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Great Saltee (landing beach)

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Overview





The Saltee Islands are two small landmasses off the southeast corner of Ireland, approximately halfway between Hook Head and Carnsore Point. This haven is the recognised day anchorage and landing area for Great Saltee Island, the larger and southernmost of the two islands.

The Saltee Islands are two small landmasses off the southeast corner of Ireland, approximately halfway between Hook Head and Carnsore Point. This haven is the recognised day anchorage and landing area for Great Saltee Island, the larger and southernmost of the two islands.

It is an exposed anchorage located off the north shore of the island. There is some protection from the south, but it should only be considered a fair weather anchorage. The Saltee Islands require careful navigation owing to the numerous outlying rocks and strong currents. They are, however, very workable in settled clear conditions and highly enjoyable.
Please note

Currents can attain speeds of 3.4 knots on springs in this area. Those planning to explore these waters should have the benefit of a good plotter or large-scale charts, as well as a reliable engine.




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Keyfacts for Great Saltee (landing beach)
Facilities
Marked or notable walks in the vicinity of this location


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
None listed

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
3 metres (9.84 feet).

Approaches
2 stars: Careful navigation; good visibility and conditions with dangers that require careful navigation.
Shelter
2 stars: Exposed; unattended vessels should be watched from the shore and a comfortable overnight stay is unlikely.



Last modified
May 26th 2022

Summary

An exposed location with careful navigation required for access.

Facilities
Marked or notable walks in the vicinity of this location


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
None listed



Position and approaches
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Haven position

52° 7.315' N, 006° 36.745' W

200 metres north off the boulder beach.

What is the initial fix?

The following Kilmore Quay initial fix will set up a final approach:
52° 9.200' N, 006° 35.300' W
This waypoint is Kilmore Quay’s safe water marker, a red and white buoy with a long white flash (Iso 10s). The buoy is positioned between Kilmore Quay and Little Saltee Island.


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 and Kilmore Quay Click to view haven provides local approach directions.


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 Great Saltee (landing beach) for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Gilert Bay - 0.4 nautical miles S
  2. Georgina’s Bay - 0.6 nautical miles SSW
  3. Little Saltee (west side) - 1.1 nautical miles NE
  4. Little Saltee (east side) - 1.4 nautical miles NE
  5. Little Saltee (landing beach) - 1.5 nautical miles NE
  6. Kilmore Quay - 3.1 nautical miles NNE
  7. Baginbun Bay - 8.5 nautical miles WNW
  8. Bannow Bay - 8.5 nautical miles NW
  9. Fethard On Sea - 8.8 nautical miles WNW
  10. Carne - 10.9 nautical miles ENE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Gilert Bay - 0.4 miles S
  2. Georgina’s Bay - 0.6 miles SSW
  3. Little Saltee (west side) - 1.1 miles NE
  4. Little Saltee (east side) - 1.4 miles NE
  5. Little Saltee (landing beach) - 1.5 miles NE
  6. Kilmore Quay - 3.1 miles NNE
  7. Baginbun Bay - 8.5 miles WNW
  8. Bannow Bay - 8.5 miles NW
  9. Fethard On Sea - 8.8 miles WNW
  10. Carne - 10.9 miles ENE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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Chart
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?
Great Saltee Island provides a gateway into a wonderful nature reserve
Image: Michael Harpur


The Saltee Islands of Great and Little Saltee are situated approximately 4 miles off the coast of Kilmore Quay, County Wexford. They are privately owned but have been largely unoccupied since the early 20th century. Great Saltee Island lies about 3¼ miles from Kilmore Quay, has an area of about 87ha (215 acres) and is wedge-shaped. The island ascends from a low shore on its northern mainland side to 20- to 30-metre-high cliffs on its southeastern side. The southern summit rises to an altitude of 58 metres, its highest point.


The landing beach, Great Saltee Island
Image: Michael Harpur


The Saltees are a haven for an impressive array of seabirds, from gannets and gulls to puffins and Manx shearwaters. They also lie on an important migratory route and are a popular stopping-off place for spring and autumn migrants. In addition to its birdlife, Great Saltee has a breeding population of grey seals, one of the very few in eastern Ireland. Up to 120 are present in autumn and as many as 20 pups are born here annually. All of this combines to make it a Special Area of Conservation and a very popular destination for day-trippers and birdwatchers alike.


The farmhouse and pathway leading up from the landing area
Image: Michael Harpur


Situated on the north shore of the island, with a cut through the boulder beach and steps above, this is the recognised day anchorage and landing area for Great Saltee Island.



