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West Coast (clockwise); northeast bound from Erris Head to Malin Head

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What is the route?
This is a coastal description for northeast bound vessels planning to sail along the coast between Erris Head and Malin Head. The sequence of description is northeast coastal clockwise. Those taking the opposite direction, Malin Head to Erris Head, should avail of the southwest bound Route location description or anticlockwise sequence for the same coastal area.

Why sail this route?
Many cruisers enjoy inshore coastal sailing and particularly so between close situated locations. This coastal description strives to assist passage planning by highlighting the key coastal characteristics and immediate offshore dangers in this area.

What are the navigational notes?
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the route. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Clicking the 'Expand to Fullscreen' icon opens a larger viewing area in a new tab.

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The northeast coast of Ireland between Erris Head and Malin Head is indented by numerous exposed bays and backed by a generally mountainous interior. These provide several conspicuous peaks that are readily identifiable in clear conditions from a considerable distance offshore. The most conspicuous of these peaks rise along the south and north sides of Donegal Bay and to the southeast of Bloody Foreland which is Ireland’s most northwest point.

Within the 115 miles of this passage there are many partially-protected havens in the bays and inlets that indent the coast. Amongst these are Killybegs, set within Donegal Bay, and Burtonport, situated inside Aran Island, which are important and active fishing ports. However the whole of the coastline is exposed to a heavy Atlantic Ocean swell. With the exception of the aforementioned fishing ports plus havens upon the north coast, leisure craft will find few western facing anchorages that are unaffected by swell even though they may provide shelter from the wind. Moreover the majority of these havens have approaches that are obstructed by rocks, shoals and other dangers.

As such this particularly beautiful coast requires some planning and a keen observation of developing weather events. In thick weather, with the bad visibility that usually accompanies it, leisure craft should stay well clear of the land and the dangerous offshore islands and reefs that front it. Moreover, there is no haven into which a vessel, without local knowledge, could confidently enter in a gale. So caution is required.

However, in good summer conditions, this is truly an extraordinary coast to explore. Leisure craft will find wonderful sailing off this awe inspiring coastline where they will scarcely sight another vessel except for the occasional fishing boat.


ERRIS HEAD to SLIGO


Erris Head, terminating in a small cliffy island, 52 metres high, with detached rocks extending a quarter of a mile to the north of it. It is clear of hidden dangers and has 46 metres water half a mile off.
Please note

A race occurs off Erris Head where the main stream collides with an eddy running out of the west side of Broad Haven Bay.





At this headland the coast bends suddenly to the east, towards Sligo and Donegal Bays; consequently, upon rounding it, a new set of objects break upon the view.
The first offshore feature that present themselves are The Stags that are commonly called the ‘Stags Of Broadhaven’. They are situated two miles to the northeast of Benwee Head and consist of four high rocky islets ranging in height between 74 to 92 metres. They are steep-to, clear of hidden dangers and a deep clear channel with almost 50 metres of water resides between them and the mainland.

The next imposing object is Benwee Head. It resides immediately to the south of The Stags, is surmounted by an old telegraph tower and has 246 metres high terminating in cliffs. Detached from it, at distances varying from 200 to 800 metres, are some very remarkable pinnacle rocks. Portacloy Bay Click to view haven , on the east side of the head, is a little creek, about half a mile long and 300 metres wide, with no hidden danger, but lying quite open to the northeast and subject to violent gusts of wind from the mountains, with westerly and south-westerly winds.

Immediately east of Erris Head is Broad Haven Bay Click to view haven that offers a refuge to leisure vessels. Similar to Erris Head the bay is bordered by cliffs of up to 99 metres high but in its southeast corner are low sand dunes. Behind this Glengad Hill rises abruptly to a height of 262 metres within half a mile of the coast. At 1.5 miles to the west of Erris Head is Kid Island, that forms the east point of the entrance to Broad Haven Bay.

The coast from Benwee Head to Downpatrick Head, a distance of 17 miles in a south easterly direction, presents a series of bold cliffs, of varying height, and is steep-to and clear of outlying danger. The 302 metres high Mount Glinsk stands within half a mile of the coast, 7 miles east of Benwee Head. The 802 metres high Mount Nephin stands 25 miles southeast of Benwee Head. Both of these peaks are prominent from seaward. Creevagh Head, a low and rocky cliff, is located 3 miles east by southeast of Downpatrick Head.

The land to the southwest of this point gradually rises to a height of 182 metres. This section of the coast has a series of leisure craft havens including Porturlin Bay Click to view haven and Belderg Harbour Click to view haven. The latter two offering the best shelter. Ballycastle Bay, on the west side of Downpatrick Head, provides no anchoring opportunity as the bottom is rocky and in bad weather the sea breaks right across it.



Downpatrick Head, the turning point into Killala Bay, is bold-to and clear of danger. Viewed from the east or west it has a wedge-like appearance, with the base to seaward, and a small islet lying off it. Three miles to the east of it is Lackan Head, a low rocky cliff, from which the land rises gradually to the height of 180 metres, with an old telegraph tower about half way up the rise. Lackan Bay, into which the swell rolls violently, is quite open to the north-east, with gradually decreasing depths, and is bounded on the east by Kilcummin Head.
Please note

On the same range of hills, but more to the south, near the bottom of Lackan Bay, there is another tower, called a Gazebo, or Folly, which is often mistaken for the look-out tower when viewed at a distance from the north-east.



Killala Bay is open to the north by northeast and affords a vessel no shelter with winds from that quarter. Its entrance, between Kilcummin Head and Lenadoon Point, bearing from each other east by southeast and west by northwest, is 5.5 miles wide with a depth of 37 metres water. The middle of the bay is clear of danger but the shores are low and foul. At the head of the bay is an inlet formed by the River Moy, and on the southwest shore is the little harbour of Killala Click to view haven where a more detailed description of the dangers in the bay can be found.

