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Strangford Harbour (Strangford Village)

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Overview





Strangford Harbour is located on the northeast coast of Ireland, on the western shore and at the head of The Narrows that lead to Strangford Lough. It offers a pontoon berth, moorings and the possibility of temporarily coming alongside at the quay.

Strangford Harbour is located on the northeast coast of Ireland, on the western shore and at the head of The Narrows that lead to Strangford Lough. It offers a pontoon berth, moorings and the possibility of temporarily coming alongside at the quay.

Situated in the northern part of the Narrows and protected by a small islet, Strangford Harbour offers complete protection. Although the sea entrance and Narrows are well marked, access requires careful tidal timing and navigation owing to exceptional currents. Consequently, any approach should be on the flood or, ideally, around slack water, in daylight, with a vessel that has adequate and reliable power. However, although the entrance and Narrows present a challenge, they are well marked and if the tides are respectfully worked they are easily managed.
Please note

Although safe to enter on the flood in most conditions newcomers should avoid making an entry in any strong onshore winds. Strangford Harbour can become crowded in peak sailing season. Special attention should also be paid when approaching the car ferry crossing from Strangford to Portaferry.




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Keyfacts for Strangford Harbour (Strangford Village)
Facilities
Water available via tapTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPost Office in the areaPharmacy in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaBus service available in the area


Nature
Marina or pontoon berthing facilitiesBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingNavigation lights to support a night approachScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierRestriction: strong to overwhelming tides in the localityNote: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periodsNote: could be two hours or more from the main waterwaysNote: whirlpools or very strong eddies in the vicinityNote: harbour fees may be charged

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
3 metres (9.84 feet).

Approaches
2 stars: Careful navigation; good visibility and conditions with dangers that require careful navigation.
Shelter
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.



Last modified
November 7th 2022

Summary* Restrictions apply

A completely protected location with careful navigation required for access.

Facilities
Water available via tapTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPost Office in the areaPharmacy in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaBus service available in the area


Nature
Marina or pontoon berthing facilitiesBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingNavigation lights to support a night approachScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierRestriction: strong to overwhelming tides in the localityNote: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periodsNote: could be two hours or more from the main waterwaysNote: whirlpools or very strong eddies in the vicinityNote: harbour fees may be charged



Moorings  +44 28 4488 1222       info@thecuan.com     thecuan.com/2013/sailing      Ch.16 [Strangford Harbour Master]
Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 22.381' N, 005° 33.298' W

This is the position of the head of the pontoon.

What is the initial fix?

The following Strangford Lough Entrance Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 18.615' N, 005° 30.000' W
This is just over a ½ mile east of St Patrick’s Rocks, that is located 600 metres to the south-east of the western entrance's Killard Point. It is on the bearing of 323.7° T of Angus Rock Lighthouse, south and about midway of a line drawn between the Bar Pladdy South Cardinal light and Strangford Safe-Water buoy.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details for vessels approaching Strangford Lough from the north are available in northeast Ireland’s coastal overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough Route location. Details for vessels approaching from the south are available in eastern Ireland’s coastal overview for Strangford Lough to Dublin Bay Route location. Details of the approaches, tidal timings, the run up The Narrows and onward to Killyleagh, on the Lough's western shore, are covered in the Entering and exiting Strangford Lough Route location route description.


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 Strangford Harbour (Strangford Village) for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Portaferry - 0.4 nautical miles NNE
  2. Audley's Roads - 0.6 nautical miles WNW
  3. Ballyhenry Bay - 1 nautical miles NNW
  4. Audley’s Point - 1.1 nautical miles NW
  5. Cross Roads - 1.5 nautical miles SSE
  6. Chapel Island - 1.5 nautical miles WNW
  7. Between Jackdaw & Chapel Island - 1.8 nautical miles WNW
  8. Jackdaw Island - 2 nautical miles WNW
  9. Kilclief Bay - 2.3 nautical miles SSE
  10. Salt Island (South) - 3.1 nautical miles W
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Portaferry - 0.4 miles NNE
  2. Audley's Roads - 0.6 miles WNW
  3. Ballyhenry Bay - 1 miles NNW
  4. Audley’s Point - 1.1 miles NW
  5. Cross Roads - 1.5 miles SSE
  6. Chapel Island - 1.5 miles WNW
  7. Between Jackdaw & Chapel Island - 1.8 miles WNW
  8. Jackdaw Island - 2 miles WNW
  9. Kilclief Bay - 2.3 miles SSE
  10. Salt Island (South) - 3.1 miles W
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?
Strangford Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


