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. However, protection may be found from these by moving up 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
SummaryA good location with attentive navigation required for access.
Position and approaches
Haven position51° 38.024' N, 009° 55.444' W
The anchorage is to the north of the ruins of the older and less conspicuous O'Sullivan Bere Castle on Dunboy Point.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
Not what you need?
- Castletownbere (Castletown Bearhaven) - 0.6 miles NE
- Mill Cove - 1.5 miles ENE
- Lawrence Cove - 2.3 miles E
- Lonehort Harbour - 2.9 miles E
- Ballycrovane Harbour - 3 miles NNW
- Ardgroom Harbour - 4.6 miles NNE
- Garnish Bay - 4.7 miles W
- Ballynatra - 4.8 miles SE
- Adrigole - 5.1 miles ENE
- Dooneen Pier - 5.2 miles ESE
How to get in?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. It is readily identified by the refurbished Dunboy House, now Dunboy Castle Hotel, overlooking the anchorage from the head of the bay.
Use the directions provided for Castletownbere , also known as Castletown Bearhaven, for approaches to and from Bearhaven.
Colt Rock Perch - (unlighted) position: 51° 38.068’N 009° 55.087’W
Turn to the west off the main channel and pass into the south side of Dunboy Bay which is free of obstruction, keeping Colt Rock Perch, foul all round for 50 metres, to starboard whilst steering towards the shallow creek that leads to Dunboy House Hotel. The best approach is midway between Colt Rock and Dunboy Point where the latter has foul ground running off the shoreline for about 50 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Dunboy Rock had a perch that has been replaced by an informal red mooring-like buoy that marks it today. If the buoy is not present a safe transit can be made by using a transit provided by 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.
Likewise keeping Colt Rock north of east keeps a vessel south of Dunboy Rock. At low water, Dunboy Rock is clearly visible often with its marker buoy high and dry upon it.
Anchor just to the west of the midpoint between Dunboy Rock and the mainland, beneath the ruins of the older and less conspicuous O'Sullivan Castle on 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.
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 at its outer end.
Why visit here?Dunboy and Traillaun Harbours are worth visiting simply for the beauty of the location and the peace and quiet they offer. It is also a touchstone site in the history of the nation.
The haven’s historical roots are immediately evident upon entry in the form of the impressive Dunboy Castle, recently restored and now the Dunboy Castle Hotel. Originally a vast 19th-century house it 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. However, the roofless shell of the castle was well preserved and the building was completely restored in 2009. The surrounding woods are open to the public with picnic areas and walks.
O'Sullivan was part of a confederation of Gaelic leaders who, with the support of Spanish aid, rebelled against Elizabeth I of England. He was aided by King Philip III of Spain, who sent an invasion force to Kinsale under the command of Don Juan del Águila. Following the 1601 defeat of the Gaelic Clans at Kinsale, Águila surrendered to the Queen's Lord Deputy, Lord Mountjoy, and the 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. O'Sullivan resolved to continue the fight and rallied his forces at Dunboy.
On June 1st and 2nd 1602 the English forces under Sir George Carew, Lord President of Munster, landed in Lonehort Harbour 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. After a siege of 11 days, following a fierce artillery bombardment, the walls were smashed and after some desperate hand-to-hand fighting amid the rubble, the defenders were finally overcome. The 58 survivors of the siege were executed in the nearby market square. The Siege of Dunboy ultimately led to the breaking of the power of the O'Sullivan Bere family, finally putting an end to a Gaelic way of life.
On 31 December 1602, O'Sullivan Beare, who was not present during the siege, abandoned Beara and began the epic march of survival northwards. He fought a long rear-guard 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. On their arrival at the O'Rourke's castle in Leitrim on 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. 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.
Today the best place to land and visit the castles is at the small beach beneath O'Sullivan Bere’s castle. The grassy mounds of the lower wall of the castle make for an ideal place to have a picnic.
From a boating point of view, this is a wonderful anchorage to take shelter and immerse oneself in the surrounding history and beautiful scenery. It is a truly beautiful anchorage under the castle and the mature woodland that is 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. Photography with thanks to Burke Corbett.
Overviews of the bay area
Dunboy Castle before it was restored
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