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West Cove

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Overview





West Cove is situated on the southwest coast of Ireland near the entrance and on the north side of the Kenmare River. It is set into the northwest corner of a rock-strewn indentation and it offers a sheltered anchorage with a quay in a particularly picturesque location.

West Cove is situated on the southwest coast of Ireland near the entrance and on the north side of the Kenmare River. It is set into the northwest corner of a rock-strewn indentation and it offers a sheltered anchorage with a quay in a particularly picturesque location.

Once inside, the anchorage provides good protection with very good holding. Access requires attentive daylight navigation to address a dog-legged entrance path through its outlying rocks and reefs which mostly cover. This is however is greatly simplified by two sets of substantive illuminated beacons that set up the path into the harbour.
Please note

Ideally, the harbour should only be approached in settled conditions powered by a reliable engine. Although all the transits are lit newcomers should only use them to support a dusk approach, and not attempt a night approach. With any swell running, particularly from the southwest, the bay is a mass of breakers making access a challenge.




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Keyfacts for West Cove
Facilities
Marked or notable walks in the vicinity of this location


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
2 metres (6.56 feet).

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



Last modified
March 2nd 2022

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with attentive navigation required for access.

Facilities
Marked or notable walks in the vicinity of this location


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration



Position and approaches
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Haven position

51° 46.140' N, 010° 3.320' W

The anchorage area south of the pier in 2 metres.

What is the initial fix?

The following West Cove (1st) 045°T transit Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
51° 45.580' N, 010° 3.230' W
200 metres south of Grey Island, on the commencement of the 045°T transit.


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.

  • The approach is made via a narrow dog-legged path through the bight's rocks and shoals, most of which cover at high water with the pathway marked by two sets of transits.

  • The initial north-eastward leading marks are two grey leading beacons, situated south of Castle Cove. Front leading beacon on Burnt Island and the rear beacon is on the mainland in an alignment of 045° T, lights Oc 2s.

  • The second north-westward set of leading marks are a white beacon on the shore, Fl 2s 4m 6M, in alignment with a mid-distance concrete post about 200 metres in front of it, Fl 2s 2m 6M, on 314° T.


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 West Cove for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Darrynane Harbour - 3.5 nautical miles W
  2. Ballycrovane Harbour - 5 nautical miles SE
  3. Sneem Harbour - 6.4 nautical miles ENE
  4. Ardgroom Harbour - 6.7 nautical miles E
  5. Kilmakilloge Harbour - 8 nautical miles E
  6. Ballinskellig Bay - 8.2 nautical miles WNW
  7. Castletownbere (Castletown Bearhaven) - 9 nautical miles SE
  8. Dunboy Bay & Traillaun Harbour - 9.5 nautical miles SSE
  9. Garnish Bay - 9.6 nautical miles SSW
  10. Mill Cove - 9.9 nautical miles SE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Darrynane Harbour - 3.5 miles W
  2. Ballycrovane Harbour - 5 miles SE
  3. Sneem Harbour - 6.4 miles ENE
  4. Ardgroom Harbour - 6.7 miles E
  5. Kilmakilloge Harbour - 8 miles E
  6. Ballinskellig Bay - 8.2 miles WNW
  7. Castletownbere (Castletown Bearhaven) - 9 miles SE
  8. Dunboy Bay & Traillaun Harbour - 9.5 miles SSE
  9. Garnish Bay - 9.6 miles SSW
  10. Mill Cove - 9.9 miles SE
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?
West Cove
Image: Michael Harpur


West Cove and the adjacent Castle Cove, are two rocky indentations on the northwest side of the Kenmare River approximately 7 miles southwest of Sneem Harbour. West Cove, in the northwest corner of the rock-strewn bight, makes for a well-sheltered harbour that is well protected by its surrounding reefs. It has a quay and a slipway but little else. The adjacent Castle Cove, less than 2km by road, has a store and a pub.


West Cove's pier
Image: Michael Harpur


The harbour is however small and shallow and can only accommodate a very small number of leisure vessels with 1.5 to 2 metres LAT. It is mostly frequented by smaller yachts, although larger 35ft plus boats do use it.

West Cove's slipway
Image: Michael Harpur


The dog-legged approach should present no difficulty for leisure craft operating under power in good conditions. The final entrance is however very narrow, albeit sheltered by the rocks further out in the harbour.


How to get in?
West Cove Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use Ireland’s coastal overview for Mizen Head to Loop Head Route location for seaward approaches. West Cove and Castle Cove lie between Knocknasullig (identifiable by its sharp peak) and Daniel Island situated 3½ northeastward of Lamb's Head the northernmost entrance point to the Kenmare River.


The sharp peak of Knocknasullig as seen from the east side of the bay
Image: Michael Harpur


Vessels approaching from the east or southward should identify a group of dangerous rocks that lie outside the indentation about a ½ a mile southwestward from Daniel Island. The outer rocky ledge is Carrigheela with Coosane close inside. Both dry to 3.3 metres but are all covered at high water springs except for an inner Coosane Rock which is always above water. The position of the group is generally shown by the breakers, which in any seaway, is visible from a long distance.