Kilcummin Head, the western point of the bay, is where the French forces landed on their invasion of Ireland in 1798. The spot selected was about a mile to the south of the head, sheltered by a projecting point of stones and boulders, and was well adapted for the purpose. Vessels sometimes anchor abreast of Kilcummin Click to view haven. The holding ground is good, but to get any shelter it is necessary to anchor in close proximity to the shore, a berth further to the south is to be preferred.

Sligo Bay is entered between Lenadoon Point on the west, and Ballyconnell Point on the east, bearing from each other east by south and west by north 13.5 miles apart. Ballyconnell Point, the north entrance point of Sligo Bay, is the northwest extremity of a wide peninsula that separates Sligo Bay from Donegal Bay. At the head of this bight are the three shallow inlets of Ballysadare Bay, Sligo Harbour, and Drumcliff Bay. Havens listed within this area include Aughris Hole Click to view haven, Ballysadare Bay Click to view haven, Sligo Click to view haven,
Rosses Point Click to view havenand Brown Bay Click to view haven.

The coast from Lenadoon Point to Aughris Head is foul to a distance of half a mile off. Vessels heading for any of the anchorages within Sligo Bay would do well to head directly from Lenadoon Point to Ballyconnell Point and then take a central approach path through the bay. Vessels should pass to the north or south of the rocky shoal The Ledge, that lies 2.5 miles southwest of Raghly Point where the ruins of the coastguard dwellings are prominent. It has a least depth of 8.5 metres over it but the sea breaks heavily upon it during bad weather.

Vessels passing to the north of The Ledge should stay well clear of the area close south of Ballyconnell Point. The inshore area is made known by Roskeeragh Point, located a mile south of Ballyconnell Point, and surmounted by the ruins of a castle. A ruined tower stands near the summit of a high and solitary Knocklane Hill that rises close east of the castle.

Half a mile to the southwest of Roskeeragh Point, and 1.1 miles southwest of Ballyconnell Point, is the 15 metre high Ardboline Island. The islet is grass covered, has cliffy sides and is fringed with reefs. Passage Rocks, which dry, lie a third of a mile to the northeast of the island towards Roskeeragh Point. Seal Rocks, a group of drying rocks that always have a metre of rock showing, lies centered 0.7 of a mile southeast of Ardboline Island.


SLIGO to RATHLIN O’BIRNE


The south shore of the bay, from Ballyconnell Point to Mullaghmore Head, a distance of 11 miles in a north easterly direction is foul and has several outlying dangers. A reef called Cloonagh Bar extends from Ballyconnell Point in a direction parallel to the shore for 4 miles. It is very steep-to, the water shoaling abruptly from 29 metres to just a few metres in some places. In stormy weather the sea breaks along the whole line of the reef.

On the outer edge of the reef, a mile and a half from the point, and three quarters of a mile from the shore abreast, there is a dangerous rock called Black Bull. It uncovers on the last quarter of the ebb and has 33 metres water immediately outside it. Ardboline Island kept open of the west side of Lackmeeltaun, as shown on Admiralty 2702 with an in line bearing of 209°T, leads well clear of Black Bull rock.
Please note

Vessels rounding Ballyconnell Point and travelling towards Mullaghmore should be aware that a strong westerly tide can push vessels onto the shore here. A midway track between the coast and Inishmurray would be the safest course along this coastline.



About midway between Ballyconnell Point and Mullaghmore Head is Streedagh Point. Composed of sand-hills, some of which exceed 30 metres in height, it has a rocky spit that extends nearly half a mile out from the head. To clear this the line of bearing 088°T of the 28 metre high summit of Dernish Island, situated 2.5 miles west, open north of Black Rock , situated one mile west, passes to the north of the dangers extending from Streedagh Point.

Several dangerous rocks lie off the entrance of Milk Harbour. The most outlying of these are Bulligmore and Bulligbeg, the former at about a mile from the shore, and both with less than 3 metres of water over them. Within these are the Carricknaspania and Carricknaneane Rocks that cover at high water. To clear these dangers, keep the lookout on the summit of Knocklane Hill, well open of Streedagh Point, or Mullaghmore Hill well outside Roskeeragh Point.

A mile southwest of Mullaghmore Head is the low and cliffy Roskeeragh Point. It juts out from the sand-covered shore, with rocky prongs extending a quarter of a mile beyond its bluff termination. At a similar distance from its south side there are several rocky patches, with 1.5 to 1.8 metres water over them.

The 60 metres high Mullaghmore Head has a ruined telegraph tower on its north side. Several rocks lay out a distance of 400 metres from the cliffs at its northeast extremity. These are mostly visible but some of these cover on a high spring tide. Outside these foul ground extends a quarter of a mile further and is steep-to. Care, therefore, must be observed, when rounding the head, to give it a wide berth, and not to approach it nearer than half a mile in the finest weather. The Mullaghmore Click to view haven roadstead and pier reside on the southeast side of the head.

Four miles north by northeast from Ballyconnell Point, and 3 miles from Streedagh Point, the nearest part of the shore abreast, is the small island of Inishmurray Click to view haven. The island is about a mile long and 20 metres high, bounded by low cliffs based on a rocky foreshore. It has outlying dangerous rocks to the north of it but presents a clear passage between it and the south shore of the bay. Its eastern end, called Rue Point, terminates in a stony spit called Bank Rue, which is prolonged in shallows of 3.6 and 3.9 metres water, to the distance of three quarters of a mile from the point. Another rock, with 2.5 metres of water that breaks, lies just over half a mile north by northeast from Rue Point. Again Ardboline Island kept just open of Ballyconnell Point, circa 209° T astern, leads to the southeast of Bank Rue.