How to get in?
Great Saltee Island as seen from the west
Image: Burke Corbett


Convergance Point Offshore details are available in southeastern Ireland’s coastal overview for Rosslare Harbour to Cork Harbour Route location and Kilmore Quay Click to view haven entry provides approach directions for this haven. Those planning to cruise this area should study the ‘Additional notes for the Saltee Islands’ set out in the Rosslare Harbour to Cork Harbour Route location coastal overview. A sharp lookout should always be kept for lobster pots in and around the Kilmore Quay area.


Kilmore Quay’s safe water buoy, with Little Island in the background
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location From the initial fix, located at Kilmore Quay’s safe water marker, the 2-mile direct path skirts three dangers. The first two are rocks in open water, namely Murroch's Rock and Jackeen Rock, and the other is the Sebber Bridge, a ridge off the northeast end of Great Island.

The two rocks are best avoided by favouring the east side of a direct path along the western side of Little Saltee. Keeping within the island’s 2- to 4-metre contours until the midpoint of the island is achieved clears these dangers. The unnamed Privateer Rock, clearly marked on the charts ½ mile west of the centre of Little Saltee Island, has 3 metres of cover and should present no difficulty for leisure craft .
Please note

Be careful not to drift into the island as the shoreline shelves abruptly.



This course keeps a vessel well east of Murroch’s Rock, awash at low water, which is the main danger on this approach path. It lies just under ¾ mile to the northwest of Little Saltee Island.

Murrock’s Rock – position: 52° 08.753’N, 006° 35.919’W

It also clears Jackeen Rock, with 1.5 metres of cover, situated just over a mile west by southwest of the north tip of Little Saltee Island.

Jackeen Rock – position: 52° 08.438’N, 006° 36.722’W


Great Saltee's north-facing boulder beach, with Little Saltee in the background
Image: Michael Harpur


At about the midpoint of Little Saltee Island, or when Goose Rock has been identified ahead, it is safe to come out west by southwest until directly north of the anchoring position. A westward course clears the Sebber Bridge, a shallow ridge of boulders and coarse gravel extending 1,500 metres north from Great Saltee. It has low water depths of less than 0.6 metres at 600 metres from the shore, at which point it begins to descend to 4 metres.


Sebber Bridge – a shallow ridge of boulders and coarse gravel extending from the northeast end of the island
Image: Michael Harpur


The location of the landing beach may be easily picked out by the (only) small cluster of trees on the island, which stands conspicuously just above it. The final approach should be directly from the north onto the waypoint. On close approaches the landing beach should be distinguishable from the area of the listed waypoint.


The cut through the boulder beach as seen from the tender
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Anchor according to draught in a sandy patch off of the boulder beach. As with the beach, the offshore bottom is equally boulder-strewn. Nevertheless, a quick scout around should present a brightly coloured sandy spot to securely drop a hook into.


Great Saltee landing area
Image: Michael Harpur


The north side of Great Saltee’s shoreline is a boulder beach continuing out to the Sebber Bridge on the northeast corner. When landing, come in directly the beach, where a set of steps set into the cliff will be seen. The boulders on the approach have been cleared to create a cut, making it possible to row ashore and land easily.


Steps leading up from the landing area
Image: Michael Harpur


Depending on previous weather conditions, the landing area may be covered in kelp, but typically there is a nice sandy beach to come in on. Take your dinghy ashore after landing and tie up.


Why visit here?
Great Saltee Island, in Irish An Sailte Mór, is thought to have derived its name from the ancient Norse Salt-ey, meaning ‘salt islands’. This is an accurate description as sea spray flies over the islands in winter storms, depositing a saline solution from end to end.


Little Saltee and Great Saltee as seen from Kilmore Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Although small, the Saltees, comprising Great Saltee (89 hectares) and Little Saltee (37 hectares), are among the most ancient islands of Europe. The low granite outcrops are made up of Precambrian bedrock that dates back 2 billion years. Likewise, they have a long history of inhabitation thought to stretch from 3500 to 2000 BC. At that time the islands would have offered inhabitants protection from bears, wolves and wild boars, as well as other humans. The island’s fish, wild rabbits and seabird eggs would have provided these early dwellers with a varied diet that enabled complete self-sufficiency.


Wildflowers on Great Saltee Island
Image: Michael Harpur


Recent aerial photographs show several large stone circles and what is thought to be an Iron Age promontory fort overlooking one end of the island. Remains of an ancient grave and evidence of religious settlements still exist. An Ogham stone found here shows some of the earliest forms of writing in Ireland. The origin of the stone is uncertain, but similar stones date from the early Christian period AD 400-800 and usually marked the burial place of a chieftain or scribe. It is on display in the Irish National Heritage Park. There is also evidence of privateers and smuggling, which flourished here between the 16th and 19th centuries, when this dangerous corner’s maritime toll of death and destruction earned it the title of Graveyard of a thousand ships. The island’s most interesting fugitives were Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey and John Henry Colclough.


