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Garnish Bay is situated on the southwest coast of Ireland, on the southern approach to the Kenmare River, one mile directly east from Dursey Sound around Garnish Point. It is a rural setting that provides an anchorage that is partially protected by three rocky islands. It has a quay with a slip and beach for convenient landings.

Garnish Bay is situated on the southwest coast of Ireland, on the southern approach to the Kenmare River, one mile directly east from Dursey Sound around Garnish Point. It is a rural setting that provides an anchorage that is partially protected by three rocky islands. It has a quay with a slip and beach for convenient landings.

Garnish Bay offers a tolerable anchorage in settled conditions with winds from southeastern round to the west. The anchorage requires careful daylight navigation to pass in between aquaculture nets and pots, and a rock that lies centrally in the bay that has an unlit stone beacon.
Please note

There are numerous lobster, shrimp, crab and fish pots and nets that are starting to overwhelm the bay so daylight is essential for any approach. A vessel is at real risk of entanglement in these so you need to keep a sharp eye out.

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Keyfacts for Garnish Bay
Slipway available

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landing

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).

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

Last modified
January 31st 2022


A tolerable location with careful navigation required for access.

Slipway available

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landing

Note: fish farming activity in the vicinity of this location

Position and approaches
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Haven position

51° 36.894' N, 010° 7.526' W

An anchorage in the south west corner of the bay.

What is the initial fix?

The following Garnish Bay anchorage initial fix will set up a final approach:
51° 37.474' N, 010° 7.745' W
This waypoint is 400 metres northeast of Garnish Island and 1600 metres from the anchoring position.

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.

  • Approach from the northeast.

  • Steering south-westward for the space between Long Islet and the beacon marking Carrigduff Rock.

  • Keep a sharp eye out for pots.

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 Garnish Bay for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Dursey Sound - 0.9 nautical miles SW
  2. Dunboy Bay & Traillaun Harbour - 7.6 nautical miles E
  3. Castletownbere (Castletown Bearhaven) - 8.5 nautical miles ENE
  4. Ballycrovane Harbour - 8.6 nautical miles NE
  5. Darrynane Harbour - 8.8 nautical miles N
  6. West Cove - 9.6 nautical miles NNE
  7. Mill Cove - 10 nautical miles ENE
  8. Lawrence Cove - 11.2 nautical miles E
  9. Lonehort Harbour - 12.3 nautical miles E
  10. Ardgroom Harbour - 12.4 nautical miles NE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. West Cove - 9.6 miles NNE
  2. Mill Cove - 10 miles ENE
  3. Lawrence Cove - 11.2 miles E
  4. Lonehort Harbour - 12.3 miles E
  5. Ardgroom Harbour - 12.4 miles NE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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What's the story here?
Garnish Bay
Image: Michael Harpur

Garnish Bay lies on the north side of the Dursey promontory where the coast falls back to the east towards Kenmare River. A large coastal bight lies between Garnish Point and Cod’s Head, situated 2¾ miles to the northeast, in which there are two bays, Garnish Bay and Ballydonegan Bay. Garnish Bay is the first of these bays, in the western corner of the bight, and it derives partial shelter from the three small rocky islands - the northernmost being Garnish Island and south-easternmost being Long Island. It has a small boat harbour with a slip and pie that lies between Long Island and the shore.

Garnish Quay
Image: Michael Harpur

Garnish island provides an anchorage with excellent holding and good landings. The problem with the anchorage is its exposed nature should conditions change it would easily become uncomfortable. Likewise the aquaculture with its numerous lobster, shrimp, crab and fish pots and nets starting to overwhelm the location.

Garnish Harbour's slipway
Image: Michael Harpur

Should Garnish Bay become exposed, from the northwest through north to east, better options are easily found by going to Sneem or by taking shelter in the anchorage on the southern approaches to Dursey Sound.

How to get in?
Garnish Bay tucked in around Garnish Point
Image: Tourism Ireland

Convergance Point Use Ireland’s coastal overview for Mizen Head to Loop Head Route location for seaward approaches. It is situated on the north side of the Dursey promontory in the southwest corner of the large coastal bight immediately around Garnish Point.

Garnish Bay
Image: Michael Harpur

The problem is the aquaculture and the recommended approach is to approach from the northeast steering southwestward between Long Islet and the beacon marking Carrigduff Rock. Carrigduff Rock uncovers at half-tide and is marked by a 5 to 7 metres high concrete beacon.

Carrigduff Rock as seen from the beach
Image: Michael Harpur

This corridor is kept clear of lobster pots to provide access to the anchorage and access to the quay within Long Island. The fairway has depths of from 5 to 9 metres so a vessel can come straight in from deep water as there are no hazards out in the bay. But apart from this fairway expect to find nets and pots anywhere throughout this area.

The anchorage between Long Island, the beach and Carrigduff
Image: Michael Harpur

Haven location The most protected anchorage lies between the western shore and Carrigduff concrete beacon in 3-7 metres. But as this has the most protection and is conveniently close to the boat harbour, many small local boats will be moored in this location already and there are many moorings.

Garnish Bay as seen from the southeast showing Long Island's distinct shape
Image: Michael Harpur

It is therefore tight and much reduced by the Carrigduff Rock that lies in the most sheltered part of the bay. The best option is to fish around and find a patch of sand that is clear of kelp to anchor as outside of the kelp the holding is very good. This should be easy here in bright conditions as the area has excellent water clarity. Apart from Carrigduff, the bay itself is relatively clear of rocks. There is a small sandy beach in the southwest corner of off which 3 metres will be found over sand and good holding.