Situated one and three quarter miles to the north of Inishmurray, Bomore Rocks are about a mile and a quarter in length. The highest rock, near the east end of the cluster, is 7.5 metres above high water; other portions uncover at half-tide and some never appear. Shaddan Rock, the westernmost of the cluster, is steep-to, with 55 metres water half a mile to the northwest of it. The passage between Bomore Rocks and Inishmurray is a mile wide, with no danger in the fairway.The line of bearing, about 160°, of the 325 metres high Knocknarea Mountain well open west of Inishmurray, passes west of the rocks. The line of bearing 168° of the same mountain open east of Inishmurray leads east of the rocks.

St. John's Point (Donegal) - lighthouse Fl 6s 30m 14M position: 54° 34.162' N 008° 27.657' W

Between Ballyconnell Point on the south, and Rathlin O'Birne Island on the north is the 20 miles wide Donegal Bay. It penetrates the land in an east by northeast direction to a distance of 22 miles. Its most conspicuous features are Slieve League Mountain on the north, and the mountain ranges, of Slievemore and Keeloges on the south shore. The latter rise from the comparatively low lands near the coast to the heights of 630 and 510 metres above the sea. On the north, Slieve League rises from the water's edge, in magnificent precipices, to the height of 588 metres. Donegal Bay offers a host of havens for a leisure craft that include Donegal Town Harbour Click to view haven.
Please note

Vessels bound to Donegal or Ballyshannon, should not run into the bay so late in the evening as to be left in it during a long night. It is advisable that vessels bound to Ballyshannon should not run to leeward with a northwest wind, or any wind blowing upon that part of the bay, so as to make it a lee shore. It will be better to go to Killybegs, or run into Inver Bay on the opposite side of St John’s Point, or proceed up to Donegal Harbour. In moderate weather a vessel could anchor just outside the entrance to the latter, so that in the event of a westerly or southwest wind coming on to blow so hard as to render it unsafe, they might run into the harbour.



The inner bay is entered between Mullaghmore Head and St. John's Point that bears almost north and south of each other 6 miles apart. With the exception of the Carrickfad Rocks the whole space within this line is virtually free from hidden danger but exposed to a heavy Atlantic swell. Immediately in the vicinity of the shores, the bottom is foul, but in other parts it consists entirely of sand and mud, with regular soundings, the deepest water, 62 metres, being on the north shore, near St. John’s Point.

All vessels must be particularly cautious in approaching the Carrickfad Rocks and not to come into less than 20 metres water when operating in their vicinity. They are steep-to and are treacherous as the sea does not always break or even ripple on them plus they is no buoy or beacon to mark their position. Reefs also project up to 800 metres from the base of the cliffs on either side of Doorin Point and this headland should also be given a wide berth.

Within St John’s Point and Drumanoo Head is Killybegs Harbour Click to view haven. In the area between St John’s Point and Muckross Head there are several hazards to avoid. St. John’s Point is encumbered with dangerous shoals; on its north side three detached rocks extend to a distance of one third of a mile, the outer of which, called Connellagh Rock, uncovers at half-tide, and has foul ground, with 8.2 metres water 400 metres to the west of it. A sunken rock with 1.8 metres of water over it resides 300 metres to the east of it.

Pound Point, the north western elbow of St. John’s Point, has a rocky spit projecting 400 metres to the west of it and half a mile to the east of it is Teagues Rock, uncovered at half ebb, and extending 300 metres from the shore. Ellamore Shoal, with 12.8 metres water, lies west northwest nearly a mile from Pound Point, and may be disregarded by leisure craft unless a heavy sea is running, when it might break.

Bullockmore, a dangerous rocky shoal, with 2.1 metres of water on its shoalest part, is marked by a lit west cardinal buoy. It lies one mile west northwest from St. John’s Point, with a deep clear channel between them.

Bullockmore – Cardinal Q (9) 15s position: 54°33.987'N, 008°30.145'W

The small 12 metres high Inishduff island, with a shoal of from 8.2 to 7.3 metres water extending to the south and west of it, is otherwise clear of danger.

Slightly more than a mile east from the summit of Inishduff is Black Rock. Black Rock sits on foul ground extending half a mile south by southwest on which Sharp Rock, with 1.8 metres of water, also lies. The alignment 287° T of Inishduff and Muckros Head passes well south of these dangers.
Half a mile west from the summit of Inishduff is the dangerous Manister Rock. It has 1.8 metres water and a shoal of 5.5 to 7.3 metres extending 800 metres to the south of it, on which the sea often breaks.

To pass through the sound between Bullockmore and St. John’s Point, keep the sandy beach of Fintragh just shut in with Drumanoo Head, the latter bearing north by northeast, taking care not to come into less than 15 metres of water. From Bullockmore the line of bearing 307° of Dundawoona Point well open southwest of Muckros Head, passes to the southwest of all these dangers.

Seven miles west of Killybegs is Teelin Click to view haven, a small fishing port, that is entered immediately east of Teelin Point situated two miles east of Carrigan Head itself made conspicuous by a ruined tower. It is exposed to the prevailing winds and swell. From here the cliffs rise and continue out northwest.



Carrigan Head to Malin Beg Head, the western termination of the mountainous promontory of Donegal situated 4.5 miles to the northwest, the north shore of Donegal Bay is bordered by cliffs rising to 300 metres, with the 597 metres Slieve League rising above them. Two miles and south by west from Malin More Head is Malin Beg Head, near which there is a single tower. The cliffs are from 60 to 90 metres high, fringed with masses which have fallen down, and near which their southern extremity extends 800 metres into the sea. Between these headlands the coast recedes a little to the east, forming what is called Malin Bay. Altogether it is an iron-bound shore, with the only landing places available at White Strand Bay Click to view haven and Malin Beg Bay Click to view haven.

Rathlin O'Birne Island lies a mile to the west of Malin Beg Head, the nearest point of the mainland. The island is 1,200 metres long from north to south, and about a third of a mile wide. On its western side are four rocky islets, and it is steep-to all round, with no outlying danger. The island is made conspicuous by Rathlin O'Birne Lighthouse and a light shows red towards the mainland and southeast of the island.

