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Doolin Pier (Ballaghaline Quay)

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Overview





Doolin Pier, also known as Ballaghaline Quay, is situated on Ireland's west coast, close south of Doolin Point and on the approach to Galway Bay's southern entrance. It has two piers set into a cove that are marginally protected by a small islet. The very busy pier provides passenger services to the Aran Islands as well as sightseeing tours to the Cliffs of Moher. It is also used by local coastal rescue services, fishing vessels and local small craft.

Doolin Pier, also known as Ballaghaline Quay, is situated on Ireland's west coast, close south of Doolin Point and on the approach to Galway Bay's southern entrance. It has two piers set into a cove that are marginally protected by a small islet. The very busy pier provides passenger services to the Aran Islands as well as sightseeing tours to the Cliffs of Moher. It is also used by local coastal rescue services, fishing vessels and local small craft.

Save for the protection of the islet, Doolin Pier is completely open to westerly conditions and exposed to the full force of Atlantic swell. It provides an exposed anchorage in very settled conditions or in offshore winds, northeast around through east to southeast. Daylight access is straightforward as there are no outlying dangers and all that needs to be avoided are the reefs skirting the island and the mainland on a final approach.



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Keyfacts for Doolin Pier (Ballaghaline Quay)
Facilities
Water available via tapWaste disposal bins availableShop with basic provisions availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationScuba diving cylinder refill capabilitiesBicycle hire available in the areaShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Anchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periodsNote: Can be subject to wash from commercial vesselsLittle air protection

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
2.6 metres (8.53 feet).

Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
2 stars: Exposed; unattended vessels should be watched from the shore and a comfortable overnight stay is unlikely.



Last modified
July 27th 2021

Summary* Restrictions apply

An exposed location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Water available via tapWaste disposal bins availableShop with basic provisions availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationScuba diving cylinder refill capabilitiesBicycle hire available in the areaShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Anchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periodsNote: Can be subject to wash from commercial vesselsLittle air protection



Position and approaches
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Haven position

53° 0.930' N, 009° 24.397' W

This is the head of the Doolin Ferry Pier


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in western Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Loop Head to Slyne Head Route location.

  • The cove and piers are approached from the northwest.

  • Pass in between the small Crab Island and mainland keeping well off the skirting reefs from either side.


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 Doolin Pier (Ballaghaline Quay) for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Liscannor Bay - 2.9 miles S
  2. Inisheer - 3.3 miles NW
  3. Fanore Bay - 4.5 miles NNE
  4. Inishmaan - 5.1 miles NW
  5. Kilronan - 6.9 miles WNW
  6. Ballyvaughan Bay - 7 miles NE
  7. Seafield (Quilty) - 7.9 miles SSW
  8. Mutton Island - 8 miles SSW
  9. Spiddle - 8.8 miles NNE
  10. Aughinish Bay - 9.1 miles NE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Liscannor Bay - 2.9 miles S
  2. Inisheer - 3.3 miles NW
  3. Fanore Bay - 4.5 miles NNE
  4. Inishmaan - 5.1 miles NW
  5. Kilronan - 6.9 miles WNW
  6. Ballyvaughan Bay - 7 miles NE
  7. Seafield (Quilty) - 7.9 miles SSW
  8. Mutton Island - 8 miles SSW
  9. Spiddle - 8.8 miles NNE
  10. Aughinish Bay - 9.1 miles NE
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?
Doolin Pier, also known as Ballaghaline Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Doolin Pier is situated in a cove that lies in the north end of Doonnagore Bay, close southeast of Doolin Point. The cove is protected by the 5 metres high Crab Island, bordered by foul ground, that lies close off the point. Along with Galway and Rossaveal, Doolin is one of the three places that provides a ferry service to the Aran Islands. Doolin Pier also offers a sightseeing service to the base of the Cliffs of Moher during the season. The remote pier is also used by a variety of users including ferry operators, the coastguard, charters, fishermen, surfers, leisure craft and diving clubs.


Doolin Pier
Image: Michael Harpur


At the best of times, it is less than well sheltered and busy. The harbour is entirely exposed to Atlantic waves from the offshore sector of south-by-southwest to north. Crab Island provides considerable protection to the cove from waves that arrive from north-of-northwest right around through south. However, the dominant offshore wave direction is south-westerly, to which it is exposed. In light conditions, Crab Island and the limited depths that extend eastward from the islet to the mainland tend to break the waves making it calmer in the cove off the piers.


