Belfast lough is a long, broad inlet carpeted with wrecks often referred to as the Scapa Flow of Northern Ireland. Over 20 in all – covering 100 years of shipping history in all shapes and sizes. Wrecks are located at 10 to 60 metres.With the M1, it’s very tempting to nip up and do a dive these days! Most of the dives are sports diver plus. There are two wrecks that can be comfortably dived by Ocean Divers.
John Kenny, Becca Taylor and Beth Brint have all run trips here. Dave Vincent, of DV diving was also very helpful to Beth when she was organised her trip up here in 2004. Stephen Collis recently ran a trip here in September 2015.
There are many locations where the boats can be launched:
1) Bangor Marina:
You can launch and moor the boats in Bangor Marina. Access to the slip is through remote control gates so you do have to check in at the marina beforehand. The marina is manned 24 hrs which can allow for boats to be launched on a Friday evening when the towers arrive for a trip. The cost to moor the boats here for a weekend is around £72 for both boats.
Another option is Groomsport, 3 miles further down lough from Bangor, but it’s more expensive than Bangor.
There’s also Whitehead on the far side of the lough. It’s tidal and can only be used two hours before and after HW but it’s closer to certain wrecks (including the Chirripo).
This pier is located south west of Copeland Island. There is no slip but there is a beach that could potentially be used to launch the club ribs from.
You can get petrol for the boats in Bangor, but only if you must as petrol is still far far more expensive in the north.
If needed the Boat trailers can be storage at BJ Marine which is located right beside the Bangor Marina Office. The cost for storing the trailers is £25 per trailers for a weekend.
There are quite a few wrecks scattered around Belfast Lough ranging from 6m to 70m. The links below give a overview of most of the wrecks located in the Lough.
- Irish Wrecks Online – South Antrim Coast
- Irish Wrecks Online – Belfast Lough
- North Irish Lodge
- Underwater Ireland: Guidde to Irish Dive Sites, edited by John Hailes, 1999, 2nd ed. (Book can be obtained from the Trinity College library).
The S.S. Chirripo was built in Belfast and was acquired by Elders & Fyffes in 1906, as part of their fleet used in the banana trade between Jamaica and Avonmouth. In 1917 while outward-bound from Belfast, she struck a mine layed by UC-75 half a mile South East of Black Head lighthouse, and sank.
She is found at 28m and the top of the wreck is around 16m. She is best dived at 1hr before LW or HW Belfast. She is intact but there are a few open parts of the wreck so caution is needed to ensure you don’t end up inadvertantly inside the wreck.
The wreck is located 6.2 nautical miles from Bangor and in good weather the journey is around 25minutes. She is easily shotted due to her large size.
Here’s what Beth had to say of it:
Lovely dive ..really recommend it. Easy to shot. Lying on her side ..about 100m long. Covered in life. Loads to see..max 30m ..Best part of dive around 25-20 so perfect SD dive and get good long dive time
The chirripo lies on the far side of the lough to Bangor approx 6 nautical miles as I remember, took about 20 mins to reach from Bangor
She was a wooden hulled steam vessel that sank at the cliffs near Blackhead. She is found at 7m of water and can be used as a backup site for the Chirripo if slack is missed.
She is badly broken up but can bre dived at any state of the tide. She is found 7.3 nautical miles from Bangor.
The S.S Troutpool was built in 1927 in Hartlepool. In 1940 she was on a a voyage from Canada to Glasgow with a cargo of grain. After leaving her mooring in Belfast Lough, she struck a mine and sank.
She is found in 15m of water. The wreck can be dived at any state of the tide but for best conditions HW Slack is the best bet (1hr Before HW Belfast).
M.V. Rose II
She is located in 26m of water with the top of the wreck at 21m. She was a WWI armed trawler that struck a mine and sank. There is unexploded mortars lying around the wreck so don’t touch them.
The wreck is pretty much intacted with the wreckage scattered around the wreck. She is full of life and if you look hard enough you may even see an Octopus.
She is best dived at 1hr before HW Belfast and she is found 5.4 nautical miles from Belfast.
