Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Is the Tide Rising at Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

11th December 2020
Dun Laoghaire's 250 acre harbour - a forthcoming report aims to set a new course for the 200-year-old structure. Now that it has taken control of the harbour, Council efforts are being made to regenerate one of the largest man-made harbours in the world Dun Laoghaire's 250 acre harbour - a forthcoming report aims to set a new course for the 200-year-old structure. Now that it has taken control of the harbour, Council efforts are being made to regenerate one of the largest man-made harbours in the world Credit: Tim Wall

After years of neglect, the tide may finally be turning in favour of Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCoCo) has commissioned a new €100k report into the 200-year-old harbour, asking economic consultants Indecon to provide a blueprint for its improved use.

This report's timing couldn't be better because since the cross-channel ferry left in 2015 - after almost 200 continuous years of operation - the harbour and the county's 17-km south Dublin coastline has had an uncertain time.

An estimated €2m was spent on a masterplan by the previous owners, the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, without a sod being turned. If that wasn't bad enough, in 2018, part of the Victorian pier was washed into the sea by Storm Emma after years of neglect.

Dun Laoghaire Marina, with 800 berths it is the largest in IrelandDun Laoghaire Marina, with 800 berths it is the largest in Ireland Photo: Tim Wall

A new impetus, however, sees some ambitious coastal projects being undertaken. As well as the harbour study, a €7m refurbishment of the Dun Laoghaire seawater baths project will be completed next Spring. The Council is also contributing to Failte Ireland's coastal development plan, while a National Watersports Campus has received funding from Government at the Dun Laoghaire Harbour site.

The Dun Laoghaire Baths site is currently being refurbished at the back of Dun Laoghaire's East PierThe Dun Laoghaire Baths site is currently being refurbished at the back of Dun Laoghaire's East Pier

These latest projects are significant because they point to a new and much-needed marine focus for Dun Laoghaire.

A year ago, leading Dun Laoghaire mariner, Paddy Boyd called on authorities to look closer at supporting the town's marine scene. "The assumption of control of Dun Laoghaire harbour by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council is a golden opportunity to develop a maritime leisure facility that could be the best in the world," says master mariner Boyd who previously held chief executive roles in both Irish Sailing and Canada Sailing.

"Not only is this an opportunity to address some of the deficiencies that currently exist - such as the lack of an all-tide accessible slipway - but also to begin the process of developing the support facilities that are appropriate to a harbour of this nature", he told Afloat.

A year down the road, is it dawning on the county that marine leisure is potentially much bigger business for the town than anyone previously thought?

According to the project brief, the scope of the economic and strategic review will set out "a clear and coherent vision and roadmap to assist and guide the on-going development that will contribute to the strategic planning and stimuli of Dún Laoghaire Town and the physical regeneration of Dún Laoghaire Harbour".

Anglers on Dun Laoghaire's West Pier watch a visiting cruise liner departAnglers on Dun Laoghaire's West Pier watch a visiting cruise liner depart in 2019

It's an approach that is encouraged by many businesses in the harbour, including Ian O'Meara of Viking Marine the leading boat shop and chandlery who believes the recent changes will improve access to the water for everyone. "Covid has further highlighted Dublin Bay and Dun Laoghaire Harbour as one of the greatest resources for fun and leisure, competition, staycation and not to mention personal wellness," he told Afloat.

Coastal rowing is popular at Dun Laoghaire Harbour and along the coast at DalkeyCoastal rowing is popular at Dun Laoghaire Harbour and also along the coast at Dalkey's Coliemore Harbour

Even now, with the ravages of COVID and the economic downturn, this marine leisure sector has proved itself able to at least cover the estimated €800k for the harbour's annual maintenance costs.

Perhaps then it's appropriate to borrow the motto of a neighbouring east coast port, Arklow - 'Maoin na mara ár muinighin', or 'Our hope lies in the riches of the sea'.

"This is a time for all stakeholders to develop a vision for the future that is not constrained by the piecemeal development that has taken place to date," said Boyd. "The vision should look at the re-purposing of structures and facilities currently in existence. For example, why couldn't the Coal Harbour accommodate a heritage harbour or the ferry terminal provide office and workshop space to the more than 50 organisations that currently provide access or supports to the maritime community."