Strangford is a small conservation village and harbour on the western shore near the head of Strangford Narrows. The little village has a population of about 500 and its historic northern side is overlooked by rows of 19th-century cottages and a fine Georgian terrace. It is however very busy with a ferry service that runs to Portaferry on the opposite shore on the Ards Peninsula. The pretty village is a destination for sailboats and motorboats who stop in to enjoy the unique charm.


Strangford Yacht Haven pontoon
Image: Michael Harpur


This is greatly facilitated by moorings and a new pontoon Strangford Yacht Haven provided by The Cuan hotel and restaurant that enables boats to tie up regardless of the tide and walk ashore. The pontoon can accommodate up to six average-sized boats alongside and more when instructed by the berthing master to raft up. The marina has 3.6 metres LAT on its deepest berth and there is more than 4 metres in the approaches.


The Cuan hotel and restaurant above the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


It is advisable to contact The Cuan Landline+44 (0)28 4488 1222, E-mailinfo@thecuan.com, at least 24 hours in advance of any intended visit. Further details are available on the WebsiteCUAN site.


Yacht on one of the visitor moorings south of Straw Island
Image: Michael Harpur


There is no room to anchor out of the main tidal streams owing to the limited space available in the harbour. Space may be available alongside the drying quays for those that can take to the bottom. A mooring may also be available and both these options are subject to arrangement with the harbourmaster VHF 16 [Strangford Harbour Master].


How to get in?
Strangford Harbour at the head of The Narrows
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Details of the approaches, tidal timings, the run up The Narrows and onward to Killyleagh, on the Lough's western shore, are covered in the Entering and exiting Strangford Lough Route location route description. Make certain the ferry is not approaching when preparing to make a final approach. The vehicle ferry crosses at 15-minute intervals, 8 am to 11 pm and comes alongside its berth to the south of Swan Island.


Take care not to impede the operation of the ferry
Image: Tourism Ireland


The vessel's tracking, when carried by the swift-moving currents, makes it difficult to judge relative paths and closing distances. As such it is best to stand well off until it is alongside so as not to obstruct its operation. Likewise, attention should be paid to steerage when passing from the main tidal streams of the fairway into the comparative slack water of Strangford Harbour.


Yacht approaching Strangford Harbour from The Narrows
Image: Michael Harpur


Watchhouse point, the southern entry point to the harbour area, has a drying reef that extends out to 60 metres. Its northern extremity is marked by a lit port beacon, Q.R.


Watchhouse point beacon
Image: Michael Harpur


Swan Island will appear like a grassy mound on approach but a rocky reef surrounds it. It is marked by three light beacons to the North, East and South. There is safe water to enter either north or south of Swan Island and round it.


Swan Island off the New Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Stay outside the easternmost beacon, Q(3), and South Pladdy Beacon, Q(6) + LFl, situated 40 metres south-southwest of the island. But North Pladdy, Q Fl, situated 100 metres northeast of the island, can be passed on either side.


Swan Island and its three light beacons: North, East and South
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location The easiest option is The Cuan Restaurant's pontoon and visitor moorings. Their pontoon extends from the north of the pier providing from 2.6 to 3.6 metres alongside on its outer eastern side, and depths of 1.6m on the inside.

The visitor moorings are adjacent to the constant coming and goings of the
ferries

Image: Michael Harpur


The visitor moorings can be used during busy times until space becomes available on the pontoon. The Cuan Bar above in the village is the point to register and pay for the use of the pontoon. Where possible visitors should try to be good patrons of the bar and restaurant.


