Although somewhat open to the south Schull Harbour gains a large degree of southerly protection from Long Island and in most reasonable conditions offers good shelter. However it can be uncomfortable if a strong swell is running into the bay, and with a southerly or southeasterly gale, it is untenable. On the other hand, it is more comfortable than Crookhaven in easterly and westerly winds. Supported by markers and night lights the open harbour has straightforward access on any state of the tide night or day.
Keyfacts for Schull Harbour (Skull)
SummaryA good location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position51° 31.484' N, 009° 32.520' W
Shull harbour pierhead.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
Not what you need?
- Colla Harbour - 0.8 miles SSW
- Long Island - 1 miles SSW
- Coney Island - 1 miles SW
- Castle Island (North Side) - 1.1 miles ESE
- Trawnwaud (Castle Island Sound) - 1.1 miles E
- Castle Island (South Side) - 1.2 miles ESE
- Croagh Bay (Long Island Sound) - 1.3 miles SW
- Horse Island - 1.6 miles E
- Rossbrin Cove - 1.7 miles E
- White Strand - 2 miles SE
How to get in?
Image: Tom Vaughan
Schull Harbour lies at the foot of the areas highest ground Mount Gabriel made further conspicuous by radar domes near the summit. This makes its location readily identifiable throughout the bay area. The harbour provides an excellent anchorage for leisure craft in a scenic setting.
Vessels intending to use Long Island Channel, on the north side of the island, between Long Island and the mainland, should use the approaches described for the the Long Island entry or the area overview provided in the above coastal descriptions.
Vessels approaching from the southwest that intend to enter Schull by the eastern channel, between Long Island and Castle Island, should range 500 metres out along the southern side of Long Island. The island is two miles long and about 500 yards wide. It rises near the middle to a modest 29 metres from where it declines to the low shelving point at its northeastern end. This is called Copper Point where a light is shown from a white 14 metre high round tower. The outer shores of Long Island are generally clear to the distance of 90 metres, except near the eastern end, within 0.8 miles of Copper Point, where the always visible Carrigeenwaun Rocks extend off 200 metres.
Once the initial fix is approached by the Amelia Rock starboard hand light-buoy that marks the rocks to the west of Castle Island, or at the northeast end of Long Island, it is safe to haul up towards the channel between Long and Castle Islands.
Vessels approaching from the south will find the Mount Gabriel Radar Domes in alignment with Copper Point on a bearing of 355° T clears Calf Island West.
For other approaches through the reefs and islands of Long Island Bay, careful use of charts and pilots is advised. Many of the bay’s dangers make their presence known by breakers, especially at low water, and in good weather the pilotage is interesting.
The Schull Initial fix is set 300 metres to the west of Amelia Rock marker and on the Schull Harbour leading lights.
Amelia Rock - G Lt buoy Fl. G. 3s position: 51° 29.979’N 009° 31.461’W
The transits, with leading lights Oc 5s, are at the head of Schull Harbour. They consist of a 5 and 8 metre high white masts positioned 91 metres apart but are difficult to distinguish by day.
Front Leading light - Oc 5s 5m 11M; 51°31.693’N, 009° 32.410’W
Once located proceed in on 346° T for the entrance a third to the east of Long Island, between it and the Castle Island, called Castle Island Grounds. Long Island’s Copper Point will be conspicuous with a light showing from a white 14 metre high round tower.
Copper Point - Lighthouse Q(3)10s 16m 8M position 51° 30.250’N 009° 32.063’W
At the convergence point of Long Island and Castle Island Channels, some protection is provided to the entrance to Schull Harbour. The harbour is entered between Coosheen Point and Skull Point, about half a mile apart, that is divided in half by Bull Rock.
The Bull Rock covers at half-tide, when its position is pointed out by a port hand light beacon. The rock runs off to the north by northeast for about 100 metres.
Bull Rock – iron beacon Fl (2) R 6s position: 51° 30.758’N 009° 32.205’W
Bull Rock may be passed on either side. The preferred approach is the 200 metres wide channel on the eastern side, between Bull Rock and the rocky ledges that extend nearly 150 to 200 metres from Coosheen Point. A berth of at least 200 metres off the Coosheen Point side is recommended. Those electing to enter on the west side of Bull Rock should make note of Baker Rock that is situated 300 metres north of Schull Point. Baker Rock is awash at low water but after that the western shore of the harbour is clear.
Once within the harbour, depths decline from 10 metres at the entrance to 3 metres at the head of the harbour. The village of Schull is situated on the western side near the head of the harbour. A conspicuous disused chimney stands on a hill on the east side of the harbour. A small pier will be seen off the village at the northwest corner of the bay, usually lit by street lights all night, with a depth of 1.5 metres alongside the seaward end.