Peak season for the ferry services at Doolin
Image: Michael Harpur


The old pier has 4 metres at MHWS and the new pier has a maintained depth of 2.6 metres LAT. But alongside berths are scarce in peak season especially alongside the new pier where the ferries quickly come and go. Hence it is best to anchor off the old pier and clear of the fairway for the ferries. Or alternatively, move out and anchor in Doonnagore Bay about ⅓ of a mile offshore and abreast of some sandhills at the mouth of the river.


How to get in?
Doonagore Castle provides an ideal seamark for the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use Ireland’s coastal overview for Loop Head to Slyne Head Route location for seaward approaches. There are no offshore dangers and deep water 300 metres out from the shoreline. Doonagore Castle is 1¼ miles southeast of Doolin Point and overlooking the southeastern side of Doonagore Bay provides an excellent landmark.


Crab Island as seen from the shore
Image: Michael Harpur


Closer in the small Crab Island, fringed by foul ground, will be seen close south-westward of Doolin Head. Crab Island is barren except for the remains of a stone constabulary outpost constructed during the 1830s and the occasional goat. Once it is located the two piers will be seen at the head of the cove.

Doolin is best approached from the northwest, between the reefs of the mainland
and Crab Island

Image: Burke Corbett


Initial fix location The initial fix sets up the preferred northwest path passing between Crab Island and Doolin Point on the mainland to the northeast, where in excess of 9 metres LAT of water is available.
Please note

Local boats will be seen to pass in and out to the southeast of the island but depths are reduced to 1.2 metres LAT between the island and the shore to the southeast. So it is inadvisable for newcomers to make an approach from the south side of Crab Island without the benefit of local knowledge.




The skirting reefs between the mainland and Crab Island awash
Image: Burke Corbett


Keeping well off the skirting reefs on either side when passing inside Crab Island and between it and the mainland. Take it steady once inside of Crab Island as when approaching the piers it quickly shelves. The seabed here is all rock and hard contact so take it steady.


Anchor clear of the fairway used by the ferries
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Anchor according to draft clear of the fairway for the ferries. Wave conditions are such that most loose sediment is swept into deeper waters outside the harbour area. The seabed therefore only consists of rock overlain with thin pockets of gravel-sized material and large boulders. As such, the holding over the rocky bottom is so poor as to be unreliable so this is not a place to leave a boat unwatched.


The outer pier used by the ferries
Image: Michael Harpur


The new 65 metres long pier was completed in 2014 to provide all-tide access to the Aran ferry services. Located 75 metres to the southwest of the original pier it is dredged to a depth of 2.6 metres below LAT. It has an approach channel that is, approximately, 38 metres wide and extends some 100 metres seaward from its head.


Doolin's original inner pier
Image: Michael Harpur


The inner or northeastern pier and slipway, which was the original pier that served fishermen for years, supports a depth of 4 metres at MHWS. The seabed in its surrounding area is all rock so take it in slowly when operating in the margins at low water.


Doonnagore Bay
Image: Michael Harpur


All of these tight margins can be avoided by anchoring in Doonnagore Bay, about ⅓ of a mile offshore and abreast of some sandhills at the mouth of the river. In all cases land by tender at the slip on the inner pier.


Why visit here?
The name Doolin is thought to come from the Irish word Dúlainn. Like the capital's name this is a compound of the Irish word dubh meaning 'black' and lann an obsolete word for land or possibly linn meaning pool, so literally 'black land or pool'.


Connemara's signature rock formation a short distance from the piers
Image: Michael Harpur


Either name could aptly fit as there is an abundance of grey exposed Connemara rock here that is black when wet and the Aille River flows from Lisdoonvarna into the ocean here. Locals believe the name stems from a black pool that was on the site of what is today O’Connor’s Farmhouse B&B and Campsite.


Galway Bay opening around Doolin Point
Image: Michael Harpur


There is evidence of human occupation in the Burren that goes back more than six thousand years. Widespread deforestation for pasture-grazing during the Neolithic Era helped create the stark, windswept beauty for which the Burren is renowned. Naturally formed flat shale pebbles fond here would have required very little modification to make into axes with a sharp cutting edge and a recognised extraction site has been identified at Fisherstreet near Doolin. The area surrounding Doolin is also steeped in ancient history and forts from the first millennium are too numerous to mention. The names of many have been lost, and in most cases, only traces of them remain.


