Doonbeg is a good anchorage offering protection from all winds except for those with a northerly component to which it is entirely open. Attentive navigation is required for access as the bay is fringed by dangers on all sides and there are no supporting marks or lights. Hence a stranger should only approach Doonbeg in settled conditions with good visibility.
Keyfacts for Doonbeg
SummaryA good location with attentive navigation required for access.
Position and approaches
Haven position52° 44.430' N, 009° 32.168' W
This is the head of the pier located on the western shore at the southern end of Doonbeg Bay.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
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How to get in?
Image: Lorigan Media
Doonbeg Bay lies in the south part of Mal Bay and is entered between Killard Point and Magrath's Point. This rocky creek is open to the north and provides temporary summer anchorage for leisure craft and fishing vessels.
The Doonbeg initial fix is set about half way between the Doughmore Shoal and the mainland. A course of 125°T for a mile will pass to the east of Killard Point and into the mouth of Doonbeg Bay. Keep well off Killard Point as a reef extends for 150 metres to the east off the point.
After passing Killard Point take a west-of-centre course up the centre of the bay towards Dunbeg Castle, not Doonmore at the bottom of the pier, to avoid a reef that extends 400 metres west from Magrath's Point.
Image: Lorigan Media
Anchor in sand about 300 metres north of the pierhead where the local fishing boats will be seen.
Doonbeg Pier, set beside Doonmore Castle, is a small but newly constructed 70-metre long concrete pier and slipway. It is used for fishing boats, such as crab and lobster boats, and small pleasure craft including jet skis as well as the traditional currach boats. The outer length of the pier has approximately 1.2 metres low water springs and is founded on bedrock. The adjacent seabed has been dredged down to rock level in order to facilitate larger trawlers accessing the pier.
Vessels can come alongside at the high water or land at the slip located alongside the southern side of the pier.
Why visit here?Doonbeg derives its name from the Irish Dún Beag that means ‘Small Fort’. This is based on the current, or possibly an earlier fortification, located at the river crossing inshore from the head of the bay.
The large number of forts located in the Doonbeg area proves that it was populated during the Iron Age, and the settlement at the current river crossing has been in existence since medieval times. First reports of the area’s origins can be traced back to the 6th Century. The adjacent Killard, Cill Aird meaning ‘Church on the Hill’, was named after a church founded by St. Senan, patron saint of West Clare. This was almost destroyed in the year 801 when, as we are told in the Annals of Clonmacnoise, a great earthquake occurred in West Clare that resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 people. The sea divided the land and large tracts of the coastline were lost beneath the waves leaving only a few islands, e.g. Mutton and Mattle. St. Senan’s Church survived the disaster and Senan’s Oratory was built on this same site as the original Killard Church, now a ruin, in about 1000 A.D. It continued as the principal place of worship for the people of the parish up to 1651. That year, Cromwellian soldiers sacked both Killard Church and Kilferagh Church in the neighbouring parish of Kilkee.
Doonmore Castle, adjacent to the harbour, derives its name from the Irish Dún Moor meaning ‘the big fort’ and was built by Philip Mac Sheeda Nor McCon. The Annuals of the Four Masters refer to it as Dun More Mhic in the 16th Century. It was inhabited during 1808 but classed as a ruin in 1837. The original castle was considerably higher until a turret, at the southwestern corner, fell in 1898 bringing most of the walls of the upper room with it. The rest was pulled down afterwards leaving only the lower portion, from the stone vault down, which remains intact today.
Doonbeg Castle was likewise built in the 16th century by Philip MacSheeda Mor Mac Con for the O'Brien clan. The village grew up around the castle that had a contentious past. Turlough MacMahon of West Corca Baiscinn took it from the O'Brien clan in 1585. After his death in 1595, at the end of a fierce siege, the castle was surrendered again to the O'Briens. Then, as victors, they hanged the entire garrison. In 1893, the castle stood 60 feet high with a frontage of 45 feet from west to east and a depth of 33 feet from south to north. By that time it lacked gables, battlements and chimneys. Despite its condition, seven families lived in the tower. In 1907 two families lived there, but a few years later a man occupied one of the small western rooms, and further later it continued to be occupied by a schoolmaster up to 1930. Finally, locals used its upper floor with its mossy overgrowth as a picnic spot since it afforded privacy and beautiful views.
In September 1939, Doonbeg Castle was in a dangerous condition due to the effects of nature and a crumbling river bank at its foot. Sadly, most of the castle came down then, leaving only the north-western corner standing. There have been no appreciable structural changes in the last 40 years and it remains today a strong link with the areas rich heritage. Visitors who come here will find picnic areas on the banks of the river near the bridge where it is also possible to fish.
Today Doonbeg is surrounded by farmland of which the majority is used for dairy farming. Visitors will find a host of marked walks in the area. Notable amongst these is a walk to the south from Doonbeg, along the coast towards Kilkee. It takes a walker along magnificent cliffs including the horseshoe cliff that derives its name from the spectacular shape and double cave contained at the base. The White Strand beach in Killard likewise attracts lots of visitors during the summer due to the availability of two beaches for safe swimming and the cleanliness of the water. For golfers, there is the Doonbeg golf course that was designed by two-time British Open Champion Greg Norman. Spanning 1.5 miles of crescent-shaped beach and century-old sand dunes, the Par-72 course offers views across the Atlantic from the green, the fairway, or tee of 16 of the 18 holes.
The town is very much worth the walk with traditional music and dancing is very popular in the pubs. During the sailing season, there are special events that include a jazz festival on June’s Whit Weekend and The Doonbeg Seafood Festival that takes place mid to late July. The town’s web site contains a host of visitor information for the area.
What facilities are available?The town of Doonbeg has all village amenities, but no specific yachting facilities other than a slipway. Though situated on the extreme western seaboard, it is easily accessible by road and air. It is located midway between Kilrush and Galway on the N67 road. There are several pubs, two shops, a post office and a village hall and tourist office. 65 km inland is Shannon Airport and there are bus services linking Doonbeg with all important cities and towns of Ireland.
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel anchored off Doonbeg.
With thanks to:Anthony Lucey, Area Officer, Irish Coast Guard Kilkee.
Aerial overviews of Doonbeg
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