The Cuan Restaurant's pontoon from seaward
Image: Michael Harpur


By arrangement with the Harbour Master there are three mooring buoys can be found south of Swan Islet in depths of 3 to 7 metres out of the main runs of the Narrows tidal stream but subject to some north going back-eddies and the ferry wash.


Careening alongside the old quay within of the New Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


If a berth is available it is possible to temporarily come alongside New Quay to the southwest of Swan Island.


The standby ferry is usually alongside the eastern face of the New Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


There is 3 metres available alongside its eastern face but a standby ferry is normally berthed there. At the outer end of its southeastern face there is 1.4 metres LAT but take care coming alongside as the tidal stream runs diagonally across it. Be prepared to move immediately if requested.

All of Strangford Harbour's old quays dry
Image: Michael Harpur


All the other quays dry.


Why visit here?
Strangford takes its name from the Viking Strangrfjörthr meaning 'violent or strong ford' describing the Narrows’ fast-flowing current. In Irish, its name is Baile Loch Cuan which it was known as, before the arrival of the Vikings. 'Cuan' is Irish for harbour or haven, baile 'town harbour of the lough' so the name means 'town/village harbour of the lough'.


The Strangford inlet has been a harbour since ancient times
Image: Michael Harpur


Strangford was settled as early as the 840s by the Vikings being conveniently close to their lands of Scotland and the Western Isles. The small inlet was the designated home of King Magnus, Barelegs, Olafson King of Norway from 1093 until his death in 1103. Olafsson established his fort at Strangford, an ideal base for himself and his army as it provided good fortified grounds and quick access to an inland lough that leads directly out to the east onto the Irish Sea. His reign was marked by aggressive military campaigns and conquest British Isles, where he extended his rule to the Kingdom of the Isles and Dublin. From Strangford, Olafsson attempted to siege lands from the Ulaid, the people of early Ireland, who gave their name to the modern province of Ulster and he was setting about conquering all of Ireland.


Strangford Harbour's Old Quays at high water
Image: Michael Harpur


But he had the misfortune of coming up against the Uí Néill clan who had been the dominant political force since early Christian times. The Uí Néill were the most ambitious and influential family in Ireland and each branch of the Uí Néill's claimed descent from Niall of the Nine Hostages, Niall Noígiallach, a quasi-historical 5th-century character. The Northern Uí Néills were very efficient at getting rid of Vikings in their territory in the late 9th and early 10th centuries. A large force ambushed Olafsson and his men by surprise in the vicinity of the River Quoile and slayed him in battle. Legend has it that they were so impressed by his bravery that they honoured him in death by carrying him to his grave and burying him as a mark of respect. The Uí Néills changed the history of the nation in that one battle and would go on to dominate much of early medieval Irish history until well into Elizabethan times.


The 16th-century tower house Strangford Castle
Image: Michael Harpur


Strangford’s continued to be significant during the medieval period and was one of five 'Ports of Ulster' in the Crown Customs Accounts of 1281. Most notably is its dominating Strangford Castle, a 16th-century tower house that was remodelled on an earlier tower. It faced its counterpart across the narrows in Portaferry and together they controlled the head of The Narrows and the Lough beyond. A prosperous cross-channel trade developed with North Wales and further afield which brought revenue to custom officials and landlords, the Earls of Kildare and their successors the Lord's deRos. Later Strangford became increasingly important as the outport for Downpatrick on account of the difficult and narrow passage to Quoile Quay. By 1800 Strangford ranked 8th in all Irish ports in tonnage of ships registered and remained the chief port of Lecale in the first half of the 19th century. Much of Strangford’s inherited Georgian charm comes from this age of prosperity.


Today the village is most visited for the ferry but it also is a magnet for
tourists and leisure craft

Image: Michael Harpur


Today the small, picturesque village is most visited for the ferry which links the village to Portaferry but it also is a magnet for tourists and leisure craft. The village is located within the Strangford Lough Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has been a designated Conservation Area since 1985. A public square, known locally as the Upper Green, marks its centre and the surrounding village is very picturesque. Around the neatly manicured green are sweeps of stone and pastel-coloured 19th-century cottages and a fine Georgian terrace.