Stand Up Paddleboarding is one of the many aquatic pursuits on offer in the harbourStand Up Paddleboarding is one of the many aquatic pursuits on offer in the harbour

This is not, however, a plea to support the 'elites on yachts' - the business case for marine leisure goes way beyond higher-end sailing.

A super yacht visitor berthed at Dun Laoghaire Marina A superyacht berthed at Dun Laoghaire Marina, such visitors can bring significant spin-off to the town and the harbour

According to a recent NUI Galway study, domestic coastal tourism expenditure was approximately €698 million in 2018, while domestic marine tourism generated €381 million. (See more in the Marine Leisure FAQ at the bottom of this article).

Sailing and motorboating on the Dun Laoghaire coast - the town harbour with over 1,000 boats is the boating capital of IrelandSailing and motorboating on the Dun Laoghaire coast - the town harbour with over 1,000 boats is the boating capital of Ireland

Yet despite clear economic benefits, there are obstacles to overcome if the potential of south Dublin's coastline is to be unlocked. So far, we have only dipped our toe in the water.

Industry insiders say the marine leisure sector is capable of growing by around 30 per cent over the next three years - if the Government and local authorities decide to unlock the potential that lies in Irish waters.

Youth sailors enjoy a team racing event competed for inside Dun Laoghaire HarbourYouth sailors enjoy a team racing event competed for inside Dun Laoghaire Harbour

An economic plan for the harbour represents a strong opportunity to highlight what it can contribute to the economy, leisure and culture of the area. "For too long, the focus had been on what the harbour costs, and not what it gives back. There is scope for all aspects to be considered and for new and realistic plans to be put forward", says Paal Jansson, who chairs the Irish Marine Federation and is also the General Manager of Dun Laoghaire Marina.

Local school children out on the safe waters of Dun Laoghaire Harbour with the Irish National Sailing School Photo: courtesy INSSLocal school children out on the safe waters of Dun Laoghaire Harbour with the Irish National Sailing School Photo: courtesy INSS

In spite of our 4,000 miles of coast (and a further 500 miles of navigable rivers and lakes), Ireland has one of the lowest ratios of boat ownership in Europe: one boat to 172 people, compared with the European average of one boat to 42 people. This could change if the Government and local authorities opened access for the public to the sea and provided the facilities that residents in other European countries take for granted.

Marine plan required

The lack of an overall maritime plan at Dun Laoghaire means there is no consistent direction to exploit its maritime assets for the public good.

Arguably the harbour is Dun Laoghaire's biggest asset, but until very recently, it has been treated - by Official Ireland at least - like an empty, unwanted and disused industrial estate on the edge of town.

Every two years at Dun Laoghaire, the town and the waterfront yacht clubs combine to host Ireland's biggest sailing regattaEvery two years at Dun Laoghaire, the town and the waterfront yacht clubs combine to host Ireland's biggest sailing regatta. With 500 boats and 3,000 sailors racing for four days, its one of Ireland's biggest participant sporting events after the Dublin city marathon

"The stakeholders in the harbour are all very keen to engage with the Council and their consultants to help inform them when compiling the report," says Jansson. "As longstanding businesses and organisations within the harbour, they are perhaps best placed to engage in a meaningful way to develop a picture of how the harbour can grow in the coming years."

It's no surprise because there is no national marine policy either, despite the publication by Government in 2016 of 'Our Ocean Wealth strategy'. As a result, there is no dedicated direction for the harbour. This is despite a healthy local marine leisure scene that makes a significant contribution to the annual upkeep of the harbour, including a payment from the town marina, the biggest in the country.

20,000 new homes at Cherrywood

Proponents say the boating scene could be even bigger because the harbour acts like a recreational lung for South County Dublin. And in the years to come, that need will only increase with the development of neighbouring Cherrywood new town and the 20,000 homes there all requiring a recreational zone. In addition, Dun Laoghaire is only six miles from Dublin city centre and a county population of over one million.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour looking south. A new harbour vision is a welcome step forward for a county that has yet to fully capitalise on its coastline, one of the finest stretches in Ireland.Dun Laoghaire Harbour looking south. A new harbour vision would be a welcome step forward for a county that has yet to fully capitalise on its coastline, one of the finest stretches in Ireland.

