England Ireland Find Havens
England Ireland Find Routes
Boat
Maintenance
Comfort
Operations
Safety
Other



NextPrevious

Kilkeel Harbour

Tides and tools
Overview





Kilkeel is located on Ireland’s northeast coast three and a half miles northeast of the entrance to Carlingford Lough. It is a small town with a bustling fishing port that has no provisions for leisure craft. It does however accommodate leisure vessels if space is available which will most likely be rafted up to a fishing vessel.

Kilkeel is located on Ireland’s northeast coast three and a half miles northeast of the entrance to Carlingford Lough. It is a small town with a bustling fishing port that has no provisions for leisure craft. It does however accommodate leisure vessels if space is available which will most likely be rafted up to a fishing vessel.

Kilkeel’s inner basin offers complete protection. Access is straightforward night or day but best on a half tide for vessels of any draft.
Please note

Kilkeel should not be approached in any conditions approaching F5 or above from east round to south. Such conditions make the sea likely to break outside the entrance and it also requires a vessel to pass along a lee bank and turn across the seaway on entering the harbour. A sandbank builds outside the entrance during a southwest gale that can reduce the depth to a metre or less.




Be the first
to comment
Keyfacts for Kilkeel Harbour
Facilities
Water available via tapDiesel fuel available alongsideGas availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot 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 areaHaul-out capabilities via arrangementBoatyard with hard-standing available here; covered or uncoveredMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaBus service available in the areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Berth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Dangerous to enter when it is Beaufort force 5 or more from ENE, E, ESE, SE, SSE and S.Restriction: may be subject to a sand barNote: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periods

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
2 metres (6.56 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
September 15th 2022

Summary* Restrictions apply

A completely protected location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Water available via tapDiesel fuel available alongsideGas availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot 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 areaHaul-out capabilities via arrangementBoatyard with hard-standing available here; covered or uncoveredMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaBus service available in the areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Berth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Dangerous to enter when it is Beaufort force 5 or more from ENE, E, ESE, SE, SSE and S.Restriction: may be subject to a sand barNote: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periods



HM  +44 28 4176 2287      +44 7592 786138      Ch.12, 14
Position and approaches
Expand to new tab or fullscreen

Haven position

54° 3.562' N, 005° 59.578' W

This is alongside the South wall of the inner harbour where visiting boats are normally accomodated.

What is the initial fix?

The following Kilkeel Harbour Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 2.983' N, 005° 59.027' W
A ½ mile south by east of the harbour entrance, in the middle of the South Pier’s white light sector (313°-017°). From here you can track into the south pierhead light on the harbour's recommended approach course of 341°T.


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.
  • Contact the harbour master to ascertain if a berth is available and if so the expected depths.

  • Approach the harbour from deep water to the east on 340° T of the south pierhead.

  • Follow the channels up into the inner harbour.


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 Kilkeel Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Greencastle - 4 nautical miles WSW
  2. Annalong Harbour - 4.5 nautical miles NE
  3. Carlingford Harbour - 6.7 nautical miles W
  4. Carlingford Marina - 7 nautical miles W
  5. Killowen - 7 nautical miles W
  6. Rostrevor - 7.2 nautical miles W
  7. Greer’s Quay - 8.5 nautical miles W
  8. Newcastle Harbour - 9.1 nautical miles NNE
  9. Omeath - 9.3 nautical miles WNW
  10. Warrenpoint - 9.4 nautical miles WNW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Greencastle - 4 miles WSW
  2. Annalong Harbour - 4.5 miles NE
  3. Carlingford Harbour - 6.7 miles W
  4. Carlingford Marina - 7 miles W
  5. Killowen - 7 miles W
  6. Rostrevor - 7.2 miles W
  7. Greer’s Quay - 8.5 miles W
  8. Newcastle Harbour - 9.1 miles NNE
  9. Omeath - 9.3 miles WNW
  10. Warrenpoint - 9.4 miles WNW
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

Resources search

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.

Expand to new tab or fullscreen



What's the story here?
Kilkeel Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


Kilkeel Harbour is a small artificial harbour that extends 600 metres inland from its pierhead. The harbour consists of a drying outer harbour that is connected to an inner basin by a narrow walled channel. It is a major fishing port that services about 100 fishing vessels, which is the largest fishing fleet in Northern Ireland. The town of Kilkeel is situated close northwest of the harbour.