Strangford's 19th-century cottages and Georgian terrace above the old quays
Image: Michael Harpur


The 16th-century tower house cannot be visited but still remains an imposing sight. The fronting old stone quays are very pretty and make a pleasant setting to watch the to and fro of the various leisure craft and ferries. When refreshments are required, there are ample bars and restaurants close at hand and it is very cost-effective to travel by ferry across to Portaferry as a foot passenger.


The pontoon over watched by Strangford Tower House
Image: Michael Harpur


Those who fancy a hike can proceed out to the end of Castle Street where there is a footpath, called 'the Squeeze Gut', which leads over the hill behind the village. It offers a fine view of the lough and it is also possible to continue around the shoreline to Castle Ward Estate (4.5km). Situated on Downpatrick Road, the 18th-century Castle Ward is an intriguing manor house. The estate of Lord and Lady Bangor, famously disagreed about everything including the design of their 18th-century mansion, and as a consequence, it was built in two distinct architectural styles, Classic and Gothic. It is today owned by the National Trust and open to visitors.


Castle Ward
Image: Michael Harpur


In early July there is the Strangford Sailing Regatta and at the end of August the Strangford Festival, when the quayside and village green burst into life with traditional music, food and craft fairs, and raft races. King Magnus is celebrated by The Magnus Viking Association which culminates in the yearly Magnus Barelegs Festival at Delamont Country Park.


Classic yacht on Strangford moorings during the annual regatta
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating point of view Strangford, together with Portaferry and its marina across The Narrows, is seen as a landing point of The Narrows and a gateway to Strangford Lough.


Strangford is seen as a landing point and gateway to Strangford Lough
Image: Michael Harpur


The Lough is a magnificent area of unspoilt surroundings that is a rare and precious jewel for the cruising boatman. But do not let it overshadow Strangford Harbour and the pretty village that is not only a great entry point to it, but is also a pleasant location of itself to enjoy.


What facilities are available?
Pontoons have water but no electricity. The Cuan Restaurant can arrange diesel. A choice of slips, one suitable for trailer sailers but apart from that there are no specific facilities available for boating at Strangford Harbour. Toilets, laundry facilities, post office, ATM, cafes, restaurants, pubs, provisions and a chemist that you would expect with a population of approximately 500 are all within a short walk from the pontoons.

The nearest international airport is Belfast International, 56 km. Portaferry, on the Ards Peninsula, is available by a car ferry service that runs every half hour (weather permitting), and a convenient bus service operates to the larger town of Downpatrick which serves as a commercial and administrative centre for the locality. Buses from/to Downpatrick (Mon–Fri 10 daily, Sat 5; 30 min) stop by the main square just up from the ferry landing stage. By ferry Regular ferries make the 5min trip across to Portaferry (every 30min, Mon–Fri 7.30 am–10.30 pm, Sat 8 am–11 pm, Sun 9.30 am–10.30 pm; 028 4488 1637; £1 single, £2 return; car £5.80 single, £10 return).


Any security concerns?
Never a problem known to have occurred in Strangford Harbour.


With thanks to:
Charlie Kavanagh - ISA/RYA Yachtmaster Instructor/Examiner. Photography with thanks to George Shaw, Tourism Ireland, Mark Rooney and David Doyle.





Strangford Harbour, Strangford Lough, County Down, Ireland
Image: eOceanic thanks Tourism NI


The Quay area
Image: eOceanic thanks Tourism NI


Castle and terraced houses
Image: eOceanic thanks Eric Jones via CC BY-SA 2.0


South side of the New Quay
Image: eOceanic thanks Tourism NI


Ferry berth
Image: eOceanic thanks Eric Jones via CC BY-SA 2.0


Ferry berth
Image: eOceanic thanks Eric Jones via CC BY-SA 2.0


Ferry exiting its slip
Image: eOceanic thanks Eric Jones via CC BY-SA 2.0


Cuan Restaurant's pontoon
Image: eOceanic thanks Eric Jones via CC BY-SA 2.0




Strangford Village Aerial




Portaferry Strangford Ferry



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