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Little Island

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Little Island is located on the southeast coast of Ireland thirteen miles within Waterford Harbour. It is situated two miles west of the confluence of the Rivers Suir and Barrow on the eastern outskirts of Waterford City. Encircled by the Suir the small island offers an excellent anchorage in an idyllic rural setting off the western side of the island.

Little Island is a completely protected anchorage, and if one had to endure an extreme weather event this should be one of the first choices. The wide, unhindered and well-marked Waterford Harbour estuary provides straightforward access, night or day and at any stage of the tide. Helmsmen should prepare for both strong and deflecting currents as the Suir diverges and converges around Little Island.
Please note

Tidal streams are a prime consideration within Waterford Harbour; a strong adverse current will make for slow progress, conversely, a favourable passage current will make the estuary quickly traversable.

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Keyfacts for Little Island
Hot food available in the localityRegional or international airport within 25 kilometres

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingSailing Club baseScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Note: could be two hours or more from the main waterwaysNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
6 metres (19.69 feet).

4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.

Last modified
May 3rd 2018


A completely protected location with straightforward access.

Hot food available in the localityRegional or international airport within 25 kilometres

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingSailing Club baseScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Note: could be two hours or more from the main waterwaysNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

HM  +353 51 301400      Ch.12
Position and approaches
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Haven position

52° 14.912' N, 007° 3.939' W

This is situated to the north of the mainland ferry slip and is the most charted anchorage in the Kings Channel.

What is the initial fix?

The following Waterford Harbour marked channel initial fix will set up a final approach:
52° 8.332' N, 006° 57.695' W
This is 600 metres south by southwest of the Waterford Channel No.1 starboard-hand marker (Fl.G.2s on a bearing of 009°T). It is directly east of Creadan Head, upon the eastern side of the Waterford Channel where at night the Dunmore East leading lights alternate white/green will be seen.

What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southeastern Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Rosslare Harbour to Cork Harbour Route location. Seaward approaches, along with the run up the harbour, are covered in the Port of Waterford Click to view haven entry.

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 Little Island for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Port of Waterford - 1.1 miles WNW
  2. Cheekpoint - 1.8 miles ENE
  3. Seedes Bank - 1.8 miles E
  4. Buttermilk Point - 1.9 miles ENE
  5. Passage East - 2.1 miles E
  6. Ballyhack - 2.2 miles E
  7. Arthurstown - 2.6 miles E
  8. Duncannon - 3.1 miles ESE
  9. Creadan Head - 3.6 miles SE
  10. Dollar Bay - 4 miles ESE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Port of Waterford - 1.1 miles WNW
  2. Cheekpoint - 1.8 miles ENE
  3. Seedes Bank - 1.8 miles E
  4. Buttermilk Point - 1.9 miles ENE
  5. Passage East - 2.1 miles E
  6. Ballyhack - 2.2 miles E
  7. Arthurstown - 2.6 miles E
  8. Duncannon - 3.1 miles ESE
  9. Creadan Head - 3.6 miles SE
  10. Dollar Bay - 4 miles ESE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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How to get in?
Yacht anchored off Little Island
Image: Burke Corbett

Little Island is an island on the eastern outskirts of Waterford City thirteen miles within Waterford Harbour. It is a small 420 acres island situated two miles west of the confluence of the Rivers Suir and Barrow. Encircled by the Suir’s Queens and Kings Channel it provides for a quiet anchorage in a largely rural setting.

Convergance Point Use the Port of Waterford Click to view haven for details of seaward approaches, entry to Waterford Harbour and the run up the estuary.
Initial fix location From the initial fix, set in the middle of the entrance, head northeast for the ‘Waterford’ port marker buoy and then pick up the No.1 and 2 buoys of the fairway. From there follow the Port of Waterford directions for the run up the estuary and river Suir.

After Belview Container Terminal is passed to starboard the river channels diverge. Here the course alters westward into the Queen's Channel that is entering between the training wall that extends 700 metres east off Little Island's north-eastern end, and Belview Point on the north side of the channel. A hard turn to starboard is required to access the preferred Queen's Channel or a vessel could find itself accidentally in the King’s Channel.
Please note

A helmsman must guard against being pushed into the King’s Channel by strong currents here. The set on the advantageous rising tide will be into the King’s Channel.

The King’s Channel encircles the island to the south and is the old natural bed of the river. It is entirely possible to round the island via the King’s Channel or proceed to anchorages directly via its eastern leg. However, its navigation requires a keen eye and caution as there is little-published data. It is badly silted up on the island’s eastern side where it has a depth of at least 0.5 meters. Once inside and halfway down the east side of the island, where the shores converge, it deepens to 15 metres in midstream. On the western side of the island, there is the unmarked Maulus Rock off the mainland side of the channel that is discussed below. The King’s Channel is frequently used by local boats and, taken on a three quarters flood tide, provides a more than manageable if not very enjoyable passage around Little Island.
Please note

The charts cannot be entirely relied upon in the King’s Channel. Shallower depths than showed should be expected so the helmsman should be watchful of the soundings.