Kilkeel is home to Northern Ireland's largest fishing fleet
Image: Tourism Ireland


Kilkeel is not set up for leisure vessels but leisure craft are permitted to use the harbour provided berthing space is available. This can present a challenge owing to space constrictions and the high level of fishing activity, particularly so in the evenings when its active fishing vessels return. So finding a berth will be an issue but boats are usually accommodated. Although there are pontoons at the head of the inner harbour these are normally shallow and fully occupied by small open fishing craft. The most likely berth will be rafted up to a fishing boat.


Kilkeel is a busy fishing port
Image: Michael Harpur


The access channel to Kilkeel has a maintained depth of 1.5 metres LAT but outside the harbour entrance, there is a moving sandbar that can reduce depths to 1.2 metres LWS, so vessels operating on the margins should make enquiries. The inner harbour has 1.3 metres LAT but 2 metres can be expected MLWS. Any vessels carrying a draft of 1.5 metres, or greater, should make the approach at about ±2 hours of low water to be safe.


The harbour's pontoons are normally shallow and fully occupied by local fishing
craft

Image: Michael Harpur


These expectations have to be moderated after a southwest gale which causes a sandbank to build outside the harbour entrance. It can reduce the access depth to 1 metre or less. The natural flow of the Kilkeel River clears a shallow channel through this. But this takes time and after such weather conditions. So seek advice as to the degree of silting that has occurred if a visit is following a southwest gale and plan to work the tides accordingly. In all events at least 3 metres over the bank is a fair expectation at half-tide.

For all these reasons it is essential that the harbour master be contacted in advance of arrival on [VHF] Ch 12 or 14, Landline+44 28 417 62287, Mobile+44 77 0257 3879 during normal working hours are Mon - Fri 8 am to 4.30 pm, Sat 8 am to 12 noon, excluding Sundays and Statutory Holidays.


How to get in?
The shoreline from Cranfield Point
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Seaward approaches are detailed in eastern Ireland’s coastal overview for Strangford Lough to Dublin Bay Route location. The small fishing port is situated 3.2 miles northeast of Cranfield Point at the entrance to Carlingford Lough. Vessels approaching from the south will find the coast from Carlingford Lough for the most part composed of low ranges of clay cliffs, based on a foreshore of rocks and boulders. This is backed by the lofty summits of the Mourne Mountains. Tracking a path in line, or immediately outside Hellyhunter and the Kilkeel Bay Buoy, clears all dangers of which the majority are situated off the Cranfield Point area.

Kilkeel Bay Buoy – Outfall buoy Fl.(4).Y.12s position: 54° 3.252' N 005° 58.573' W


The northern approaches to Kilkeel
Image: Michael Harpur


Vessels approaching from the north should keep 500 metres off the shoreline, and/or in no less than 10 metres of water, to the low-lying Lee Stone Point situated about 600 metres to the northeast of the harbour entrance. The point has a rocky beach with a huge granite boulder at its extremity.


The low-lying Lee Stone Point northeastward of the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


From Lee Stone to Kilkeel the shoreline becomes foul and it is advisable to keep at least 1,200 metres off. Steering to pass close east of the Kilkeel Bay Buoy clears all dangers.
Please note

A shallow area with 1.9 metres of cover LAT lies 250 metres to the east southeast of the mark.




Kilkeel Harbour as seen from the south
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location From the Kilkeel initial fix, track in on the harbour’s recommended initial approach line of bearing 341° T to the head of the South Pier and a ½ mile out. A good mark for finding the pierhead is the conspicuous red brick coastguard station with a white flagstaff situated approximately 300 metres west by northwest of the South Pier light.

At night there is a sectored light at the head of South Pier providing an initial approach from seaward in a white sector of 313°–017°T. The South Pier is lighted Fl WR 2 sec, Meeney's Pier, the North Breakwater behind, Fl G.36m4M.
Please note

The entrance and harbour fairways are very narrow with only space for one vessel at a time. A sharp lookout for other vessel movements should be maintained when entering or leaving to avoid a collision. A radio watch, vessel to vessel, VHF Channel 12 must be used.