The wreck is located in the middle of Belfast Lough so Boathandler need to be vigilant for large vessels approaching the dive site.
The S.S. Lagan was involved in a collision with a steamer and sank. She is found in 30m of water and its 25m at the top of the wreck.
She is best dived at 1hr before HW Belfast and is 4.1 nautical miles from Bangor. As with the M.V. Rose II she is found close to the shipping lanes so caution is needed.
The S.S. Annagher is located 1.8 nautical miles from Bangor and is quite close to the coast which can provide shelter from strong southernly winds.
She was a cargo ship that sank due to high winds. A salvage was attempted on the wreck but failed and the ship was dispersed by explosives.
She is best dived at 1hr before HW Belfast. She is very dispearsed but is full of life.
She was carrying coal to Donaghadee when she sailed onto rocks and sank. She is located 6.1 nautical miles from Bangor and is found on the east side of the Copeland Island.
She is found in 23m of water which the top of the wreck at 19m. She is best dived at 3hrs after HW Belfast.
Boathandlers should be aware that the currents around the Copeland Island and differ in a short distance so caution is needed.
Back up sites
Belfast Lough is actually quite exposed. If the weather is uncooperative the likelihood is that Strangford Lough //NEED LINK// will be diveable.
There is a very busy shipping lane in Belfast Lough. Be very careful where and when you dive. Some sites such as the Troutpool are quite close to the shipping lane. Be aware of where the tide will take your divers. Remember large ships can take up to half a kilometre to come a complete halt and often have no visibility for several hundred metres below their bows.
You need the usual boat safety equipment: O2, 1st Aid Kit, flares, VHF, GPS. Also make note of the following:
- Belfast Coastguard
- VHF Channels 16, 67, 04, DSC 70
- Working channel
- Belfast Harbour: VHF 12
- Bangor Harbour Master: VHF 11
- Bangor Marina: VHF 80
- Emergency services
- 112 (or 999) on land
- Recompression chamber
- Craigavon Area Hospital Lurgan Road Portadown
- Day time phone numbers +44 1762 334444, Emergency phone numbers +44 1762 336711, Principal medical director Dr John E Galway, 24 hour cover, on site hospital helicopter/winch point, 60 minutes chamber mobilisation time
- Nearest hospital
- Belfast city hospital, +44 28 3833 4444
- Lifeboat (RNLI)
DV Diving is a full dive shop and offer both air and nitrox Fills. They are extremely helpful in offering information about diving around Belfast and also opened late to ensure we were able to get fills.DV Diving
138 Mountstewart Road,
Telephone & Fax +44 (0)28 91 464671. http://www.dvdiving.co.uk/
There are two large houses that can be rented in Bangor:
The house was very comfortable and modern inside. The kitchen was well-equipped if fractionally small. There was a dining room downstairs and a spacious living room upstairs with comfy sofas. There were at least three bathrooms. The house had beds for 10, though double beds were in the majority.
It’s really handy for the slip: approx 10 minutes walk to the marina. There was also a small area outside the kitchen where you could put dive gear or leave things out to dry. There is room for one boat at least immediately outside the house but we were warned against leaving it there by a neighbour.
The house sleeps 10 (one person on a fold out bed). The is a full kitchen with dishwasher and washing machine and dryer. Off the kitchen there is a small yard where suits can be left to dry. There is also a small sitting room.
Parking outside the house is limited during the day but there is plenty of parking down by Bangor Marina which is a 5 minute walk from the house.
Information on how to rent both houses can be found on the website below:
Bangor is quite a large seaside town so ATM, supermarkets, restaurants, takeaway and petrol stations etc are not a problem.
In September 2015 the favourite pub was the Salty Dog found beside the Bangor Marina
If you’re blown out and don’t fancy Strangford, there’s a nice walk starting at the marina and heading west along the coastline. There’s also the Titanic Exhibition and Game of Thrones Tour in Belfast.
To get to Bangor, take the M1/A1 to Belfast and the A2 in the direction of Holyhead and/or Bangor. Bangor is 12 miles from Belfast.