Visiting boats may anchor in 3 metres 200 metres southeast of the pier. Anchoring vessels should not impede the approach channel south-southeast of the pier. Good holding can be found in sand and mud but it can be subject to kelp. As such it is advisable that the anchor should be well dug in with the engine. All anchored and moored vessels should carry a light throughout the night as the harbour is busy with plenty of vessels coming and going.
There are 12 visitor moorings available in the northeast corner of the harbour and below the modern holiday village. Berthing fees should be paid to Schull Watersports at the foot of the pier.
Schull moorings – position: 51° 31.500’N 009° 32.300’W.
The moorings are rated to 15 tons and are large, coloured bright yellow and labelled VISITOR.
Land at the dinghy pontoon on the pier, which can get congested during the season, or at the sailing club slipway. An alternative is a new slip, belonging to the active Fastnet Marine Education Centre, 600 metres south of the pier. A footpath leads along the shore to the town from here.
The pier is usually occupied by the harbours busy fishing fleet. On occasions, it may be possible to come alongside for short periods. The head and north side of the pier is used by fishing boats whilst the south side is utilised by the Clear Island tourist boat. If an opportunity arises come alongside at the north of the fishing boat side.
Why visit here?Schull, pronounced Skull, derives its name from the Irish Scoil Mhuire which is believed to have originated from a medieval monastic school of which no trace remains today.
The area’s history dates back to Neolithic times when it was a centre for bronze and copper mining. The metals were extracted from the southeast slopes of Mount Gabriel by using intense heat to discharge the ore which was then hammered into shape with stone mauls. Prehistoric narrow horizontal shafts can be found today hidden amongst the bracken to the west of the Barnacleeve Gap road. Copper mining continued into the 19th-century on the east side of the harbour, as well as on Horse Island, and to the northeast of Rossbrin. The ore was then exported to Swansea.
Image: Ludovic Péron
Today Schull it is a remote picturesque fishing town that is regarded as one of West Cork's most popular tourist destinations. As such it comes to life during the summer months when a large number of tourists and yachtsmen visit. This is catered for by a wealth of activities to enjoy including a variety of water sports, pony trekking, walking in the wonderful countryside, with plenty of wildlife flora and fauna and archaeology to explore. There are many pubs and bars that provide a variety of music, and several fine restaurants for that all important good meal. The area is particularly notable for a number of local cheese making farms that make for an interesting visit plus Schull has Ireland’s only Planetarium with Star Shows throughout the summer.
Schull is truly a lovely spot with much to offer the visiting yachtsmen. The harbour provides an excellent anchorage in a scenic setting and it is free from danger except for a single well-marked rock at the entrance. It should be considered one of the 'must visits' on the southwest corner of Ireland.
What facilities are available?Facilities include water from a tap at the foot of the pier, chandlery, laundry and ice. Rubbish may be disposed of at the sailing centre. Showers are available at one of the hotels by arrangement with the Harbour Master who will also help with diesel and petrol requirements - via cans from five miles distant Ballydehob. Gas can be obtained from the town, and Wi-Fi coverage is available in the harbour area. There is a slip that dries at LWS and a place to land for tenders sail repairs. A boatyard with storage, slips, and boat launching facilities, caters for repairs and maintenance work. There is also a very active Sailing Club in the harbour. Most of the shoreside resources can be discovered on Schull's website.
Schull village, situated on the west side near the head of the harbour, offers visiting yachtsmen many facilities, with a variety of shops. These include two small supermarkets, a launderette, grocers, butchers, bakers, delicatessen/coffee shops, internet cafe, pharmacy and an excellent book shop plus local craft shops. There is also a Bank, ATM machine and a Post Office. There is a very large number of eating and drinking establishments in Schull with a wide range of price and food options. Taxi services are available in the area, and the route 237 bus service calls three times a day serving Cork-Clonakilty-Skibbereen-Schull’ (a distance of approximately 100km). Throughout the summer daily ferry trips leave the harbour pier taking visitors on trips to Sherkin Island, Cape Clear, Fastnet Rock and several smaller islands in the bay.
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred in Schull Harbour.
With thanks to:Burke Corbett, Gusserane, New Ross, Co. Wexford. Photography with thanks to Mike Searle, Richard Webb, Francesco Crippa, Martin Southwood, Burke Corbett, Andrew Wood, Dr Bryan Lynch and Emma Cooney.
Aerial overview of Schull Harbour
The following video presents an overview of the Schull area and sailing club.
The following video presents views of West Cork including Schull Harbour.
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