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Northeast of Great Island

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Great Island is situated on the south coast of Ireland within Cork’s extensive natural harbour. The island is the largest in Cork Harbour and this anchorage is located off its northeastern corner. The haven offers a remote anchorage in a beautiful rural setting.

Landlocked and several miles inland, the anchorage offers complete protection from all conditions. A vessel could be left unattended here all year, but when staying aboard it can get a little uncomfortable in a strong northwesterly. In these circumstances, better protection can be had by moving a short distance and re-anchoring off the north mainland shore. Safe access is assured in all reasonable conditions by Cork Harbour, one of the most easily approached, well-marked and safest natural harbours in the world.
Please note

The run-up to this anchorage is about 7 miles from the entrance. Passage tides will be a prime consideration as they attain 3kt on springs, and the trip is best avoided on the ebb with a strong southeasterly. A capable tender and outboard will be required as the best landing positions are a good distance from the anchoring location.

Keyfacts for Northeast of Great Island
None listed

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landing

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
3 metres (9.84 feet).

5 stars: Safe access; all reasonable conditions.
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.

Last modified
September 23rd 2020


A completely protected location with safe access.

None listed

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landing

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

HM  +353 21 4273125      info@portofcork.ie      Ch.12, 14, 16
Position and approaches
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Haven position

51° 52.777' N, 008° 12.170' W

This is the position that provides the best protection from prevailing winds.

What is the initial fix?

The following Cork Harbour initial will set up a final approach:
51° 46.580' N, 008° 15.460' W
This waypoint is a mile out from the entrance and near the Outflow Marker Fl.Y.20s. It is set on the alignment of 354° T of the Dogsnose leading lights situated on the east side of Cork Harbour entrance. This waypoint sets up an east channel approach, but a vessel may alter course to and enter via the west channel.

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. Details for vessels approaching from the southwest are available in southwestern Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Cork Harbour to Mizen Head Route location. The run-up to the East Channel is best described in the East Ferry Marina Click to view haven entry, with Aghada about two miles from the Westgate terminal.

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 Northeast of Great Island for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. East Ferry Marina - 0.6 miles SSW
  2. Aghada - 1.3 miles S
  3. Cuskinny - 1.8 miles WSW
  4. Cobh - 2.5 miles WSW
  5. Spike Island - 2.6 miles SW
  6. White Bay - 3 miles SSW
  7. Glenbrook - 3.1 miles WSW
  8. Cork Harbour Marina - 3.3 miles WSW
  9. Crosshaven - 3.6 miles SW
  10. Drake’s Pool - 4.1 miles SW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. East Ferry Marina - 0.6 miles SSW
  2. Aghada - 1.3 miles S
  3. Cuskinny - 1.8 miles WSW
  4. Cobh - 2.5 miles WSW
  5. Spike Island - 2.6 miles SW
  6. White Bay - 3 miles SSW
  7. Glenbrook - 3.1 miles WSW
  8. Cork Harbour Marina - 3.3 miles WSW
  9. Crosshaven - 3.6 miles SW
  10. Drake’s Pool - 4.1 miles SW
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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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?
Northeast Great Island anchorage
Image: Michael Harpur

Great Island lies in Cork Harbour, just outside Cork City at the mouth of the River Lee. The island divides the harbour into Lower and Upper Harbours and is home to the town of Cobh. The anchorage is in a rural setting between Great Island and the mainland to the north, which is accessed via the East Passage.

An anchorage can be obtained virtually anywhere in the deepwater area outside the north end of the East Passage. Depths of 3 to 8 metres will be found here close to the shore, with excellent mud holding. The typical location is clear of the moorings that lie off Rathcoursey West on the eastern mainland side. Boats that can take to the bottom will also be able to come in and dry on the shoreline.

How to get in?
East Passage between Great Island and the mainland
Image: Michael Harpur

Convergance Point Use Ireland’s coastal overviews Rosslare Harbour to Cork Harbour Route location or Cork Harbour to Mizen Head Route location as appropriate for seaward approaches. Directions for entry and run-up through Cork Harbour are provided in the Cork City Marina Click to view haven and East Ferry Marina Click to view haven entries. The anchorage is reached by continuing a mile beyond the marina to the head of the East Passage, which lies between Great Island and the mainland.

East Passage to the north of East Ferry Marina
Image: Michael Harpur

From East Ferry Marina the East Channel continues north with pleasant wooded shorelines, each fringed by many moorings.

East Passage as seen from Great Island
Image: Michael Harpur

The old quay and wooden pier on the eastern side of East Passage can be used by leisure vessels. It was used by the discontinued ferry service but can take a yacht alongside; check for depths with locals. It also makes an alternative landing place.

