Stranraer Marina Office VHF #14 (when office manned), tel 01776 706565 (often voicemail), mobiles 07827 277247 and 07734 073421. Office is open 0800 to 1030 & 1500 to 1730
Loch Ryan provides good accessible shelter for yachts and motorboats. The entrance is wide and straightforward, although there can be heavy seas off Milleur Point.
Constant lookout for fast ferry traffic will be needed.
Both Stenna Lines and P&O have moved their operations out of Stranraer at the head of the Loch; Stenna now works fast (23kt) monohulls out of Loch Ryan Port and P&O has HSS Cats out of Cairnryan Ferry Terminal which means that you can expect to meet at least one of their boats during your transit of the Loch. They tend to keep to the deeper buoyed channels and there is plenty of room to keep out of their way. Be aware that Stenna has a habit of calling their port "Loch Ryan Port, Cairnryan" which can confuse (well, it did me for a while!)
On the plus side; moving the ferry bases further up the East side of the Loch has opened the south end up for leisure craft and you will get an untroubled night's sleep down there either at anchor or within the marina!
The local council has built a small Marina around the West Pier at Stranraer, with pontoons and an additional breakwater to provide more protection from the North West. The town can provide decent local facilities and has very good transport connections.
There are also anchoring possibilities within the loch... a quick look at the chart will show there are extensive shallow areas surrounding an area known as The Wig. This can provide some good shelter for those wishing to anchor.
When entering Loch Ryan, it's best to keep well clear of the Western side.....
.... as there are various drying rocks. A northerly cardinal buoy (Q) is moored 0.3 miles off Milleur Point, and leaving this on your starboard side clears all dangers as you enter. Despite the repositioning of the ferry terminals this is still the local recommendation.
Once within the loch proper, favouring the eastern shore and passing Garry Point, Old House Point, will keep you clear of most ferry traffic until in the closer approaches to Loch Ryan Port, Cairn Point (with it's lighthouse Fl(2)R.10s14m12M), and the Cairnryan Ferry Terminal. Keep watch on VHF Ch14 for traffic (no requirement to report in). Where you choose to cross the ferry channel will be dependant on the traffic, wind conditions etc but the best place is around the Forbes Shoal area and you should aim to give Cairn Point a good offing, whilst being mindful of the shallows of The Scar and The Spit on your starboard side. Make for the green conical Spit buoy (Fl.G.6s), and leave it on your starboard side. Keeping to the 5m (at CD) contour line should keep you away from ferry activity, and the shallows too.
From the above-mentioned buoy a course can be shaped up for a point slightly to the NW of Stranraer, from where an entry can be made into the Stranraer Marina
The main points to be borne in mind are keeping away from The Spit and The Scar, drying banks and shallows that radiate out from Kirkcolm Point in a SE direction, and at the same time keeping away from the ferries who tend to follow well defined tracks. The fast ferries can make a considerable wash.
In general there is plenty of water within the loch for small craft, and absolutely no reason to mix it with the ferries. Providing attention is paid to the shallows mentioned above, and various unmarked rocks lying to the north of Kirkcolm Point, Loch Ryan could provide plenty of sheltered sailing for enthusiasts.
There is no reason why a night-time entry could not be made into Loch Ryan, there are plenty of navigational lights, and the main routes down to Stranraer are well lit.
The arrangements for entering the new Marina are best seen on the plan,
.... a new breakwater has been constructed and access to the pontoons is via a short channel. The start of the channel is marked by a green conical and a red can buoy, both are lit.
After passing between these, the visitors berths will be seen on the very first pontoon you come to. Further red buoyage on your starboard side marks the edge of a drying mud bank.
This Marina is owned by the Dumfries and Galloway Council, who also own the West Pier. Contact the Harbourmaster Lesley Smith 07734073421 or assistant Alan McLaughlin 07827277247. The office is near the clock tower.
The charges here (2021) are in bands and work out at £26.50 per night for a 10 metre boat, with a minimum of £21.50 for 8 metres (pontoons can take 12m boats) with the possibility of accommodating yachts up to 28 m long with prior notice. Charges include VAT, showers & water. A total of seven berths are reserved for visitors only, with a further 50 Odd for residents.
Shelter in this spot may not be perfect in NW Gales, but we have heard plenty of good reports about this new facility.
