the directions provided for Warrenpoint Click to view haven for approaches and the run up the Lough.


Carlingford and Carlingford Marina
Image: Tourism Ireland


Continue up the lough to the No.18 port hand Channel Buoy Fl R (4) 8s. Visibly this carries a vessel past Carlingford Harbour situated on the southern shore that will be seen about two miles west by northwest of Greenore Point. It is readily recognisable by the town, its piers on which the ruins of King John’s Castle sit are at the foot of the Cooley Mountains. But it is nonetheless essential to continue as far as buoy No.18 and approach the harbour from the north to avoid the Carlingford Bank.


The run down inside the bank from Carlingford Marina to Carlingford Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


This bank lies in front of the town, between it and the channel, and terminates before the buoy. The bank's outer edge dries and is steep-to. Between it and the shore, there are extensive shallows reducing from 1.7 to 1.6 metres of water in the area to the east of the marina until it dries at low water spring outside the harbour’s pier heads.
Please note

It is essential not to cut in before the No.18 marker and those who do so, do it at their peril.



Once round the northwest end of the Carlingford Bank, taking the No.18 buoy to port, steer a course of about 170° T for a mile to the east pierhead at the harbour entrance.

Carlingford Harbour as seen from eastward
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location The north-facing entrance lies between the pierheads and is 180 metres wide. At night the pierheads are lit with the northwest Quay Fl.G.3s3M, and the eastern Pier OcR.4s.3M.

Providing prior arrangement has been made with Carlingford Sailing Club shallow draft yachts can make use of the four visitor moorings located about 400 metres to the north of the harbour. Deeper drafted vessels may find four visitor moorings 800 metres out near the marina.


The Quay (left) as seen from the Pier
Image: Tourism Ireland


The anchorage area is situated between the town and the marina, approximately 500 metres beyond the pierheads to the north-northwest of Carlingford. The area will make itself readily known by private moorings situated there. Good mud holding is to be found here with depths of 2 to 3 metres clear of the established small craft moorings and shellfish beds. At neaps, a draft of 1.7 metres can be had 300 metres north of the east pier or 1.4 metres 200 metres north.


Why visit here?
Carlingford derives its name from the Old Norse 'Kerlingfjǫrðr' of the Viking sailors who raided and patrolled these coasts in the Middle Ages. The name is the conjunction of 'kerling' meaning 'hag' and 'fjörthr', later fjord, meaning a 'narrow sea inlet', so 'fiord of the hags'.


Carlingford Lough as seen from the northwest above Warrenpoint
Image: Tourism Ireland


The hags, in this case, probably refers to the mountain stacks known as the 'Three Nuns'. These panicles were most likely used as pilot points to pass the many rocks and pinnacles of the narrow entrance into the Lough where many vessels have met their end. So, the name means 'sea inlet between the cliffs or steep slopes'. As is common with Norse names, it was not adopted into the Irish name and Cairlinn, a shortened form of Cathair Linn, that directly translates to 'city of the pool'.

King John
Image: Public Domain
Although commonly attributed to the Vikings, the true founders of the town of Carlingford were the Normans. It was not until 1184 that John de Courcy’s army made its way to Carlingford when he then claimed this part of Louth for himself. However, de Courcy did not hold these lands for more than two decades as powerful men make powerful enemies. De Courcy backed King Richard in his power struggle with John and when John succeeded Richard, he quickly dismissed de Courcy from office. The insecure King John continued to be mean and vindictive and then sent Hugh de Lacy to capture de Courcy in 1204. Hugh de Lacy, the younger son of Hugh de Lacy 'Lord of Meath', eventually captured de Courcy by a cowardly targeted ambush when de Courcy was in a church. In May 1205, King John made Hugh the 'Earl of Ulster', and assigned him the territories that Henry II had granted de Courcy "as John de Courcy held it on the day when Hugh defeated him".

De Lacy and his Norman command recognised the Lough's strategic significance as the vital stretch of water to the 'Gap of the North' and inland Ulster. They were determined to secure it by constructing two castles at its mouth on the southern and northern shores, at Carlingford and at Greencastle to guard the narrow entrance channel to the Lough and the ferry crossing between the two. A further measure of their determination to control the vital waterway was the construction of a fort at the present-day site of Narrow Water Castle. The three castles physically protected their respective harbours and controlled both marine and terrestrial access to the Lough.


King John's Castle Carlingford
Image: Keith Ruffles via CC BY-SA 2.0


Carlingford Castle was probably built in the early part of the 13th century with a twin-towered gateway and four square towers on its curtain wall. King John spent the summer of 1210 in the castle whereupon it became known as King John's castle. The town, which gradually rose to the southeast of the castle consisted chiefly of castellated buildings. Arising from its situation on the frontier of the pale, these were subsequently walled and Carlingford became a trading centre as well as the defensive English stronghold on the Cooley Peninsula. The castle and town buildings were not entirely military in function, or solely for the display of power and social status. These were also working buildings, oriented toward a marine economy.


King John's Castle corresponding Greencastle
Image: Tourism Ireland


During the Middle Ages, there were rich fisheries off Carlingford attracting hundreds of ships from Wales, southwest England, and Spain. The fishing grounds, warmed by climatic change, were being harvested by these foreign fishing fleets sometimes to the detriment of the home market. It was noted in 1515 that "merchants convey out of this land into France, Brittaine and other strange parts, salmonds, herrings, dry lings, haaks and other fish, so abundantly that they leve none within the land to vitall the King’s subjects.


