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Castlehaven (Castletownshend)

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Overview





Castlehaven is a river inlet that is located on the southwest coast of Ireland, approximately midway between Glandore and Toe Head. Almost two miles long, north to south, and set in a scenic location, the harbour offers a choice of two anchoring opportunities with the primary location alongside a small village.

Castlehaven is a river inlet that is located on the southwest coast of Ireland, approximately midway between Glandore and Toe Head. Almost two miles long, north to south, and set in a scenic location, the harbour offers a choice of two anchoring opportunities with the primary location alongside a small village.

Castlehaven provides good all-round protection except during very strong southerly winds. In these conditions, although appearing landlocked, the swell rolls against the western shore and is deflected towards the bend of the harbour with such force as to make it uncomfortable throughout the inlet. However these conditions excellent shelter will be found further upstream. The harbour provides safe access at all states of the tide, night or day, although first-time visitors are best advised to enter during daylight hours.
Please note

In strong southerly conditions, Glandore, although open south, affords better shelter than Castlehaven. It is protected from the force of the sea by the islands and rocks in the entrance. Ground holding may prove a challenge in Castlehaven.




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Keyfacts for Castlehaven (Castletownshend)
Facilities
Water available via tapWaste disposal bins availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableSlipway availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaPost Office in the areaScrubbing posts or a place where a vessel can dry out for a scrub below the waterline


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pier

Protected sectors

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

Approaches
5 stars: Safe access; all reasonable conditions.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
September 23rd 2021

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with safe access.

Facilities
Water available via tapWaste disposal bins availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableSlipway availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaPost Office in the areaScrubbing posts or a place where a vessel can dry out for a scrub below the waterline


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pier



Position and approaches
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Haven position

51° 31.600' N, 009° 10.200' W

Midstream southeast of Castletownshend slip.

What is the initial fix?

The following Castlehaven initial fix will set up a final approach:
51° 30.000' N, 009° 10.000' W
This waypoint is one nautical mile SSE and within the white sector of Reen Point’s small white framework tower’s sectored light. A course of 333° (T) will lead in to the entrance from here.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Cork Harbour to Mizen Head Route location.


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 Castlehaven (Castletownshend) for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Blind Harbour - 0.3 miles E
  2. Squince Harbour - 0.9 miles E
  3. Rabbit Island Sound - 1.1 miles ENE
  4. Glandore - 1.6 miles NE
  5. Tralong Bay - 2.7 miles ENE
  6. Barloge Creek (Lough Hyne) - 3.1 miles WSW
  7. Mill Cove - 3.1 miles ENE
  8. Oldcourt - 3.5 miles W
  9. Rosscarbery Inlet - 3.9 miles ENE
  10. Reena Dhuna - 4.6 miles W
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Blind Harbour - 0.3 miles E
  2. Squince Harbour - 0.9 miles E
  3. Rabbit Island Sound - 1.1 miles ENE
  4. Glandore - 1.6 miles NE
  5. Tralong Bay - 2.7 miles ENE
  6. Barloge Creek (Lough Hyne) - 3.1 miles WSW
  7. Mill Cove - 3.1 miles ENE
  8. Oldcourt - 3.5 miles W
  9. Rosscarbery Inlet - 3.9 miles ENE
  10. Reena Dhuna - 4.6 miles W
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?
The pier and pretty village at Castletownshend
Image: Michael Harpur


The river inlet of Castlehaven is located about 3 miles to the northeast of the Stag Rocks, and 8½ miles west of Galley Head. The small and very pretty village of Castletownsend stands about 1 mile within the entrance on its western shore.


The more protected anchoring location upriver
Image: Michael Harpur


Castlehaven offers two anchoring locations. The first is in the primary anchorage that is alongside the village of Castletownsend where it is possible to anchor just outside the moorings in about 3 metres. The second and more protected anchoring opportunity is less than a ½ mile further up the inlet just above the ruined fort and Cat Island where the local fishermen go.


How to get in?
Castletownsend standing on the west shore 1 mile within the entrance
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use Ireland’s coastal overview for Cork Harbour to Mizen Head Route location for seaward approaches.