Carriganglee Rock just showing with the front beacon of the second 314°
transits behind

Image: Burke Corbett


Carriganglee Rock (sometimes known as Angle Rock), also drying to 3.3 metres, lies ½ westward of this outer group adjacent to the entrance path. It lies directly in line with the second inner 314° T transits. When covered it could present an unwanted surprise to a passing vessel that, unaware of the first transit, happen to see a couple of yachts anchored in the northwest corner of the bight and decided to casually proceed in.

It is essential to make the final approach into West Cove with good visibility in good conditions. Also, if possible, near low water when the reefs on each side show themselves, smoothing the waters and offering the best shelter from any swell.


The positions of West Cove's key marks
Image: Michael Harpur


There are two approaches to West Cove, a southwestern and a southeastern approach which both use two sets of transits:
  • • The initial leading marks are two grey leading beacons, about 1 mile northeastward and situated south of Castle Cove. The front leading beacon is on Burnt Island and the rear beacon is on the mainland about 400 metres northeastward and when in an alignment of 045° T, lights Oc 2s.

  • • The second set of leading marks are a white cylindrical beacon on the shore, Fl 2s 4m 6M, in alignment with a mid-distance concrete post about 200 metres in front of it, Fl 2s 2m 6M, on 314° T.

  • • The (1st) 045°T transit then bends almost at right angles onto the (2nd) 314°T transit after a ½ mile.

The waypoint below is the approximate location where the transits intersect and help to prompt the viewpoint for the marks, but don't rely on it to miss the rocks.

Waypoint 45°T / 314° Turnpoint - waypoint position: 51° 45.910' N, 010° 2.710' W

It is essential to keep to the transits as the room for error is small owing to the number of sunken rocks and the tight entrance in the last section. The Limpet Rocks port beacon, Fl.R3s, is not part of the leading line markers.

The preferred approach is from the southwester side and it is the easiest for newcomers. The southeastern approach requires some careful pilotage to progress into the inner bay and then pick up the outer transit from the inshore. The southwestern approach is from seaward and is by contrast entirely set on both transits. It, therefore, needs no additional pilotage and is less ambiguous and is the one we detail.


Noon Island and Coosane Rock as seen from the east side of the bay
Image: Michael Harpur


The southeastern approach does however provide a shortcut for boats approaching from the east and for those who would like some additional pilotage it may prove useful. It may be obtained by passing between Noon Island, situated 400 metres to the west of Daniel's Island, and Coosane Rock which never covers to the southwest. Then steer to pass 200 metres to the southwest of Burnt Island to pick up the initial leading beacons inshore steering outward to the intersection point and continue as described below.


The southwestern approach into West Cove
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location The initial fix is on the commencement of the 1st northeastward alignment of 045° T. It is close south Leaghillaun and its outlying Grey Island. When close abreast of Grey Island the grey beacon on Burnt Island, about 1 mile away, should come in line with the beacon behind higher up on the mainland to the northeast of it. The track is narrow and shallow and the room for error is small so only proceed once the beacons are positively identified.
Please note

The back beacon was very grey when last reported and blends in with the rocky background, so in poor light, it will take some focus to see it, but it is there.




The inner set of marks as seen from the northwest
Image: Michael Harpur


After passing between Carrigfadda (always visible) and Carriganglee prepare to turn on to the inner set of marks to the northwestward. Look for the Limpet Rock beacon, Fl.R.3s, red post on a cylindric concrete post, on the northeastern extremity of Limpet Rock at the southwest side of the entrance. But do not turn for it until another tall white post, Fl.2s, on the concrete base further in becomes open to the east of Limpet Rock beacon. This is when the shore beacon, a large white cylinder close east of the stone cottage, will be seen just open of the Limpet Rocks beacon.

Power boat exiting at low water with the reefs all showing
Image: Michael Harpur



Once you see the second set of transits align with a mid-distance post, on 314° T, turn onto the marks and track in to pass the Limpet Rock beacon close to port.

Entering yacht passing the Limpet Beacon as seen from within West Cove
Image: Burke Corbett


The gap between the beacon and the adjacent islet is narrow, perhaps 50 metres or less, but the inner harbour waters should be more settled and it will not present a major challenge.


West Cove's inner front Leading Beacon
Image: Burke Corbett


Progressing towards the front beacon the harbour opens out to the west, and when approximately 20 metres off the beacon turn in westward to where the moorings will be seen.


Approaching the anchorage from the front beacon
Image: Burke Corbett


Haven location Anchor according to draft. There is a small narrow area with 2 to 2.5 metres LAT over good sand holding abreast of the cottage overlooking the entrance.

The small pier at West Cove as seen from the anchoring area
Image: Burke Corbett


Further in it drops off to 0.4 to 0.7 metres LAT but there is a lot of local mooring and it is shallow and mostly mud to the northwest of the quay. Vessels that can take to the mud can come alongside the old quay. Land at the steps beyond the quay at all tides.