The old ferry pier on the eastern side of East Passage
Image: Michael Harpur

A jetty fronting the stately Belgrove House on the west side will be seen about ½ mile beyond the marina. Two towers – Trafalgar Tower alongside the house and Waterloo Tower set behind on the side of Bagwell Hill, both marked on the Admiralty 1773 – will also be seen.

Private Jetty fronting Belgrove House
Image: Michael Harpur

Immediately beyond Belgrove House a power cable spans the East Passage. This is very high, and with a safe overhead clearance of 24 metres HAT, it presents no issue to most leisure craft. A further ½ mile takes a vessel out the north end of the East Passage.

Power cable spanning East Passage beyond Belgrove House
Image: Michael Harpur

Haven location The suggested anchoring area, frequently used by local boats, is just off the northeast corner of Great Island as it provides deepwater protection from the prevailing winds. However, an anchorage can be obtained virtually anywhere in the deepwater area outside the north end of the East Passage.

The anchoring area to the north of the East Passage
Image: Michael Harpur

In northerly conditions, the holding will be found to be very good to the southwest of Ahenesk House on the mainland shore. However, as can be seen on Admiralty chart 1773, move east or west from this deepwater area and what appears to be a large expanse of water at high tide quickly turns into shallows or drying areas on a low tide. Vessels that can take to the bottom will have a wide range of options along the shoreline here.

The expanse of water north of Great Island extending westwards towards
Rossmore Point and beyond

Image: Michael Harpur

Local knowledge, as commented below, suggest that you should go no further west than the mooring buoys of local boats and the longitude of 008° 12.400’ W. The area beyond is foul, with uncharted and unmarked old aquaculture gear that is revealed only at low water.

Yacht on the hard, south of Rossmore Point
Image: Michael Harpur

This tendency to dry to mud is the single issue with this anchoring location. All immediate landing areas dry, with Rathcoursey drying to 2.4 metres LAT. East Ferry Pier (½ mile back down the East Passage, on the east side of the channel) or East Ferry Marina (a further a ½ mile on the west side) are available at all stages of the tide. With the tides in the East Passage, these options will require a tender equipped with a stalwart outboard.

Why visit here?
The name Great Island is a shortening of the Irish Oileán Móran Barraigh, meaning 'Great Island of the Barrys'. Prior to this, the island was called Oilean Ard na Neimheadh or Ard-Neimheadh, meaning the 'High [as in status] Island of Neimheadh'. This was in deference to the legendary leader Neimheadh, who invaded Ireland in ancient times, and it is one of the first places mentioned in Irish history whose locality can be fixed with precision.

Hodnett Castle defending the approaches to Great Island
Image: Mike Searle via CC BY SA 2.0
The island has ample evidence of prehistoric and early medieval settlements, including records of a ringfort, holy wells and bee bole structures. A battle was fought here in AD 125 between Ængus, king of Ireland, and Niadh Nuaget, a tributary prince, in which the latter recovered the crown of Munster. In the 12th century the island maintained its independence against the Normans for some time after they had acquired possession of the adjacent mainland.

In 1329 it was taken by the Anglo-Norman Hodnett family and became the property of Lord Philip Hodnett, who resided at Clonmel. The Hodnetts built several structures, including Belvelly Castle, to defend the island and its approaches. But the Barry (de Barra) and Roche families besieged Lord Hodnett in Clonmel and had all his adherents put to death. The island and its defences were then taken by the Barry family, who retained power in the area for several centuries and gave it the name Oileán Móran Barraigh.

Belgrove House, with Trafalgar and Waterloo Towers,
as seen from the East Passage

Image: John M via CC BY-NC 2.0
Extending 5 miles from east to west, and 2 miles from north to south, Great Island is by far the largest island in the harbour, and its north shore offers complete protection. Scarcely featuring in sailing circles today, this haven is a not only a beautiful location but a perfectly secure landlocked anchorage. The value of the anchorage was not overlooked in the past, when it was extensively used by ships of all types. The Trafalgar and Waterloo Towers, seen from the East Passage near Belgrove House, speak to its naval history, and Nelson used this anchorage to safely berth his warships. In the following centuries it was extensively used as wait-location for schooners. These would be carrying cargoes of up to 300 tonnes of coal, timber, iron and slate, and, later on, flax for the linen industry, to be loaded and unloaded upriver at Ballynacorra.

Ballynacorra, right, with Midleton above
Image: John Finn

At the time, Ballynacorra (in Irish Baile na Cora, meaning 'town of the weir') served as the port for the town of Midleton, situated less than 2 km to the north of the quays. The small port closed in 1962 as it was deemed too expensive to dredge the growing levels of river silt at the entrance, and the channel is now extremely shallow. Today this presents an interesting opportunity for vessels anchored in this haven, as a visit to Midleton is not only useful for shopping but provides for a very interesting day out.