The Stag Rocks
Image: Burke Corbett


Western Approach Vessels approaching from the west may pass to the north, via Stag Sound, or to the south of The Stags situated 0.7 miles south of Toe Head and about 3½ miles from the entrance. This is a cluster of rugged precipitous pinnacle rocks that are marked by a south cardinal buoy moored 800 metres to the south.
Please note

Stag Sound is best avoided in strong conditions when it can be rough. Likewise, when progressing against an adverse tide, it is best avoided as the spring tidal rate attains 2kn in the sound.



The Stags – South Cardinal buoy Q (6)+L Fl.15s position: 51° 27.580'N, 009° 13.735'W

Make for the Initial Fix located ½ a mile off Black Rock, 21 metres high and situate close southeast of Horse Island.


Big Sound as seen over Rabbit Island leading to the entrance
Image: Michael Harpur


Eastern Approach Vessels approaching from the east, from Glandore, should go south of High Island for simplicity. For the adventurous, there is the Big Sound channel between High and Low islands and the shore.


The conspicuous tower on Horse Island as seen from the east
Image: Burke Corbett


The danger with the Big Sound passage is Belly Rock. Awash at low water springs and drying to 0.4 meters it is difficult to see until a vessel is on it. Belly Rock lies 300 metres to the south of the rocks that extend from the west end of Rabbit Island. This places it very much in the track of vessels taking the Big Sound channel, which otherwise presents a clear passage. Keeping the north shoreline of Low Island in line with the ruined tower on Horse Island, about bearing 253° T, keeps a vessel well south of Belly Rock on the lead-in.

Belly Rock – unmarked, position: 51° 31.475'N, 009° 07.165'W



Belly Rock breaking
Image: Burke Corbett


On closer approaches to Low Island, at the 20-metre contour, turn into the Big Sound passing about 200 metres or more north of Low Island. Continue then towards the ruined tower on Horse Island until well clear of the Seal Rocks that are the western outliers of the High and Low Island cluster.


Yachts entering the outer entrance between Horse Island and Skiddy Island
Image: Burke Corbett


Initial fix location From the initial fix steer a course of 333° T toward the entrance. The Castlehaven inlet entrance will quickly open up to the northwest.
Please note

Castlehaven can be difficult to identify when approaching from the sea at first causing some concern. The coastline here appears like a single rock face and the entrance is difficult to define. In southerly or south-westerly winds the sea can be turbulent outside the haven, especially around Black Rock the bold too rock close southeast of Horse Island, and some swell can be experienced immediately inside. However, as a vessel progresses up the inlet it smooths out quickly.




Yacht approaching the entrance as seen from within
Image: Liam O'Mahony Photography


The outer entrance lies between Horse Island and Skiddy Island. Horse Island on the west side, to port, is rendered unmistakable by a conspicuous tower that stands on its eastern side. Opposite, on the west side, to starboard, is the remarkably high flat rock called Skiddy Island. The pass between them is about 800 metres wide and free from danger. Proceed midway between these two islands steering northwestward towards the inner entrance's The Battery on the western shore.

The inner entrance between The Battery and Reen Point, marking the east side of the entrance, is 600 metres wide, free of dangers and has a least depth of about 10 metres in the fairway. A good turn-point marker for the inner entrance is when The Stag Rocks appears between Horse Island and the mainland, it is then safe to steer northward and proceed up the harbour.

Reen Point's small white framework tower and sectored light
Image: Steve Edge via ASA 4.0
Reen Point, to the northward of Skiddy Island, is made conspicuous during the day by the small white framework tower of its sectored light. This assists a night entrance Fl WRG Los, 9m, W5M, R3M, G3M; with the green sector covering Skiddy Island, red sector covering Horse Island and Black Rock and the white sector leading in.

Reen Point - white tower Fl.W.R.G. 10s 9m 5.3M position: 51° 30.980´N, 009° 10.475´W

Do not be tempted to cut in close to Reen Point as it is skirted by rocky prongs and just within the point, at 100 metres from the shore, is a rocky head called Colonel Rock. A good mark to clear Colonel Rock is to keep the Stags in line over Flea Island, situated on the west side of the Sound. In the event that these marks cannot be seen, keeping to mid-channel clears all dangers.

Progressing up the inlet depths decrease gradually from 11 metres, abreast Reen Point at the entrance, to 5.5 metres about a ⅓ of a mile further in and to 3 metres at the village about a 1 mile within.