Rathlin O'Birne - lighthouse Fl WR 15s 35m18/14M position: 54° 39.816' N 008° 49.951' W




A deep water passage, with from 26 to 37 metres water, resides between Rathlin O'Birne Island and the mainland with a navigable width of about half a mile. In sailing through keep nearest to the island to avoid the rocks extending from the main. Rathlin O’Birne Island Click to view haven offers an anchorage for the curious.


RATHLIN O’BIRNE to ARAN ISLAND


The coast from Rathlin O’Birne to Loughros More Bay is foul up to half a mile off shore with many rocks and sand spits. A temporary stopping point haven may be found after rounding Rossan Point, situated half a mile northeast of Malin More Head, in an inlet called Glen Bay Click to view haven.

Loughros Bay, included between the precipitous northern face of Slievetooey and Dawros Head, 3 miles in northeast direction, comprises the two inlets of Loughros Beg and Loughros More. Neither of these are safe to enter.
Please note

When crossing Loughros Bay take care to avoid the drying Torgeelan Rocks and Inishbarnog Breakers.



Dawros Head has a few sunken rocks scattered along the northern face about 400 metres from the cliffs, but is otherwise steep-to. Dawros Island, a small islet, lies close to the northern side of the head. Three-quarters of a mile from Dawros Head, is the little island of Inishbarnog that attains an altitude of 14 metres. Between the head and this island is the entrance to Dawros Bay Click to view haven that runs in above a mile to the east, and is full of rocks, but affords temporary anchorage.

Dawros Head - lighthouse Fl.10s.39m.4M position: 54° 49.615' N 008° 33.671' W

The wide expanse of Boylagh Bay resides between Dawros Head and the southwest point of Aran Island, the latter bearing from the former north by northeast a distant 9 miles. The excellent Church Pool & Portnoo Click to view haven anchorage can be found here. By keeping Aranmore light open to the west of Illanaran, bearing northeast by north, will keep a vessel out of Boylagh Bay and clear of the dangers in that vicinity.


Lying 2.5 miles northeast from Dawros Head, and 6.5 miles southwest from the west point of Aran, Roaninish Island is low and indistinct with an elevation of 4.6 metres. To the south it is steep-to and clear of danger. On the northeast and east there are broken ledges of dangerous rocks, with from 2 to 5.5 metres water, extending half way across to the main. They may generally be recognized by their broken water.


Several shoals surround the island with Glassan Bullig, with 5.5 metres water, situated 2.25 miles north by northwest from the island, on the outside. Wee Bullig with 1.5 metres, plus Middle and East Bullig lie inshore of Glassan Bullig. The sea breaks heavily when the swell is up. Further into the bay, 1.2 miles north by northeast of Church Pool or a mile north from Inishkeel, is the dangerous Bullig Connell. The rock has 0.6 metres of water over it and is surrounded by several shallow spots, on which the sea breaks heavily. The 107 metre high Naran Hill over Inishkeel’s east point, southwest by west, leads to the east of it or Cashel Hill over Inishkeel’s west point leads to the west of it. Aranmore, the light on Aran Island, open to the west of Illanaran, at the southwest point of the island, bearing northeast by north, on a bearing of 015° T astern leads outside all these dangers. As will also Rathlin O'Birne light seen open west of Malin More Head as noted on Admiralty 1879 with a bearing of 203°T.

Aranmore - Lighthouse Fl (2) 20s 71m 27M & Fl. R. 3s 61m 13M position: 55° 0.903' N 008° 33.666' W

Gweebarra River and Trawenagh Bay, at the head of Boylagh Bay, should be avoided as they both have sand bars across their entrances and are too dangerous to navigate.

Crohy Head, on the north side of Trawenagh Bay, is high and bold, with several patches of foul ground lying off it, on which the sea usually breaks. Bullig-na-naght, the westernmost of these, with but 2.7 metres water over it, and lies nearly a mile and a half from the shore. Ballintra Peak on Aran Island, seen well to the west of a conspicuous gap, leads to the west of the rock; the same objects in line lead directly on the rock. Between this and the southwest point of Aran Island, the soundings are very irregular, with several shoal patches, over which high seas break in unsettled weather.

About 3.5 miles long, of triangular form, Aran Island attains an elevation of 225 metres near the middle. From the northeast side, round by the north to the south point, and on part of the south coast, the shore presents a perpendicular cliff cut into deep fissures, caverns, dells, and small bays with deep water close to the shore. By keeping Aranmore light in view it will lead to the west of the Stag Rocks and other dangers to the northeast of Aran Island, and by keeping it open to the west of Illanaran, bearing northeast by north, it will keep a vessel out of Boylagh Bay and clear of the dangers in that vicinity.

The 70 metres high Illanaran, sometimes called the Green Island of Aran, lies near the west point of Aran has steep cliffs all round it. It is separated from it by a 200 metres wide strait that is obstructed on its southern end.

From Rannagh Point, near the middle of the south coast of Aran, a broken ridge of islets and sunken rocks extends to Illancrone in the direction of Crohy Head on the main, the intervening sounds being studded with dangers, some of which show themselves on the falling tide.

The shore to the east of Aran Island is composed of numerous small islands, forming part of the bleak desolate district called the Rosses. The spaces between some of the islands have deep water and small channels, which may be threaded by boats, but they are so studded with innumerable shoals and rocks, that it is impossible for any but experienced locals to navigate among them. They offer, however, good harbours for small vessels, though the approach to them is intricate and narrow. The tide, too, runs with considerable velocity, so that they require a leading wind or a favourable tide.

Rutland Harbour and Island Click to view haven is the principal anchorage in this area. It lies between the islands of Rutland and Inishcoo; but to get there a vessel has to thread narrow and difficult channels, and must have an experienced pilot to guide her through the labyrinth of rocks and shoals. It can only be made available, under favourable circumstances, to fishermen and adventurous leisure vessels.
Please note

Vessels must use a half flood tide to have sufficient water to pass over the flats that cover its approaches.



