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Dunboy Bay & Traillaun Harbour

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Dunboy Bay is located on Ireland’s southwest coast, within and just off the western entrance to Bearhaven. It provides an anchorage in a secluded area of great beauty.

Dunboy Bay is located on Ireland’s southwest coast, within and just off the western entrance to Bearhaven. It provides an anchorage in a secluded area of great beauty.

Situated within the highly protected area of water that lies between Bear Island and the mainland, the anchorage provides shelter from all weather conditions except for very strong easterlies. Protection may be found from these by moving a short distance northward into Traillaun Harbour, draft permitting. Daylight access is straightforward as Dunboy Bay is situated off the well-marked western entrance to Bearhaven but the bay itself has some rocks that are easily circumvented. At low water all rocks dry, making navigation very easy.

Keyfacts for Dunboy Bay & Traillaun Harbour
Hot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the area

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Note: fish farming activity in the vicinity of this location

Protected sectors

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

3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.

Last modified
May 26th 2023


A good location with attentive navigation required for access.

Hot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the area

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Note: fish farming activity in the vicinity of this location

Position and approaches
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Haven position

51° 38.041' N, 009° 55.469' W

The anchorage is to the north of the ruins of the older and less conspicuous O'Sullivan Bere Castle on Dunboy Point and south round to west of a drying rock.

What is the initial fix?

The following Dunboy Bay initial fix will set up a final approach:
51° 37.871' N, 009° 54.900' W
This position is on the Western Entrance 024° T leading light and beacon on Dinish Island and approximately a ⅓ southeastward of Dunboy Point.

What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Mizen Head to Loop Head Route location.
  • Pass into the south side of Dunboy Bay midway between Colt Rock and Dunboy Point.

  • Look for the mid-harbour Dunboy Rock that dries to 1.5 metres about 200 metres north of Dunboy Point and may have an informal red mooring-like buoy marking it.

  • If the buoy is not present keeping the Colt Rock Beacon, north of east, keeps a vessel south of Dunboy Rock.

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 Dunboy Bay & Traillaun Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Castletownbere (Castletown Bearhaven) - 1.2 nautical miles NE
  2. Mill Cove - 2.5 nautical miles ENE
  3. Lawrence Cove - 3.7 nautical miles E
  4. Lonehort Harbour - 4.7 nautical miles E
  5. Ballycrovane Harbour - 4.8 nautical miles NNW
  6. Ardgroom Harbour - 7.4 nautical miles NNE
  7. Garnish Bay - 7.6 nautical miles W
  8. Ballynatra (Trá Ruaim) Cove - 7.7 nautical miles SE
  9. Adrigole - 8.2 nautical miles ENE
  10. Dursey Sound - 8.4 nautical miles WSW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Castletownbere (Castletown Bearhaven) - 1.2 miles NE
  2. Mill Cove - 2.5 miles ENE
  3. Lawrence Cove - 3.7 miles E
  4. Lonehort Harbour - 4.7 miles E
  5. Ballycrovane Harbour - 4.8 miles NNW
  6. Ardgroom Harbour - 7.4 miles NNE
  7. Garnish Bay - 7.6 miles W
  8. Ballynatra (Trá Ruaim) Cove - 7.7 miles SE
  9. Adrigole - 8.2 miles ENE
  10. Dursey Sound - 8.4 miles WSW
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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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?
Dunboy Bay and Traillaun Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur

Dunboy Bay is the southernmost of three inlets that entered to the west of Bere Island, between Dunboy Point and Kealamullagh Point located a ⅓ of a mile to the northeast. Between these two points, the bay recedes to form Dunboy Bay and Traillaun Harbour close northward. The refurbished modern edifice of Dunboy House, now Dunboy Castle Hotel, with several small turrets and a tower, overlooks the bay from its western end. But apart from that, this is a natural reserve.

The landing beach beneath Dunboy Castle
Image: Michael Harpur

The anchoring area is uncomfortably narrow and surrounded by rocks but it offers secure mud holding. The passing-by fishing boats plying their way to and from Castletown Bearhaven do cast in annoying wakes.

How to get in?
The recess of Dunboy Bay and Traillaun Harbour off the western entrance to

Image: Michael Harpur

Convergance Point Use the directions provided for Castletownbere Click to view haven, also known as Castletown Bearhaven, for approaches to Bearhaven and a passage up the strait of Berehaven. Dunboy Bay lies off the west side and less than 1 mile within the western entrance to Berehaven.