The entrance as seen from South Pier with Meeney's Pier (breakwater) in the
background

Image: Michael Harpur


When closing in on the South Pier alter course to the starboard until the side of the pierhead opens and track in a northwestward direction into the harbour for the last 100 metres. Stay close to the pierhead of South Pier and then between the heads of South Pier and Meeney's Pier, a breakwater on the north side.

South Pier and Meeney's Pier as seen from within
Image: Michael Harpur


Then the course turns immediately west and then northwest into the harbour. The entire area on the north side of the channel, behind Meeney's Pier, or breakwater, dries and is rarely used. Continuing past this northwestward up the harbour taking the 13-metre wide walled channel that leads to Meeney's Dock, or the Old Dock.


Meeney's Dock with a slipway at its head
Image: Michael Harpur


This is a small basin with a slipway at its head which provides for turning room and the potential to come alongside if so directed.


The channel to the inner harbour above Meeney's Dock
Image: Michael Harpur


Continuing past Meeney's Dock the channel widens and then a 12-metre wide opening leads into the Inner Harbour at the northwest end. The Inner Harbour has depths of at least 2 metres LWS with some deeper holes.

The 12-metre wide opening leading into the Inner Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur



Haven location Berth as directed by the harbour master. The most likely berth will be alongside the southwest wall or rafted up to a fishing boat there.


Fishing boats alongside the southwest wall
Image: Michael Harpur


The northeast side of the inner harbour has extensive fish processing plants and should not be used by leisure craft.

The northeast side of the inner harbour (right) should not be used
Image: Michael Harpur



Why visit here?
Kilkeel takes its name from its Irish name 'Cill Chaoil' meaning 'narrow church'. This refers to the ruined 14th-century church that stands in the centre of Kilkeel overlooking the town today. The ruin was constructed by a noble Spanish family in 1388 and dedicated to 'St Colman Del Mourne'. Although Kilkeel was very sparsely populated in the Middle Ages this was thought to be one of the area’s principal churches.


'St Colman Del Mourne today
Image: © Bill Strong


References to Kilkeel however date back as far as the 11th century and within the site of the church is an early Christian ring fort. At this time Kilkeel was known as the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Mourne. It is still called the capital and there are many historic sites in and around the area. The modern settlement encountered today only began to take shape in the late 18th and early 19th century when Viscount Kilmorey laid out the Square and established a church, a Presbyterian meeting house, a market house and a hotel.


Kilkeel's Greencastle Street 1936
Image: Public Domain


The settlement was initially concentrated around this square, and the Newry and Greencastle Street junction. This was unusual, as although located directly adjacent to the coast Kilkeel's central development was concentrated inland. It was only after the establishment of the new harbour in the second half of the 19th century did Kilkeel expand to become an important fishing port and centre for the export of agricultural produce and granite. The development of the pier and dock resulted in the expansion of the town along arterial routes to the coast. Further expansion occurred in Kilkeel after 1950 when the agricultural land between the harbour and town centre, stretching from Manse Road to Rooney Road, was developed for housing and a large recreational area was created along the seafront.


Kilkeel is a gateway to the Mournes
Image: Tourism Ireland


Today the town has taken on a coastal setting around the harbour. Two rivers flow through the town leading to the harbour, namely the Aughrim River, also known as the Little Kilkeel River, and Kilkeel River. There is farming in and around this picturesque harbour settlement, but its most important occupation is undoubtedly fishing. This is the main County Down fishing harbour and it hosts the largest fishing fleet in Northern Ireland. Overlooking all of this is the Nautilus Centre, where visitors may dine, or purchase freshly caught seafood, and enjoy its heritage exhibition.


Local drystone walls leading away from Kilkeel
Image: Tourism Ireland


A local heritage trail helpfully guides visitors around the various local attractions. This embraces many ancient monuments that include the church and St Colman's graveyard situated to the west of Newcastle Street and north of Bridge Street. The cemetery was used for burials until 1916. The last burials at the cemetery were victims of a collision between two steamers the Retriever and the SS Connemara in Carlingford Lough.


View back to the coast from the Mournes
Image: Tourism Ireland


Kilkeel's immediate surrounds are characterised by open, flat and stonewalled countryside. Occasional large clusters of mature trees, associated with historic parks or gardens, can also be seen, and smaller clumps of mature trees surround established farm groups or older houses. All of this has a stunning northern backdrop provided by the Mourne Mountains that are made more than accessible by the Mourne Rambler and Kilkeel Rambler bus services. These make circuits of the mountains with many stops.