By contrast, the well-marked mile long Queen’s Channel that passes along the north side of the island is direct and easy. It has plenty of water, except close to the banks, is well marked and there are no dangers in this section of the river. For this reason, we prefer a Queen’s Channel approach and leave the King’s Channel for subsequent exploration if so inclined.

At the west end of Queen's Channel, beyond Little Island, the King’s and Queens’s channels reunite. This is where the approach should be made to the anchorages in the western leg of the King’s Channel.

Three dangers present themselves at this point:

(i) The Dirty Tail, encircling the point on the western shore off the south bank of the River Suir and the western side of the King’s Channel. It extends northward halfway across the river and eastward across the King’s channel.

(ii) The drying mud bank that extends off the northeastern end of Little Island that narrows the deep water section of the King’s Channel from the east. The western edge of this is somewhat marked by the ‘Dirty Tail’ port marker buoy, although its primary purpose is to support Queen’s Channel vessels proceeding upriver. Vessels heading upriver or into the King’s Channel must leave this mark on the port side of a vessel.

(iii) The tidal effects can cause a boat to be quickly swept sideways. A helmsman must guard against the effects of the tidal stream setting in and out of King's Channel where the fairway is narrow. The tidal effects are their strongest on a falling Spring tide.

The best approach to the King’s Channel is to stay as close to the north bank as possible, off the Gyles Quay side, until abreast of the Beacon Quay beacon Fl G 3s. If proceeding upriver turn hard to port, and align on 'Dirty Tail' port-hand mark located in the mouth of the King’s Channel to the northwest corner of Little Island. This northwest approach, or an astern bearing of about 320°T on Beacon Quay, is the best approach into the King’s Channel.

After passing the 'Dirty Tail' port-hand mark, very close to port, realign on the western extremity of the island and proceed up the channel. After the 'Dirty Tail' port hand mark the channel deepens to be in excess of 5 metres and then rises to a 2.9-metre plateau. When about half way between the mark and the island adjust to starboard taking a midway path between either shore aligning on a starboard-hand mark, largely uncharted, that should be passed close on the port side.

Haven location There are several places to anchor off the western side of the island all of which are very good. Many vessels find the most convenient anchorage is on the 3-metre plateau 300 metres south of 'Dirty Tail' marker buoy.

This is immediately south of the shallow ‘Dirty Tail’ area extending from the western mainland shore midway between the mainland and island shorelines. Excellent mud holding will be found here.
Please note

The holding is so good here that it is difficult to break free when it comes to departing. Expect the anchor to come up with half of the river bed attached.

The island is linked to the mainland by a private ferry which operates across Kings Channel between Ballinakill and the island's west side. Charts typically mark the traditional anchorage off the western shore just north of this ferry crossing point.

Vessels approaching this anchorage should keep well off Little Island’s extreme western point. A rocky ledge called Golden Rock dries off to a distance of 100 metres from here. Pass this danger by aligning on the mainland ferry terminal and passing close to port of the starboard-hand buoy keeping in depths of no less than 5 metres.

These are the best and most convenient anchoring positions around Little Island. Vessels can continue south to find alternative anchoring positions beyond the ferry but there is no further buoyage beyond this point.
Please note

Vessels continuing south should be watchful of the self-propelled, wire-guided ferry. It crosses the river frequently turning around surprisingly quickly. Never try cut in front of the ferry as it lifts its front towing cable off the bottom creating a barrier across the channel.

To the south of the ferry, the shores begin to converge narrowing the channel. Depths here are in excess of 18 metres. Immediately beyond these narrows, approximately halfway between the ferry and the island’s southern extremity, there is the dangerous and unmarked Maulus Rock. This pinnacle rock is situated 40 metres off the western mainland shore and has 0.3 of a metre over it nearly drying at low water. It obstructs the western third of the channel at this point leaving the distance between it and the island to be 90 metres wide, with 3.2 metres of water. The island side of a central path passes Maulus Rock to starboard.

Immediately south of the Maulus Rock area, at the southwest corner of Little Island, is another possibility to anchor in 3 to 4 metres.

Continuing along the King’s Channel and rounding the southern corner presents more anchoring opportunities. Keep well off the southern extremity of the island as it is foul, drying out to 100 metres. There is a clear channel along the south side of the bight close to the edge of the mainland’s mud.

A good anchorage will be found when proceeding northeast from the corner just off the southeast corner in 3 to 5 metres of water. Likewise at about midway up the eastern side of the island opposite the Saltings.
Please note

Anchoring at other points may be unreliable especially near or on the river bends rounding the island’s southern point. Fast moving currents scour these out, making the centre very deep with steep shelving banks on the edge that the anchor easily pulls out of.

Why visit here?
The diminutive Little Island, positioned just a couple of miles down-river of Waterford City and encircled by the River Suir, enjoys a setting of idyllic seclusion with the convenience of the city within a ten-minute drive.