Near to here and on the mainland is an alternative anchorage at Burtonport Click to view haven.
The Arranmore Island Click to view haven anchorage, under the little island of Calf on the east side of Aran in Arran Road, offers the best position for waiting wind or a weather window.

Vessels approaching from the south, may find a pathway through the Aran South Sound, between Illancrone, the southernmost island of the Rosses, and Termon peninsula which is navigable only at high water.


ARAN ISLAND to BLOODY FORELAND


Rosses Bay, lying between Torneady Point, the north extreme of Aran Island, and the northwest point of Owey Island, bearing from each other northeast and southwest of each other, 3.5 miles apart, is clear of danger in the open part of the bay, with moderate depths of water. Its western shore, bounded by Aran Island, is also quite bold close to the cliffs. Owey Island Click to view haven provides an anchorage that has easy access.

The eastern shore, bounded by the long and narrow island of Cruit, with the coast between it and the north sound of Aran, is studded with rocks, lying at various distances from the shore. Vessels round Owey Island may find a well sheltered anchorage in Cruit Bay Click to view haven.

Standing out from Owey Island are the Stag Rocks, lying 1.25 miles to the northwest of the northwest most point of Owey Island, and 3.75 miles northeast from Rinrawros, the northwest point of Aran Island. They are three distinct rocks which rise abruptly from the sea to the height of 9 metres, with deep water around them. On the bank outside, to the distance of 2 or 3 miles from the rocks, the soundings vary from 44 to 62 metres, with a rocky bottom. The western edge of the red sector from Aran lighthouse leads 600 metres only outside the rocks, and must therefore not be brought into view when standing towards them at night.

Between Owey Island and Bloody Foreland, a distance of 8.25 miles to the northeast, the coast presents a barren sandy aspect, fronted by a series of islands and dangerous outlying rocks. Vessels must approach with great caution, particularly at night or in hazy weather, taking care not to open the red sector of light from Aran island lighthouse, or, when the light is not visible, not to come into less than 73 metres water.

The most outlying of these dangers is Bullogconnell Shoals that lies nearly 1.5 miles from the north end of Gola Island. They are a mile in extent in an east by northeast and west by southwest direction, consisting of three principal patches of rock, and only the northernmost of which dries, becoming visible about last quarter ebb. The other patches have from 2.7 to 3.6 metres water over them. The line of bearing 210°T of Cluidaniller, the summit of Aran Island, open to the northwest of Owey Island, situated 4.5 miles to the north by northeast, passes to the nortwest of Bullogconnell Shoals, but too close to them in bad weather when the summit should be kept well open. The line of bearing 077°T of Bloody Foreland Hill well open north of Inishsirrer, passes north of North Bullogconnell Rock. There is a passage between them and Gola, but it can seldom be taken with safety, and is always best avoided by a stranger.

Inishfree, the southernmost island of the group, lying east by southeast 2 miles from Owey Island, has a fan-shaped bank of rocks and stones extending from its south side nearly to the shore. Some of these are dry, others uncover at various times of the tide, but many never uncover. There is a narrow channel between this bank and the west point of Carnboy peninsula, called Carnboy Channel, with 9.1 or 11 metres water. The leading mark, also leading through into Gola Roads, is Inishmeane summit, on the line of bearing 012°, open east of Gubnadough situated the southeast of Gola Island. Rabbit Rock, near the middle of the bay, stands on the southern edge of an extensive reef, and never covers. To the north of it in a breaker, with 4.6 metres water, to clear which keep Mullaghdoo Point open south of the Rabbit Rocks.

Gola, the principal island of the group lying between Owey Island and Bloody Foreland, is bounded by perpendicular cliffs on the northwest and west, and by a low sandy shore on the east side. From its southeast point Gubnadough, a sandy spit stretches across towards the main for 700 metres, and is marked by a port marker buoy in 10 metres water, indicating a channel close east that is 200 metres in width, which forms the passage into Gola Roads from the north.

To the southwest of Gola a mass of dangers extend two-thirds of the distance across to Inishfree, over the whole of which the sea breaks heavily. The eastern projection of these reefs, is Middle Rock, with 2.4 metres water, and is marked by a lit port marker buoy.

There is an anchorage at Gola Island Click to view haven. But the roads are somewhat exposed and better shelter may be obtained in Bunbeg, Gweedore Harbour Click to view haven in the estuary of the Gweedore River. This provides excellent shelter for leisure craft which can anchor in the channel leading to the fishing port of Bunbeg, situated within the entrance. The harbour is entered from Gweedore Bay, over a bar, through Inishinny Bay. The narrow channel between the drying sandbanks and rocks on each side is marked by light beacons for the benefit of fishing vessels. The Gola Island anchorage being situated about half a mile to the west of Gweedore Bay makes it a convenient stopping place for vessels awaiting an opportunity to cross the bar of that river.
Please note

Gweedore Bay should not be attempted at night or without the benefit of local knowledge.



Inishsireer, locally known as Inishutter, is the northernmost of the Gola islands. It lies 3 miles southwest from Bloody Foreland, with a rocky ledge extending from its south end towards the main. The island has a lighthouse standing on its northwestcorner.

Inishsirrer - lighthouse Fl. 3.5s. 20m 4M position: 55° 7.411' N 008° 20.891' W

There is a channel, the Inishsirrer Strait, which can be safely used in favourable conditions.
Please note

The only rock which shows is Damph More so great care must be taken



Half a mile to the northeast of this is the little port of Bunaninver, listed under Inishsirrer Island Click to view haven a mere nook in the rocky shore, affording an anchorage in fine weather.

A quarter of a mile northwest by west from the entrance of the port is Bunaninver Shoal, with 4.6 metres water. Two-thirds of a mile to the north of it are the Brinlack Shoals, with 6.4 metres water at half a mile from the shore.