The Silent Valley Reservoir
Image: Tourism Ireland


The Mourne Mountains provide excellent walks and particularly so around the pretty Silent Valley Reservoir. The Silent Valley Reservoir was built to gather water from the Mourne Mountains and is the main water supply source for most of County Down and a large part of Belfast. Ringed by mountains and situated approximately 6.5 km (4 miles) from Kilkeel, 'The Valley', is set within the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and features beautiful parkland, lakes and a pond. It attracts around 50,000 visitors per year most of whom come to enjoy the peace and solitude of this mountain area with its unique landscapes and varied wildlife. Northern Ireland Water has provided many visitor facilities at the site including a restaurant and information centre housed in two old colonial-style bungalows that provide delightful views over the parkland.


The Silent Valley
Image: Tourism Ireland


From a boating point of view, Kilkeel is not specifically set up for leisure vessels. But if a berth is available the harbour’s location, being less than an hour from the Carlingford Lough's entrance, makes it a very helpful staging point to acquire a favourable approach tide. In addition to this, it has excellent provisioning with complete protection.


Kilkeel is the perfect staging point for Carlingford Lough and, possibly,
The Mournes

Image: Michael Harpur


And, should a berth be available for a few days the town has plenty of interesting with beautiful surroundings, which makes it a truly attractive destination of its own.


What facilities are available?
Diesel fuel by tanker, fresh water and gas are all available at the harbour, and most other provisions can be had from the town of Kilkeel situated three-quarters of a mile from the harbour. With a population in excess of 6000, it has supermarkets, shops, Post Office, banks, ATM's, pubs, restaurants, internet access, doctors, and a chandlery. Showers, café and seafood meals are available at the Nautilus Centre overlooking the harbour. Hotels, pubs and laundry are all available in the immediate vicinity. Kilkeel lifeboat station operates an inshore B class Atlantic 21 lifeboat.

Kilkeel lifeboat station
Image: Michael Harpur


Being the major fishing port on this side of the coast, all repairs can be undertaken except for sail work. There is a 350 tonnes capacity slip; two patent 150 tonnes capacity slips at the head of the old dock; plus a 10 tonnes crane. Belfast international airport is 96 km away.


Any security concerns?
Kilkeel is a completely open harbour where normal security precautions should be attended to.


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







A short film about Kilkeel's plans to develop an offshore wind farm




Excellent scenes of Kilkeel harbour since it's overhaul in 2012.




Kilkeel Harbour (at 1 minute and 45 seconds)


About Kilkeel Harbour

Kilkeel takes its name from its Irish name 'Cill Chaoil' meaning 'narrow church'. This refers to the ruined 14th-century church that stands in the centre of Kilkeel overlooking the town today. The ruin was constructed by a noble Spanish family in 1388 and dedicated to 'St Colman Del Mourne'. Although Kilkeel was very sparsely populated in the Middle Ages this was thought to be one of the area’s principal churches.


'St Colman Del Mourne today
Image: © Bill Strong


References to Kilkeel however date back as far as the 11th century and within the site of the church is an early Christian ring fort. At this time Kilkeel was known as the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Mourne. It is still called the capital and there are many historic sites in and around the area. The modern settlement encountered today only began to take shape in the late 18th and early 19th century when Viscount Kilmorey laid out the Square and established a church, a Presbyterian meeting house, a market house and a hotel.


Kilkeel's Greencastle Street 1936
Image: Public Domain


The settlement was initially concentrated around this square, and the Newry and Greencastle Street junction. This was unusual, as although located directly adjacent to the coast Kilkeel's central development was concentrated inland. It was only after the establishment of the new harbour in the second half of the 19th century did Kilkeel expand to become an important fishing port and centre for the export of agricultural produce and granite. The development of the pier and dock resulted in the expansion of the town along arterial routes to the coast. Further expansion occurred in Kilkeel after 1950 when the agricultural land between the harbour and town centre, stretching from Manse Road to Rooney Road, was developed for housing and a large recreational area was created along the seafront.