The remains of an old watch satiation near Doolin Point
Image: Michael Harpur


In later times, during the Early Middle Ages, the entire area was a petty kingdom ruled by the O’Brien Clan. It was called Tuath Clae 'the lands or countryside of Clae' with Tuath meaning the unit of land over which a local taoiseach or clan chief exercised control and Glae, or Clae, meaning O’Brien land. The O'Briens were one of the most powerful families in Ireland at the time and built many castles in the area of which Ballinalacken near Lisdoonvarna is one of the most impressive. In 1543, The Kingdom of Thomond was handed over to the Tudors and became part of the United Kingdom. The O’Briens were later made 'Earls Of Thomond' and therefore remained in charge of the County.


Killilagh Church Ruins overlooking the Cliffs of Moher on the horizon
Image: Doolin Tourism


The main church in Doolin, which was built in 1840, is to this day known as Tuath Clae church. Doolin's parish, however, is that of Killilagh, also spelt Killeilagh, and the ruins of the original Killilagh Church can be seen today about 300 metres from the harbour atop a hill that overlooks the ocean, the Doolin countryside and the majestic Cliffs of Moher. Constructed in 1470, it is thought to have taken its name from that vista by the compounding of Irish words 'Cill' and 'Ailleach', meaning 'the church of the cliffs'. After it ceased to be used as a place of worship, it came to be used as a burial ground. The earliest grave dates from 1860, the latest 1985.


The Cliffs of Moher as seen from the harbour area
Image: Michael Harpur


The most prominent building is the perfectly restored Doonagore Castle, meaning 'the fort of the rounded hills' that is one of Clare's three round tower houses. Doonagore Castle has overlooked the village since the 16th-century. The site was granted to Sir Turlough O'Brien of Ennistymon, a neighbouring town of Doolin, in 1582. In 1588, the Irish landowner, MP and High Sheriff of County Clare Boetius Clancy, or MacClancy, occupied the castle. In the September of that year, the Spanish Armada was trying to make its way home through severe storms off the west coast of Ireland and many ships were wrecked or abandoned.


Despite its pretty appearance Doonnagore Castle has a dark historical stain
Image: Jeff Nyveen via CC BY-SA 2.0


Two large galleons, the San Marcos and the San Esteban, were wrecked on the Clare coast. A reported 170 Spanish crew survived these wrecks but were promptly rounded up and imprisoned on Clancy's orders. He had been directed by William Fitzwilliam, the Lord Deputy that "to make inquiry by all good means, both by oath and otherwise, to take all the hulls of ships, stores, treasures, etc. into your hands and to apprehend and execute all Spaniards found there of what quality so ever. Torture may be used in prosecuting this inquiry" So Doonagore Castle has a sad tale to tell. He sentenced the survivors to death and hanged them on gallows alongside the castle. It is said that up to 300 were executed in total and their remains were buried in a barrow near to Doolin called Cnocán an Crochaire, meaning the 'hill of the hangman'.


The original pier dates back to the first half of the 1900s
Image: Michael Harpur


Throughout all this time Doolin has served as an access point to the Aran Islands and particularly so to Inis Oirr, the nearest isle of the group across the South Sound. There is a record of the small beach at the site being used to launch small traditional boats at the beginning of the 20th-century. The original pier was constructed in the first half of the 20th-Century, and a sleepy fishing village grew around it. Traffic to the islands grew in the first decade of the present century and proved too much for the decaying old pier. Tidally restricted for up to four hours a day it necessitated transhipment of passengers to the ferries by small boats during low water. This was far from ideal for the ferry services, and the new deepwater pier came into operation in 2014 to service Inis Oirr.


Ferry departing the new pier for Inis Oirr
Image: Michael Harpur


During the 1920s and 30s, this became a haunt for the bohemian set that included artists and writers such as J.M. Synge, George Bernard Shaw, Dylan Thomas, J.R.R. Tolkien, Augustus John and Oliver St. John Gogarty. All these have spent some considerable time here, mainly in the welcoming atmosphere of O’Connors Pub, originally known as Shannons, that dates back to 1832. Rumour has it that it was in Doolin that J.R.R. Tolkien got his inspiration for 'The Lord Of The Rings'. In the 1960s local players, the Russell Brothers and Gussie O'Connor helped to make traditional Irish music popular through touring and recordings. People from all over the world started to come to Doolin to hear them.