Inishmeane, about a third of a mile to the south of Inishsirrer, is connected to the mainland by a shallow bank called the Bar, with not more than 1.2 metres over it at low water. The space between it and Inishsirrer is almost choked with rocks and it would be unwise to attempt it.

A third of a mile to the north northeast of Gola is Umfin Island, with no passage between them. Beyond it again, on the same line of bearing, are some detached rocks, terminating at one-third of a mile from Umfin in the Rinogy Rocks, that uncover on first quarter ebb.

Bloody Foreland rises in a conspicuous rounded hill, surmounted by a light, at a height of 307 metres, presenting a striking and unmistakeable feature on this prominent angle of the Donegal coast.

Bloody Foreland – lighthouse Fl. WG. 7.5s. 14m 6-4M position: 55° 9.508' N 008° 17.041' W

The Foreland Point is not otherwise remarkable, being merely a low cliff with rocks extending 200 metres from it. Beyond these it is steep-to and clear of danger, the depths increasing from 18.3 metres at a quarter of a mile, to 35 metres at one mile off it. The most remarkable and highest lands on the northwest coast are the 749 metres high Mount Errigal standing 9.5 miles southeast of Bloody Foreland and has a distinctive pyramidal peak. The 667 metres high Mount Muckish stands 10 miles east by south east of Bloody Foreland with a summit that resembles the roof of a barn. Both of which may be seen from 35 miles off in clear weather.
Please note

The stream of tide sets strong near the point, attaining speeds of 2 kn. The east-going stream commences at about one-third flood, and the western stream at one-third ebb. It would be advantageous in times of a favourable tide, especially at springs, to stand in at half-tide and to keep within the limits of the favouring stream.




BLOODY FORELAND to MALIN HEAD


Tory Island lies 6.7 miles north by northwest of Peninsula Point, is bleak and desolate in appearance. The north side of this island consists of conspicuous cliffs that reach as high as 82 metres and the ground sloping southwest from them gives it a wedge-like appearance when viewed from the northwest. It is not easily discerned when in line with any of the high lands of the main, though it may be seen when clear of the land at the distance of 20 miles, appearing as a cluster of rocks, being comparatively low and of irregular outline.


Please note

Be careful when coming in from the west not to mistake Horn Head for Tory Island, it having the appearance of an island when viewed from this direction.



Recognition is assisted by a light that shows from a 27 metres high tower that stands on the northwest side of the island.

Tory Island – Lighthouse Fl (4)30s 40m 27M position: 55° 16.357' N 008° 14.964' W

There is no secure anchorage but leisure craft can find temporary shelter from the winds in offshore winds within small bights indenting the north and south sides of the island. One such place is Tory Island Click to view haven. The principal settlements are at West Town on the middle of the south coast, and East Town situated just over half a mile to the southeast. West Town has a small harbour with a jetty showing a light at its east head. Within the harbour there is 120 metres of total berthing. The harbour and approach channel has a maintained depth of depth of 2.5 metres. Tory Sound, lying between Tory Island and Inishbeg, has good depths and is clear of hidden danger.

Inishbeg is the northernmost of three islands that extend from the mainland 2.5 miles in a northeast direction from Bloody Foreland. Keelasbeg Sound resides between it and Inishdooey, the middle island, is 600 metres wide and choked with rocks, which extend a quarter of a mile to the west of the islands.

Inishdooey, the middle island, is 1200 metres in length, with an elevation of 37 metres. Its east side is moderately bold-to, but the south and west sides are foul. Keelasmore Sound between it and Inishbofin, is a convenient passage between Bloody Foreland and Horn Head. It is a quarter of a mile wide, with a depth of 7.3 metres water and has a rock called Toberglassan Rock, lying near its middle, which may be passed on either side. The alignment 140°T of the centre of the village of Falcarragh, just over half a mile east northeast of Killult Church and Carrickglassan, a rocky point on the east side of Inishbofin, passes to the southwest of the rock. The alignment 152°T of Killult Church and the eastern extremity of Inishbofin passes to the northeast of Toberglassan Rock, in a depths of about 6.5 metres, and clear of the foul ground extending from the southwest side of Inishdooey.
Please note

This sound should only be attempted when the water is smooth.



Inishbofin, the largest of the three islands, and rather more than a mile in extent from north to south, has two elevations of about 30 metres each. These are united by a low neck of sand and shingle, otherwise the coast is composed of rocky prongs. There is no passage between it and the low sandy peninsula of the adjacent shore. The space between them being occupied by a broad sandy, flat, narrow ridge, called Cloghan Ford, which uncovers at low springs.

Vessels may find a temporary summer anchorage in Inishbofin Island and Bay Click to view haven , on the west side of the flat, under the south end of the island, but it is exposed to the full force of the western swell.

Inishboffin - Moylegasaghty Head - lighthouse Fl. 8s 3m 3M position: 55° 10.091' N 008° 10.559' W

A sandy beach extends from Peninsula Point for 2 miles to the east, and is separated from Tramore Bay by the rocky points of Rinboy and Dooros bluff. The whole distance to Marfagh Point, at the northeast end of Tramore Bay, is clear of danger with gradually decreasing depths to the shore. Tramore Strand, which is one mile long, forms the sea front of the sandy isthmus that intervenes between Tramore Bay and Dunfanaghy Harbour, and unites the peninsula of Horn Head to the mainland. Within the northeast corner of Tramore Bay Click to view haven there is a tolerable anchorage.

A little to the north of Marfagh Point there is a fissure in the cliffs known by the name of MacSwynes Gun. The sea thrown into this fissure is sometimes forced up several metres high in a column of water, and produces a report so loud as to be heard 7 or 8 miles off; but more resembling a clap of thunder than a gun.