The primary anchorage off of Castletownshend
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location The primary anchorage that is 300 metres south of the first castle encountered alongside the village. Anchor just outside the moorings in about 5 metres. Holding is not excellent here and it is recommended the anchor be well dug in and well tested before going ashore.
Please note

Be aware that there is a heavy telephone cable across the harbour just north of Reen Pier. The cable is well signposted and runs from conspicuous slips situated on either side. Do not anchor in the vicinity of the path of this cable.



The more protected anchoring opportunity a ½ mile further up the inlet
Image: Michael Harpur


The second anchoring opportunity is further upriver north of Cat Island where the local fishermen go. This is around the corner in front of the second ruined fort. This area is, however, has a lot of moorings and is subject to a lot of weed, making it difficult to securely dig the anchor in. Find a location free of moorings that provides sufficient draught and dig the anchor in.


Castletownsend slipway with Reen Jetty seen opposite
Image: Michael Harpur


Land at the slip at Castletownsend that may be accessed by dinghies at all tides or at the slip opposite on the Reen side near the jetty. Vessels may be able to berth temporarily alongside jetty on the opposite shore to avail of the freshwater hose.


Jetty on the eastern Reen side of Castlehaven
Image: Michael Harpur



Why visit here?
In Irish the word 'Cuan' means 'harbour' or 'haven' and Castlehaven, takes its name from a direct translation of its ancient Irish name 'Cuan-an-chaislein', 'harbour of the castle'. The area was previously called 'Glanbarrahane', a name derived from a deep rocky 'glen' dedicated to 'St Barrahane' a local 5th-century hermit saint. The modern appellation came from the castle that was constructed to protect the haven. This was most likely the O’Driscoll castle that stood at the southern end of the inlet near the entrance that is called Glenbarrahane Castle. Its tower has long since vanished but the ruin of the O’Driscoll Raheen (or Rathin) castle built-in 1580 in the upper reaches of the haven has a wall standing.


18th-century engraving of Castlehaven with Raheen Castle in the foreground
Image: Public Domain


But long before Christianity arrived in Ireland this useful harbour was fortified. Built in the early centuries AD, the Ring Fort at Knockdrum still overlooks the harbour from its western side about 1km west of the village. It is a restored fort that features three souterrains and is one of the largest and finest stone forts in Ireland. A little hidden gem of the area, it must have been the home of a very wealthy landowner or chieftain who had a great need for security at the time. The circular fort is 22.5 metres in diameter, with thick walls ranging from 3 metres wide that stands almost 2 metres high and support themselves entirely without mortar. The fort was the home of the chieftain’s family, guards and servants, and would have been full of houses, out-buildings, and possibly tents or other temporary structures. But no buildings survive today.


The circular stone fort of Knockdrum sitting atop a hill on the west side of the
harbour

Image: Superbass via CC ASA 4.0


Castlehaven was a place of great importance in the 17th-century when this part of the West Cork coast had few areas where a vessel could shelter and lie at anchor during periods of heavy weather. The tower on the eastern side of Horse Island was erected as a landmark to assist vessels to identify and enter Castlehaven. The castellated house overlooking the harbour today is not an original defensive castle from earlier times, but a building commenced towards the end of the 17th-century from the castles that had been destroyed by the O’Driscolls. It was built by Colonel Richard Townesend who had fought for Cromwell in England and then Ireland. He was given the area where he settled as a landowner. It has remained the home of the Townshend family for eleven generations. The village of Castletownshend developed around it and it took the family castle name; being the conjunction of 'Castle' and 'Townsend'. In Irish however it is called 'Baile an Chaisleáin', 'baile' meaning 'homestead' or 'townland' of the 'caisleán' 'castle'.


The fort provides spectacular views over the inlet
Image: Superbass via CC ASA 4.0


In 1601 Castlehaven was at the heart of the climax of the Nine Years' War playing a key role in what would be the decisive Battle of Kinsale. It was here, Porto Costello as it was known by the Spanish, that six Spanish ships landed about 2000 men, with stores, ordnance, and ammunition. The already disaffected O’Driscolls declared for the invaders providing them with their fortifications in Castlehaven and Baltimore, Innisherkin, and Dunboy. Don Juan d'Aquila, the Spanish commander, lavished gold upon them gave them and gave them Spanish commissions, taking their followers into his pay. He immediately garrisoned the forts and awaited the army of Tyrone and O'Donnel so they could commence operations against the English forces.


