Contacts: Donaghadee HM VHF #16 #68 tel 02891 882377, mobile 07718579105
Copelands Marina VHF #16,#11, #80 tel 02891 882184 mob 07811230215
Donaghadee lies on the NI mainland inside Donaghadee Sound. There is both a harbour and a marina here which are separately administered, the marina being privately owned. Both facilities are pretty full; the harbour has an alongside berth for visitors just inside the south wall whilst the rest of the local boats moor stern to that wall on running moorings. The marina normally keeps six berths available for visitors but it is popular, so advanced arrangements would be advisable. The harbour and marina both provide good shelter except that the harbour suffers badly in Easterly winds which set up a very strong fetch inside the harbour (see video)
The marina has a tide gate which can be fully raised in strong Easterlies which protects those inside. The entrance to the marina would be impassable in such conditions but if you’ve been caught out and are running for shelter before an Easterly around here there is an anchorage across the Sound in Chapel Bay under Copeland Island which is protected from the east.
Access to the marina is over a sill which gives approximately 1.1m at half tide but best to consult with the Marina Manager before entering to ascertain safe times for access.
The town of Donaghadee has a long maritime history and, as the closest point to mainland Britain, was the Irish end of the Irish Mail Packet from Portpatrick in Scotland. The present harbour walls were completed in the 1820s by engineers with strong connections to the great lighthouse builders of Scotland which explains the sturdy and prominent lighthouse on the end of the South Pier. However, long before this harbour was built, Donaghadee was the main point of entry for trade and travellers from Scotland (and England); the town itself expanded to service this trade with the hotels, hostels, bars and eating places normally found at such a port.
The harbour was built as a natural extension to that trade but, unfortunately, that build was at the beginning of the replacement of sail by steam; soon it no longer mattered that the route should be the shortest, it became necessary that it be the most reliable.
The Scottish end retreated into Stranraer and the Irish end moved to Larne - both much more sheltered than their precursors and accessible by steam driven boats. By mid Victorian times Donaghadee was taking on the role of a holiday resort, accessible by train from Belfast and well equipped with large houses and hotels for the visitors. Now it has come full cycle; there are no longer any trains (thank you Dr Beeching) and holiday makers fly out of Belfast for sunnier climes so Donaghadee has reverted to a small coastal town, still well equipped for the discerning traveller and ideal for the wandering yachtie.
Donaghadee Sound has its own tidal streams which do not conform......
..... to the ebb and flow through the North Channel but more to that into and out of Belfast Lough, hence the buoyage direction is North in the Sound . About halfway through the southbound North Channel flood the stream south of Donaghadee Sound develops a back eddy which continues north through the sound for the next nine hours. For tidal streams chartlets see “More Information” below. Further South there is a tidal null point off St Johns Head; for information on how to take advantage of this on passage see our article at
The route into Donaghadee Harbour from the North or South is clear of any hidden dangers; from the South just keep well out to clear the Wee Scotchman Rocks and from the North keep an eye out astern to keep the Governor buoys well open so that you don’t stray west of a north/south line through them. See our chartlet; if the Governor buoys come into line (which is possible if the tide vector is northerly) you are standing into danger The entrance the Marina is a different kettle of fish; it is tight and bounded by rocks. It involves a careful approach along a course which has lead in marks on the shore, followed by a hard turn to Port as soon as the marina entrance opens up. Some publications suggest that it might be an idea to make the initial entrance into the harbour, go ashore and have a peek before attempting an entrance to the marina.
From quite a long way out the first thing you will see is a large painted sign on the marina wall indicating the entrance. Look about halfway between that and the church tower in the town and you will begin to pick out the lead in marks (red triangles on poles) on a bearing of 276°(T). Don’t even think of making the approach until you have identified them and then stick to them like glue. Also it’s one of those marinas that you need to have everything ready before you start the approach; sails stowed, fenders out both sides and shore lines ready for every eventuality because once things start happening all your concentration will be on manoeuvring; it’s too small and tight to stop to look in the bottom of rope lockers.
Anyway, follow the lead in marks and when the marina entrance opens abeam to port, go hard a-port and you are in.
The owner has his own boat and, if you are at all worried about getting in he says to give him a call in advance and he'll come out to meet you. (This has been backed up by reports to this and other websites)
The Harbour has an alongside berth just inside the entrance on the South Wall.
It’s clearly marked but you may have to raft as there is only that one spot.
When I talked to Quinton in July2022 he advised that the Marina is full and you must call ahead to make sure there's room for you before setting out. He's charging only £10 a night for visitors and still trying to get some money together for a shower (and I think,if he did build one, it wouldn't be long before it became a paint store!!). He's given up on supplying deisel (too much hassle with customs etc for the amount he'd sell)
On the other hand it sounds a lovely Irish set up if you want a change from the Big Boys in Belfast Lough on your way North. South bound not such a good bet because of tides.
At the Harbour water, electricity are available. Along the front there is the Donaghadee Sailing Club which has shower facilities for visitors; the Club was recently fully modernised and is very active. If the Club is closed you can draw a key against a deposit from the "Pier36" bar nearby.
The Copelands Marina has water and electricity on the pontoons but the electricity is metered and charged for. There are toilets/showers ashore (in the Sailing Club) and the marina has a co-located engineering facility with a stainless steel fabricator if needed. There is room here for winter storage and they have a 20 tonne crane for hoisting out and mast stepping. The owner, Quinton Nelson will be able to advise on prices for cranage and storage.
The town itself is well endowed with shops, hotels, restaurants and bars, has three small supermarkets and several petrol stations.
As has been said, there are plenty of pubs and restaurants one of which, Grace Neill’s, claims to be the oldest pub in Ireland having been opened in 1611 as the Kings Arms. Whatever its claims of longevity it has a very fine reputation as an eatery. For other bars see:-
Donaghadee pubs and bars; pubs in Donaghadee, County Down # beerintheevening.com
Irish Sea http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/marine/shipping_forecast.html#All~IrishSea
Lough Foyle to Carlingford Lough
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