The Colt Rock Marker as seen from above Dunboy Point.
Image: Michael Harpur

Initial fix location From the Dunboy Bay Initial Fix the coast will be seen to terminate in Dunboy Point, which is wooded and about 4 metres high. The ruins of the footing of a castle lay amongst the trees, but it is not conspicuous.

Colt Rock with its previous top mark and the Dunboy Castle Hotel
Image: Burke Corbett

The Colt Rock Marker will be seen north of the entrance to Dunboy Bay. This is an isolated rock that uncovers on the last quarter ebb to dry to 2.1 metres. It lies abreast Dunboy Bay and was originally marked, as photographed here, with a red rider and horse on top, but this marking on Colt Rock has been removed and it is now a standard lighted IALA port beacon.

Colt Rock Perch - Fl(2)R.10s position: 51° 38.068’N 009° 55.087’W

Dunboy Bay opening around Dunboy Point
Image: Michael Harpur

Turn to the west off the main channel and pass into the south side of Dunboy Bay midway between Colt Rock and Dunboy Point, about 800 metres apart, with more than 8 metres LAT. Keep off Dunboy Point which has foul ground running off the shoreline for about 50 metres. Steering towards the shallow creek that leads to Dunboy House Hotel.
Please note

It is possible to cut in from the northeast to the north of Colt Rock steering a course of midway if closer to the Colt Rock Perch. This is to avoid the Little Colt Rocks. These form a small reef off Kealamullagh Point and between it and Colt Rock on the edge of the 5-metre curve. The inner end of this reef dries 0.9 metres and the outer end has a depth of 0.6 metres.

The key rock to identify next is the mid-harbour Dunboy Rock that dries to 1.5 metres and is situated about 200 metres north of Dunboy Point.

Dunboy Rock – reported red buoy position: 51° 38.075’N 009° 55.430’W

Dunboy Rock covered and unmarked
Image: Michael Harpur

Dunboy Rock had a perch that has been replaced by an informal red mooring-like buoy that marks it today. At low water, Dunboy Rock is clearly visible often with its marker buoy high and dry upon it. If the buoy is not present keeping the Colt Rock Beacon, north of east, keeps a vessel south of Dunboy Rock or track in on a line from the Colt Rock beacon to the old pier beneath Dunboy House. Another safe transit can be made by aligning a solitary ash tree situated on the edge of the grass above the seawall before Dunboy House. Keeping the central doorway of Dunboy House in clear view to the left of the ash tree passes clear south of Dunboy Rock.
Please note

Caution. At high water, the Dunboy Rock marker buoy looks like a mooring buoy and is easily mistaken for a safe berthing position.


Yacht anchored in Dunboy Bay
Image: Graham Rabbits

Haven location Anchor just to the west of the midpoint between Dunboy Rock and the mainland, beneath the ruins of the older and inconspicuous O'Sullivan Castle upon Dunboy Point. The area has mud throughout with very good holding. Land on the small beach that is situated under the castle ruins on Dunboy Point. The pier beneath Dunboy House is unusable.

It is also possible to move further up into Traillaun Harbour. Vessels proceeding into Traillaun Harbour should note the position of a second rock, about 100 metres directly north of Dunboy Rock, that also dries to 1 metre. It is in line and almost central between Dunboy Rock and a reef that extends westward from Kealamullagh Point that has a permanently dry 1.5 metres high point near its outer end.

Why visit here?
The name Dunboy, in Irish 'Dún Baoi', means 'Dún' 'fort' of the 'baoi' the ancient Irish word for 'descent or setting', as of the sun. The bay's name was taken from the castle or more appropriately, tower house, that once stood upon Dunboy Point overlooking the western entrance to Berehaven and the bay itself.

The commanding vista Dunboy Point offered the castle
Image: Michael Harpur

Today only the ground floor survives of the fort but the site remains truly a touchstone in the history of the nation. For the name 'fort of the decent or sunset' could not be more appropriate as it turned out. The castle marked the final stand of Gaelic Ireland against the English Forces of Elizabeth. Its final assault and fall led to the Flight of the Earls, the departure and permanent exile of the old Gaelic order, a major watershed event in Irish history.

O'Sullivan Bere
Image: Public Domain
Dunboy Castle was the stronghold and principal residence of the Gaelic clan leader and 'Chief of Dunboy' O'Sullivan Bere. The O'Sullivans were sub-lords to the McCarthy's and they took on the name Bere after the ancient name Beara of the peninsula which they commanded between two of their families. Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare held a lordship that encompassed the areas of Castletownbere and Bere Island during the 16th-Century. Dunboy was their principal seat specifically constructed to overlook and mark the clan's control of the harbour and the seas in this area.