Gus O'Connor's Pub in Doolin Village
Image: Jeff Nyveen via CC BY-SA 2.0


Today the scattered village of Doolin has a population of just less than a thousand and comprises several parts. 'The Harbour' area, above the pier has a campsite and some facilities. 'Fisher Street' which has O'Connor's Pub, several shops and hostels, lies in a hollow among the sand-hills close to the ruined Doonmacfelim castle with The Burren's Aille River running past it to meet the sea. 'Fitz's Cross' has a hostel, campsite, two new hotels and another pub, and 'Roadford' has McGann's and Mc Dermott's pubs, four restaurants, two hostels and some B&Bs.


The scattered village of Doolin today and the bight of Doonnagore Bay
Image: Doolin Tourism


Situated on the edge of the Burren, with the Cliffs of Moher a stone's throw away, either by foot or by ferries that provide sea vistas, and being the main transport link between the Aran Island's Inis Oirr and the mainland, this is a primary crossroads in the heart of the tourist area of County Clare. In addition to this, Doolin claims, with some validity, to be the secret capital of Irish music. Visitors are likely to come across a music session in one of Doolin’s three pubs, O'Connors, McDermotts and McGanns, every night of the week and at any time of year. Traditional Irish Music workshops are also regularly held here.


A traditional music session in Doolin
Image: Doolin Tourism
All this makes it a well-trodden Mecca for Irish traditional music fans, geologists, botanists, ornithologists, speleologists and walkers. Whichever you may be, you will be well catered for with excellent seafood restaurants, cades, chippers, as well as everything touristy.

The small village of Doolin also has plenty of unexpected local amenities to offer too, including the caravan park, the pitch and putt course, the beach and surfing activity. It is part of the Burren Way walking route and a hub on the North Clare Cycle Network that offers four new cycle routes varying in distance from 18km to 47km with numerous shorter alternatives. Doolin Cave has 'The Great Stalactite', measuring 7.3 metres, it is recognised as being the longest stalactite in the Northern hemisphere. Doolin Pier is even listed as a Geosite for the surficial karstic features of the exposed limestone pavement - a different type of limestone pavement to that of the Burren limestones.


Cliff edge walk
Image: Tourism Ireland


From a boating perspective, Doolin is never going to be anyone's perfect berth. At the best of times, it is less than well sheltered, busy and its rocky bottom offers poor holding. However, in the right settled conditions, the cove offers an anchorage with an excellent slip to land or pier to come temporarily alongside if space can be found.


A Doolin cruise boat visiting the Cliffs Of Moher
Image: Tourism Ireland


In this respect, it presents the ideal drop off point for walkers to explore this wonderful part of the country. An hour's spectacular walk along the well-marked coastal walkway from Doolin leads out to the Cliffs of Moher and its visitor centre. Likewise, those looking for a long walk could be dropped off here to make their way along the Burren Way to rejoin the vessel again in Kinvarra. Alternatively, for the less strenuous, the music, good food and craic of Fisher Street is only a 10-minute walk up from the harbour.

Pints racked up and ready to be completed at O'Connors
Image: Jeff Nyveen via CC BY-SA 2.0


So, if an auspicious weather window opens, Doolin might offer the coastal cruiser a very interesting stop.


What facilities are available?
There is a very good concrete slip on the north side of the old pier equipped with a 2-tonne crane. The slipway at Doolin pier is steep, less than well sheltered in any onshore conditions and busy. Toilet facilities are provided in the car park area to the north of the existing pier. A cold water shower
facility is to be provided for surfers on the pier near the top of the surfers access.

Bus Éireann route 350 links Doolin to Ennis, Ennistymon, Cliffs of Moher, Lisdoonvarna, Fanore, Kinvara and Galway. There are a number of journeys each way daily. Onward rail and bus connections are available at Ennis and Galway. Two regional roads serve the village. The R479 connects the village both with coastal areas to the north and with Lisdoonvarna to the east. The R459 connects the village to the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren Way and the Inisheer ferry port.


With thanks to:
With thanks to Burke Corbett.





Doolin Pier
Image: eOceanic thanks Hajotthu via CC BY-SA 2.0


Ferry heading out to Inis Oirr
Image: eOceanic thanks Doolin Tourism


Crab Island's stone constabulary outpost as see at sunset
Image: eOceanic thanks Daniel Stockman via CC BY SA 2.0


Crab Island's stone constabulary outpost with some of its goats just visible
Image: KHoffman via CC BY-SA 2.0




A taste of Doolin



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