Watersports Campus

The Government has recognised this potential by giving the green light to the development of a national watersports campus in the harbour. The new DLR plan seeks to harness all the different organisations in the harbour for the benefit of the public, including a new watersports centre and modern public slipway, given there is currently not one available with access at all stages of the tide anywhere in the county. It's an opportunity to provide public access to Dublin Bay for a new generation of marine leisure enthusiasts. This, it is hoped, can add incrementally to the boating population as a whole and underpin Dun Laoghaire's claim to be the boating capital of Ireland.

Brian Craig, who has spearheaded the development of the watersports campus, says the collaborate approach taken by DLRCoCo to secure government funding for the project is a clear indication of a new spirit of working together for the betterment of the area.

"Now is the chance to convert the frustrations of past years into a positive future that places Dun Laoghaire at the forefront internationally of marine leisure and tourism," says Craig, a former chairman of Dun Laoghaire Regatta, Ireland's largest sailing event. "This will bring in much-needed and secure economic benefits to the town."


One exciting prospect for the harbour is the emergence of new plans for a technology hub at the site of the former Stena ferry terminal.

Lapetus Investments Ltd, trading as Quarterdeck Innovation, envisions a "remote-working innovation space" within the St Michael's Pier terminal building in Dun Laoghaire Harbour.
It intends "to create a technology hub whereby small and medium-size businesses can collaborate in a community-based environment that promotes and fosters entrepreneurship, through a spirit of innovation and creativity".

And it's hoped the scheme could create more than 650 jobs after five years in the south Dublin port town — which will pique the interest of the waterfront yacht clubs among many other local stakeholders.

Marine spatial planning

In a national context, the Government has also embarked on a new Marine Spatial policy. It is a new way of looking at how we use the marine area and planning how best to use it in the future. It's about planning when and where human activities take place at sea, and it's this kind of thinking that can chime precisely with Dun Laoghaire's efforts to unlock the potential of Dun Laoghaire's coastline and maritime assets.

What are Dun Laoghaire Rathdown's Maritime Assets?

The east of the county is defined by a 17-kilometre stretch of coastline, including harbours, cliffs and beaches with varying degrees of accessibility, and at its heart lies Dun Laoghaire Harbour, an entry port for the city of Dublin that has long been a favourite for Dubliners and includes:

  • Booterstown Marsh
  • Blackrock Baths
  • Martello Tower Seapoint
  • Seapoint Beach & Bay
  • The Gut
  • Dun Laoghaire Piers
  • Dun Laoghaire Marina
  • Watersports Campus - proposed
  • Dun Laoghaire Beach Gardens
  • Dun Laoghaire Baths & Roger Casement Quay
  • Scotsman's Bay
  • Sandycove Beach
  • Forty Foot Bathing Spot
  • Bulloch Harbour
  • Coliemore Harbour
  • Dalkey Island
  • Killiney Bay & Beach
  • Hawks Cliff bathing
  • Whiterock bathing

If the Dun Laoghaire coastline was looked at in its entirety and developed with an overall goal in mind, then DLRCoCo could begin to work out what was the best way for the town/citizens and county to get the most out of it.

Pleasure trips from Dun Laoghaire Harbour operate out into Dublin BayPleasure trips from Dun Laoghaire Harbour operate out into Dublin Bay and across the Bay to Howth

Gerry Salmon's firm MGM Boats operates the boatyard at Dun Laoghaire Harbour and he is another Harbour operator that welcomes the commissioning of the Indecon report, "Given the year we have had with Covid and the effects this has had on our economy, we need to focus on domestic tourism, domestic boaters and grow the marine recreation sector at home. By making the harbour a one-stop-shop for all users and to improve infrastructure, it will focus DL Harbour as a go-to place, seven days a week and 52 weeks of the year".

