North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland)

The North Channel (known in Irish and Scottish Gaelic as Sruth na Maoile, in Scots as the Sheuch[1]) is the strait between north-eastern Northern Ireland and south-western Scotland. The Firth of Clyde merges with the channel, between the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula and Corsewall Point on the Rhins of Galloway.[2] The channel begins north of the Isle of Man and is customarily considered part of the Irish Sea, the channel runs north-west into the Atlantic Ocean.[3]

North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland)
Sruth na Maoile (Scottish Gaelic)
Part ofIrish Sea
Ocean/sea sourcesAtlantic Ocean
Surface area160,367 hectares (396,280 acres)
TrenchesBeaufort's Dyke

Within the channel is the Beaufort's Dyke, at 312 metres (1,024 ft) it is the deepest part.[4]


View from Torr Head, County Antrim, to the Mull of Kintyre, looking over the Straits of Moyle.

The North Channel connects the Irish Sea with the Atlantic Ocean and is part of the marine area officially classified as the "Inner Seas off the West Coast of Scotland" by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO).[5]

The Straits of Moyle (Sruth na Maoile in Irish and Scottish Gaelic) or Sea of Moyle is the name given to the narrowest expanse of sea in the North Channel between north-eastern Northern Ireland (County Antrim) and south-western highlands of Scotland (Mull of Kintyre). The narrowest part of the strait is between the Mull of Kintyre and Torr Head, where its width is 19 kilometres (12 mi; 10 nmi),[6] making it possible to see across in clear weather conditions. The straits gave their name to Moyle District Council, a local government area in Northern Ireland, and are famed in Irish Celtic mythology through their association with the Children of Lir.

In the 1800s, this strait was sometimes referred to in general terms as the "Irish Channel".[7][8][9] In the 19th century, Alexander Keith Johnston's suggested name St Patrick's Channel had currency, but it was rejected by the hydrographic department.[10]

The North Channel was a favourite haunt of privateers preying on British merchant shipping in wars until the 19th century; in 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, it was also the site of a naval duel between American captain John Paul Jones's USS Ranger and the Royal Navy's HMS Drake. It is crossed by many ferry services. In 1953, the channel was the scene of a serious maritime disaster, the sinking of the ferry Princess Victoria.



The Irish Long Distance Swimming Association (ILDSA) has provided authentication observers for swimmers attempting to cross the approximately 35-kilometre (22 mi) span between Northern Ireland and the Mull of Galloway. According to the ILDSA, this was first accomplished in 1947 by Tom Blower.[11] The first two-way crossing was completed by a six-person relay team on 28 July 2015.[12]

The World Open Water Swimming Association note that the North Channel, which it also refers to parenthetically as the North (Irish) Channel, is part of the Ocean's Seven series.[13] This is a set of seven long-distance open-water swims considered the marathon swimming equivalent of the Seven Summits mountaineering challenge.[citation needed]

Fixed connections


In Northern Ireland, Unionist political leaders for decades lobbied the British government to construct a railway tunnel under the Channel, for a better link between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. In August 2007 the Centre for Cross-Border Studies proposed the construction of a 34-kilometre-long (21 mi) long rail bridge or tunnel, estimating that it might cost about £3.5 billion.[14] In the Victorian era, engineers proposed a rail tunnel between Stranraer and Belfast.[15]

In February 2020, the Prime Minister's Office announced that it had initiated work to examine the feasibility of a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.[16] The transport route with the shortest sailing distance is that between Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula (about 220 km (140 mi) from Glasgow via minor roads) and Ballycastle, County Antrim (about 90 km (56 mi) from Belfast). Campbeltown is on the eastern side of the Kintyre peninsula, but the western side is only about 16 kilometres (10 mi) from Torr Head coast to coast.[17]

The shortest route between Glasgow and Belfast is the route used by the existing ferry service, that via Portpatrick/Stranraer (about 150 km (93 mi) from Glasgow) and Larne (about 35 km (22 mi) from Belfast), a coast-to-coast distance of 45 kilometres (28 mi).[18] This route would require the bridge towers to be erected through Beaufort's Dyke, a 200–300 m (700–1,000 ft) deep trench, heavily contaminated by 'large quantities' of munitions ('small arms, high explosives and incendiary devices')[19][20] and nuclear waste that had been dumped until 1950s.

The ex-First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said her mind was not closed to the idea but added "if he [the prime minister] has got £20 bn to build such a bridge going spare at the moment – that could be spent on more important priorities".[16]

See also



  1. ^ "Dictionaries of the Scots Language:: SND :: sheuch". Archived from the original on 25 July 2021. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  2. ^ "3. THE ENVIRONMENT OF THE CLYDE SEA". 7 May 2021.
  3. ^ 2007 annual report Archived 3 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine Tourism Ireland. Retrieved 9 August 2012[dead link].
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  6. ^ North Channel Archived 29 June 2019 at the Wayback Machine, Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  7. ^ A Friend (1824). Glympses Across the Irish Channel. Archived from the original on 27 April 2016. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  8. ^ Old Sailor (1820). A view of the British and Irish fisheries. p. 74. Archived from the original on 17 June 2016. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  9. ^ Rooke, John (1838). Geology as a science applied to the reclamation of land from the sea. Ridgway. pp. 41.[dead link]
  10. ^ Andrews, John Harwood (January 1997). Shapes of Ireland: maps and their makers 1564–1839. Geography Publications. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-906602-95-9. Archived from the original on 1 January 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  11. ^ "North Channel". Irish Long Distance Swimming Association. Archived from the original on 20 November 2015. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  12. ^ Cowie, Jonathan (16 August 2015). "Two relay records set in the North Channel". H2Open. Archived from the original on 14 October 2015. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  13. ^ 'Infinity Channel Swimming'. World Open Water Swimming Association, undated. Retrieved 19 May 2022
  14. ^ "Bridge to Northern Ireland mooted". BBC News Online. 22 August 2007. Archived from the original on 1 July 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  15. ^ McKenzie, Steven (9 October 2011). "Scotland–Ireland undersea rail link plan 'a surprise'". BBC News Online. Archived from the original on 9 October 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  16. ^ a b "Work 'under way' into Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge feasibility". BBC News. 10 February 2020. Archived from the original on 12 February 2020. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  17. ^ Chris Kilpatrick (25 August 2012). "Man aims to be first to cross the treacherous 10 miles from Scotland to Torr Head". Belfast Telegraph. Archived from the original on 13 February 2020. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  18. ^ "Irish Sea bridge: Scoping work begins on Boris Johnson's 'ambitious' idea". ITV news. 10 February 2020. Archived from the original on 11 February 2020. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  19. ^ "Case study: Munitions Dumping at Beaufort's Dyke" (PDF). Fisheries Research Services (an agency of the Scottish Executive). Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 November 2020. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  20. ^ Dan Sabbagh (14 February 2020). "Bombs dumped in Irish Sea make bridge plan 'too dangerous': Experts pour cold water on Boris Johnson's idea for Scotland-Northern Ireland link". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 February 2020. Retrieved 15 February 2020.

55°03′27″N 5°37′19″W / 55.05750°N 5.62194°W / 55.05750; -5.62194