Whitehead Boathouse – Whitehead, Northern Ireland - Atlas Obscura

Whitehead Boathouse

Whitehead, Northern Ireland

The base for the battle against the smugglers of Islandmagee.  

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In the seaside County Antrim village of Whitehead, Northern Ireland, the Coastguard have always had saving lives and preventing smuggling on their minds. In fact, when the Coastguard service was first established in the 1820s, smuggling was its highest priority, because the illegal practice had become a major source of lost revenues for the country. And the Islandmagee peninsula where Whitehead resides had become a haven for smugglers.

After many years operating from thatched cottages in the village, it was decided that the Coastguard presence there required a permanent base. In 1869, the Coastguard bought some land, and then built a boathouse in 1871. Today, it is one of the oldest standing Coastguard buildings left in Northern Ireland, and is a listed and protected building.

The building itself has been refurbished and renovated multiple times, but originally it had defensive adaptations such as gun turrets, pistol holes, and even metal, bulletproof window shields—which is some indication of the tactics of the smuggling gangs in the area. The building is now used as a storage shed by the local County Antrim Yacht Club, but it is still fondly remembered as the the base that fought against the smugglers of Islandmagee. 

Know Before You Go

The old Boathouse of Whitehead is located along Beach Road opposite the Whitehead Train Station, and before the Beach Road Nature Reserve. A tunnel that runs underneath the railway line to the County Antrim Yacht Club and Whitehead promenade area.