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Rabbit Island

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Overview





Rabbit Island is located in the northeastern end of Clew Bay, a natural deep ocean bay on the west coast of Ireland that is remarkable for the number of small islets that occupy its eastern portion. The island is immediately off of the approach channel to the small town of Newport. It offers a deepwater pool in which a boat can lie afloat a few miles away from the town in a secluded setting.

Though nested in the archipelago of islands, the anchorage provides only tolerable protection as it is open to the west and has little in the way of air cover from other directions. Attentive daylight navigation and moderate conditions are required to follow a sequence of lighted marks that lead through the intricate channel towards Newport. The channel shallows after halfway and the pool to the south of the island has a natural cill so that it may only be entered during the top half of the tide.



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Keyfacts for Rabbit Island
Facilities
None listed


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Entered over a sill at high waterLittle air protection

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
5 metres (16.4 feet).

Approaches
2 stars: Careful navigation; good visibility and conditions with dangers that require careful navigation.
Shelter
3 stars: Tolerable; in suitable conditions a vessel may be left unwatched and an overnight stay.



Last modified
December 21st 2018

Summary* Restrictions apply

A tolerable location with careful navigation required for access.

Facilities
None listed


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Entered over a sill at high waterLittle air protection



Position and approaches
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Haven position

53° 52.764' N, 009° 35.450' W

Middle of pool south of westerly exit from Newport.

What is the initial fix?

The following Newport Channel Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
53° 51.706' N, 009° 41.229' W
Start of the navigable channel to Newport through the drumlins to the northwest of Inishoo Island. The Inishoo starboard beacon, Fl(2) G 6s is visible from here.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in western Ireland’s coastal overview for Slyne Head to Erris Head Route location

  • Plan an approach, draft dependant, on the top half of the tide. Although markers are lit, daylight is required as the channels are intricate and the numerous drumlins can become confusing.

  • Pick up the navigable channel to Newport to the north of Inishoo Island.

  • Follow markers indicating the channel to Newport up from Clew Bay.

  • Keep well off the drumlins which are fringed by boulder shoals.


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 Rabbit Island for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Rosmoney (Collan More Harbour) - 2 miles SSW
  2. Westport - 3 miles SSE
  3. Clare Island - 8.4 miles WSW
  4. Killary Harbour - 10.7 miles SSW
  5. Little Killary Bay (Salrock) - 11.5 miles SSW
  6. Keel Bay - 11.6 miles WNW
  7. Inishturk - 12.8 miles WSW
  8. Blacksod Bay - 13.1 miles NW
  9. Keem Bay - 13.3 miles WNW
  10. Ballynakill Harbour - 14.3 miles SW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Rosmoney (Collan More Harbour) - 2 miles SSW
  2. Westport - 3 miles SSE
  3. Clare Island - 8.4 miles WSW
  4. Killary Harbour - 10.7 miles SSW
  5. Little Killary Bay (Salrock) - 11.5 miles SSW
  6. Keel Bay - 11.6 miles WNW
  7. Inishturk - 12.8 miles WSW
  8. Blacksod Bay - 13.1 miles NW
  9. Keem Bay - 13.3 miles WNW
  10. Ballynakill Harbour - 14.3 miles SW
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?
Clew Bay is a spacious inlet, with moderate depths of water and ease of access. It is remarkable for the number of small islets that occupy its eastern portion of the bay, many of which provide well-sheltered anchorages for leisure vessels. The northeast section of the bay, however, is generally shallow and the channel dries ¾ of a mile below the small town of Newport, an angling resort for sea fishing in Clew Bay. The area only has a handful of anchorages in deepwater pools that can only be accessed during the top half of the tide.

The Rabbit Island anchorage is one of these opportunities. Located just off the channel up to Newport it offers a deep pool where a vessel may conveniently lie afloat and visit Newport at high water or by tender. Though it offers deepwater, a sill that dries to 0.2 metres runs across the entrance to the haven. Depending on draft this can only be crossed at half or full tide.


