Culdaff is a good anchorage that affords shelter and protection from winds from south-southeast through south to the north-northwest. Strong external tidal streams that pass outside, keep down the swell inside the bay. The wide bay that is free from outlying dangers offers straightforward access at all states of the tide.
Keyfacts for Culdaff Bay
Summary* Restrictions applyA good location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position55° 17.987' N, 007° 9.180' W
This is the location of Culdaff's Bunnagee pier head situated immediately southwest of the visitor moorings.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
- A berth of 300 metres from the shore clears all dangers and the Lough Foyle approaches, detailed in the Foyle Port Marina (Derry City) entry, provides general approaches to the area.
- Approach the western side of the bay giving the foul Bunnagee Point a berth of at least 300 metres all round.
Not what you need?
- Tremone Bay - 3.3 nautical miles ESE
- Kinnagoe Bay - 5.5 nautical miles ESE
- Malin Harbour or Slievebane Bay - 7.5 nautical miles NW
- Moville - 7.8 nautical miles SSE
- Carrickarory Pier - 7.9 nautical miles SSE
- Greencastle - 8.2 nautical miles SE
- Portachurry - 8.3 nautical miles NNW
- Portkill - 8.4 nautical miles ESE
- Portmore - 8.5 nautical miles NNW
- Silver Strand - 8.6 nautical miles SE
What's the story here?
Culdaff Bay is a mile wide bight on the moderately high northern Inishowen Peninsula. The bay is entered between Bunnagee Point and Dunmore Head and it has a small pier on its western shore with visitor moorings close by. Culdaff village is situated 1.5 km away from the pier on the Culdaff estuary.
How to get in?Set less than ten miles northwest of Inishowen Head and the entrance channel to Lough Foyle, approaches to the area are detailed in the Foyle Port Marina (Derry City) entry.
The bay provides a well-sheltered anchorage in a remote and beautiful setting. The immediate coastline is steep-to and free from danger with 20 metres of water a quarter of a mile off. A berth of 300 metres off the shore clears all dangers in this area.
The Culdaff Bay initial fix is located to the northwest and on the Bunnagee Point side of the bay. Steering a bearing of 240° T for a distance of half a mile from the initial fix will lead to the location of six moorings situated 140 metres east of Bunnagee pier.
Vessels approaching from the west should give Bunnagee Point a berth of at least 300 metres to avoid Bo Rock. This is a drying rack, to 0.6 metres, located 100 metres to the northeast of the point. Also, keep the same distance to the east of the headland to clear Carrickkeeragh and Bo of Drumdur that mark the foul outskirts to the eastern side of the headland.
Berthing options include picking up the moorings as available but they can be subject to swell. Alternatively, a yacht may anchor south-southeast of the pier in 3 to 4 metres. Good holding in sand will be found here.
Vessels anchoring elsewhere off the beach should note the position of the drying 'Carratra More', to 2.3 metres, situated off the beach in the centre of the bay.
Bunnagee Pier has 2 metres at its head but shoals and dries rapidly. Vessels less than 10 metres and drawing no more than 1.4 metres can lie afloat alongside the pier at MLWN but not at MLWS.
Why visit here?Culdaff ‘s name is derived from the Irish Cúil Dabhcha. The word cúil meaning ‘corner or nook’ but Dabhcha has obscure origins and is thought to refer to a person’s name.
History runs deep here and it has left a rich legacy in Culdaff’s surrounding area. A stone circle can be seen at Bocan, the High Crosses at Carrowmore, and the megalithic tombs at Deen and Care. Half a kilometre south of Culdaff there is a 600-year-old graveyard at Cloncha with Scots Gaelic and Old Gaelic inscriptions. The visually charming village is centred on two fine stone bridges and a green that features a covered hand pump. Although its present design dates back to the 18th century the original settlement dates back to the 8th Century St. Buadán monastery that was located here. However, it is in relatively modern history where this out of the way coastline lies adjacent to one of the most critical and prolonged battles of World War II.