The Dublin Port Pilot boat Tolka in the hoist at the MGM Dun Laoghaire Harbour boatyard The Dublin Port Pilot boat Tolka in the hoist for maintenance work at the MGM Boats at the Dun Laoghaire Harbour boatyard

Harbour seals hauled ashore at Dalkey IslandHarbour seals hauled ashore at Dalkey Island (above) also venture onto the pier walls at Dun Laoghaire too! (below) Photo: Barry O'Neill

Harbour seals at Dun Laoghaire harbour

It's a sentiment echoed by Alistair Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School who has long campaigned for an expansion of facilities in the Coal Harbour area of the West Pier. 

Currently, however, there is no overall plan or joined-up thinking on the marine side, and this leads to ad hoc decisions.

A plan would allow the Council to draw up guidelines as to its future direction for marine leisure, how it wishes to promote and produce a cohesive brand across the board; watersports (x 20 different sports), marine conservation, maritime history, architecture, marine wildlife, bird watching, coastal walks and sea swimming to name but a few.

Sea swimming at Dalkey and right along the Dun Laoghaire coast line is now a year round activitySea swimming at Dalkey and right along the Dun Laoghaire coastline is now a year-round activity, even though water quality is checked only in Summer

Marketing Dun Laoghaire's coast

Why not develop a 'marketing product', similar in style to the way the Wild Atlantic Way was developed? This would help the promotion of all marine activities in a joined-up way.
Promotions like this would exploit the county's wealth of maritime assets as a unique tourism resource and create a cohesive maritime experience for locals and visitors.

With such investment, it should be possible for local retailers –in a town where, in recent times, one in five shops has been boarded up – to pitch at the needs of the harbour and visiting ships. That was always the hope if plans to attract cruise liners had succeeded, but what's also required is to develop the sort of jobs that cannot be shipped abroad.

Think of the Pfizer plant in Dun Laoghaire; the cost to the Exchequer of each of those 210 or so jobs and the ease with which they upped and left. For a similar investment, we could have developed 200 jobs that would stick to Dun Laoghaire like limpets because this is where their natural advantage would exist.

These employers would not only be in the old-style hunter-gatherer lifestyles (e.g. inshore or sea fishing) but activity tourism and niche manufacturing and services.

As a working example, a sail-making firm was established in Crosshaven, Co Cork in 1974. It's still there, a thriving small Irish business that designs and exports sails all over the world. It grew thanks to the enterprise of a local initiative by Royal Cork Yacht Club to develop festivals and events such as the world-renowned Cork Week regatta.

It remains to be seen if the new Harbour report can deliver a plan that can turn the tide for Dun Laoghaire, its harbour and its coastline. "Many of the elements are already in place," says Craig. "We need to seize the moment, harness the expertise and goodwill to now put in place this long-term plan that puts Dun Laoghaire back on its rightful course."

Dun Laoghaire's Unique Waterfront Yacht Clubs

Dun Laoghaire’s four waterfront yacht clubs are home to the biggest recreational users of the bay with an estimated 5,000 membership and a fleet of 1,000 boats.

From East pier to West Pier the waterfront clubs are:

  • National Yacht Club
  • Royal St. George Yacht Club
  • Royal Irish Yacht Club
  • Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club

The National Yacht Club located at the town's East PierThe National Yacht Club located at the town's East Pier

The sheer number of sailors plus the fact that sailing is now a year-round sport thanks to the presence of the town marina means the yacht clubs are the biggest employers in the harbour and this has a significant spin-off in the local economy.

Each week in summertime club yacht racing is arranged on several nights per week and at the weekend under the aegis of the umbrella organisation, Dublin Bay Sailing Club.

The Royal St. George Yacht Club, with the town's Royal Marine Hotel in the backgroundThe Royal St. George Yacht Club, with the town's Royal Marine Hotel in the background

The Royal Irish Yacht Club located in the middle harbourThe Royal Irish Yacht Club located in the middle harbour

The Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club located on Dun Laoghaire's West PierThe Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club located on Dun Laoghaire's West Pier 

Marine leisure at Dun Laoghaire - FAQs

What is 'marine leisure tourism'?