How to get in?
Inishoo as seen from the north with its distinctive high cliff
Image: Graham Rabbits


Convergance Point Offshore details are available in western Ireland’s coastal overview for Slyne Head to Erris Head Route location. The approach to the bay is well marked by Clare Island lying in the middle of the entrance, with Achill Island on its north side and the 756 metres high Croagh Patrick Mountain in the distance on the south shore. Keeping the northern sides of the islands of Inishoo and Inishgowla, immediately behind in line whilst approaching through the bay, clears all dangers.

The northeast end of Clew Bay is then entered to the north of Inishoo Island which marks the commencement of a dog-legged channel that leads towards Newport. The channel is intricate and must be followed between numerous drumlins which can be confusing, so it should only be attempted in daylight whilst giving the islands a wide berth as they tend to be fringed by boulder shoals.

Inishoo beacon
Image: Graham Rabbits
Initial fix location The initial fix is the start of the navigable channel to Newport through the drumlins to the northwest of Inishoo Island. Inishoo can be positively identified by its relatively high cliff and the Inishoo starboard beacon, Fl(2) G 6s is visible from here.

The fairway then passes between Inishgowla, ½ a mile east, and rocky ledges extending southward from Illanmaw, a little over ½ a mile northward.

It then turns northwest and then northward around Illanmaw Island marked by the 'Illanmaw' port buoy, Fl (2) R 5s, passing between a spit extending east from Illanmaw and Mauherillan, a 9 metres high rock, towards the 'Taash' starboard buoy, QG, abeam of the small Taash islet.

The track then bends east around the 'Taash' starboard buoy, passing between the Taash Islet and Freaghillan East located 400 metres farther north.

Once clear of Freaghillan East it then turns northeast to pass between Freaghillanluggagh and the starboard Illanascraw beacon, Fl G. 4s. Caution is required here as a ridge of 1.7 metres on which there is a drying rock is encountered close east of Freaghillanluggagh. The fairway lies between the boulder shoal, extending from Freaghillanluggagh, and the rock - as best seen on the chart.

A ⅓ a mile above this, depths decrease to less than 0.5 metres, and the channel arcs around to the Rosmore Point port buoy, Fl R 5s, and onward to the No. 7 starboard Rabbit Island buoy, Fl G 5s, marking the boulder bank extending northward from Rabbit Island.

The pool is then entered south by southwest of the port Rosmore South buoy, No 6. Fl(2) R10s, over a spit between the island and islet and the Rosnambraher peninsula extending from the east. This creates a natural cill that dries to 0.2 metres.
Please note

There appears to be another entrance from the west but this was not explored.



Haven location Anchor in the pool to the southeast of the island with the eastern extremity of the Rabbit Island baring north. Depths of up to 5.6 metres will be found with excellent mud holding.

Land by tender at Newport pontoon about 1½ miles upriver at high water.


Why visit here?
Rabbit Island provides an afloat anchorage close to the provincial town of Newport, known for many years as Ballyvaughan and Newport-Pratt.

The Black Oak River seen through the Seven Arches Bridge
Image: Tourism Ireland


The Medlycott family established the town in the early years of the 18th-century. Their lessee, or land agent, a Captain Pratt, took an interest in the area because of its potential for shipping. Though tidal, the quay can provide up to 3.5 metres of water which was ample for 18th-century trading ships of up to 500 tonnes. With transport in hand, Pratt introduced linen manufacturing to the town under the management of a colony of linen weavers who were Ulster Quakers that he brought in.

The Cathach
Image: Public Domain
Sustained by the then buoyant linen industry the town prospered over the next forty years or so. Houses were built, churches flourished, and trade was brisk. The Society of Friends were among the first inhabitants, although no trace of them remains today. Catholics, Protestants, Presbyterians and Methodists all had churches in the town.

In the middle of the 18th-century, the Land Agent James Moore became the agent for the town and its hinterland on behalf of the Medlycott Estate. He was a successful businessman who encouraged building and trade. Moore designed the quay at Newport in a formal layout. At the end of the 18th-century, the Medlycott Estate itself was taken over by the O'Donel family who built Newport House above the harbour. They were clearly literate and collectors, as the great manuscript The Battler, better know as The Cathach, was rediscovered in the house at the start of 19th-century. The Cathach a late 6th-century or early 7th-century Irish Psalter, is the oldest surviving Irish manuscript and is attributed to Colum Cille.