Kilkeel is a gateway to the Mournes
Image: Tourism Ireland


Today the town has taken on a coastal setting around the harbour. Two rivers flow through the town leading to the harbour, namely the Aughrim River, also known as the Little Kilkeel River, and Kilkeel River. There is farming in and around this picturesque harbour settlement, but its most important occupation is undoubtedly fishing. This is the main County Down fishing harbour and it hosts the largest fishing fleet in Northern Ireland. Overlooking all of this is the Nautilus Centre, where visitors may dine, or purchase freshly caught seafood, and enjoy its heritage exhibition.


Local drystone walls leading away from Kilkeel
Image: Tourism Ireland


A local heritage trail helpfully guides visitors around the various local attractions. This embraces many ancient monuments that include the church and St Colman's graveyard situated to the west of Newcastle Street and north of Bridge Street. The cemetery was used for burials until 1916. The last burials at the cemetery were victims of a collision between two steamers the Retriever and the SS Connemara in Carlingford Lough.


View back to the coast from the Mournes
Image: Tourism Ireland


Kilkeel's immediate surrounds are characterised by open, flat and stonewalled countryside. Occasional large clusters of mature trees, associated with historic parks or gardens, can also be seen, and smaller clumps of mature trees surround established farm groups or older houses. All of this has a stunning northern backdrop provided by the Mourne Mountains that are made more than accessible by the Mourne Rambler and Kilkeel Rambler bus services. These make circuits of the mountains with many stops.


The Silent Valley Reservoir
Image: Tourism Ireland


The Mourne Mountains provide excellent walks and particularly so around the pretty Silent Valley Reservoir. The Silent Valley Reservoir was built to gather water from the Mourne Mountains and is the main water supply source for most of County Down and a large part of Belfast. Ringed by mountains and situated approximately 6.5 km (4 miles) from Kilkeel, 'The Valley', is set within the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and features beautiful parkland, lakes and a pond. It attracts around 50,000 visitors per year most of whom come to enjoy the peace and solitude of this mountain area with its unique landscapes and varied wildlife. Northern Ireland Water has provided many visitor facilities at the site including a restaurant and information centre housed in two old colonial-style bungalows that provide delightful views over the parkland.


The Silent Valley
Image: Tourism Ireland


From a boating point of view, Kilkeel is not specifically set up for leisure vessels. But if a berth is available the harbour’s location, being less than an hour from the Carlingford Lough's entrance, makes it a very helpful staging point to acquire a favourable approach tide. In addition to this, it has excellent provisioning with complete protection.


Kilkeel is the perfect staging point for Carlingford Lough and, possibly,
The Mournes

Image: Michael Harpur


And, should a berth be available for a few days the town has plenty of interesting with beautiful surroundings, which makes it a truly attractive destination of its own.

Other options in this area


Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Alternatively here are the ten nearest havens available in picture view:
Coastal clockwise:
Greencastle - 2.5 miles WSW
Killowen - 4.3 miles W
Rostrevor - 4.4 miles W
Warrenpoint - 5.9 miles WNW
Newry - 8.6 miles WNW
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Annalong Harbour - 2.8 miles NE
Newcastle Harbour - 5.7 miles NNE
Dundrum Harbour - 8 miles NNE
Killough Harbour - 10.6 miles NE
Ardglass Harbour (Phennick Cove Marina) - 11.3 miles NE

Navigational pictures


These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Kilkeel Harbour.






















































A short film about Kilkeel's plans to develop an offshore wind farm




Excellent scenes of Kilkeel harbour since it's overhaul in 2012.




Kilkeel Harbour (at 1 minute and 45 seconds)



A photograph is worth a thousand words. We are always looking for bright sunny photographs that show this haven and its identifiable features at its best. If you have some images that we could use please upload them here. All we need to know is how you would like to be credited for your work and a brief description of the image if it is not readily apparent. If you would like us to add a hyperlink from the image that goes back to your site please include the desired link and we will be delighted to that for you.


Add your review or comment:

Please log in to leave a review of this haven.



Please note eOceanic makes no guarantee of the validity of this information, we have not visited this haven and do not have first-hand experience to qualify the data. Although the contributors are vetted by peer review as practised authorities, they are in no way, whatsoever, responsible for the accuracy of their contributions. It is essential that you thoroughly check the accuracy and suitability for your vessel of any waypoints offered in any context plus the precision of your GPS. Any data provided on this page is entirely used at your own risk and you must read our legal page if you view data on this site. Free to use sea charts courtesy of Navionics.