Land on the beach or in the small harbour
Image: Michael Harpur

If this is a bit tight an alternative anchorage may be found 200 metres south of the Carrigduff Beacon in 5-7 metres with good holding and more swinging room.

Garnish Bay's small harbour
Image: Michael Harpur

The pier is not suitable for a vessel to come alongside although vessels that can take to the ground may be able to find a spot.

The Quay at Garnish Bay
Image: Michael Harpur

Why visit here?
Garnish Bay most likely takes its name from the conjunction of the Irish words 'garbh-inis', meaning 'rough island'. The history of Beara is inseparable from that of its maritime culture, and no more so than on this remote western extremity. For this area, Garnish, Dursey and the Allihies, was once the nucleas of a seine-boat fishery that lasted for hundreds of years.

Garnish Bay has extraordinary vistas all round
Image: Colin Park via CC BY-SA 2.0

The seine-boat method of fishing was first introduced to Ireland around 1622 to catch pilchards and later adapted for mackerel. Mackerel arrived off the coast here twice a year, the first season commencing in the spring around mid-March, but ending before the April storms. The spring mackerel season generally involved larger fishing vessels and it was the autumn arrival that the seine boats targeted because these shoals tended to lie in nearer to the shore.

Garnish Bay appears opalescent in the sunshine
Image: Michael Harpur

Seine-boats were narrow wooden rowboats that worked in pairs, the larger 'seine-boat' and the 'faller' to operate a net. The second boat was 'the follower', but locally called the 'faller', with a crew of perhaps five or six. The seine boat was wider and stronger than the 'faller' as it had to bear greater weight, especially when holding onto the full net of fish which could weigh up to one ton. This boat was generally about 8.2 metres (27 feet) long and had a 1.8 metres (6 foot) beam at the widest point. It was pulled by perhaps a dozen or more oars. The correct proportion was for the length to be four and a half times the breadth. Occasionally one came across a longer seine-boat, but they rarely measured more than 9.1 metres (30 feet).

Garnish Bay's Crystal clear waters as seen in the small boat harbour
Image: Michael Harpur

Sometimes an experienced fisherman acted as a supporting 'huer' from high points on the land that provided vistas over the fishing grounds. The 'huer' could see the shoals and direct the fishing operations by suitable signs to the location of a likely shoal. On a given signal, the net was shot around the shoal by the seine boat, and the free end of the net was picked up by the 'faller'. Working in unison the boats then skilfully manipulated a purse-like net around a shoal of fish. The seine nets were up to 110 metres (120 yards) long and 9.1 metres (30ft deep), manufactured from small mesh cotton. These could be closed by gradually pulling a rope until the shoal of fish was completely enclosed. Then baskets were used to transferred the fish from the net to the boat, and fishing continued until no more fish could be managed and the catch was brought ashore. By this means, enormous amounts of fish could be taken in.

Garnish Bay's translucent waters lapping the beach
Image: Michael Harpur

When the mackerel were landed they were cured and sold on the quays or beaches. Whole families would work together salting and barrelling the fish. The mackerel was split along the backbone, right from the top of the head to the tail to the left of the bone. They were gutted and placed in a large tank of water. When the tank was full, two of the curing team washed about a hundred mackerel and put them on the table to drain. These were then salted on both sides in coarse salt, and placed in large wooden barrels to cure. A few weeks later the same fish would be removed and repacked into fresh barrels with fresh salt. The lids on these barrels would then be sealed with a hoop for export, usually to North America.

The nearest village of Allihies backed by the Slieve Miskish Mountains
Image: Tourism Ireland

Those who cured the fish here in Garnish Bay may not have risked their lives like those who caught the fish in their narrow wooden seine-boats. But it nonetheless a hard task as the brine used to process the fish burnt hands so badly that it was commonplace for the packers to suffer from huge gaping sores.

The western beach overlooking the anchorage
Image: Michael Harpur

Local memory has it that two seine-crews operated from in Dursey Island, four in Allihies, one in Trá an Phéarla (Tranfearla on the north shore) and three from Trá Beag (Cahermore in Bantry Bay). But the fishing was on a greater scale than the other areas from Garnish Bay which had seven seine-crews. Add those involved in the process of curing and the industry would have employed 100s in the area. The seine boat method survived longest in this area than anywhere else in Ireland. The tradition of aquaculture remains in the bay.

The inner southern beach
Image: Michael Harpur

Today Garnish Harbour is a quiet secluded location surrounded by stone-walled fields of grazing sheep and cattle. Its principal draw today are its three beaches, which boast some of the Beara’s few sandy beaches in a safe and sheltered location. These and the crystal-clear water that fronts them, on a bright sunny day, are simply breathtaking. All this with extraordinary views of Garnish Bay and the surrounding area make it extraordinarily beautiful. Those who feel like striking out for a walk will find Dursey’ cable is only two and a half kilometres from Garnish Bay and the anchorage could offer an ideal location from which to explore Dursey Island.

First light Garnish Bay
Image: © Alan Cronin

From a boating point of view, Garnish Bay is a wonderful passage anchorage which in settled weather makes for a great lunch or break location. But if conditions were to change, it would be best to lift the anchor as it is doubtful that you could rely on it for a good night's sleep. Garnish Bay is also an excellent staging point to catch the first south going tide through Dursey Sound.

What facilities are available?
There are no facilities at this location, except for a slip and boat harbour to land. THe nearest village is Allihies about 10 km away.

Any security concerns?
Never an incident known to have occurred in Garnish Bay.

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

Garnish Beach

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