Whiskey maturing in wooden barrels
Image: Image by AJACS from Pixabay
Midleton, historically Middleton, acquired its name from being the midway town (10 miles each way) between Cork and Youghal. It is a pleasant market town with many grey stone buildings, dating mainly from the early 19th century. Today a satellite town of Cork City, it is best known for its school, Midleton College, founded in 1696, and its distillery, which produces some of the world’s favourite Irish whiskey.

Irish whiskey was one of the earliest distilled drinks in Europe, arising around the 12th century. It is believed that Irish monks brought the technique of distilling perfumes back to Ireland from their travels to the Mediterranean countries around AD 1000. This process was then modified to obtain a drinkable spirit. The Irish monks gave the drink the name 'whiskey' in the early Middle Ages, which is an anglicisation of the Irish phrase Uisce beatha. This means 'the water of life' and is a direct translation of the Latin aqua vitae. The oldest known written record of whiskey comes from Irish in the 1405 Annals of Clonmacnoise, where it was recorded that the head of a clan died after “taking a surfeit of aqua vitae” at Christmas. The mispronunciation of the word Uisce returned to influence the modern Irish word for whiskey, fuisce.

The Midleton Distillery is home to the world-famous Jameson Irish whiskey
Image: CC0

Anyone who is 'fond of a drop' will find a visit to Midleton more than enlightening. Cork Distilleries, formed in 1825, merged into Irish Distillers in 1967 and, owned by French spirits group Pernod Ricard as of 2011, has its distilleries here. It produces Paddy Whiskey (taking its name from Patrick J Flaherty, a salesman for Cork Distilleries in the 1920s), as well as the world-famous Jameson whiskey. Alongside these, they distil other branded vodka and gin products at the new Midleton distillery complex, opened in 1975.

Copper dome pot still, the largest ever built, once operated at the Midleton distillery
Image: CC0

The Old Midleton Distillery hosts frequent 'Jameson Experience' tours throughout the day, which show how whiskey was made in the past. The old stone building has many examples of 19th-century industrial architecture, including an impressive fully functional waterwheel. The site also boasts the world’s largest pot still, a copper dome with a capacity of 140,000 litres. An appeal is normally made for a 'whiskey taster' at the outset of the tours, so those who are interested should be ready to step forward. If you are not selected, a complimentary glass of Jameson's Irish whiskey is always made available at the end of the tour.

Jameson's 19th-century industrial buildings
Image: CC0

In addition to these attractions, Midleton has excellent shopping and a very popular farmers' market on Saturdays at the old site of Midleton Mart, now called Market Green. So, a mixture of pleasure and purpose can be had here.

A tender or shallow draught vessel, or indeed vessels that can take to the hard, may stay over to visit this interesting town by riding a flood tide up the 2½ miles of river from this haven. This is very easily achieved as the southern end of the River Owenacurra (in Irish Abhainn na Cora, meaning 'River of the Weirs') is marked with occasional white buoys and the final lengths between the central path between pronounced winding banks. On final approach, the warehouses on the east bank at the old port of Ballynacorra will be seen, now converted into modern housing called the Charleston Wharf. A vessel can come alongside a slip just past these, close to the quays. A short walk beyond this is Midleton. If tide times are inconvenient, Midleton is likewise only a 7km bicycle ride from the East Ferry pier.

The anchorage as seen from the north shore
Image: Michael Day via CC BY 2.0

From a boating perspective, this is a wonderful sequestered and landlocked anchorage where one can comfortably ride out a bad weather spell and have access to plenty to explore in Cobh, or indeed Midleton.

What facilities are available?
There are no facilities in this secluded rural setting. However 2½ miles upriver on a rising tide, or 7km by road from the East Ferry pier, you will find excellent shopping in the important town of Midleton. Catering for a rural population of 26,500, it has a choice of supermarkets and a host of other shops. There is a popular farmers' market on Market Green on Saturdays. For everything else there are bus connections to Cork or other berthing destinations, such as Crosshaven, where a concentration of boat services and facilities may be had.

Any security concerns?
Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel anchored off the northeast corner of Great Island.

With thanks to:
Eddie English, Yachtmaster Instructor/Examiner Dinghy & Powerboat Trainer at sailcork.com.

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Add your review or comment:

Rodolphe Thimonier wrote this review on Jun 16th 2016:

Nice anchorage with good holding in mud/silt and subject to tidal currents. Yet I dont recommend going farther west than the mooring buoys of local boats and the longitude of 8 12.4W as there is old uncharted and unmarked aquaculture gear that is only revealed at low water.

Average Rating: ****

Michael Harpur wrote this review on May 4th 2018:

Noted, thank you!

Average Rating: Unrated

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