Harbour Information

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Kilkeel Harbour

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Courtesy Flag

Flag, Red Ensign


None Given


AC 0044 Nose of Howth to Ballyquintin Point, AC 2800-2 Carlingford Lough, AC 2800-3 Kilkeel Harbour, Imray C62 Irish Sea

Rules & Regulations

None Known


Off lying rocks at Ballymartin Point, Cranfield Point and Lee Stone Point. Shoals SSW of Kilkeel Point to East of the approach bearing.

Tidal Data Times & Range

HW is Belfast +0035. MHWS 4.7m MHWN 4.1m MLWN 1.5m MLWS 0.8m: It is worth noting that although the local fishermen go by the Liverpool Tide Tables (claiming that they are the same as their own) it appears that those tables have more in common with Belfast than Kilkeel.   (links)

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General Description

Contacts: Kilkeel HM  VHF #12     tel 028 4176 2287

Kilkeel is a very, very busy fishing port being the main fishing port on the East Coast of Northern Island.  It’s a man made harbour lying SE/NW dredged to at least 1.5 meters with a narrow entrance channel dredged to 1.0 meters. The entrance to the inner harbour is via a 13m wide channel and the main harbour entrance is only half as wide again.  This makes it a very sheltered harbour but the entrance is virtually inaccessible when the wind is in the East through to South above Force 5.  When bad weather is forecast just about every fishing vessel in the Irish Sea will scurry for shelter here if they can make it.

It is said locally that to make an approach here in a F5 takes a great deal of experience, clean underpants and a bottle of Irish whiskey for Dutch courage; not only that, the HM says he has seen a boat arriving through the main entrance stern first in bad conditions; you have been warned.

Until recently they were not set up to deal with leisure craft but although they now have a pontoon for small boats it’s at the far end of the harbour in shallow water where the river comes in and  all the slots on it have been taken by local boat owners (See photograph on this site).  If you wish to come in here you must contact the harbour master before hand, either by radio or telephone, and expect to be berthed alongside either wall with the probability of rafting with FVs. (Note the HM is only available on the phone during the normal working day and not at weekends)

There is also a problem in that the channel running in to the harbour entrance is liable to silting especially after SW gales so advice should be sought as to the state of that channel if you have any depth of keel to worry about. Under normal conditions there should be more than 3 meters over the bank at half tide.

As it is about 5.5 sea miles from the entrance to Carlingford Lough Kilkeel is especially useful as a holding point for favourable tides. (If coming from the North remember that the flood is now from the South as is the buoyage)


In clement weather the entrance to this harbour presents no difficulties.

If coming from the North you need to keep at least 6 cables from the shore (which basically means keep to seaward of the buoy marking the end of the Kilkeel Point outfall); from the South there are no offshore hazards.

It is assumed that you have already made arrangements with the HM by this stage. Make the approach from well out on the 340(T) bearing to the South Pierhead but be aware that this bearing may well run you into the shoals to the SW of the entrance channel. When about 100 meters short of the South Pierhead bear off on to a Northerly heading until the harbour entrance begins to open and then head for that.

The problem here is that you are affected by the set of the tide at start the approach and if that is running with any sort of wind you are in danger of being set out of the narrow channel. Possibly the best bet is to line up the mark on Meeney’s pierhead with the end (not the light) of the South pier and run in on that transit (about 332T) adjusting your heading all the way to counter any tide.

You begin to see why they say don’t even think about it in E to S winds over F5. Once you have weathered the South Pier turn port and make your way via the narrow channel into the inner basin and clew up where the HM instructs.  If you arrive after the harbour office has closed for the day you may be tempted by the empty berth next to the Lifeboat Station; be advised that that berth, kept clear for emergencies, requires a key fob to operate the gate and that key is in the HM’s office; without it you will be locked out of the berth.

Further information about the approach may be found on the In Your Footsteps website at Kilkeel

Berthing, Mooring & Anchoring

We have discussed the options for berthing above but re-emphasise....

.... here that the harbour is a working harbour with no exclusive  arrangements for visiting boats. You must contact the HM before approaching the harbour to ascertain what room there may be for you. Given that proviso they are cheap; for leisure craft  in 2015 they are charging £9.84 per night per boat irrespective of size.


It being a busy fishing port all facilities are available with the exception of shore power.  There are repair facilities for all manner of ills but you won’t find a sail maker. Toilets and showers are located in the Nautilus centre at the far end of the harbour.

If you take the road from the harbour past the Nautilus centre and the school, right at the end there is an ASDA store.

Eating, Drinking & Entertainment

There are numerous pubs, cafés and restaurants in the town which is a good 3/4 mile hike from the Harbour. There is a restaurant at the Nautilus Centre but other than that it’s all up in the town square.


Your Ratings & Comments

Written by Don Thomson | 10th Apr 2017
I reviewed these notes in April 2017. Nothing has changed here, "Taff" (below) was lucky to find room on the pontoons as there is definitely nothing reserved for visitors. Expect to have to raft on an FV and that nobody will be able to find out from their paperwork how much to charge you!!
Kilkeel pontoon
Written by Taff | 4th Jul 2015
Having to wait for the tide for Carlingford, we put in here for the night. No HM after 1800, but we came in and found a place on the pontoon. You need a fob to be able to open the gate to go ashore. I'm not sure how you avoid meeting a FV in the blind bend in the narrow entrance if you can't raise the HM. The locals were very kindly on the pontoon.
Update 2015
Written by dononshytalk | 30th Mar 2015
These notes were reviewed by Don In March 2015. Nothing has changed here except the price which is still cheap at under £10 per boat per night irrespective of length.
Update November 2013
Written by dononshytalk | 13th Nov 2013
These notes were reviewed by Don Thomson on November 13th 2013. Although we have emphasized the lack of dedicated facilities for yachts it should not deter you from visiting here; they will fit you in where they can,just remember that the entrance is tidal.
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