Patrolling the anchorages and landing places, and guarding the fishing grounds they could collect sizeable taxes from Irish and Continental fishing boats as well as any vessels sheltering in the haven. Berehaven was also a centre of a brisque import and export trade to and from the Continent during this period. Wines and such luxuries as leather from Spain, and other exotic items arrived by sea and were exchanged for wool, fish and hides. The O'Sullivans taxed all these trades and levied taxes on every ship or boat coming into the harbour with goods. Furthermore, and like other Gaelic maritime lords of the time, they also partook in the occasional opportunistic act of piracy on passing ships.

The ground floor of what was once Dunboy Castle
Image: Michael Harpur

But it went wrong when Donal Cam O'Sullivan Bere joined the confederation of Gaelic leaders who, with the help of the Spanish, rebelled against the Crown. King Philip III of Spain, had sent an invasion force to Kinsale under the command of Don Juan del Águila. The 1601 defeat of the Spanish forces and Gaelic Clans at Kinsale, the climax of the Nine Years' War and ultimate battle in England's conquest of Gaelic Ireland, put pay t the rising. Águila surrendered to the Queen's Lord Deputy, Lord Mountjoy, and the Spanish and northern chiefs departed. This left the southern part of Ireland still in rebellion and Donal Cam O'Sullivan Bere the last of the Gaelic chieftains still holding out.

Dunboy Castle fireplace
Image: Michael Harpur

As English troops swept through West Cork to quell any further opposition O'Sullivan set about making preparations for the inevitable violence. He moved a large group of his clan's civilians out of harm's way and secured them in one of the clan's lesser offshore strongholds on Dursey Island, about 20 km away. These numbered, approximately, 300 women and children and some old men with which he stationed a minimum guard of about 40 Irish soldiers and mercenaries to defend the fort. Then, with the assistance of Spanish and Italian troops, he directed his followers to hastily set about making defensive transformations to Dunboy Castle.

Sir George Carew, President of Munster
Image: Public Domain
By this stage, it was recognized that the traditional tower house was completely ineffective against modern artillery warfare. The upper floors of the tower house were dismantled and stone walls with earthen embankments were thrown up behind which cannon could be mounted. The original rectangular shape was altered as best it could to a star shape with sharply projecting corners that could better withstand artillery attack. Whist this work was been undertaken, O'Sullivan went north to Ulster to consult with O'Neill the leader of the rising in a bid to gain support. But events moved quicker than he expected and by June, while O'Sullivan was on his way south from Ulster, an English force of 5,000 men under the command of Sir George Carew, President of Munster, was already tightening its grip on West Cork. Dónal Cam is believed to have arrived at Ardea Castle, overlooking the Kenmare River, with most of his army at this time awaiting an army from Spain to commence a counteroffensive.

On June 1st and 2nd of 1602, the English forces had landed in Lonehort Harbour and were preparing to advance the final destruction of O'Sullivan's castle. Carew’s army crossed to the mainland to attack the fort on June 6. Even with its small garrison of 143 men, Dunboy Castle was thought to be impregnable. As such Carew made extensive preparations to first siege the castle and then put guns in place to bombard the castle to rubble. Defensive ditches were dug and earthen banks built up all around the site. Rafters were taken from a nearby church to build platforms for the cannon. Cannon was also brought in by boat and set up and ships made ready to attack from seaward.

Dursey Island today
Image: Tourism Ireland

While the preparatory work was being undertaken for the assault on Dunboy Castle, Carew learned that O'Sullivan's had placed his civilians would be out of harm's way on Dursey. He along with a detachment of several hundred men with some cannons decided to attack the small stronghold. According to varying accounts, after some initial skirmishes, the helplessly trapped clan members accepted an offer to surrender when Carew promised that he would spare their lives. But afterwards, Carew then changed his mind, reneged on the terms of surrender and killed the entire group. Some of the group were bound and thrown from nearby cliffs onto the rocks below to spare effort and gun powder.

Depiction of 'The Seidge of Dunboy'
Image: Public Domain

After 11 days of preparation, the assault on Dunboy Castle finally commenced at 5 a.m. on June 16 with a relentless artillery bombardment that rained down on the castle from land and sea. By the late afternoon of the same day, the walls were smashed and after some desperate hand-to-hand fighting amid the remaining rubble, the defenders were finally overcome. Only 58 of their original number survived the desperate last stand against the English forces. These survivors were then taken to a nearby market square and executed.

