The bay offers good protection in moderate weather with offshore winds from west round to the south. The north side of the bay is entirely open making it unsafe when winds move north of northwest through northeast to east where although protected from wind it remains exposed to swell. Access is straightforward as the open bay has plenty of water and is clear of any danger except for two shoal patches that lie well out of the way off its southern shoreline.
Keyfacts for Brandon Bay
Summary* Restrictions applyA good location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position52° 16.100' N, 010° 9.535' W
This is in the head of the pier at Brandon where a 3 metre high column with a light, 2 FG (vert), visible for 4 miles.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
Not what you need?
- Scraggane Bay - 3.3 miles ENE
- Castlegregory - 3.5 miles E
- Illauntannig - 3.9 miles NE
- Dingle Harbour - 5.6 miles SSW
- Smerwick Harbour - 5.8 miles WSW
- Barrow Harbour - 6.6 miles E
- Fenit Harbour - 6.8 miles E
- Ventry Harbour - 7.4 miles SW
- Great Blasket Island - 10.1 miles SW
- Cahersiveen Marina - 12 miles S
How to get in?
Image: Billy Cosgrave
Four miles wide and three deep, Brandon Bay is entered between Brandon Point and the northwest extremity of a sandy peninsula, about four miles east by northeast, that separates it from Tralee Bay. Entirely open to the north the bay is clear of danger except for two shoal patches lying near its southern shore. The western shoal lies off Kilcummin, about half a mile from the shore, with 1.8 metres of water over it. The other lies 2 miles to the east of this, at a similar distance from the shore, and it dries to 0.5. The only dangers at the entrance are off the eastern side and are Tonaranna and Coosanea, and other drying rocks extend up to ¼ of a mile out. By contrast, the western shoreline is steep-to with 150 metres off the shoreline clearing all dangers.
Image: Peter Hurford
From the Brandon initial fix follow the western coastline for two miles on a bearing of 200°(T) Brandon village pier that is located a mile and a quarter to the south of Brandon Point. At night the pier has a 3 metres high light column at its head.
The best anchorage is in 6 metres mud and sand to the east of the pier inside the fishing boat moorings. This is as marked on Admiralty 2739 and set on the 152°(T) alignment of Caher Point and Fermoyle House; situated on the southern shore about a mile and a half south-southeast. Vessels intending to go closer to the pier should make note of a patch of rock south of the quay that should be avoided. Land at the slipway or alongside the pier.
The pier curves around a beach at Brandon village and dries. It is rarely calm enough for a vessel to go alongside except for in very settled conditions it may be possible to temporarily berth there. It would however not be advisable to dry out here.
An alternative anchoring position is off the attractive beach to the south of the bay making note of the positions of the above-described shoals. In the southwest corner of the bay, close south of Caher Point and a mile and a half south-southeast of Brandon Point, there is an extensive inlet called Cloghane Creek that may also be used in an emergency.
The greater part of this dries at low water but it can be approached along the northwest shore. A vessel that can take-to-the-hard and carry a draught of less than 2.5 metres might safely lie protected from the effects of swell here. The best water to be had is close inshore near the entrance to the north of the small grassy Lady's Isle. But it cannot be recommended as the channel is narrow and shallow over a changing sandbar. It is also much more complicated than it appears on the chart and at high water is open to a fetch that commences at Rough Point. As such it should only be considered in an emergency.
Why visit here?Brandon Bay in Irish Ce Bhreanainn derives its name from Mount Brandon that was named after Saint Brendan also known as Bréanainn The Navigator. Legend suggests around AD 530, before setting sail on his legendary voyage to cross the Atlantic, he climbed to the summit here to see the Americas. He certainly built one of his monastic cells at the foot called Shanakeel, in Irish Seana Cill that can be translated to "the old church", also called Baalynevinoorach, and this would also have caused it to be named after him.
