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Displaying items by tag: Balbriggan Harbour

When you’ve an ancient port town which happens to have the youngest population in all Ireland, clearly you face problems when the local authority proposes plans to upgrade the old harbour area to bring it more in line with the expectations of their young electors writes W M Nixon.

Yet that is the situation in Balbriggan, which the locals think of as being at the north end of Fingal, even if the distant populations of South Dublin beyond the Liffey still think of it as being at the uttermost end of North County Dublin.

Either way, with an average age of only 30 years compared to the national average of 37, and Ireland’s most rapidly-expanding township population, Balbriggan has become a multi-cultural hotspot of energy and expectations. And there’s no doubt its ancient port – home to a busy little fishing fleet as well as a diverse fleet of recreational craft both power and sail – could be better arranged to become more naturally part of the town with its energetic young people.

balbriggan viaduct2The railway viaduct of 1843-44 added interest and style to the Balbriggan waterfront

However, as local resident Gerry Byrne - who goes afloat with Skerries Sailing Club - has pointed out, we have to remember that Balbriggan is one of Ireland’s oldest artificial harbours, in which you can see its original shape from the Georgian era.

In other words, the basic Balbriggan Harbour which we see today is largely unchanged from the harbour as it was completed pre-1830, the most notable addition since being the construction (in 1843-44) of the handsome railway viaduct which crosses the steep valley where the River Bracken enters the sea at the head of the harbour.

Old it may be, but there’s no denying that Balbriggan Harbour is, how shall we say? – decidedly compact. It’s part of local folklore that, back around 1800, a parliamentary grant was made available to build one really good harbour in the region. But the powerful landlords in Skerries and Balbriggan couldn’t agree on its location, so in the end the money was split in two, and half of it provided a mostly drying pier in Skerries, while the other half provided this little harbour at Balbriggan which is totally drying.

Balbriggan harbour plan3The basic outline of the harbour shows how the need to provide breakwater shelter from southeasterlies may cause silting by sand being carried from the north on the ebb

balbriggan harbour entrance4

Balbriggan entrance at low water – since this photo was taken, a reproduction of the original light structure has been reinstated on the top of the lighthouse

It’s built in such a way to provide shelter from onshore winds – particularly the southeasters - that any sand which isn’t carried into the harbour by its shape relative to the beach to the north is supplemented by silt being brought down the river, resulting in the inner basin of the harbour providing some of the snuggest mud-berths in Ireland.

A true Balbriggan sailor will think that this is exactly how a harbour should be. Others may think otherwise. Yet you’d be pleasantly surprised how many boat-owners from other ports in the area think that their season isn’t complete without at least one proper visit to Balbriggan when there’s a convenient high water in the early afternoon, because like all Ireland’s port towns large and small, Balbriggan somehow seems much more exotic when you arrive by sea.

boats in balbriggan5 1Berthed in Balbriggan. If you’re accustomed to drying out alongside, Balbriggan is one of the snuggest harbours on the East Coast. Photo: W M Nixon

But for those living in the place, the harbour and its nearby town area was beginning to have a tired look, so a Community Group was established early this year under the chairmanship of Dublin City University President Dr Brian McGraith with the support of Fingal County Council to look at the challenge of revitalizing town centre and harbour together.

They’ve moved with commendable speed to come up with proposals and costings which will make town and harbour more accessible to each other while providing a welcoming and entertaining experience for locals and visitors alike.

If the €20 million project is seen through to completion in its various phases (which include a greenway to Skerries), as Professor McGraith puts it: “In a few years, the centre of the town will have been transformed into a restful and attractive place, with public amenities flowing from the River Bracken and the Mill Pond Park through Quay Street down to a completely re-imagined harbour”.

balbriggan redeveloped6“A completely re-imagined harbour” – Balbriggan as it could be three years hence

Published in Coastal Notes
Tagged under

#MARITIME EXHIBITION – The Loughshinny & Rush Historical Society is to host a maritime exhibition of artefacts next Thursday (9th February) at the Bracken Court Hotel, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin.

Many items trawled in the locality of the fishing harbour will be displayed to draw attention to the maritime heritage of the area with a view to assessing interest in a local maritime museum.

School trips have been organised during the day and the exhibition will remain open until 21.00.

For further information contact John Daly Tel: 8105059 or Mob: 086 2603738

Published in Boating Fixtures

Coastal Notes Coastal Notes covers a broad spectrum of stories, events and developments in which some can be quirky and local in nature, while other stories are of national importance and are on-going, but whatever they are about, they need to be told.

Stories can be diverse and they can be influential, albeit some are more subtle than others in nature, while other events can be immediately felt. No more so felt, is firstly to those living along the coastal rim and rural isolated communities. Here the impact poses is increased to those directly linked with the sea, where daily lives are made from earning an income ashore and within coastal waters.

The topics in Coastal Notes can also be about the rare finding of sea-life creatures, a historic shipwreck lost to the passage of time and which has yet many a secret to tell. A trawler's net caught hauling more than fish but cannon balls dating to the Napoleonic era.

Also focusing the attention of Coastal Notes, are the maritime museums which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of historical exhibits for future generations.

Equally to keep an eye on the present day, with activities of existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector and those of the energy exploration industry.

In addition Coastal Notes has many more angles to cover, be it the weekend boat leisure user taking a sedate cruise off a long straight beach on the coast beach and making a friend with a feathered companion along the way.

In complete contrast is to those who harvest the sea, using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety poses an issue, before they set off to ply their trade at the foot of our highest sea cliffs along the rugged wild western seaboard.

It's all there, as Coastal Notes tells the stories that are arguably as varied to the environment from which they came from and indeed which shape people's interaction with the surrounding environment that is the natural world and our relationship with the sea.

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