The East Coast Canoe Trail, approximately 70 nautical miles long, offers more adventure than the mainly low-lying shores and sheltered sea loughs might suggest. Negotiating choppy tide races to visit lighthouse islands and skirting hundreds of small reefs known as pladdies add spice to this journey.
The drama of chalk and basalt cliffs of the east County Antrim coast gives way to a low-lying rocky shore broken by numerous sandy beaches in County Down. The tidal range increases southwards to Strangford Lough. There are optional excursions out to islands such as the Maidens (County Antrim) and the Copelands (County Down) as well as the sheltered waters of Larne Lough, and the trail also takes you into and across Belfast Lough via Whitehead and Carrickfergus.
The starting point is at Waterfoot beach south of Cushendall and the route mirrors coastal roads most of the way to end at the turbulent narrows and the attractive village of Portaferry at the mouth of Strangford Lough. There is the choice to paddle the four sections in either direction, southwards as described here, or north.
Thus the East Coast Trail offers stretches of relatively easy paddling for the less experienced canoeist and, for the more adventurous, challenging tide races, overfalls and windswept island circuits. Seals, seabirds, an almost 500 million geological time span and a varied human history linked to nearby Scotland add interest to this side of the North Channel and Irish Sea. There is a good range of slipway access points, beach haul-outs and picturesque resting spots.
County Antrim Yacht Club offer courses in canoeing. If interested, please contact them using the details below.
- East Coast Canoe Trail Brochure (pdf 4 MB)