Coastal tourism refers to land-based and water-based tourism activities taking place on the coast for which the proximity to the sea is a condition including also their respective services. Coastal and Marine Tourism & Leisure are seen as one of the Blue Economy (BE) sectors that can help unlock the potential of multi-use of space at sea by engaging with Blue Growth (BG) sectors such as Aquaculture and Marine Renewable Energy among others.

Examples of marine leisure tourism are:

  • Sports: sailing, surfing, diving and fishing
  • Heritage: Unesco coastal villages, archaeological sites of interest, biospheres and historical points of interest
  • Arts: coastal museums, art galleries, museums, wrecks
  • Education: Eco-tourism, field courses, NGOs.
  • Food: Seafood restaurants, Seafood festivals

Sea angling is popular from the shoreline and also from small boatsSea angling is popular from the shoreline and also from small boats

What about other marine leisure tourism studies?

NUI Galway carried out a survey of domestic residents in Ireland in 2019 as part of a survey entitled "Valuing and understanding the dynamics of Ireland's Ocean Economy". The purpose of the household survey was to profile the domestic market for single-day trips (leisure) and overnight trips (tourism) for coastal and marine-related activities in Ireland. The results of the survey are also used to estimate what proportion of an Irish resident's total domestic tourism expenditure is in coastal areas (coastal tourism) and what proportion is spent on undertaking marine-related activities (marine tourism).

More details are available here 

What were the results of the NUI study?

The NUI results highlight the important contribution that Ireland's marine and coastal resources make to the leisure experiences of the general population and the importance of the domestic tourism market to local coastal economies. The analysis indicates that domestic coastal tourism expenditure was approximately €698 million in 2018, while domestic marine tourism generated €381 million.

Activities such as walking/ running along the coast, swimming and beach visitations are among the most popular activities for domestic visitors on both day and overnight trips. While participation rates in pursuits such as bird and wildlife watching in coastal areas and visiting nature reserves, etc. in coastal areas were lower, these activities did see the highest frequency of both day and overnight trips for those active in these activities. Satisfaction with the available marine-related leisure facilities was also found to be very high across all activities.

What marine leisure tourism exists in Dun Laoghaire?

Dun Laoghaire has a wide range of marine leisure pursuits:

  • Visitors travel in their own yachts to the town marina and town yacht clubs.
  • Hosting of national and international events by town yacht clubs organised by voluntary committees.
  • Sailing School tuitions
  • Day visits to the harbour and town
  • Heritage visits to the Maritime Museum
  • Diving on wrecks

Has Dun Laoghaire ever completed a marine leisure tourism study?

There has been no overall dedicated study, but there have been important studies on high profile individual sporting events.

What is the biggest driver of marine leisure in Dun Laoghaire?

The harbour structure itself, along with the town marina and the waterfront yacht clubs.

How many overseas visitors come to Dun Laoghaire by boat?

According to Dun Laoghaire Marina, crews from 34 different countries have arrived into the harbour in their own vessels in the last five years. The UK is a big market, but boats have come from as far as New Zealand.

In terms of a return from marine leisure tourism, what does the marina contribute to Dun Laoghaire?

The marina makes the largest single/private financial contributor to harbour income - over 1,100 boats berth throughout the year. There are 5,500 berthing nights for visiting boats. It's estimated that for every €10 spent on a marina berth, €100 is spent in the local economy.

In terms of a return from marine leisure tourism, what do the yacht clubs contribute to Dun Laoghaire?

Sailing events are secured directly by the sailing clubs and waterfront organisations who have a proven record in attracting world championships, marine conferences and race stopovers. The clubs are the biggest employers in the harbour, sustaining a community of up to 5,000 boat owners and sailors who use the bay for year-round recreation out of Dun Laoghaire.

Have there been international sailing events at Dun Laoghaire?