A popular anchorage will be found in an area called The Wig, lying in a bit of a bight formed by the drying Scar, and shallows of The Spit. As has been said by "Fearless Friend" in the local advice below it would be daft not to put down a tripping line with your gear in this area.
Lady Bay on the NW side of the Loch has been found to be a viable (if noisy with passing ferries at night) anchorage and if time is of the essence it's useful as it's a further six miles down to the Marina from there
This area is sheltered from the North West and West, and shallows mentioned above provide some kind of shelter when the wind is in the north-east. (Tuck in close as possible under Kirkcolm Point) Strong winds with a S or SE component will make things rough here. No water or fuel here, and nearest shops are at Kirkcolm.
Loch Ryan Sailing Club has a slipway in front of its' premises on the western shore of The Wig. Visitors are welcome when the club is open, a link to their website is provided below:
We are grateful for the help we have received from local sailors (Gordon Baird and Phillip Taylorson) on the new conditions in the Loch
The Marina at Stranraer can provide water and electricity (prepaid cards, so check the bollard to see if there is any left over!) on all the pontoons and it has a brand new amenities block with showers (free), toilets and coin op laundrette facilities. Fuel (in jerry cans) and Calor gas are available at the local garage (they don't do Camping Gaz but. if you talk to the HM. he knows of a place where that can be arranged)
There is now a slip for launching trailer sailors and they hope to have some form of lifting facilities in the near future.
The town itself can provide shops, post office and banks, with a Tesco Metro and Morrisons within easy walking reach of the Marina.
Car hire is available close by for those who wish to abandon their boats and do a bit of exploring.
Transport connections for crew changes are very good. Stranraer railway station is the southern terminus for one of the branch lines of the Glasgow South Western Line. Trains are provided by First ScotRail daily to Ayr, Glasgow, and Newcastle. The main national coach providers operate services from Stranraer. National Express offer a service to London.
Trailer Sailers will find a decent concrete slipway (originally used for seaplanes), in front of the Loch Ryan sailing club, at The Wig. Care is required with launch and recovery because of the wash from fast ferries.
Loch Ryan is a Scottish sea loch that acts as an important natural harbour for shipping, providing calm waters for ferries operating between Scotland and Northern Ireland. The town of Stranraer is the largest settlement on its shores, with boats operating both from the town and from the village of Cairnryan further north on the loch.
Historically the loch has seen human activity on its shores since ancient times. Sheltered from the rough seas of the North Channel and the North Atlantic the loch has been an important safe harbour for vessels. In the spring of 1307 at the beginning of Robert the Bruce's campaign in the wars of independence he sent two forces to attempt to gain control of south west Scotland. One force, led by his two brothers and comprising of eighteen galleys, landed in Loch Ryan. They were immediately overwhelmed by local forces, led by Dougal MacDougal, who was a supporter of the Comyns.
The loch would have been used historically for traditional maritime activities including fishing. The Statistical account of Scotland 1791-99, records:
"This bank abounds with oysters of a most excellent flavour. They are found indeed all around the shores and might be got in great quantities would people drag for them ....... A variety of fish, as skate, flounders, small cod, haddocks, whiting, lobsters, crabs and sometimes turbot are caught within the loch"
The later Account of 1834-45 expands on this issue, as it states:
"Loch Ryan at one time was famous for its herring fishery. I have heard old people say that they have known 300 sail boats in the bay at one time which had come from the highlands and other places, in order to fish or purchase herrings. For many years past the shoals of herrings may be said to have deserted the loch."
A lighthouse was built at Cairn point in 1847 at the northern end of the village of Cairnryan. In 1849 the principle link to Northern Ireland was moved from Portpatrick to Stranraer in Loch Ryan. The reasons for this move were the increasing tonnages of the vessels operating the route which were more susceptible to harsh storms when moored at the exposed Portpatrick harbour on the Rhins coast. The calmer safer waters of the loch allowed larger ships to ply the route as demand increased.
During the second world war the loch was busy with wartime activity. Cairnryan became No. 2 Military port, an important secondary large-scale port facility that was available for use should facilities on the Mersey and the Clyde became unavailable due to enemy bombing. Two large piers were built at Cairnryan to enable large tonnage ships to dock and unload cargo. The harbour was used as an import point for troops coming from the USA after 1942. Only one of the two piers still stands today, and it is unusable due to the poor condition of the wooden piles (the pier has been unused since a small section collapsed with tragic consequences in the 1990’s). With U-Boat menace in the Atlantic taking a heavy toll on merchant shipping the area became an important centre for anti-U-Boat operations. Flying boats operated from the loch to protect allied shipping making its way to Liverpool or Glasgow either via the North Channel or the Firth of Clyde. There were two RAF stations on the Loch, RAF Wig Bay operating from Wig Bay near Kirkcolm and RAF Stranraer operating from the town.
