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Barrow Harbour

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Overview





Barrow Harbour is located on the west coast of Ireland, within a tidal inlet in the southeast corner of Tralee Bay. It lies between Fenit Island and the mainland and it offers a secluded anchorage beneath an ancient castle within a vast white sand tidal lagoon.

Barrow Harbour is located on the west coast of Ireland, within a tidal inlet in the southeast corner of Tralee Bay. It lies between Fenit Island and the mainland and it offers a secluded anchorage beneath an ancient castle within a vast white sand tidal lagoon.

The anchorage has protection from all conditions except those with a northerly component when it is entirely exposed. Attentive navigation is required for access as the entrance is narrow, obstructed by islets, and made difficult by swift tides. Therefore an approach should only be made in daylight, at slack water, preferably at low water, and in settled swell-free weather.
Please note

A vessel on anchor in Barrow Harbour should at all times monitor the weather to avoid being surprised by strong northerly winds. If this should happen, breakers across the entrance will make it impossible to escape and it would be highly exposed in the anchorage.




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Keyfacts for Barrow Harbour
Facilities
None listed


Nature
Remote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
DANGER: Subject to conditions that could trap and destroy a vesselRestriction: strong to overwhelming tides in the localityNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require considerationNote: overfalls, tidal rips or breakers in the vacinity

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
3 metres (9.84 feet).

Approaches
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
May 6th 2022

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with attentive navigation required for access.

Facilities
None listed


Nature
Remote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
DANGER: Subject to conditions that could trap and destroy a vesselRestriction: strong to overwhelming tides in the localityNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require considerationNote: overfalls, tidal rips or breakers in the vacinity



Position and approaches
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Haven position

52° 17.840' N, 009° 52.260' W

This is in the anchoring area abreast of Fenit Castle.

What is the initial fix?

The following Barrow Harbour Initial fix will set up a final approach:
52° 18.405' N, 009° 52.113' W
This is on the 5-metre contour 300 metres northeast of Illannnacusha.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Mizen Head to Loop Head Route location.

  • Locate Illaunnacusha rock and then the entrance.

  • This lies between the mainland point where a Martello tower, Barrow Castle, stands and a corresponding islet off Fenit Island.

  • Steer to pass in midway between the these.

  • When the island is abeam alter course southwestward favouring the island side.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Barrow Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Fenit Harbour - 1.7 nautical miles SSE
  2. Castlegregory - 5.3 nautical miles WSW
  3. Illauntannig - 5.6 nautical miles WNW
  4. Scraggane Bay - 6 nautical miles W
  5. Brandon Bay - 10.7 nautical miles W
  6. Kilbaha Bay - 16.3 nautical miles N
  7. Ross Bay - 17.4 nautical miles N
  8. Dingle Harbour - 17.7 nautical miles WSW
  9. Kells Bay - 18.4 nautical miles SSW
  10. Carrigaholt Bay - 19.3 nautical miles NNE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Fenit Harbour - 1.7 miles SSE
  2. Castlegregory - 5.3 miles WSW
  3. Illauntannig - 5.6 miles WNW
  4. Scraggane Bay - 6 miles W
  5. Brandon Bay - 10.7 miles W
  6. Kilbaha Bay - 16.3 miles N
  7. Ross Bay - 17.4 miles N
  8. Dingle Harbour - 17.7 miles WSW
  9. Kells Bay - 18.4 miles SSW
  10. Carrigaholt Bay - 19.3 miles NNE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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What's the story here?
Barrow Castle as seen from the mainland
Image: Michael Harpur


Fenit Island lies at the south end of Ballyheige Bay with its northern entrance located about 2 miles north of Fenit Harbour. It is connected to the mainland by a long narrow isthmus at its southern end. Between the island, on the west side, and the mainland is the tidal creek of Barrow Harbour that with the exception of narrow channels, dries at low water. Once this was the major port for the region, servicing the monastic settlement of Ardfert and the general area of Tralee. It is today a remote and secluded anchorage beneath an ancient tower house within a vast white sand tidal lagoon.

The anchorage is beneath the castle in the upper inlet which leads to a large drying harbour. The scouring waters keep this channel deep with about 4 metres of water. The entrance reportedly has 2.5 metres LAT but there is a charted depth close within of 1 metre LAT so a rise of tide might be required.


How to get in?
The entrance to Barrow Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use Ireland’s coastal overview for Mizen Head to Loop Head Route location for seaward approaches and the directions to Fenit Harbour Click to view haven for local approaches. Barrow Harbour is entered from the north by a narrow passage between Fenit Island and the mainland.

Fenit Island is foul out to ⅔ of a mile off its western shore. The north shore is relatively clear save for the visible outlying pinnacle rocks of The Rose, 5 metres high, Crow Rock, 13 metres high, and Illaunnacusha, 6 metres high, which has a reef around its footing.

Initial fix location The initial fix is located 300 metres to the northeast of reasonably prominent Illaunnacusha rock. This is the key rocky islet to positively identify. It lies 300 metres north of the entrance to the channel between Fenit Island and the mainland and being out on its own is easily acquired.


The entrance to Barrow Harbour as seen from southward
Image: Michael Harpur


Once Illaunnacusha Rock has been positively identified the approach will be obvious. Pass to the east of Illaunnacusha and track into the centre of the 150-metre wide entrance. This will be clearly visible with the ruin of the round Martello tower, Barrow Castle, standing on the mainland point and a corresponding islet opposite westward off Fenit Island. Although the latter is seen as an islet at high water, at low water, it is connected to Fenit Island by a drying inner reef.