Great Saltee Island as seen from its western head
Image: Wynand van Poortvliet via Public Domain


Harvey was a liberal Protestant barrister who joined the United Irishmen and became the reluctant commander of the 1798 Wexford insurgents. He commanded the Battle of New Ross, which is touched upon in the New Ross entry. Disgusted with his defeat and the ensuing Scullabogue Barn retribution, Harvey resigned on Sliabh Coillte a couple of days after the battle. He returned to his family home at Bargy Castle confident that a treaty would be negotiated on the rebels’ behalf by Lord Kingsborough, the captured loyalist commander of the North Cork Militia.


Rabbit on Great Saltee
Image: Michael Harpur


Before long his faith diminished and, fearing the revolutionary aftermath, he and John Henry Colclough (a local Kilmore doctor and fellow reluctant rebel leader) decided to flee the country to the safety of Republican France. Dressed as peasants they travelled out to Great Saltee and took refuge in a cave, from where they planned to make their escape. They were to be betrayed by a tortured local farmer and after a six-hour manhunt the Irish Yeomanry tracked them down on the island. Both men were brought to be court-martialled in Wexford town. They were found guilty and on 28 June 1798, just three weeks after the battle, they were both hanged on Wexford bridge, then taken down and beheaded. Their heads were stuck on spikes outside the courthouse and their bodies thrown into the River Slaney. Harvey’s remains were recovered by his friends during the night and buried in Mayglass cemetery. Likewise, Colclough’s body was also retrieved by his supporters and buried in St Patrick’s burial ground, Wexford.


A black-backed Gull on Great Saltee Island
Image: Michael Harpur


From the 13th century until the dissolution of the monasteries, the islands were the property of Tintern Abbey. After this the land was granted to various owners, and tenant farmers extensively worked the land here in the 19th century. As late as the 19th century there was a population of about 17 people on Great Saltee and 5 on Little Saltee. They made a living similar to those on the mainland, growing potatoes, cabbage and grain, using seaweed as fertiliser, but they also had cows, pigs and poultry. A special wide, flat-bottomed boat transported them to and from the mainland. By 1940 the last resident had left Great Saltee.


The walls of the old field structure on Great Island
Image: Michael Harpur


In 1943 the Saltees were purchased privately by the late Prince Michael the First, a colourful character and a legend in his own lifetime. He shipped out a throne, flag-staff and obelisk to Great Saltee – the throne as a memorial to his mother and the obelisk bearing a plaque with his likeness in profile. It features a coat of arms and the inscription: “This chair is erected in memory of my mother, to whom I made a vow when I was ten years old that one day I would own the Saltee Islands and become the First Prince of the Saltees. Henceforth my heirs and successors can only proclaim themselves Prince of these Islands by sitting in this chair fully garbed in the robes and crown of the Islands and take the Oath of Succession.” He also planted a double row of cordylines, a variety of palm, from the main farmhouse to his throne, christening it The Royal Mile.


Prince Michael’s obelisk and throne
Image: Michael Harpur


Fortunately, he also welcomed island visitors; a plaque above the landing area ends after various proclamations: “All people young and old, are welcome to come, see and enjoy the islands, and leave them as they found them for the unborn generations to come see and enjoy.” Between 1945 and 1950 he also planted over 34,000 trees and shrubs on the island, and of these the Cordyline Palms flourish to this day.


Prince Michael’s plaque above the landing area
Image: Michael Harpur


Prince Michael the First was buried in the family vault within the ruins of the old church in Bannow Bay. His title passed on to his eldest son, Michael, and at the time of writing, the island is jointly owned by his five children. His family still maintain the islands and the throne as a proud heritage, and continue the courtesy of allowing day visitors without charge. They also keep the farmhouse near the landing area, which is maintained in good repair but is not open to the public. By courtesy of the Neale family, permission for day visits to Great Saltee is not needed, but visitors should be aware that they are visiting under the good grace of the owners. Sometimes the owner is in residence and this is indicated by a house-flag flying from a flagpole at the top of the steps up from the beach. During this time please stay well clear of the dwelling house during your walks and vacate the island before 4pm.


