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Doolin Pier (Ballaghaline Quay)

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Overview





Doolin Pier, also known as Ballaghaline Quay, is situated on the west coast of Ireland's County Clare, close south of Doolin Point on the mainland side of the southern entrance into Galway Bay. The pier lies in a cove that is protected by a small islet. The pier is used by ferry services to the Aran Islands, local coastal rescue services, fishing vessels and local small craft.

Doolin Pier, also known as Ballaghaline Quay, is situated on the west coast of Ireland's County Clare, close south of Doolin Point on the mainland side of the southern entrance into Galway Bay. The pier lies in a cove that is protected by a small islet. The pier is used by ferry services to the Aran Islands, 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 offshore winds northeast around through east to southeast, or in very settled conditions. Access requires attentive navigation to avoid reefs skirting the island and the mainland.



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Keyfacts for Doolin Pier (Ballaghaline Quay)



Last modified
May 17th 2018

Summary* Restrictions apply

An exposed location with attentive navigation required for 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:

Resources search



How to get in?
Doolin Pier tucked in behind Crab Island
Image: Burke Corbett


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 service to the base of the Cliffs of Moher during the season. The remote pier is used by a variety of users including ferry operators, the coastguard, charters, fishermen, surfers, leisure craft and diving clubs.

The harbour is entirely exposed to Atlantic waves from the offshore sector of south-by-southwest to north. There is, however, considerable protection afforded to the cove from waves from north-of-northwest right around through south. Although 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 around the harbour area tends to break the waves making it considerably calmer in the cove and off the piers.


The pier is addressed from the northwest between the reefs of Crab Island and
the mainland

Image: Burke Corbett



Initial fix location From the initial fix the prominent Doonagore Castle will be seen standing about 1.2 miles southeast of Doolin Point. The harbour has to be addressed from the northwest passing between the small Crab Island and mainland keeping well off the skirting reefs from either side. Depths are reduced in the area that lies on the east side of the island, between it and the shore so it should not be approached from the south side without the benefit of local knowledge. Between Crab Island and the mainland to the northeast, there is in excess of 9 metres CD. As the piers are approached it quickly shelves.


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


The small Crab Island is barren except for the remains of a stone constabulary outpost constructed during the 1830's and the occasional goat.


Doolin with its older pier and new ferry pier close south
Image: Burke Corbett


Haven location Anchor clear of the fairway for the ferries according to draft in rocky holding. Holding is unfortunately poor and unreliable as 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.

The new pier at Doolin as seen from the old
Image: Limericklawless - Own work via CC BY-SA 2.0


There are now two piers at Doolin. The northern original pier and slipway that has served fishermen for years and a new 65 metres long pier completed in 2014. This is located 75 metres to the southwest of the original pier to provide all tide access to the Aran ferry services.

The old pier supports a depth of 4 metres at MHWS but the new pier is dredged to a depth of 2.6 metres below chart datum. It has an approach channel that is approximately 38 metres wide and extends some 100 metres to seawards of the new pier's head. The seabed in the surrounding area is all rock so take it steady when operating in the margins at low water.

If the harbour is too busy leisure vessels can anchor in Doonnagore Bay about 0.3 of a mile offshore and abreast of some sand hills at the mouth of the river. Land by tender in the harbour.


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 more likley linn meaning pool; literally ‘black pool’.


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


Locals put the location of the name's black pool on the site of what is today O’Connor’s Farmhouse B&B and Campsite. This, in turn, is located close to the ruins of Doolin House, the residence of the McNamara family which was burned by British forces in retaliation for the shooting of the High Sheriff of Clare, H. Valentine McNamara. His son, Francis MacNamara, was a Republican and the father of Caitlin Thomas, wife of the poet Dylan Thomas. But the area's human history runs much deeper than this.


Doolin as seen over Doonagore Bay with Aran Island's Inis Oirr seen in the
backdrop

Image: Robert Linsdell


There is evidence of human occupation in the Burren that goes back more than six thousand years, and widespread deforestation for pasture-grazing during the Neolithic Era helped create the stark, windswept beauty for which the Burren is renowned. The area surrounding Doolin is 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.


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


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.


The main church in Doolin, 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 overlooking the ocean, the Doolin countryside and the majestic Cliffs of Moher. Built in 1470, it is thought to have taken its name from that vista by the compounding of Irish words Cill Ailleach', meaning 'the church of the cliffs'. After it ceased to be used as a place of worship, it began to be used as a burial ground. The earliest grave dates from 1860, the latest 1985.


Doonnagore Castle
Image: Sean O Riordan


The most prominent building is the perfectly restored Doonagore castle, meaning 'the fort of the rounded hills', that 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, during the retreat of the Spanish Armada from its failed attempt to invade England, 170 survivors of a Spanish shipwreck were caught by the high sheriff of County Clare, Boetius MacClancy who resided in the castle. He sentenced the survivors to death and hanged them on a gallows alongside the castle and buried their remains in a barrow near to Doolin called Cnocán an Crochaire.

