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Great Saltee (landing beach)

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Overview





The Saltee Islands are two small islands that are situated 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, and 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 29th 2020

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 bolder 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 - 0.3 miles S
  2. Georgina’s Bay - 0.3 miles SSW
  3. Little Saltee (west side) - 0.7 miles NE
  4. Little Saltee (east side) - 0.9 miles NE
  5. Little Saltee (landing beach) - 0.9 miles NE
  6. Kilmore Quay - 1.9 miles NNE
  7. Baginbun Bay - 5.3 miles WNW
  8. Bannow Bay - 5.3 miles NW
  9. Fethard On Sea - 5.5 miles WNW
  10. Carne - 6.8 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 - 0.3 miles S
  2. Georgina’s Bay - 0.3 miles SSW
  3. Little Saltee (west side) - 0.7 miles NE
  4. Little Saltee (east side) - 0.9 miles NE
  5. Little Saltee (landing beach) - 0.9 miles NE
  6. Kilmore Quay - 1.9 miles NNE
  7. Baginbun Bay - 5.3 miles WNW
  8. Bannow Bay - 5.3 miles NW
  9. Fethard On Sea - 5.5 miles WNW
  10. Carne - 6.8 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 consisting of the Great and Little Saltee, are situated approximately 4 miles off the coast of Kilmore Quay. The islands are privately owned but have been largely unoccupied since the early 20th century. Great Saltee Island lies about 3.24 miles from Kilmore Quay, has an area of about 87ha, and is wedge-shaped. The island ascends from a low shore on its northern mainland side to 20-30 metre high cliffs on its south-eastern side. The southern summit rises to an altitude of 58 meters which is its highest point.


The landing beach Great Saltee Island
Image: Michael Harpur


The Saltees are a haven for sea birds, nurturing an impressive array of birds, from Gannets and Gulls to Puffins and Manx Shearwaters. They also lie on an important migratory route and 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 animals are present in autumn and up to 20 pups are produced annually. All of this combine to make it a Special Area of Conservation and very popular with both 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 around the Kilmore Quay area.


Kilmore Quay's safe water buoy with Little Island in the backdrop
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location From the initial fix, located at Kilmore Quay’s safe water marker, the two-mile direct path skirts three dangers. The first of these are two rocks that are in open water, Murroch's Rock and Jackeen Rock, and the latter is the Sebbar 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 islands 2 - 4 metres contours until the midpoint of the island is achieved before heading west, clears these dangers. The unnamed Privateer Rock, clearly marked on the charts half a 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, that is the main danger on this approach path. It lies just under ¾ of a 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 backdrop
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 Sebbar Bridge that is a shallow ridge of boulders and coarse gravel extending 1500 metres north from Great Saltee. It has low water depths of less than 0.6 metres at 600 metres from the shore where it then begins to descend to 4 metres.


Sebbar 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 that 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 bolder beach as seen from the tender
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Anchor according to draft 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 bright 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 Sebbar Bridge on the northeast corner. When landing, come in directly into 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 that makes it possible to row ashore and land easily.


Steps leading up from the landing area
Image: Michael Harpur


Depending on the 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 amongst the most ancient islands of Europe. The low granite outcrops are made up of Pre-Cambrian bedrock that dates back 2000 million years. Likewise, they have a long history of inhabitation thought to be from 3,500 to 2,000 B.C. At that time the islands would have offered its inhabitants protection from bears, wolves, wild boars as well as other humans. The island's fish, wild rabbits, and seabird eggs would have provided these early inhabitants 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 traces 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 400-800 A.D. 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 that flourished here between the sixteenth and nineteenth 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 that 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


Shortly afterwards 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 hunted 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, as little as three weeks after the battle, they were both hanged on Wexford bridge then taken down and beheaded. Their heads were then put on spikes outside the courthouse whilst their trunks were thrown into the River Slaney. Harvey’s corpse was recovered by his friends during the night and buried in Mayglass cemetery. Likewise, Colclough's body was also recovered by his supporters and buried in St. Patrick's burying ground, Wexford.


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 farmed the land here in the nineteenth century. As late as the 19th-century there was a population of about 17 people on Great Island and 5 on Little Island. They made a living similar to those ion the mainland by 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 of Great Island
Image: Michael Harpur


In 1943 the Saltees were purchased privately by the late Prince Michael the First who was both a colourful character and a legend in his own lifetime. He shipped out a throne, flag-staff and obelisk to Great Saltee with the obelisk bearing a plaque with his likeness in profile and the throne as a memorial to his mother. It features a coat of arms and the following 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 and christened it The Royal Mile.


Prince Michael's obelisk and throne
Image: Michael Harpur


Fortunately, he also welcomed island visitors as 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 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 the island is now 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 still keep the farmhouse near the landing area which is maintained in good repair but is not open to the public. Permission for day visits to Great Saltee, by courtesy of the Neale family, is not needed but visitors should be aware that they are visiting under the good graces 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 these times please stay well clear of the dwelling house during your island walks and vacate the island before 4 pm.


Great Saltee Shag and chick
Image: Michael Harpur


Today the Saltee Islands are Ireland's largest bird sanctuary with a reputed 300 different species of birds to be found at various times during the year. It has eleven species of breeding seabirds in summer that include thousands of puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, cormorants, shearwaters, and basking scaly. 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 animals are present in autumn and up to 20 pups are produced 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 be keeping 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



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