Dunboy's 1641 star shaped mounds just visible from the air
Image: Michael Harpur

After the capture of Dunboy, the remaining castles in Carbery quickly surrendered to the English forces. A number of the MacCarthys and O'Driscolls who had been involved emigrated to Spain and France but not O'Sullivan Bere. On 31 December 1602, O'Sullivan Bere, who was not present during the siege, abandoned Beara and began an epic survival march of the remaining 1,000 of his clan northwards. He fought a long rearguard action across Ireland, during which the much larger English force and their Irish allies fought him all the way. The march is one of the most poignant in Irish history and was marked by enormous suffering as the fleeing and starving O'Sullivans sought food from an already decimated Irish countryside in winter, often resulting in hostility.

Cut stone window sill from 1641
Image: Michael Harpur

On their arrival at the O'Rourke's castle in Leitrim on the 4 January 1603, only 35 of the original 1,000 remained. Many had died in battles or from exposure and hunger, and others had settled along the route. In Leitrim, O'Sullivan sought to join with other northern chiefs to fight the English and organised a force to this end. But resistance ended when Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone, signed the Treaty of Mellifont. O'Sullivan, like other members of the Gaelic nobility of Ireland who fled, sought exile, making his escape to Spain by ship. He was subsequently murdered returning from Mass. This is now waymarked and coined the O’Sullivan Way or Beara-Breifne Way, and is Ireland’s longest walking and cycling trail.

Dunboy Castle Hotel westward of Dunboy Castle
Image: Michael Harpur

Today the best place to land and visit the castle is at the small beach beneath O'Sullivan Bere’s castle. Little survives of Dunboy tower house today with the exception of elements of the ground floor. Forty years after its fall another star-shaped fort was built here that enclosed the 1602 fortifications. This time it was the English forces fighting the 1641 rebellion and it was constructed along with other fortifications, such as James Fort and Charles Fort at Kinsale, to defend against the possibility of another Spanish intervention. The mounds are difficult to see but evident from an altitude. These grassy mounds and flats overlooking the bay and entrance make for an ideal place to have a picnic today.

Dunboy Castle Hotel that was formerly the Victorian Gothic Puxley Manor
Image: Garry Dickinson via CC BY-SA 2.0

Dunboy Bay’s principal building is the recently restored and now the Dunboy Castle Hotel that was formerly the Victorian Gothic Puxley Manor. The vast 19th-Century house was built in a mixture of styles by the Puxley family, who made their fortunes from copper mines, but the castle was burned out by the IRA in 1920 and the family departed. The roofless shell of the castle was however well preserved and the building was completely restored in 2009 as a botched development project during Ireland’s Celtic Tiger period. It is presently unoccupied. The surrounding woods are open to the public with picnic areas and walks.

Dunboy Bay as seen from the shore of Traillaun Harbour
Image: Olivier Riché via CC BY-SA 2.0

From a boating point of view, Dunboy Bay and Traillaun Harbours is a wonderful anchorage to take shelter and immerse oneself in the surrounding history and beautiful scenery. It is worth visiting simply for the beauty of the location and the peace and quiet it offers. The surrounding mature woodland is exceptionally rare this far west.

What facilities are available?
There are no facilities at this location except for a beach to land a dinghy on that has road access.

Any security concerns?
Never an incident known to have occurred at this location; you will be most likely to be here on your own.

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

Overviews of the bay area

Dunboy Castle before it was restored

A photograph is worth a thousand words. We are always looking for bright sunny photographs that show this haven and its identifiable features at its best. If you have some images that we could use please upload them here. All we need to know is how you would like to be credited for your work and a brief description of the image if it is not readily apparent. If you would like us to add a hyperlink from the image that goes back to your site please include the desired link and we will be delighted to that for you.

Add your review or comment:

Pat Fleming wrote this review on Feb 2nd 2022:

It settled weather the anchorage in Dunboy is so peaceful that I am often afraid to turn on the radio in case I brake the spell.
There is now a lovely walk along the shore as well as the usual visit to the castle. Unfortunally Puxley Manor is still fenced off.

Average Rating: Unrated

Rodolphe Thimonier wrote this review on May 20th 2023:

Uncomfortably narrow and surrounded by rocks. The passing-by fishing boats can cast annoying wakes, and I wouldn't consider it sheltered from the S-SW. I came there with a 3 Beaufort SW breeze that was funneled S in the channel, just like the swell that came with it.
Besides, it should be noted that the buoyed channel between Lawrence Cove and Casteltownbere is a mine field of lobster pots through which I wouldn't sail by night.

Average Rating: ***

Michael Harpur wrote this review on May 26th 2023:

Thank you Rodolphe,
I updated this with most of your excellent observations, but with the 3 Beaufort SW breeze making it uncomfortable. I need to ask whether you experienced this tucked in under Dunboy Point.

Average Rating: Unrated

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