It was the seclusion that attracted the islands first known settlers who were Monks. A Monastic settlement existed on the island sometime between the sixth and eighth centuries and the discovery of two island artefacts bear witness to their presence. The earliest of these was a crude 6th-century carving of a Monk's head that is now prominently displayed over the main entrance to the island’s 15th-century castle. The latter was a winged angel that dates back to the 8th century. By then, due to the strategic importance of the island, the monastic settlement was increasingly being attacked and the monks were forced to abandon the site.

It was then taken over by the Vikings who held the island between the 9th and 11th centuries. During this time it was referred to as Dane’s Island or Island Vryk. They built two fortifications here, at the north and the southern extremes of Little Island, to guard the river approaches to Waterford. There is, however, no remaining traces of either of these forts.

In 1170 the Norman invasion of Ireland commenced in earnest with the main landings happening within a few miles of Little Island. The Earl of Pembroke, Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, lead the conquest with Raymond FitzGerald nicknamed Le Gros second in command. Advancing from Strongbow’s landing position of Passage East, he quickly conquered Waterford city, subsequently Leinster, and then all of the country.

Maurice FitzGerald (circa 1105 – September 1177), Strongbow’s cousin and the uncle of Le Gros, had landed a year earlier in 1169 and was a major figure in the Norman invasion. Strongbow rewarded his efforts by making him potentate over large tracts of Munster and Leinster. Included in his award was Little Island where it was believed he had been held for a short time as a prisoner in the early stages of the invasion. The Danish Osserman of Waterford had taken him prisoner during a pitched battle but FitzGerald was quickly rescued by his son-in-law enabling him to re-join the victorious Norman army. After the country was secured Maurice FitzGerald decided to make his home in Little Island. Thus commenced one of the longest unbroken stewardship in Irish records with the FitzGerald descendants remaining on the island, generation after generation, for eight centuries.

The first structure he built on the island was a Norman Keep. This was a tower-like stone structure with thick walls, narrow slit windows and a lead roof. At that time the ‘Keep’ would have been the core of any defence in a battle that would have been virtually impregnable. However, by the 15th century, the original Keep had fallen into such condition as not to be habitable. A new tower, small in size, and the centre part of the present Castle was then constructed on the site of the old keep. It was this period, the 15th and 16th centuries, that was to mark the seminal moment for the FitzGerald family. During this period they were the Kings of Ireland in all but name and the newly constructed Little Island tower would have hosted many feasts and banquets with the faith of the nation being decided within its walls.

Over the years this tower was gradually expanded to be the Waterford castle that is seen today. Firstly in 1849 by John Fitzgerald and subsequently in 1875 and 1895 when the east and west wings were added. Built entirely out of stone, these additions are now almost indistinguishable from the older structure. Up until the present century the castle retained its original arrow slit windows, giving a fortress-like exterior but a rather dark uncomfortable interior. The Island and castle remained in the FitzGerald name until 1958.

Then the Igo Family of Rhodesia bought the property and installed a five-acre horticultural glasshouse complex from which they produced fruits and flowers. A chain link ferry was set up between the island and the mainland around this time. In 1978 a local pedigree dairy farmer rented the land and later bought the Island. Finally, in 1988, it started its current role as the small luxury hotel Waterford Castle, and the island became its grounds. The grounds have since been converted into a golf course.

Today Little Island continues to be a rural idyll with a castle, its grounds and a golf course contained within its 170 hectares. Access to the island is via the self-propelled wire-guided private car ferry, installed in early 2008, that crosses the Kings Channel between Ballinakill and the island’s west side. This ferry crosses every 10 minutes and the journey only takes a few minutes. On the opposite side a winding tree-lined driveway leads up to the grounds of the castle that remains completely obscured by trees until the end of the driveway is reached. Then it majestically appears behind the tree line on the north side of the island overlooking the Queen’s Channel.

The small island is easily discovered by foot and it offers plenty of flora and fauna. It is considered a significant site for bird watchers with Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Wigeons, Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers and common waders, Kingfishers and Jays in abundance. Domestic pheasants also live on the island and wildlife such as badgers, deer and the odd hare will also be encountered by walkers.

This is truly a lovely secluded anchorage. It is both away from the hustle and bustle of Waterford city and yet, being only a couple of miles downstream, within easy access of the city for a quick jaunt for lunch or resources. Tucked into this side channel upriver there is nothing to disturb a vessel and there is little or no fetch. It is also completely protected from the elements and an excellent place to take shelter in a period of heavy weather. There are talks of a 250 berth marina being built in this location which may disturb the great natural beauty of the place.

What facilities are available?
There are no facilities at Little island. There is a very pricy restaurant in the area. Almost everything else will be found in Waterford City about 10 minutes by car.

Any security concerns?
You are most likely to be completely alone at this beach and away from any interference.

With thanks to:
Burke Corbett, Gusserane, New Ross, Co. Wexford. Photos with thanks to Michael Harpur, Burke Corbett, Albert Bridge and Kapustowicz.

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