Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Dublin Bay Boating News and Information

Fun & Fantasy in Dun Laoghaire Harbour

21st April 2015
Fun & Fantasy in Dun Laoghaire Harbour

#dlharbour – Say what you like about the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company (and most people do), but it would seem that their corporate heart, however small, is in the right place comments W M Nixon. Apparently, they've decided to do away with the contentious new library.

The artist's impression (it first appeared on last Thursday April 16th at 12.53) of how Dun Laoghaire might look if the Harbour Company plans were implemented around a new Cruise Liner berth in the middle of the harbour certainly puts the most favourable visual spin on the proposals.

But this fantasy harbour inevitably drew so much attention to the immediate waterfront and in-harbour developments that nobody seems to have noticed the complete disappearance of the library, intrusive and all as it is.

For there it is – gone. In its place is the attractive green tree-girt space which so enhanced the area in times past, and gave a bit of class to the Royal Marine Hotel overlooking all in its proper role as the last relic of ould dacency.

We can only assume the Harbour Company plans to re-use the library in horizontal form as the basic component for its new liner pier, which makes a lot of economic sense. It certainly may win over those disgruntled taxpayers who were prepared to pay €2 million simply to have it demolished. Better instead to have the library gently lowered, and then moved the few hundred yards into the harbour to become a pier.

The complete picture in which everyone's fantasies can be fulfilled

The mock-up showing one liner already in Dun Laoghaire with another one, Heaven help us, apparently heading into port at high speed to join her, is a masterpiece of the good old soft-focus technique...Sailing and boating are shown as continuing merrily in all parts of the harbour (right in the way of that incoming liner), while the Naval Vessel seems to have acquired an entirely new alongside facility down the East Pier, as the new swimming pool barge (which seems to have got even larger than expected) has taken over the time-honoured Naval/Guest of Honour berth off the National Yacht Club.

Are they planning a raft-up of cruise liners? A Cunarder already berthed is about to be disturbed by the arrival of one of the new breed of apartment-block cruise liners, which is heading into the entrance at a fine old speed despite the presence of tiny sailing boats between her and the new berth.

As for the Carlisle Pier, it has been glamorized beyond recognition, and it seems to have reinvented itself as a Tall Ships venue. We'll allow anything on the Carlisle Pier so long as it prevents the creation of that gloom-laden notion, an Irish Diaspora Centre. Those who think that the focal point of a harbour devoted to sport and recreation should have at its core a Visitor Centre devoted to the sad topic of enforced economic emigration really do need to have their collective heads examined.

By utilising the view from the northeast, the main computer-generated image enhances the apparent distance between the berthed liner and the harbour mouth, making the outer part of the harbour seem much more spacious than it really will be if a liner is in port. And as a final touch, a Cunarder seems to have been used to fill the role of the visiting ship - they are much more handsome vessels than the usual run of cruise liners, and the one shown is certainly smaller than the latest batch of floating apartment blocks.

So how would it do if they fitted this little machine into the proposed new berth? The freshly-out-of-the-box Anthem of the Seas is 347.1 metres in length, which means she is slightly longer than a third of a kilometre – she's longer than the London Shard is tall. Thus she chimes in at 1,139ft in old money, making her only a couple of hundred feet less than a quarter of a mile from bow to stern.


Anthem of the Seas. Almost a quarter of a mile long. 5,000 passengers. 3,000 crew. Yet they still need robotic bar-tenders. Grotesque. Bizarre.......

The Anthem carries 5,000 passengers, plus 3,000 crew and staff, and those on-board guests of a thirsty disposition – which seems to include the majority of cruise liner passengers – will be delighted to hear that the vessel's many gizmos include robotic bar-tenders.

It simply boggles the mind to imagine what Dun Laoghaire would look like at high water with the likes of the Anthem of the Seas plumb in the middle of the handsome harbour. "Grotesque and bizarre" may be better known in another context in Ireland, but in this case, they certainly deserve another couple of laps.

The southwest corner of the harbour could be transformed with a marina in the Coal Harbour, and a new Venice Lido-style development in Seapoint Bay.

So busy have we been looking at the possible spatial re-arrangement of the middle of the harbour that only obsessives like me will have looked into every corner of this fantasy Dun Laoghaire. So to make another point, we've also focused in on the southwest area, where it seems that there's going to be a new marina in the Coal Harbour (they already have the access bridge with the pontoon for landing passengers from cruise liners anchored off) and beyond it that not entirely un-scruffy southwest corner of the harbour seems to have been transformed with a Lido-style development worthy of Venice outside the harbour apparently serving a new public dinghy club which will sail between the West Pier and Seapoint, thereby removing troublesome and undisciplined little sailboats from within the harbour at a stroke.

In summertime, it would seem attractive enough. But a very important part of Dun Laoghaire is the sailing school element, which is at its peak in summer but functions virtually on a year-round basis. When sailing school activity is at its busiest, Dun Laoghaire becomes the old granite pond where it's safe to sail. All the little boats pootling about on it are under constant observation, and when the wind gets up and you get into a spot of bother, the worst that will happen to you is that you'll end up against a pier wall with a loss of dignity, rather than being blown out into the open waters of Dublin Bay and beyond, as can so easily happen in the waters off Seapoint.