Immediately offshore the ‘North Channel’ formed the narrowing of two critical and highly vulnerable Atlantic convoy paths. The first was the critical North Atlantic pathway to convey vital supplies into the UK, and the latter the onward supply path for Russia. The ships funnelled here into a relatively constricted and an exposed area between two and forty miles offshore of Culdaff to keep in shallower water. But it was off this shoreline that Hitler's U-Boat wolf packs lay in wait and the destruction they unleashed was enormous. There are at least 150 charted wrecks within thirty miles of Culdaff Bay and commercial vessels continue to discover more unrecorded wrecks up to the present day. This carnage has left Culdaff with an interestingly legacy.
Washed over by the ebb and flow of the strong Atlantic currents these wrecks are now literally packed with fish. They are home to the rare torsk, a mix between a ling and a cod with a big head, wolf fish, cod and pollack. Anglers that come here continuously hit big fish on the wrecks. Likewise, it is possible to fish off the end of Bunnagee Pier, off the rocks to the immediate north of the pier, or the surf strand to the east of the pier that is best during late summer and early autumn. The fish stocks are good in the area with fish feeding on most tides and catches of twenty flatfish on a tide are not uncommon. This has turned Bunnagee Harbour into a centre for angling.
The small delightful village’s other main attraction is its beautiful sandy beach making it popular for bathing and water sports as well as fishing. The Blue Flag beach is separated by a rocky outcrop into 'the small beach' and 'the big beach'. A hotel, situated in the village, home to a population of approximately two hundred people, is the main gathering place for locals and visiting anglers. It is known for live music and good food, and for those visiting in August, they may chance upon a beer festival. Those who land and are looking for a walk will find standing stones behind the Bocan chapel, St. Bodan’s Rock below the Bridge, the site of old St. Bodan’s well behind the Church of Ireland, and the ‘Temple of Deen’ just outside the village near the Bocan chapel. On a fine day, the small picnic site up the Culdaff River makes for an ideal outing. There is a track from the picnic site to the river, but the narrow shallow channel is not practically reached by dingy. The preferred access is via the car park behind a gap in the sand dunes on the beach.
In sailing terms, Culdaff Bay is one of the most protected and easily accessed anchorages along this coastline. Well inset into the shoreline it provides protection from winds north by northwest right round by the west to the south by southeast. The strong tides that run outside do not enter here but keep down the sea within the bay to a remarkable degree and it has a fine landing place at Bunnagee Pier. Should the wind veer to the north to expose the anchorage, Inishowen Head can be rounded in less than ten miles opening into the completely protected Lough Foyle. Likewise, the alternative bays of Kinnagoe and Tremone only offer anchorages with beach landings but no facilities. This makes it an ideal tide wait location for a favourable weather window to round Malin Head.
However, those who come here will find Culdaff itself a highly attractive place. The scenic location, surrounded by spectacular coastal and mountain scenery is ideally suited to hill walking, nature photography, angling or cycling. Local pubs and restaurants in the village provide good fare and an atmosphere that encourages a boatman to relax and enjoy a stay that may be longer than expected.
What facilities are available?Water is available near to the pier and fuel and provisions may be obtained at the village of Culdaff. This is located about a mile up the Culdaff River that flows into the bay to the south of the pier. It has a grocery shop and three pubs, one with a restaurant. Derry, 35km away, has all the shopping you’d expect of a large provincial city.
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel anchored in Culdaff Bay.
With thanks to:Terry Crawford, local boatman of many decades. Photography with thanks to Kenneth Allen, Henry Clark, Patrick Mackie, Peter Homer, Oliver Dixon, Brian Deeney of Donegal Cottage Holidays, Steve Wilson, Joyce and Mervyn Norris of Trean House Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast.
This video features Bunagee Pier and Culdaff Beach.
The video presents spectacular views of the beach and bay.
The video presents more views of Bunagee pier.
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