Newport continued to develop in the early part of the 19th-century when the town and the surrounding district's population increased to over 12,000 people. But these were its seminal years after which it fell into terminal decline as it became increasingly superseded as a port by the town of Westport seven miles to the south. Then came the famine that decimated the area leaving is community shattered by emigration or starvation.

Grace Kelly in 1956
Image: Public Domain
One of the notable aftermath survivors of the cataclysm was John Kelly from the tiny townland of Drimurla situated on the outskirts of the town about two miles inland. Besides a little body of water called Drumgoney Lough, that is better known as the Leg O'Mutton, are a pile of rocks that are the scattered remains of a small stone cottage where he was born into poverty in 1857. At the age of 30, in 1887, he left Ireland for Philadelphia where he founded one of that city’s leading construction companies and made his family’s fortune. He was to be the great-grandfather of the world renown actress Grace Kelly, later Princess Grace of Monaco.

Grace’s path through life eventually brought her back as royalty to her ancestral home in 1961 accompanied by her husband, Prince Rainier Grimaldi III of Monaco. She stayed at Newport House which had become a hotel by then and had tea with the then owner of the small house, Mrs Ellen Mulchrone. In 1973 the Princess returned to buy the property along with the adjoining land for £7,500 Irish pounds. She came back many times to mingle with shoppers and have her hair done in the town. During her last visit in 1979, she revealed plans to turn her cottage into a holiday home. But this sadly was never to happen as she died in a car crash three years later in 1982, aged 53.

Today, a park in her name lies behind these humble cottage ruins which are nothing to see or photograph now, but there is still a certain mystique about that and the surrounding area. The Georgian gem of Newport House, where she stayed, remains a hotel and the ideal location to refuel on home-smoked salmon and seasonal local foods.

Rockfleet Castle most famously associated with Gráinne Ní Mháille
Image: Public Domain
Thanks to the upturn of the nation’s economic fortunes there is a new life now in Newport, but the town still holds its charming architectural integrity. Some of the 18th-century houses remain on Medlycott Street and their exposed stone facades testify to their great age. The most impressive piece of architecture is the great railway aqueduct spanning the Black Oak River with seven high stone arches. It was built when the Westport Railway Line was extended to Achill Sound and remains an imposing testament to Victorian engineering. There are walking paths along its banks which are highly enjoyable.

The nearby mid-16th-century Rockfleet Castle, or Carrickahowley Castle, tower house most famously associated with Gráinne Ní Mháille. Commonly known as Gráinne Mhaol anglicised as Granuaile, the 'pirate queen' and chieftain of the Clan O’Malley is also worth a visit. The annual Gráinne Uaile Festival takes place on the August Bank Holiday weekend in Newport and includes live music on the streets, craft displays, a barbecue on the street, a raft race, a fancy dress competition and more. Throughout July and August, there is a free bus service from Newport to Ballycroy National Park for nature trails, habitat exhibitions and diverse flora and fauna on this blanket bog landscape, laced between the towering beauty of the Nephin Beg mountains.

Rabbit Island places this all within a quick dinghy ride at the top half of the tide from an anchorage where a vessel may lay afloat at all stages of the tide. A vessel that can take to the bottom can proceed to Newport Quay alongside which is a depth of 3.7 metres at MHWS. Alternatively, at Rabbit Island this can all be kept at arm's length, and the restful and secluded and scenic anchorage with only one house in sight can be enjoyed for what it is, delightfully secluded.


What facilities are available?
Newport has shops, pubs and a filling station. Water is available from the pontoon. Bus Éireann route 440, via Westport and Ireland West Airport at Knock, operates once a day in each direction. On Sundays route 440 does not operate however Expressway route 52 provides an evening journey, each way, to/from Westport and Galway. The nearest rail services may be accessed at Westport railway station approximately 14 km distant. There are several trains a day from Westport railway station to Heuston railway station via Athlone.


With thanks to:
Peter Craven


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Pontoon at Newport
Image: eOceanic thanks PETER CRAVEN


Newport
Image: eOceanic thanks PETER CRAVEN

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