A Great Saltee shag and chick
Image: Michael Harpur


Today the Saltee Islands are Ireland's largest bird sanctuary, with a reputed 300 different species to be found at various times during the year. It has 11 species of breeding seabirds in summer, including thousands of puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, cormorants and shearwaters. Needless to say care should be taken by landing yachtsmen to avoid disturbing nesting birds. Great Saltee is also one of the very few islands of eastern Ireland that has a breeding population of grey seals. Up to 120 are present in autumn and as many as 20 pups are born here annually. Even if you are not interested in birds, the spectacle of such wildlife in abundance in this untouched setting is intoxicating. It is well worth making the short passage to the Saltee Islands as they are particularly beautiful.


Gannett in flight over Great Saltee Island
Image: Jimmy Edmonds via ASA 4.0


From a boating perspective this is an exposed anchorage, but it is the best place to come ashore and go for a walk to experience this wonderful natural resource.


What facilities are available?
There are no facilities on the Saltee Islands. Immediately ashore, Kilmore Quay has all facilities.


Any security concerns?
Security issues are unheard of on the Saltee Islands. In fact, if anything the reverse is more likely to be encountered. Local boatmen are very welcoming and you can take it that they will by good nature keep an eye on the welfare of your vessel, should she drag whilst you are ashore, and be ready to assist you.


With thanks to:
Burke Corbett, Gusserane, New Ross, Co. Wexford. Photography with thanks to Burke Corbett and Michael Harpur.







A group visit with one of the local tour boat operators




A group of friend visit in a small boat.




The island's remarkable birdlife


About Great Saltee (landing beach)

Great Saltee Island, in Irish An Sailte Mór, is thought to have derived its name from the ancient Norse Salt-ey, meaning ‘salt islands’. This is an accurate description as sea spray flies over the islands in winter storms, depositing a saline solution from end to end.


Little Saltee and Great Saltee as seen from Kilmore Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Although small, the Saltees, comprising Great Saltee (89 hectares) and Little Saltee (37 hectares), are among the most ancient islands of Europe. The low granite outcrops are made up of Precambrian bedrock that dates back 2 billion years. Likewise, they have a long history of inhabitation thought to stretch from 3500 to 2000 BC. At that time the islands would have offered inhabitants protection from bears, wolves and wild boars, as well as other humans. The island’s fish, wild rabbits and seabird eggs would have provided these early dwellers with a varied diet that enabled complete self-sufficiency.


Wildflowers on Great Saltee Island
Image: Michael Harpur


Recent aerial photographs show several large stone circles and what is thought to be an Iron Age promontory fort overlooking one end of the island. Remains of an ancient grave and evidence of religious settlements still exist. An Ogham stone found here shows some of the earliest forms of writing in Ireland. The origin of the stone is uncertain, but similar stones date from the early Christian period AD 400-800 and usually marked the burial place of a chieftain or scribe. It is on display in the Irish National Heritage Park. There is also evidence of privateers and smuggling, which flourished here between the 16th and 19th centuries, when this dangerous corner’s maritime toll of death and destruction earned it the title of Graveyard of a thousand ships. The island’s most interesting fugitives were Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey and John Henry Colclough.


Great Saltee Island as seen from its western head
Image: Wynand van Poortvliet via Public Domain


Harvey was a liberal Protestant barrister who joined the United Irishmen and became the reluctant commander of the 1798 Wexford insurgents. He commanded the Battle of New Ross, which is touched upon in the New Ross entry. Disgusted with his defeat and the ensuing Scullabogue Barn retribution, Harvey resigned on Sliabh Coillte a couple of days after the battle. He returned to his family home at Bargy Castle confident that a treaty would be negotiated on the rebels’ behalf by Lord Kingsborough, the captured loyalist commander of the North Cork Militia.


Rabbit on Great Saltee
Image: Michael Harpur


Before long his faith diminished and, fearing the revolutionary aftermath, he and John Henry Colclough (a local Kilmore doctor and fellow reluctant rebel leader) decided to flee the country to the safety of Republican France. Dressed as peasants they travelled out to Great Saltee and took refuge in a cave, from where they planned to make their escape. They were to be betrayed by a tortured local farmer and after a six-hour manhunt the Irish Yeomanry tracked them down on the island. Both men were brought to be court-martialled in Wexford town. They were found guilty and on 28 June 1798, just three weeks after the battle, they were both hanged on Wexford bridge, then taken down and beheaded. Their heads were stuck on spikes outside the courthouse and their bodies thrown into the River Slaney. Harvey’s remains were recovered by his friends during the night and buried in Mayglass cemetery. Likewise, Colclough’s body was also retrieved by his supporters and buried in St Patrick’s burial ground, Wexford.