But not to worry. We have just come by the schedule for cruise liner visits to Dun Laoghaire in 2015. They would of course have to anchor off, but even so in winter they head south – Anthem of the Seas will spend our winters in Australia and New Zealand. The schedule for this year shows that the first vessel – the 3,900-passenger Splendida – will be arriving on May 11th, and she'll also be the last biggie, on 29th August. After that the only caller is the 2,500-passenger tiddler called the Mein Schiff, and she's arrives on 18th September.

Presumably the season will be a little longer with an in-port berth, but even so it's unlikely there'll be any vessel of significance taking up Dun Laoghaire Harbour between the end of September and the beginning of April. So who's for winter sailing, then?

dunl6.jpgThe old granite pond functioning very well as a racing area and training water. This is Dun Laoghaire during sailing's off season - will it become the only in-harbour sailing season?

Published in Dublin Bay Team

About The Author Team

Email The Author is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Dublin Bay

Dublin Bay on the east coast of Ireland stretches over seven kilometres, from Howth Head on its northern tip to Dalkey Island in the south. It's a place most Dubliners simply take for granted, and one of the capital's least visited places. But there's more going on out there than you'd imagine.

The biggest boating centre is at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the Bay's south shore that is home to over 1,500 pleasure craft, four waterfront yacht clubs and Ireland's largest marina.

The bay is rather shallow with many sandbanks and rocky outcrops, and was notorious in the past for shipwrecks, especially when the wind was from the east. Until modern times, many ships and their passengers were lost along the treacherous coastline from Howth to Dun Laoghaire, less than a kilometre from shore.

The Bay is a C-shaped inlet of the Irish Sea and is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and 7 km in length to its apex at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south. North Bull Island is situated in the northwest part of the bay, where one of two major inshore sandbanks lie, and features a 5 km long sandy beach, Dollymount Strand, fronting an internationally recognised wildfowl reserve. Many of the rivers of Dublin reach the Irish Sea at Dublin Bay: the River Liffey, with the River Dodder flow received less than 1 km inland, River Tolka, and various smaller rivers and streams.

Dublin Bay FAQs

There are approximately ten beaches and bathing spots around Dublin Bay: Dollymount Strand; Forty Foot Bathing Place; Half Moon bathing spot; Merrion Strand; Bull Wall; Sandycove Beach; Sandymount Strand; Seapoint; Shelley Banks; Sutton, Burrow Beach

There are slipways on the north side of Dublin Bay at Clontarf, Sutton and on the southside at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and in Dalkey at Coliemore and Bulloch Harbours.

Dublin Bay is administered by a number of Government Departments, three local authorities and several statutory agencies. Dublin Port Company is in charge of navigation on the Bay.

Dublin Bay is approximately 70 sq kilometres or 7,000 hectares. The Bay is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and seven km in length east-west to its peak at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the southside of the Bay has an East and West Pier, each one kilometre long; this is one of the largest human-made harbours in the world. There also piers or walls at the entrance to the River Liffey at Dublin city known as the Great North and South Walls. Other harbours on the Bay include Bulloch Harbour and Coliemore Harbours both at Dalkey.

There are two marinas on Dublin Bay. Ireland's largest marina with over 800 berths is on the southern shore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The other is at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club on the River Liffey close to Dublin City.

Car and passenger Ferries operate from Dublin Port to the UK, Isle of Man and France. A passenger ferry operates from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to Howth as well as providing tourist voyages around the bay.

Dublin Bay has two Islands. Bull Island at Clontarf and Dalkey Island on the southern shore of the Bay.

The River Liffey flows through Dublin city and into the Bay. Its tributaries include the River Dodder, the River Poddle and the River Camac.

Dollymount, Burrow and Seapoint beaches

Approximately 1,500 boats from small dinghies to motorboats to ocean-going yachts. The vast majority, over 1,000, are moored at Dun Laoghaire Harbour which is Ireland's boating capital.

In 1981, UNESCO recognised the importance of Dublin Bay by designating North Bull Island as a Biosphere because of its rare and internationally important habitats and species of wildlife. To support sustainable development, UNESCO’s concept of a Biosphere has evolved to include not just areas of ecological value but also the areas around them and the communities that live and work within these areas. There have since been additional international and national designations, covering much of Dublin Bay, to ensure the protection of its water quality and biodiversity. To fulfil these broader management aims for the ecosystem, the Biosphere was expanded in 2015. The Biosphere now covers Dublin Bay, reflecting its significant environmental, economic, cultural and tourism importance, and extends to over 300km² to include the bay, the shore and nearby residential areas.

On the Southside at Dun Laoghaire, there is the National Yacht Club, Royal St. George Yacht Club, Royal Irish Yacht Club and Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club as well as Dublin Bay Sailing Club. In the city centre, there is Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club. On the Northside of Dublin, there is Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club and Sutton Dinghy Club. While not on Dublin Bay, Howth Yacht Club is the major north Dublin Sailing centre.

© Afloat 2020