Both anchorages afford good shelter in all reasonable weather conditions although Church Pool may be uncomfortable in strong winds from the north or northeast. The anchorage at Portnoo is more exposed to swell but is better sheltered from the northeast winds by the island. Access to both bays is straightforward in most conditions, with the opportunity of a dinghy landing on the beach off Portnoo village.
Keyfacts for Church Pool & Portnoo
SummaryA good location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position54° 50.778' N, 008° 26.840' W
this is the position at the anchorage at Church Pool.
What is the initial fix?
Not what you need?
- Dawros Bay - 3.2 nautical miles WSW
- Burtonport - 8.2 nautical miles N
- Rutland Harbour & Island - 8.3 nautical miles N
- Arranmore Island - 8.7 nautical miles N
- Cruit Bay - 11.5 nautical miles N
- Owey Island - 12.4 nautical miles N
- Killybegs - 12.7 nautical miles S
- Glen Bay - 13.4 nautical miles SW
- Bunbeg - 13.5 nautical miles NNE
- Teelin - 14.8 nautical miles SSW
How to get in?
The 'Erris Head to Malin Head' coastal description provides approach information to the suggested initial fix. Vessels approaching from the south should select the northeast bound sequenced description; vessels approaching from the north should select the southwest bound sequence; western approaches may use either description.
Gweebara Bay is an open west facing bay with straightforward access off the North Atlantic Ocean lying between Crohy Head to the north and Dawros Head to the south, a distance of approximately 6.5 miles. The Gweebara River estuary to the east of Church Pool has a dangerous shallow sand bar across the entrance and should never be approached, and great care must be taken not to mistake the entrance of the river for Church Pool.
Church Pool is the best anchorage between Aranmore Island and Rossan Point and gives excellent shelter in winds between west northwest and south east, but is uncomfortable in any strength of wind from the north or northeast. Six seasonal visitors moorings have been laid for visiting yachts.
On the other side of Inishkeel Island there is an alternative anchorage in settled weather in Portnoo Bay which is closer to the small holiday village of Portnoo and its facilities, and also has the benefit of easy access for a dinghy landing on to the beach. The south east of Inishkeel Island is half joined to the mainland by a neck of sand which dries, and during low tides of the Spring months it is possible to walk out across the sandbank to the island from near the village of Narin. This sandbank divides Portnoo Bay to the west from Church Bay to the east, both bays having splendid sandy beaches. The coastal scenery between here and Rossan Point is stunning, with 150 metre high stacks and towering cliffs.
Portnoo is well sheltered from the northeast winds by Inishkeel but is much more exposed to the swell than Church Pool. It has a concrete quay on the southwest side and it is recommended that small craft should anchor off this quay in depths of 2 to 5 metres as the absence of swell and in really calm conditions it is a pleasant place to stay overnight.
Why visit here?Close to Church Pool, the superb sandy beaches at Portnoo and Narin are extremely popular with visiting tourists and locals, which makes the district a busy place during the holiday season, with many staying in the several holiday cottages and caravan sites that have been built in the area. To cater for this trade Portnoo has hotels and guest houses together with a few small shops, one of which is a good provisions store, a post office, a couple of excellent bars, and a well recommended restaurant which is perfect for a great nights craic.
For those sailors who fancy a spot of golf, Narin and Portnoo Golf Club is considered to be one of the most scenic challenging links courses in Ireland, with a meandering route over and around the dunes, with sweeping views over Gweebara Bay. The sheltered waters between Portnoo pier and Inishkeel Island surrounded by the rugged coastline from Rosbeg round to Portnoo make for ideal sailing conditions enjoyed by the Rosbeg/Portnoo Sailing and Watersports Club which is based at the old boathouse in Portnoo.
The Blue Flag beach at Narin has been acclaimed as the best beach in Donegal with its long golden strand with sand dunes as far as the eye can see. It is set in a cove and with protection from Dunmore Head it is relatively sheltered and perfect for bathing. During the summer season the beach is attended by a lifeguard and there are toilet facilities and a cafe nearby.
One of the most popular events in the area takes place annually during June, this is the Rosbeg and Portnoo Seafood Festival and the fun weekend includes free seafood, an oyster opening competition, and plenty of music and drinking ensuring a lively atmosphere. If you happen to be sailing in the area during that weekend be sure to stop off for a visit.
A new experience for visitors to the area is the Dolmen Eco Centre at Kilclooney just a mile inland south of Narin, which has interesting displays and information about the districts wildlife, ecology, archaeology, and geology, together with the necessary cafe and Tourist Information point.
The attractive island of Inishkeel, which is accessible on foot across a sand spit from the mainland, has two ruined early Christian churches, an ancient walled graveyard just above the beach on the east side, and the remains of an old farmhouse. St. Conal founded a Monastery on the island in the 6th century and St. Conal's Church is one of the two ruins together with the other ruined church of St. Mary's. Traditionally when it is possible to walk across the sandbank during the Spring months, a pilgrimage took place to the ecclesiastic site on the island.
Portnoo is the best location near Church Pool for facilities that include a shop for provisions, a Post Office, and restaurants and bars.
What facilities are available?The small holiday village of Portnoo has a shop for provisions, a Post Office, restaurant and bars, and hotels and guest houses.
With thanks to:inyourfootsteps.com site research. Photography with thanks to Grace Smith, Bart Whelan, Kenneth Allen, Oliver Dixon, A McCarron and Brian Deeney of Donegal Cottage Holidays.
Aerial view of Portnoo Beach
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