Track in along the Fenit Island side
Image: The Irish Drone


Make for the middle of these. When the islet starts to draw abeam alter course to southwestward favouring the island side. Then follow the lie of the connecting reef and the following slight turn in the channel off Fenit Island’s sandy beach towards the prominent Fenit Castle on the island. This avoids the sharp-edged sand plain that extends from the mainland immediately inside the entrance and to the south of Barrow Castle. All this should be clearly visible at low water.

At high water the channel can be seen by its darker waters
Image: Michael Harpur


At other times, the dark waters of the deep channel which is about 60 metres wide will be clearly visible over the sandy bottom.


Anchor abreast of the castle
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Anchor abreast of the castle, about 600 metres within the entrance, in 3.5 to 4 metres or in and about this location depending on the required draft. The anchorage is in the narrow channel and as such subject to strong tidal sweeps as the lagoon fills and empties. It may be advisable to use a second anchor as a precaution.


Why visit here?
The origin of the word 'Barrow' is uncertain and is more commonly known as the name of the River Barrow, in Irish An Bhearú, one of Waterford's Three Sisters; the other two being the River Suir and the River Nore. But the name fits perfectly here also as 'Barrow' is derived from a Celtic, or pre-Celtic, expression that means 'flowing one'. This very much describes the fast-flowing tides of the tidal inlet, particularly beneath the castle near the entrance.

Although very much out of the way today, Barrow Harbour was once a major port for the region servicing the monastic settlement of Ardfert that was situated three miles to the east, and the general area of Tralee three miles further. The ancient harbour’s importance is evident in its three defensive castles. The round tower of Barrow Castle overlooking the entrance, Fenit Castle which is in fact a Tower House, and Tawlacht. The latter, Tawlacht, has since disappeared without trace but it once stood on the mainland opposite Fenit Castle.


Barrow Castle dominating the entrance
Image: Michael Harpur


The central castle today is the stately looking Norman Fenit Castle that was more than likely originally built by Thomas Fitzmaurice, 1st lord of Kerry, around 1253 around the time he constructed the friary at Ardfert. Tawlaght and Barrow castles on the mainland were owned by the Earls of Desmond. The area surrounding Fenit castle was called 'Fenit Within'. 'Tawlacht' castle, on the mainland, was known as 'Fenit Without'. The terms within/without referring to the walled protection that surrounded parts of the island from attackers from the landward side. All the fortifications marked a determination to protect the vital harbour from pirates and the castles had a further layer of defence to foil a seaborne attack.


Fenit Castle
Image: Mark Murray


This was an iron or steel chain that was stretched across the neck of water between the mainland and the island near the castle. A mechanism was used to allow the raising or lowering of the chain to shut in the inlet and trap the attackers in the neck. Chains at the time were both below the water surface and made to float with rafts, logs and other materials. It is not known which was used here as although divers have looked for remnants of the chain nothing has been found to date.


Fenit Castle was destroyed during the Cromwellian campaign
Image: Bernard Healy via CC ASA 4.0


Sadly Fenit Castle was almost completely destroyed in 1641 during the Cromwellian campaign. Nevertheless, standing on a rock overlooking the anchorage today the castle's west and north walls retain most of their original height and stature. Other old ruins of two churches and a graveyard also exist on the island but the castle is the only one that remains visible.


Tralee Golf Club situated back Barrow Castle
Image: Michael Harpur


Today Fenit Island is populated and connected to the mainland by the sandbar on the southwestern side. It is accessible by foot along the sandbar at most times and by car at low tide, by driving on the beach. There are many scenic walking routes in the area and endless opportunities for sea angling. Golfing enthusiasts will find they are practically anchored alongside Tralee Golf Club situated directly across the straits from Fenit Castle. The links course was designed by Arnold Palmer and offers a tough challenge, particularly in the wind, but rewards the golfer with dramatic and spectacularly beautiful views of Tralee Bay and Banna Strand to the north.


Sunset Banna Strand
Image: Bernard Healy via CC ASA 4.0


The five-mile-long Banna Strand extending to the north from Barrow Beach and backing Ballyheigue Bay is a very popular tourist destination and may also be very much of interest to film buffs. For Banna Strand was the location for the beach scenes in the Academy Award-winning film Ryan's Daughter starring Robert Mitchum and Sarah Miles.


Barrow Harbour as seen from the mainland
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective, this is a spectacular beautiful anchorage in a very much out of the way location. It is ideal for the cruiser with time on his hands who wants to enjoy every inch of this area's outstanding natural beauty. Most likely anyone who comes here will have the anchorage to themselves. It is a gorgeous place that can be best appreciated from the cockpit. But a foray ashore to take a photograph with the tower house in the backdrop has to be tempting.


What facilities are available?
There are no facilities available at Barrow, and the nearest location for re-stocking provisions is Fenit.


Any security concerns?
A vessel is most likely to be entirely alone in the remote and secluded Barrow Harbour.


With thanks to:
Batty McCarthy, Fenit Harbour Master







Barrow Harbour aerial overview




An overview of the tower and bay which happens to be next to Tralee Golf Course.



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Please note eOceanic makes no guarantee of the validity of this information, we have not visited this haven and do not have first-hand experience to qualify the data. Although the contributors are vetted by peer review as practised authorities, they are in no way, whatsoever, responsible for the accuracy of their contributions. It is essential that you thoroughly check the accuracy and suitability for your vessel of any waypoints offered in any context plus the precision of your GPS. Any data provided on this page is entirely used at your own risk and you must read our legal page if you view data on this site. Free to use sea charts courtesy of Navionics.