Examples over the past decade are:

  • 2012 Youth Worlds – the Youth Olympics of Sailing
    8,500 overseas visitor bed nights, €5m to the local economy, 10-day event
    100,000 venue specific visits
  • 2016 Laser Radial World Championships - B & A Survey commissioned by Failte Ireland
    Average spend per participant - €770 per overseas and €160 per domestic
    8,830 overseas visitor bed nights.
    849 Overseas visitors; the average length of visit 10.4 days
    67% of competitors gave an overall satisfaction rating of 9 out of 10.
  • 2019 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta
    Irish Marine Federation Study - Economic value to the region at €2.4 million, 2,500 sailors.
    2019 RED C Survey - Competitor Satisfaction, 8.6 out of 10 and an average, spend per sailor €500
    Marine Conferences and Race Stopovers
  • The Failte Ireland supported World Sailing Conference 2012 generated over 4,000 bed nights.
  • The Figaro Race and MOD 70 stopovers each attracted 100,000 domestic visitors to Dun Laoghaire.

Why is Dun Laoghaire successful in staging so many international sailing events?

Dun Laoghaire has developed a reputation as a world-class venue for successfully hosting international sailing events and competes on the international stage with other high-profile venues like Weymouth (UK), Aarhus (DEN), Lake Garda (ITA), Kingston (CAN), Auckland (NZ) to secure these pinnacle championships. The waterfront sailing clubs have the relationships, expertise, equipment and volunteer pool to bid, secure and run these highest-level international competitions.

Why are these international sailing events good for Dun Laoghaire?

The high-profile international sailing events are significant as they deliver international spend to the local economy due to key factors:
• The typical schedule for 7 -10 days – competitors must compete each day and stay for the duration.
• Sailors need to stay local (within walking distance or cycle ride) to the venue as they require regular access to the boat park and competition centre when ashore.
• Entry Criteria – entry is normally limited per nation resulting in a high number of overseas visitors (85%).

So why don't we host more international sailing events in Dun Laoghaire?

Although Dun Laoghaire has access to a pool of international events, the yacht clubs can only host on average one big international event per year as there is no dedicated slipway/parking area to accommodate the hundreds of visiting boats, necessitating the clubs to disrupt their activities to accommodate the visitors.

Does DLRCoCo support the staging of these events?

DLRCoCo provides a range of supports and initiatives to attract tourists and events to the town. There are strong individual relations between the Council and the local yacht clubs but no policy framework to support the marine leisure tourism efforts that are dealt with on an ad hoc basis. DLR work with organisers to support the staging of individual events by granting use of resources such as space on harbour lands or direct sponsorship of events.

Is this marine leisure tourism contribution recognised by the State?

Although a regular feature of the Dun Laoghaire sailing calendar, the value of regional and national championships is not separately evaluated by the town.

What are the opportunities for marine leisure growth in Dun Laoghaire?

Local interests believe that with state backing, be it in terms of policy, promotion or direct funding; this market could rise significantly.

It is well documented internationally how coastal marinas and boatyards form a vital asset to marine tourism where access to the sea for land-based tourists is of equal importance to the thousands of overseas and domestic leisure craft that arrive under their own power and go largely unrecorded in any official statistics.

Marinas act as a gateway and facilitate these tourists and allow them to tour the coastal locations and communities of Ireland. The employment, trade and investment in this sector are significant and noteworthy, especially so in the smaller coastal communities and harbours.

Yet, Dun Laoghaire, the home of Ireland's largest marina, has failed largely to capitalise in any meaningful or overarching way, as other European countries have done.

What do neighbouring countries do?

Scotland has developed a highly effective and powerful marketing brand; Sail Scotland embraces marine and boating tourism to deliver a range of strategic marketing activities to grow its sector.

When considering the Tourism Ireland Regional Cooperative Marketing Fund, and similar funding opportunities, there exists scope to deliver the same strong message to a variety of targeted and meaningful markets for Irish shores.

What policies exist to promote marine leisure in the port?

Currently, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, like Ireland as a whole, has no maritime policy for its coastal assets nor has it a marine tourism policy.