Gus O'Connor's Pub today
Image: Joseph Mischyshyn via CC BY-SA 2.0
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. 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, that was originally known as Shannons, and 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'.


Fisher Street in a hollow among the sand-hills fronted by the Aille River
Image: Postdlf via CC ASA 3.0


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.


Branaunmore Rock just off O'Brien's Tower as seen from a Doolin tour boat
Image: CCO


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.


A traditional music session in Doolin
Image: Doolin Tourism
Situated on the edge of the Burren, with the Cliffs of Moher a stone's throw away, 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. You are likely to come across a music session in one of Doolin’s three pubs, O'Connors, McDermotts and McGanns, at any time of year and traditional Irish Music workshops are regularly held here. 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.

The Burren
Image: Tourism Ireland


From a leisure boating perspective, Doolin looks unapealing on a chart at first glance, and its rocky bottom offers very 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.

Cliff edge walk
Image: Tourism Ireland


For boats with walkers, it presents the ideal drop off point to explore this wonderful part of the country. An hour's spectacular walk along the well-marked coastal walkway leads out to the Cliffs of Moher 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. 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:
Michael Harpur & Burke Corbett.


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


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


Surficial karstic in the bay area
Image: eOceanic thanks Daniel Stockman via CC BY SA 2.0


Surficial karstic features of the exposed limestone pavement in the harbour area
Image: eOceanic thanks Joseph Mischyshyn via CC BY-SA 2.0


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




A taste of Doolin


About Doolin Pier (Ballaghaline Quay)

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 more likley linn meaning pool; literally ‘black pool’.


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


Locals put the location of the name's black pool on the site of what is today O’Connor’s Farmhouse B&B and Campsite. This, in turn, is located close to the ruins of Doolin House, the residence of the McNamara family which was burned by British forces in retaliation for the shooting of the High Sheriff of Clare, H. Valentine McNamara. His son, Francis MacNamara, was a Republican and the father of Caitlin Thomas, wife of the poet Dylan Thomas. But the area's human history runs much deeper than this.


Doolin as seen over Doonagore Bay with Aran Island's Inis Oirr seen in the
backdrop

Image: Robert Linsdell


There is evidence of human occupation in the Burren that goes back more than six thousand years, and widespread deforestation for pasture-grazing during the Neolithic Era helped create the stark, windswept beauty for which the Burren is renowned. The area surrounding Doolin is 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.


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


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.


The main church in Doolin, 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 overlooking the ocean, the Doolin countryside and the majestic Cliffs of Moher. Built in 1470, it is thought to have taken its name from that vista by the compounding of Irish words Cill Ailleach', meaning 'the church of the cliffs'. After it ceased to be used as a place of worship, it began to be used as a burial ground. The earliest grave dates from 1860, the latest 1985.


Doonnagore Castle
Image: Sean O Riordan


The most prominent building is the perfectly restored Doonagore castle, meaning 'the fort of the rounded hills', that 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, during the retreat of the Spanish Armada from its failed attempt to invade England, 170 survivors of a Spanish shipwreck were caught by the high sheriff of County Clare, Boetius MacClancy who resided in the castle. He sentenced the survivors to death and hanged them on a gallows alongside the castle and buried their remains in a barrow near to Doolin called Cnocán an Crochaire.

Gus O'Connor's Pub today
Image: Joseph Mischyshyn via CC BY-SA 2.0
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. 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, that was originally known as Shannons, and 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'.


Fisher Street in a hollow among the sand-hills fronted by the Aille River
Image: Postdlf via CC ASA 3.0


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.


Branaunmore Rock just off O'Brien's Tower as seen from a Doolin tour boat
Image: CCO


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.


A traditional music session in Doolin
Image: Doolin Tourism
Situated on the edge of the Burren, with the Cliffs of Moher a stone's throw away, 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. You are likely to come across a music session in one of Doolin’s three pubs, O'Connors, McDermotts and McGanns, at any time of year and traditional Irish Music workshops are regularly held here. 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.

The Burren
Image: Tourism Ireland


From a leisure boating perspective, Doolin looks unapealing on a chart at first glance, and its rocky bottom offers very 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.

Cliff edge walk
Image: Tourism Ireland


For boats with walkers, it presents the ideal drop off point to explore this wonderful part of the country. An hour's spectacular walk along the well-marked coastal walkway leads out to the Cliffs of Moher 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. So, if an auspicious weather window opens, Doolin might offer the coastal cruiser a very interesting stop.

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:
Fanore Bay - 4.5 miles NNE
Ballyvaughan Bay - 7 miles NE
Inisheer - 3.3 miles NW
Inishmaan - 5.1 miles NW
Kilronan - 6.9 miles WNW
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Liscannor Bay - 2.9 miles S
Seafield (Quilty) - 7.9 miles SSW
Mutton Island - 8 miles SSW
Doonbeg - 10.6 miles SSW
Kilkee - 13.5 miles SSW

Navigational pictures


These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Doolin Pier (Ballaghaline Quay).




































A taste of Doolin



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