A black-backed Gull on Great Saltee Island
Image: Michael Harpur


From the 13th century until the dissolution of the monasteries, the islands were the property of Tintern Abbey. After this the land was granted to various owners, and tenant farmers extensively worked the land here in the 19th century. As late as the 19th century there was a population of about 17 people on Great Saltee and 5 on Little Saltee. They made a living similar to those on the mainland, growing potatoes, cabbage and grain, using seaweed as fertiliser, but they also had cows, pigs and poultry. A special wide, flat-bottomed boat transported them to and from the mainland. By 1940 the last resident had left Great Saltee.


The walls of the old field structure on Great Island
Image: Michael Harpur


In 1943 the Saltees were purchased privately by the late Prince Michael the First, a colourful character and a legend in his own lifetime. He shipped out a throne, flag-staff and obelisk to Great Saltee – the throne as a memorial to his mother and the obelisk bearing a plaque with his likeness in profile. It features a coat of arms and the inscription: “This chair is erected in memory of my mother, to whom I made a vow when I was ten years old that one day I would own the Saltee Islands and become the First Prince of the Saltees. Henceforth my heirs and successors can only proclaim themselves Prince of these Islands by sitting in this chair fully garbed in the robes and crown of the Islands and take the Oath of Succession.” He also planted a double row of cordylines, a variety of palm, from the main farmhouse to his throne, christening it The Royal Mile.


Prince Michael’s obelisk and throne
Image: Michael Harpur


Fortunately, he also welcomed island visitors; a plaque above the landing area ends after various proclamations: “All people young and old, are welcome to come, see and enjoy the islands, and leave them as they found them for the unborn generations to come see and enjoy.” Between 1945 and 1950 he also planted over 34,000 trees and shrubs on the island, and of these the Cordyline Palms flourish to this day.


Prince Michael’s plaque above the landing area
Image: Michael Harpur


Prince Michael the First was buried in the family vault within the ruins of the old church in Bannow Bay. His title passed on to his eldest son, Michael, and at the time of writing, the island is jointly owned by his five children. His family still maintain the islands and the throne as a proud heritage, and continue the courtesy of allowing day visitors without charge. They also keep the farmhouse near the landing area, which is maintained in good repair but is not open to the public. By courtesy of the Neale family, permission for day visits to Great Saltee is not needed, but visitors should be aware that they are visiting under the good grace of the owners. Sometimes the owner is in residence and this is indicated by a house-flag flying from a flagpole at the top of the steps up from the beach. During this time please stay well clear of the dwelling house during your walks and vacate the island before 4pm.


A Great Saltee shag and chick
Image: Michael Harpur


Today the Saltee Islands are Ireland's largest bird sanctuary, with a reputed 300 different species to be found at various times during the year. It has 11 species of breeding seabirds in summer, including thousands of puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, cormorants and shearwaters. Needless to say care should be taken by landing yachtsmen to avoid disturbing nesting birds. Great Saltee is also one of the very few islands of eastern Ireland that has a breeding population of grey seals. Up to 120 are present in autumn and as many as 20 pups are born here annually. Even if you are not interested in birds, the spectacle of such wildlife in abundance in this untouched setting is intoxicating. It is well worth making the short passage to the Saltee Islands as they are particularly beautiful.


Gannett in flight over Great Saltee Island
Image: Jimmy Edmonds via ASA 4.0


From a boating perspective this is an exposed anchorage, but it is the best place to come ashore and go for a walk to experience this wonderful natural resource.

Other options in this area


Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Alternatively here are the ten nearest havens available in picture view:
Coastal clockwise:
Gilert Bay - 0.3 miles S
Georgina’s Bay - 0.3 miles SSW
Bannow Bay - 5.3 miles NW
Fethard On Sea - 5.5 miles WNW
Baginbun Bay - 5.3 miles WNW
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Kilmore Quay - 1.9 miles NNE
Little Saltee (west side) - 0.7 miles NE
Little Saltee (east side) - 0.9 miles NE
Little Saltee (landing beach) - 0.9 miles NE
Carne - 6.8 miles ENE

Navigational pictures


These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Great Saltee (landing beach).














































A group visit with one of the local tour boat operators




A group of friend visit in a small boat.




The island's remarkable birdlife



A photograph is worth a thousand words. We are always looking for bright sunny photographs that show this haven and its identifiable features at its best. If you have some images that we could use please upload them here. All we need to know is how you would like to be credited for your work and a brief description of the image if it is not readily apparent. If you would like us to add a hyperlink from the image that goes back to your site please include the desired link and we will be delighted to that for you.


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