Set into the fjordlike valley estuary of the river Bandon, and being a virtually landlocked natural harbour, Kinsale offers complete protection. The same features provide for safe access in all reasonable conditions, night or day on any state of the tide.
Keyfacts for Kinsale Harbour
SummaryA completely protected location with safe access.
Position and approaches
Haven position51° 42.101' N, 008° 31.051' W
The position of the harbour master’s office located on the northeast pierhead alongside Kinsale Yacht Club Marina.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
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How to get in?
Photo: H Kingston
Kinsale is a small commercial and fishing port alongside a resort town that is located a mile and a half within the mouth of the Bandon River. The port is easily identified by the river valley and the old eighteenth-century forts that once defended it. It is entered between Shronecan Point and Preghane Point, about 0.6 of a mile east-southeast.
Vessels approaching the harbour should check in with the harbour master by VHF Channel 14, call sign [KINSALE HARBOUR], or phone the harbour office on +353 (0)21 477 2503. The harbour office is manned from 9 am until 5 pm and the harbour master will be delighted to advise you regarding your preferences of berthing arrangements. If you arrive outside of these hours do establish contact with the harbour master as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
The Kinsale initial fix will place a vessel south of the harbour entrance with the Bulman Buoy, a South Cardinal Buoy Q + LF(W) Ev. 15 secs plus bell, broad on the starboard bow about 400 metres away. The Bulman South Cardinal marks its namesake ‘Bulman Rock’ that has 1.2 metres over it. It lies 0.2 miles south of Preghane Point and is the primary danger of the harbour entrance.
The alignment of the white and conspicuous Ardbrack Church, on the east side of the harbour about a mile within the entrance, with the western edge of conspicuous Charles Fort, standing half a mile south of the church, provides a ‘lead in’ alignment from the initial fix.
The outer and inner harbours cover approximately five square kilometres so once inside there is plenty of water for the cruising vessel. The harbour is largely free of dangers but the western shore must be approached with caution as it is generally foul.
The key danger of the western shore is within the entrance and called Farmer Rock. Farmer Rock is situated about 600 metres within Shronecan Point, the westernmost point of the entrance, and 150 metres out from the high water mark of the western shore. It uncovers at the three-quarters ebb and dries to 0.6 metres, and must be carefully avoided by vessels working in or out.
‘Farmers Rock’ unmarked – approximate position 51° 41.000’N 8° 30.200’W
A mid-channel route presents no danger. At night a sectored light set in a small white tower within Charles Fort, set upon the eastern side of the entrance, leads vessels in from the entrance.
Image: Simon Greig
The channel in the vicinity of Blockhouse Point, about 1.2 miles north of Shronecan Point, is marked by three port lighted buoys that mark the channel.
1. Spur Buoy Fl (2) R 6s just opposite Charles Fort
2. Spit Buoy QR is North of James Fort’s Blockhouse clearly visible on the shoreline.
3. Crohogue Buoy Fl (3) R 10s is NW of Spit Buoy
These marks keep a vessel off the western shore, which from above Money Point is encumbered by an extensive mud flat. This mud flat encircles Blockhouse Point at the distance of 200 metres and confines the navigable channel towards the town to the east shore.
Both the inner and outer harbours provide a host of good anchorages. Vessels who have not prearranged a berth with the harbour master may raft up to a vessel, equal or larger than your own at the quay, or pick up one of the two large yellow buoys upriver.
The visitor moorings are operated by the harbour master and are located on the starboard side of the inner harbour just below the bridge. They are rated for 75 ton and are situated in 4 metres at low water. Vessels may anchor up by the bridge that crosses the estuary above the town, where good holding in mud and shale will be found.
Vessels with a minimal air-draft may continue upriver. Tidal ranges for the area are Springs 4.3 metres and Neaps 3.2 metre. The bridge’s clearing range is from 5 metres at HW Springs to 8.7 meters LWS; mid-tide expect about 7 metres.
The 60 metres long Kinsale Quay, with depths alongside of 6.1 metres at MHWS and 2.7 metres at MLWN, is reserved for commercial traffic.
All boats entering Kinsale must pay harbour dues to the harbour master, be it directly for anchoring or as part of marina fees. This is approximately 10 Euro for utilising the harbour.
Why visit here?Kinsale derives its name from the Irish "Cionn tSaile" meaning "head of the sea". Set so close to the ‘Old Head of Kinsale’ and located on Compass Hill beside the Bandon Estuary, it is easily understood how it acquired its name. The historic old port is of enormous interest to a visiting boatman due to its services, heritage and the town's international flair that never fails to delight and surprise
Photo: Tourism Ireland
Situated on the site of a monastery founded by St. Multose in the 6th century it became a Viking trading post in the 10th century. The town went on to flourish as a centre for trade and communications under the Normans who built walls to defend the location in the 13th century. By the end of the 15th century, Kinsale was one of the most important towns on the south coast of Ireland and derived considerable wealth from its large overseas trade, fishing, shipbuilding industries and wine. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was an important English naval base that was used as a rendezvous point for large squadrons of the British Navy and for 'homeward' bound East and West Indies fleets.
All this makes this very picturesque port a must stop for a coastal cruiser. Apart from the perfectly secure harbour, excellent facilities and superb dining, it is a great point to depart for an international voyage. Likewise, and just twenty minutes from Cork International Airport, it is also a useful crew change-over destination.
What facilities are available?Kinsale has two fully serviced Marinas, Kinsale Yacht Club Marina and Castlepark Marina, with visitor berths available plus moorings. All shore facilities are available within a short stroll from the quay including an internet café, a host of shops, banks, supermarkets, pubs and restaurants. Up river there are a couple of yacht boatyards where repairs may be attended to, one of which has a 40 ton travel lift. Kinsale caters for approximately 100 commercial vessels per year and as such is a port of clearance. You can clear in through the harbour master where you may subsequently be visited at the discretion of the Irish Customs officer (Cork) 021-4315422. There is a local tourist information centre at the Quay, on Pier Road, that can help you make the most of your visit to Kinsale.
Bus Eireann runs up to 15 buses a day to Kinsale town centre (50 minutes) from the Cork Bus Station via Cork Airport. There is no other public transport in the Kinsale area but plenty of taxi services are available.
Any security concerns?The Marinas have secure entry systems and crime is minimal to non existent on moorings.
With thanks to:Captain Phil Devitt, Kinsale Harbour Master. Photographs with thanks to Mait, Simon Greig, Ann Ryan, Karl Grabe, H Kingston, Sean Rowe, John M, Ian Edwards, Michael Harpur and Patrick Woods.
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