View out over the inlet to the Atlantic today
Image: Leo Daly via CC BY-SA 2.0


Four English warships commanded by Admiral Richard Leveson attacked the Spanish convoy in the harbour on 6 December 1601 in what would be known as the Battle of Castlehaven. Five out of six Spanish ships, commanded by General Pedro de Zubiaur, were either sunk, captured, or run aground in the battle, while the English fleet lost no ships. But it was not at all one way as the Spanish made use of their fortified positions onshore and 600 Spanish and Irish footmen.


The upper anchorage area overlooked by Raheen Castle on the east side
Image: Leo Daly via CC BY-SA 2.0


During the engagement three of Leveson's ships, including his own, went aground, owing to contrary winds, and lay exposed for twenty-four hours to the Spaniard guns on the shore. When the wind took a favourable change, he managed to warp his ships out and limping back to Kinsale it was discovered that his own ship had received 300 shot in its masts, hull and rigging. But within a month the army of Tyrone and O'Donnel would be routed at the Battle of Kinsale and the Spanish general agreed to evacuate Castlehaven in February 1602.



Ivy clad Raheen Castle today
Image: Mike Searle via CC BY SA 2.0


Today Raheen Castle, still stands on the opposite side to Castletownsend, overlooking the upper anchorage. About 22 small ragged holes can be seen concentrated below the west window if examined closely. Small iron cannonballs are still embedded in two of these. The damage dates back to either the Battle of Castlehaven where one of Levison's fleet would have sailed far into the bay to carry this out. It is perhaps more likely that the bombardment came about during a subsequent Cromwellian naval attack.


The castle today with St. Barrahane's Church above it
Image: Michael Harpur


The picturesque old-world country village opposite is largely made up of a single steep street. It is lined by large, graciously designed and fine 18th-century Georgian stone houses that must previously have been the reserve of the wealthy. The street leads down to the idyllic waterfront that is Castlehaven Harbour. Very oddly, at about midway, the street is halted by two sycamore trees standing in the middle of the road. These force all vehicles up onto the pavement to circumvent them and continue along the roadway. The current trees were replacements for originals that had died and are a feature of this unusual street. The harbour area, with its renovated warehouses, hotel, and Castle Townshend that all overlook the inlet is highly picturesque. From 2007 the castle was opened to the public and is now a bed and breakfast.


One of Castletownshend's historic warehouses close south of the pier
Image: Michael Harpur


The harbour area is crowned by the village’s beautiful little St. Barrahane's Church that is well worth a visit. The 200 years old church was built from stone taken from Horse Island and it sits at the top of 52 steps, one for every Sunday of the year. It is noted for three small but beautiful stained-glass windows. The east window and the window in the south wall of the chancel are the work of Harry Clarke who was one of Ireland's most famous stained-glass artists. The church is the venue for Castletownshend’s annual Festival of Classical Music. Remarkable for a small quiet provincial village, the festival was first organised in 1980 and has continued each year since with an aim to promote classical music. The annual festival falls within the sailing season, usually from mid-July to the end of August, and a timely visitor may have this as an added treat.


The very picturesque Castletownshend quay
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective, Castlehaven is truly one of the most captivating places along this stretch of coast. Surrounded by stunning scenery, and having the enchanting little village of Castletownshend, plus very good protection, it is not a location that should be passed over by the coastal cruiser.


What facilities are available?
The village has a small grocery store that has a petrol pump and provides some postal facilities. There are a couple of restaurants, one that is particularly good, plus three pubs. Water is available from Reen pier and the recently renovated town slip. Castletownshend has a large slip and allows for launching and retrieving at any stage of the tide. Alongside access is possible at high water where it is possible to dry out and clean off. The slip can however get very busy during the summer months. Skibbereen, a larger provincial town 6km away, has several stores available for provisions.


Any security concerns?
Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel around the Castlehaven area.


With thanks to:
Burke Corbett, Gusserane, New Ross, Co. Wexford.










Aerial views of Castletownshend



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