Carlingford as seen from the East Pier today
Image: Tourism Ireland


Huge numbers of men were employed in this fishery, 6,000 on one occasion in 1535 when a fleet of 600 English boats was recorded to be fishing off Carlingford. Situated and oriented towards the sea, Carlingford would most likely have had vast fish catches hauled up on its waterfront and a brusque trade running here.


Narrow Water Castle
Image: Tourism Ireland


The nearby Taaffe's Castle, which stood in the old harbour area of the town is an example of such a trading past. Such fortified townhouses were a popular form of residence amongst the wealthy merchant classes of medieval Ireland. Situated on the old harbour front the building was most likely the residence and trading depot of an important member of this merchant class. The business was conducted on the bottom floor, and the upper floors contained the living quarters. The building derives its name from the Taaffe family who became Earls of Carlingford in 1661. The family acquired extensive properties in and around Carlingford during the 17th-century restoration land settlement. Nicholas Taaffe fell at the battle of the Boyne in 1690 and his family subsequently emigrated to Austria.


Carlingford's Medieval streets
Image: Tourism Ireland


Carlingford town and castle continued to remain in English hands during the post-mediaeval period, although Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, tried to take the castle in a surprise attack in 1596. The castle changed hands several times over the following centuries. Some of the castle’s damage is thought to be the result of shelling by the Cromwellian commander Colonel Venables. He landed to the south of the town in 1649 and his arrival coincided with the arrival of a man-of-war. Although the castle’s garrison fired some salutary shots it chose not to take on Venables forces. News of Cromwell's Drogheda massacre was common currency by then so they surrendered under articles and marched away to Newry. The castle was later to be fired upon by retreating Jacobite forces in 1689 and functioned as a hospital during the period leading up to the Battle of the Boyne.

Medieval Carlingford
Image: Tourism Ireland
Throughout all this Carlingford prospered mainly from war-related trade into southeast Ulster. It was, however, the construction of the Newry Ship Canal, 1731 through to 1741, that was to mark the end of the town’s prosperity.

The canal was built to link the Tyrone coalfields, via Lough Neagh and the River Bann, to the Irish Sea at Carlingford Lough. The hope was that a good transport route from the Tyrone coalfields to Dublin could have resulted in the city becoming self-sufficient in coal. The capital had always relied upon imports from mainland Britain that were often intermittent. Up until the completion of the canal passengers and cargo had to be transhipped at Carlingford Harbour for the trip up the lough and onward to Newry. But once the canal was built, ships were able to bypass the port and Carlingford went into decline. The later arrival of the 'Dundalk Newry & Greenore Railway' in 1876 transformed the town into a popular tourist resort that it remains to this day.

Carlingford today is a picturesque fishing village and one of Ireland's most important Heritage towns. It is by some measure one of the nation’s best-preserved medieval towns with much of this heritage and atmosphere remaining palpable to its visitors to this day. This can be experienced in pretty whitewashed cottages, ancient stone buildings clustered along narrow medieval alleyways, lanes and squares that entice visitors to discover the various shops and craft outlets in the walled town.


King John's Castle provides a magnificent view over the Lough
Image: Tourism Ireland


Specific highlights amongst these include; 'The Mint' wherein in 1467 Carlingford was granted a charter to mint its own coinage. The 'Tholsel' is a two-storey building where town laws were passed and where it is possible to see the cramped prison cell in which criminals were held before their execution. Central to any visit is 'The Holy Trinity Heritage Centre' which is situated within a restored medieval church which traces the history of the port from Anglo-Norman times. But these are only a few locations amongst many that are there to be explored. Most important of all these is, of course, the town’s founding stone King John’s Castle which dominates the medieval town to this day. A walk around the ruins of the castle, particularly impressive in the evening, hosts magnificent views over the Lough that separates the Republic and Northern Ireland and across the majestic Mourne Mountains beyond.


Oyster Festival at Carlingford
Image: Tourism Ireland


In addition to medieval history, there are plenty of festivals and events happening in the village during the summer months. Carlingford’s party atmosphere peaks in August during its famous Oyster Festival. The town also provides a tranquil, intimate base from which to enjoy the Cooley Peninsula. Walkers will find the view from Slieve Foye, 3.2km from Carlingford, simply breathtaking.


Carlingford is a delightful heritage town with deep connections to the sea
Image: Michael Harpur


From a strictly boating perspective, Carlingford is a very good berth to visit this delightful heritage town. It also is at the heart of Louth's most beautiful northern area, encompassing the Cooley Mountains and Cooley Peninsula.


Carlingford Sailing Club activities in the Lough
Image: Tourism Ireland


The town can also cater for almost any provisioning needed and is an ideal stepping stone to explore the other anchoring locations in the Lough itself.


What facilities are available?
Carlingford town, although hardly bigger than a village, has a surprising array of excellent facilities such as hotels, restaurants, pubs, a post office, a reasonably good supermarket, newsagent, launderette, water, fuel, gas and a host of tourist attractions. A launching slip is available at high tide on the east pier.

Dundalk Sailing Club telephone +353 42 937 3238 is active during the season at weekends providing limited meals, showers and a bar. Carlingford is just over an hours’ drive from Belfast and Dublin.

Useful transport contacts in this area:
Dundalk Train Station + 353 42 933 5521
Dundalk Bus Station + 353 42 9334075
Newry Bus Station + 44 28 30623531
Newry Train Station + 44 28 30269271


Any security concerns?
Never an issue known to have happened off Carlingford.


With thanks to:
Thomas Cunningham - Harbour Master for 'Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission'.




























Northern Ireland tourist board overview




Aerial views of the harbour area



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