Just north of Cairnryan are what looks like a number of concrete 'boats' resting on the shore - these too are a legacy of the second world war. They are in fact 'Beetles' from the Mulberry harbour project. The beetle pontoons were used to hold up the 'Whale' roadway sections, with four of the whales being built at Cairnryan. With easy access to the North Atlantic, Loch Ryan was used as the surrender destination for the U-Boats who were out in the Atlantic in 1945 when hostilities ceased. The U-boats and their crews were held at Cairnryan, before the boats were finally towed out into the Atlantic and sunk. Other wartime activity on the loch included construction of target rafts made out of wood and cork, which were built in Stranraer then floated out the Loch and round the Rhins of Galloway to their positions in Luce Bay for bombing practice (operating out of West Freugh). The loch was also used by Winston Churchill when he departed from Stranraer in a Boeing Flying boat on 25 June 1942 when making his second visit of the war to the USA.
Today the loch serves as an important location for the ferry link to Northern Ireland, representing the shortest crossing distance between Britain and Ireland. The port activity has increased substantially since the route first started operating out of the Loch in 1849. There are currently a total of 5 ferries, 3 conventional RORO ferries and 2 fast ferries. This is split between two ferry companies, Stena Line and P&O - Irish Sea. Stena, operating from the east pier in Stranraer, with 1 conventional (Stena Caledonia) and the HSS fast ferry (Stena Voyager), while P&O, operating from Cairnryan run 2 conventionals (European Causeway & European Highlander) and the P&O Express fast ferry. Between 1992 and 1999 Sea Containers Ltd operated the Seacat fast ferry on the Stranraer - Belfast route. They subsequently moved to Troon, before finally ending the service altogether in 2005. While conventional ferries (moving at around 15 knots) have worked the route for many decades the newly introduced fast ferries are capable of much greater speeds (around 40 knots). The wash that these large craft generate has led to speed restrictions being imposed within the majority of the loch, with fast ferries unable to increase their speeds above 12 knots (22 km/h) until they are to the north of Old House point on the northern side of Cairnryan.
Further speed restrictions are imposed on the HSS during the Tern breeding season, when wash from the ship can cause problems for the breeding birds on The Scar. The levels of wash that the fast ferries create has been the subject of some controversy, with many suggesting that the death by drowning of a man and his two sons in the loch in July 2003 was due to their boat being overwhelmed by a large wave created by a nearby passing ferry. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch report on the incident suggested however that the condition of the boat, the lack of safety equipment onboard and a poor look out were more likely to have been contributing factors, but did emphasise that speed limits should be adhered to and that small boat owners should be made aware of the dangers of ferry-induced washes. There has also recently been criticism of the erosion that the wash from the boats are creating in and around Kirkcolm bay on the loch's western shores. The questions of speed and the environmental impact that it has have to be balanced with the efficiency and speed of operation, with the Loch Ryan - Northern Ireland route under pressure from other competing routes and methods of transport, not least the Holyhead - Dublin ferry link and low cost airlines.
It is this pressure on efficiency and crossing time that has led to the decision of Stena proposals to move in a few years its operations from Stranraer further north to Cairnryan to share facilities with P&O. This will allow them to cut out the slowest part of the journey, enabling the HSS to reduce its overall roundtrip time by around 30 minutes. This proposal, coming as it does with a significant redevelopment and investment in new port facilities at Cairnryan, will give good security to the future of the North Channel route. It will also lead to future potential small craft maritime development at the southern end of the Loch, which will be completely free from large and regular ferry traffic. The Loch already sees small craft usage, with the Loch Ryan Sailing club operating from Wig Bay, and Stranraer Marina in Stranraer harbour beside the West Pier.
Stranraer is a fair sized town, having a reasonable selection of pubs and restaurants. Suffice to say the crew won't go hungry or thirsty, with all sorts on offer, from fish and chips through to Indian and Chinese.
Naturally there are plenty of pub restaurants too.
The links below may give the curious a starting point:
Things to Do