Whichever the case the Brandon Bay area is stunningly beautiful and clearly steeped in early Irish history. The southwest corner of the bay has many archaeological sites that date from the early Bronze Age to Christianity. In particular, there is the ancient site of Loch a Duin that contains a remarkable series of monuments from the Bronze Age. In this valley alone there are approximately 90 stone structures dating from 2500 BC.
Image: © William Glasgow Howe
Although relatively quiet today Brandon pier was a hive of activity a century ago. At that time as many as 100 curraghs plus several larger craft fished from here. They brought in mackerel which were cured on the quays and sent in large quantities to North America. Likewise, Brandon butter was sent from here to Cork both by sea and pack horse. But in the past century, this trade suffered a sudden and terminal decline and the bay’s activity diminished.
The beauty of the area has always remained undiminished with the 952 metres high Mount Brandon dominating this section of the Dingle Peninsula. This ancient mountain was formed some 200 million years ago which makes it 170 million years older than the Himalayas. One of Ireland's most remarkable hilltop promontory forts lies on the eastern side of the mountain, standing on a peak at 800 metres (2,600 feet) with a knife-edged ridge that is shaped like the prow of a ship. The surrounding area is of outstanding beauty with many rivers, lakes, streams and waterfalls. The landscape varies between mountain peaks overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, to bog-clad valley floors, to sandy beaches washed by translucent waters, to the breaking surf on the eastern side of Brandon Bay. It is truly spectacular and will remain so as the area was recognised by a ‘Beatha’ Environmental Quality Award for both its excellent environment and sustainable management.
Image: Tourism Ireland
Set at the southern foot of the mountain the small attractive village of Brandon derives its living today from fishing and tourism. Located within a Gaeltacht region, where the Irish language is spoken by everyone, it has a special character. For here there are all the traces of a way of life almost forgotten elsewhere; neighbours helping each other to cut and harvest turf, stories and songs about local characters shared by the fireside, traditional music and set dancing performed in the local pubs most nights.
With this beauty and character, there is plenty for the visiting crew to engage. For those who enjoy exploring on land, there are many stunning walks to choose from. There are the many archaeological sites in the southwest corner of the bay and the most popular walk over Mount Brandon. Information and maps can be obtained from the Visitor Centre in the nearby village of Cloghane, in Irish An Clochan, about 4 km from Brandon. For those who want to get wet, the bay is one of Ireland's top windsurfing locations having several times hosted the PWA professional wave sailing events, and is home to several windsurfing schools. Brandon is also a very popular fishing spot for sea angling off the pier, or if you prefer to catch brown trout then take a rod to Cloghane's Owenmore River - but be prepared to walk back to Brandon when the tide goes out. For bird watchers, there is no finer place than Brandon Point, Irish Srub Brain, which has a viewpoint. This is accessible by road from Brandon village where, in the evening during the nesting season, many Manx Shearwaters home overhead to their broods.
Image: © William Glasgow Howe
Those who are in the area near the last weekend of July should not miss Feile Lughnasa that takes place in Brandon village. The ancient Celtic harvest festival celebration offers a wide variety of entertainments including sheep shearing, dog trials, poetry, music and dance, and locally produced food all washed down with copious pints of the regulation Guinness. The highlight of the festival is the ascent of Mount Brandon with music, poetry reading, and a picnic at its peak. Likewise, every year on one of the last Sundays in August is the Brandon Regatta. This is a series of curragh races with teams competing from all along the coast.
What facilities are available?Brandon village has a store with fresh provisions that serves a small permanent population of just over 100. There is a post office, the harbour side pub does bar snack meals, and another inn offers more refined food. At nearby Cloghane there is also a store and a further two pubs and a bus service to Tralee where most things can be found. Minor mechanical repairs are also reportedly available in the area.
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel anchored in Brandon Bay.
With thanks to:Batty McCarthy, Fenit Harbour Master
Castlegregory and Brandon Bay
A scenic overview of the area
Making the most of Brandon Bay's extensive beach
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