The shore from Marfagh Point to the north is encumbered with several dangerous outlying rocks. Marfagh Rock, lying 800 metres to the west of the point, uncovers at low water. Just over half a mile to the northeast is the Leenan More, with 0.6 metres water over it. A mile to the north of the point, and 600 metres off shore, are the little Harvey's Rocks, always visible, with a sunken rock 200 metres outside them. And outside all these, at the distance of three-quarters of a mile from the shore, lies Carricknaherwy Rock, always above water, and serving as a beacon to warn vessels of their approach to this dangerous locality.

Horn Head, the northern extreme of a bold and rugged peninsula forming the western side of the entrance to Sheep Haven, is bounded by magnificent 180 metres high precipices. The extreme point has a remarkable hornlike appearance that gives the head its name. A ruined telegraph tower stands on the verge of the cliffs, about a third of mile to the south of the head, at an elevation of 184 metres. At the distance of 1.5 miles from the head is a projection called Duncap Head, lying at the foot of the 250 metres high Croaghamaddy Hill and the highest part of the peninsula. Detached rocks are scattered along the base of the cliffs, in some instances extending 300 metres off, beyond which the northern and eastern shores of the peninsula are steep-to and clear of outlying danger.
Please note

Vessels navigating near the head in stormy weather, must be on their guard as the tidal currents off this point attain rates of up to 2 knots at springs. When the wind and current are in opposition, a turbulent sea may be raised in this area.



The wide and deep sea inlet of Sheep Haven, lying between Horn Head and Rosguill peninsulas, has regular soundings on a bottom of fine grey sand. It shoals gradually inwards from the depth of 33 metres at its mouth. It is quite exposed to northerly and northeast winds, but there is a tolerable anchorage at Sheep HavenClick to view haven provided the swell is not too great.

The Rosguill Peninsula on the eastern shore of the haven is of similar formation to Horn Head peninsula. The cliffs that border it are comparatively of moderate height, nowhere exceeding 60 metres. Its highest summit, Ganiamore Hill, has an elevation of 204 metres.

Rinnafaghla Point, forming the northwest projection of Rosguill, and the east point of entrance to Sheep Haven, is rather low, running out a considerable distance to the north in rocky prongs, with detached outliers 200 metres beyond them.

The coast between Sheep Haven and Melmore Head, the western point of Mulroy Bay, extends 3.5 miles in a northeast direction. It is indented with several deep bays, and fronted with outlying dangerous rocks. Melmore Head is rendered conspicuous by an old signal tower standing near its highest cliff, at an elevation of 44 metres above the sea.

The first danger to the east of Sheep Haven, Carrickguill Rocks, that lie two-thirds of a mile northeast of Rinnafaghla Point. The westernmost and highest rock has an elevation of 8.4 metres above high water, detached rocks, some of which never uncover, extend for nearly 600 metres to the northeast of it. To clear them, keep Melmore Head open of Straughan Point on an astern bearing of 073° T as seen on Admiralty chart 2699.

A series of detached rocks extend from Glenoory Point across the entrance of Tranarossan Bay for half a mile in a north-easterly direction, terminating in the 12 metres high Tormore Rock.

Shanlough and Straughan Points are low reefy projections of the coast, stretching out to the north between Rosses Point and Melmore Head.

Lying half a mile off these points, is Frenchman’s Rock which never covers, and is steep-to all round, except towards the shore. About midway between the Frenchman and Straughan Point there is another rock called Little Frenchman, often referred to as the Wee Frenchman, that uncovers about half tide. Two dangerous rocks lie to the east of the Frenchman, one with only 2.7 metres water at one-third of a mile east from that rock, and the other with 4.5 metres at half a mile southeast from it; both are avoided by keeping Horn Head Hill open of the Frenchman, and Murren Hill open of Melmore Head.

There are no dangers outside a distance of 1 mile from the coast, except for Limeburner Rock, so named because of the resemblance of the foam that it throws up to the smoke of a limekiln. It lies 2.75 miles northeast from Melmore signal tower and consists of two rocky heads, 30 metres apart, with 3 metres water over them, and 5.4 metres between them. It is steep-to, with from 40 to 48 metres all around, the soundings in its vicinity giving no indication of the approach to danger. During heavy weather, this danger breaks, especially when the current is opposed to the prevailing westerly winds. Vessels may pass either side of this rock which is marked on the north side by a lighted buoy.
Limeburner Rock – Lit North cardinal position: 55° 18.551' N 007° 48.428' W

Templebreaga Head, the western part of Horn Head, kept open to the northwest of the extreme point of the Horn, bearing 231°T, leads to the north of it. Bloody Foreland Hill in line with the extreme point of the Horn, bearing 240° leads well inside it.

Mulroy Bay, lying between Melmore Head and Ballyhoorisky Point, is entered between Melmore Head and Ballyhoorisky Point, 1 mile to the east. This bay forms the entrance to a narrow and tortuous channel which leads 8 miles in a general southeast direction to Broad Water, an area of sheltered water. Anchorage may be found under the description at Mulroy Bay Click to view haven.

Carrickacannon and Rinboy Rocks lie more than half a mile to the northeast of Ballyhoorisky Point; the former uncovers at low water, and the latter a little after half ebb; both must be carefully avoided when coming from the east, by keeping Horn Head tower outside the Frenchman Rock. With the wind inclining any way on shore, or when the swell is up, all these dangers show conspicuously.

Blind Rock, with 1.8 metres water, lying on the east shore at about 600 metres southwest of Ballyhoorisky Point, generally breaks when there is any swell, and may be avoided by keeping Crockangallagher open west of the Bar Rocks.

The coast between Mulroy Bay and the north extreme of Fanad Point, on the west side of the entrance to Lough Swilly, a distance of 5 miles in an north-easterly direction, is composed of low reefy points, with intervening sandy bays, backed by ranges of undulating hills, and is throughout foul and dangerous of approach, with reefs lying in some places more than half a mile off. With bad weather and onshore winds it is necessary to give it a good berth, as the sea rolls in very heavily upon it.
Please note

The alignment of Horn Head tower, kept outside the Frenchman Rock, clears the Carrickacannon and Rinboy Rocks but although a perfectly safe mark in fine weather, it leads too near the shoals when the wind is on shore or there is any swell up. At such times they should not be approached nearer than to have the highest part of Dunaff Head open of Fanad Point.