What do marine leisure trends tell us about the future for Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

As existing Dun Laoghaire Harbour marine leisure providers already understand, the way people spend their leisure time is changing. Within the watersports sector, there is a move to embrace a wide range of new adventure sport elements on demand. In addition to conventional watersports, there are now pursuits such as surfing, coasteering, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding that Failte Ireland sees as a key growth part of the leisure sector. Dun Laoghaire Harbour is very well placed to take advantage of that. More here 

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Dun Laoghaire Harbour Information

Dun Laoghaire Harbour is the second port for Dublin and is located on the south shore of Dublin Bay. Marine uses for this 200-year-old man-made harbour have changed over its lifetime. Originally built as a port of refuge for sailing ships entering the narrow channel at Dublin Port, the harbour has had a continuous ferry link with Wales and this was the principal activity of the harbour until the service stopped in 2015. In all this time, however, one thing has remained constant and that is the popularity for sailing and boating from the port, making it Ireland's marine leisure capital with a harbour fleet of over 1,200-1.600 pleasure craft.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Bye-Laws

Download the bye-laws on this link here


A live stream Dublin Bay webcam showing Dun Laoghaire Harbour entrance and East Pier is here

Dun Laoghaire is a Dublin suburb situated on the south side of Dublin Bay, approximately, 15km from Dublin city centre.

The east and west piers of the harbour are each of 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) long.

The harbour entrance is 232 metres (761 ft) across from East to West Pier.

  • Public Boatyard
  • Public slipway
  • Public Marina

23 clubs, 14 activity providers and eight state-related organisations operate from Dun Laoghaire Harbour that facilitates a full range of sports - Sailing, Rowing, Diving, Windsurfing, Angling, Canoeing, Swimming, Triathlon, Powerboating, Kayaking and Paddleboarding. Participants include members of the public, club members, tourists, disabled, disadvantaged, event competitors, schools, youth groups and college students.

  • Commissioners of Irish Lights
  • Dun Laoghaire Marina
  • MGM Boats & Boatyard
  • Coastguard
  • Naval Service Reserve
  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution
  • Marine Activity Centre
  • Rowing clubs
  • Yachting and Sailing Clubs
  • Sailing Schools
  • Irish Olympic Sailing Team
  • Chandlery & Boat Supply Stores

The east and west granite-built piers of Dun Laoghaire harbour are each of one kilometre (0.62 mi) long and enclose an area of 250 acres (1.0 km2) with the harbour entrance being 232 metres (761 ft) in width.

In 2018, the ownership of the great granite was transferred in its entirety to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council who now operate and manage the harbour. Prior to that, the harbour was operated by The Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, a state company, dissolved in 2018 under the Ports Act.

  • 1817 - Construction of the East Pier to a design by John Rennie began in 1817 with Earl Whitworth Lord Lieutenant of Ireland laying the first stone.
  • 1820 - Rennie had concerns a single pier would be subject to silting, and by 1820 gained support for the construction of the West pier to begin shortly afterwards. When King George IV left Ireland from the harbour in 1820, Dunleary was renamed Kingstown, a name that was to remain in use for nearly 100 years. The harbour was named the Royal Harbour of George the Fourth which seems not to have remained for so long.
  • 1824 - saw over 3,000 boats shelter in the partially completed harbour, but it also saw the beginning of operations off the North Wall which alleviated many of the issues ships were having accessing Dublin Port.
  • 1826 - Kingstown harbour gained the important mail packet service which at the time was under the stewardship of the Admiralty with a wharf completed on the East Pier in the following year. The service was transferred from Howth whose harbour had suffered from silting and the need for frequent dredging.
  • 1831 - Royal Irish Yacht Club founded
  • 1837 - saw the creation of Victoria Wharf, since renamed St. Michael's Wharf with the D&KR extended and a new terminus created convenient to the wharf.[8] The extended line had cut a chord across the old harbour with the landward pool so created later filled in.
  • 1838 - Royal St George Yacht Club founded
  • 1842 - By this time the largest man-made harbour in Western Europe had been completed with the construction of the East Pier lighthouse.
  • 1855 - The harbour was further enhanced by the completion of Traders Wharf in 1855 and Carlisle Pier in 1856. The mid-1850s also saw the completion of the West Pier lighthouse. The railway was connected to Bray in 1856
  • 1871 - National Yacht Club founded
  • 1884 - Dublin Bay Sailing Club founded
  • 1918 - The Mailboat, “The RMS Leinster” sailed out of Dún Laoghaire with 685 people on board. 22 were post office workers sorting the mail; 70 were crew and the vast majority of the passengers were soldiers returning to the battlefields of World War I. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat near the Kish lighthouse killing many of those onboard.
  • 1920 - Kingstown reverted to the name Dún Laoghaire in 1920 and in 1924 the harbour was officially renamed "Dun Laoghaire Harbour"
  • 1944 - a diaphone fog signal was installed at the East Pier
  • 1965 - Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club founded
  • 1968 - The East Pier lighthouse station switched from vapourised paraffin to electricity, and became unmanned. The new candle-power was 226,000
  • 1977- A flying boat landed in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, one of the most unusual visitors
  • 1978 - Irish National Sailing School founded
  • 1934 - saw the Dublin and Kingstown Railway begin operations from their terminus at Westland Row to a terminus at the West Pier which began at the old harbour
  • 2001 - Dun Laoghaire Marina opens with 500 berths
  • 2015 - Ferry services cease bringing to an end a 200-year continuous link with Wales.
  • 2017- Bicentenary celebrations and time capsule laid.
  • 2018 - Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company dissolved, the harbour is transferred into the hands of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