Ballyhiernan sandy bay, a mile to the east of Ballyhoorisky point, and skirted by sand-hills, is separated from the North Water of Mulroy Lough by an isthmus only a mile across. Near the centre of the bay there is a rock with 3.6 metres water, and between it and Rinboy Rock the soundings are irregular, with from 8.2 to 18.3 metres water.

A dangerous and extensive shoal, 1.75 miles to the west of Fanad lighthouse is Currin Spit. A small part of which uncovers at low water, and runs off to a distance of half a mile from the nearest part of the shore. The sandy bay within it is choked with shoals, and must not be approached by any vessel. The line of bearing 090°T of the summit of Dunaff Hill open north of Magheranguna Point, passes clear to the north of Currin Spit.

Lough Swilly, a spacious arm of the sea, from one to three miles wide, and penetrating the land 26 miles to its tidal head, near the town of Letterkenny, affords secure anchorage and is the principal harbour for vessels rounding the north coast of Ireland. The entrance is well defined by Fanad lighthouse on the western point, and by the bold and lofty headland of Dunaff Head on the east 3.5 miles apart. Mid-channel depths at the entrance are in excess of 35 metres and 18 metres to within a short distance of either shore. The general depth of the lough is from 18 to 12 metres, on a bottom of sand, or sand and mud. Both sides of the lough are bordered by hills, 90 to 305 metres high, which are mostly bare at the entrance, but more fertile and cultivated farther to the south.

The 151 metres high Crockdonelly, and Murren Hill, surmounted by a conspicuous radio mast, rise 1.2 miles to the south southwest and 3 miles south southwest, respectively, of Fanad Head. Dunaff Head, at the east side of the entrance, is bordered by 180 metre high sheer cliffs which are on the north side and 45 to 120 metres high on the west and south sides. The summit of the head, which is 219 metres high, is somewhat rounded and falls in a very abrupt slope to the bordering cliffs. The 501 metres high Raghtin More stands 2.5 miles southeast of Dunaff Head, its prominent summit appears from the north to have a flat top. Lough Swilly has a host of excellent leisure berths including Pincher Bay Click to view haven, Ballymastocker Bay Click to view haven, Scraggy Bay Click to view haven, Macamish Bay Click to view haven, Rathmullan Click to view haven, Ramelton Click to view haven, Fahan Click to view haven, Buncrana Click to view haven, Dunree Bay Click to view haven, Crummie’s Bay Click to view haven and Lenan Bay Click to view haven to name but a few we cover.

Fanad Head is low and rocky, but the land rises above it, and increases in height as vessels proceed up the lough, the mountains on either side presenting a bold and majestic appearance. A spit with less than 18 metres of water extends nearly half a mile north by northeast from the lighthouse. In heavy gales the sea breaks on this and the uneven ground adjacent; and even after the gale has subsided the rollers are dangerous, rendering it necessary to give the point a wide berth in passing.

Fanad - lighthouse Fl (5) WR 20s 18/14M position: 55° 16.575' N 007° 37.921' W

Dunaff Head the eastern boundary of the entrance to Lough Swilly, is a bold and high promontory, the cliffs rising perpendicularly, on the north side to 180 metres, and from 45 to 120 metres on the west and south, with many deep vertical clefts and chasms. The summit of the hill, which is 216 metres above the sea, is somewhat round, falling in a very abrupt slope to the cliffs. A few large rocks lie along the margin of the shore; and on the west side of Dunaff, facing Fanad Point, there is a 36 metres high mass of rock, called Dunaff Island, connected to the main by a few jagged rocks.

Trawbreaga Bay, lying between Dunaff Head and Malin Head, 6.75 miles apart, and about 3 miles deep, is open to westerly and northerly winds. The whole swell of the Atlantic rolls in here and it is seldom used except as a temporary anchorage under favourable conditions. The currents in this bay are weak, having rates of 0.5 knot at springs, but the heavy swells cause an inward set. The water is deep, though close in under Glashedy Island, and at the entrance of Trawbreaga Lough, there are no more than 7.3 or 9.1 metres; but the position is equally unsafe for anchorage.



Glashedy Island, lying 3.5 miles southwest from Malin Head, is small, rocky and 36 metres high. It is surrounded by dangerous rocks and breakers to 1,200 metres distance. Glashedy Sound leads between the island and the coast. It has depths of from 7 to 9 metres in the fairway, but should not be attempted by vessels without local knowledge.

The south side of the bay is generally low, except for Binnion that rises abruptly to a 249 metre high summit 3.5 miles east of Dunaff Head. Tullagh Point is located 2 miles northeast of Dunaff Head. Rockstown Bay and Tullagh Bay are entered on the west and east sides, respectively, of this point. These bays can be used as temporary anchorages during offshore winds, but both are small and encumbered by several dangers.

Trawbreaga Lough, to the east of the island, is nearly dry at low water; and at high water, with westerly gales, the swell breaks heavily into the entrance, and on the Bar, where there are only 1.5 metres at low water. The western side of the entrance is distinguished by several small sandhills, and Glashedy Island lying off them. It has depths of less than 9m and is unsafe to anchor. Malin Harbour Click to view haven is the next available haven after rounding Malin Head, but it is quite exposed and only a temporary fair weather stopping point.

Listed Waypoints

Clear water Erris Head, 54° 20.000' N, 010° 0.000' W
This is situated 1.5 miles north of Erris Head.

Clear water Malin Head, 55° 24.480' N, 007° 25.584' W
This is situated two miles to the northwest of Malin Head.

What weather information is available?
Weather information available from our Irish information page. If you're looking for shelter, facilities, or a type of location along this coast, use our find resources tool.

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