From East pier to West Pier the waterfront clubs are:

  • National Yacht Club. Read latest NYC news here
  • Royal St. George Yacht Club. Read latest RSTGYC news here
  • Royal Irish Yacht Club. Read latest RIYC news here
  • Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. Read latest DMYC news here


The umbrella organisation that organises weekly racing in summer and winter on Dublin Bay for all the yacht clubs is Dublin Bay Sailing Club. It has no clubhouse of its own but operates through the clubs with two x Committee vessels and a starters hut on the West Pier. Read the latest DBSC news here.

The sailing community is a key stakeholder in Dún Laoghaire. The clubs attract many visitors from home and abroad and attract major international sailing events to the harbour.


Dun Laoghaire Regatta

Dun Laoghaire's biennial town regatta was started in 2005 as a joint cooperation by the town's major yacht clubs. It was an immediate success and is now in its eighth edition and has become Ireland's biggest sailing event. The combined club's regatta is held in the first week of July.

  • Attracts 500 boats and more from overseas and around the country
  • Four-day championship involving 2,500 sailors with supporting family and friends
  • Economic study carried out by the Irish Marine Federation estimated the economic value of the 2009 Regatta at €2.5 million

The dates for the 2021 edition of Ireland's biggest sailing event on Dublin Bay is: 8-11 July 2021. More details here

Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Offshore Race

The biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race is a 320-miles race down the East coast of Ireland, across the south coast and into Dingle harbour in County Kerry. The latest news on the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race can be found by clicking on the link here. The race is organised by the National Yacht Club.

The 2021 Race will start from the National Yacht Club on Wednesday 9th, June 2021.

Round Ireland Yacht Race

This is a Wicklow Sailing Club race but in 2013 the Garden County Club made an arrangement that sees see entries berthed at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire Harbour for scrutineering prior to the biennial 704–mile race start off Wicklow harbour. Larger boats have been unable to berth in the confines of Wicklow harbour, a factor WSC believes has restricted the growth of the Round Ireland fleet. 'It means we can now encourage larger boats that have shown an interest in competing but we have been unable to cater for in Wicklow' harbour, WSC Commodore Peter Shearer told here. The race also holds a pre-ace launch party at the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

Laser Masters World Championship 2018

  • 301 boats from 25 nations

Laser Radial World Championship 2016

  • 436 competitors from 48 nations

ISAF Youth Worlds 2012

  • The Youth Olympics of Sailing run on behalf of World Sailing in 2012.
  • Two-week event attracting 61 nations, 255 boats, 450 volunteers.
  • Generated 9,000 bed nights and valued at €9 million to the local economy.

The Harbour Police are authorised by the company to police the harbour and to enforce and implement bye-laws within the harbour, and all regulations made by the company in relation to the harbour.

There are four ship/ferry berths in Dun Laoghaire:

  • No 1 berth (East Pier)
  • No 2 berth (east side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 3 berth (west side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 4 berth  (St, Michaels Wharf)

Berthing facilities for smaller craft exist in the town's 800-berth marina and on swinging moorings.

© Afloat 2020

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