Why visit here?
West Cove, 'Dhrom Fada' in Irish, takes its name from being the westernmost bight of this coastal indentation. History runs deep here as the Iron Age Staigue Fort, one of the most remarkable and best-preserved of Ireland's ancient forts, Stands 4 km by road from the cove.


Staigue Fort
Image: Amanda via CC BY 3.0


'an Stéig' or 'Caiseal Stéig' in Irish takes its name from Stéidhq, meaning a strip of land, describing the location of the fort. This being on a low hill, nearly in the centre of an amphitheatre of barren mountains that opens southward to the Kenmare River inlet, from which it is about a mile and a half away directly. In this position, the nearly circular building's walls stand 5 metres (16-ft) high and are a half-metre higher on the north and west sides. They are 4 metres deep (13-ft) at the bottom tapering to 2.1 metres (7-ft) at the top. The top of the wall was reached by a series of steps which crisis cross against the inside of the wall. These outer walls are then surrounded by an earthen bank and ditch over 8 metres wide and, at present, 1.8 metres deep that gave further protection.


Staigue Fort's inner walls
Image: Keith Ewing via CC BY SA 3.0


The only entrance is by a tapered, lintel covered passage in the wall barely 1.5 metres (5-ft) high, through a wall 4 metres thick, which opens into an area of about 27.5 metres (90-ft) in diameter. Inside is an elaborate network of stairways leading to terraces and corbelled cells in the wall reached by passages. These lead to narrow platforms on which the lookouts stood. All of which, surviving to this day without mortar and only using local undressed stones, represents a considerable feat in engineering and building. No stone has the mark of any tool, having been evidently erected before masonry became a regular art. The outside surface is packed with small stones and splinters of stones that fill the joints so tightly that they could not be removed to this day without heavy tools.


The entrance to Staigue Fort
Image: adaenn via CC BY 2.0


The fort is thought to have been built during the late Iron Age, probably somewhere between 300 and 400 AD. Although forts like this are thought to have been used for ceremonial purposes the ditch surrounding the outer walls of Staigue Fort suggests its primary use was defensive. It was most probably the fort was the home of the chieftain's family, guards and servants, and would have been full of houses, out-buildings, and possibly tents or other temporary structures. No trace of these ancillary buildings has survived although two small chambers are contained within the wall.


The outside surface of Staigue Fort
Image: Keith Ewing via CC BY SA 3.0


It mostly served as a place of refuge for a local lord or king, the tribe and their cattle from a sudden seaborn incursion. These would have been at West Cove that would have been the local harbour over which the fort observed activity. The cove would have been a valuable harbour at this time its reefs provide the nook with year-round shelter and access on what is an otherwise treacherous coast. Many of the surrounding harbours face west rather than south which make them unusable for much of the year when strong westerly gales are common.


West Cove House overlooking the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


During the late 17th and 18th centuries, West Cove was believed to be a landing area for smugglers involved in the illicit smuggling trade in wool and French brandy. The practise was widespread in this remote area at this time when local Irish landowners could make large profits by avoiding the crippling English taxes. It was at about this time that the house existed on this site that was built many centuries before the existing one was built. A West Cove house was confirmed by Charles I as the property of the Siggerson family of Ballinskelligs and restored to them again in 1697 after all his property was confiscated during the Cromwell campaigns. The current Georgian West Cove House follows the typically 18th-century plan and it is believed to date from around 1740.


The quay was built to facilitate schooners and steamers
Image: Michael Harpur


This remote part of Kerry remained largely cut off before the mid-nineteenth century when the coastal road was built as part of a famine relief project. The previous road took tortuous routes over the mountain to avoid the bog near the coast. So the sea and the protected cove remained the easiest way of moving goods and people from the area and the quay was erected to facilitate schooners and steamers. It is difficult to imagine how they negotiated the reefs and rocks of the approach back then, even with the benefit of local pilots.


The Slieve Miskish Mountains on the southern shore of the River Kenmare are
always visible

Image: Michael Harpur


Today West Cove is another one of those little gems along this coast that is well worth a visit to take in the natural beauty. The scenery is spectacular in fine weather and it is a lovely spot to spend a night in settled conditions. The main attraction of West Cove, and particularly Castle Cove, are their beautiful white sandy beaches with southward views out across the River Kenmare toward the Slieve Miskish Mountains. For those interested in enjoying fine foods there is Jane Urquhart's small artisan bakery Westcove Bakery and Tea Garden, five minutes walk up the path from the pier is another attraction. Open from 9 am to 6 pm daily it provides fresh croissants and scones for breakfast, homemade soups, savoury quiches, pies, vegetarian pizzas for lunch and early supper, as well as homemade cakes, fruit pies and scones for afternoon tea. All of which are legendary.


Visitors experiencing Staigue Fort
Image: erin m via CC BY 3.0


The ideal way to burn off those calories is a walk to Staigue Fort which is an hour and a half's walk (5.9 km) from the pier. Those who do so should climb the steps inside the fort for some spectacular views, and duck into the elfin-sized interior storerooms. It is also worth walking a little way up the slopes of the valley to get a proper sense of the scale of the fort set against the surrounding landscape. The entire surrounding countryside is ideally suited for all types of walking, ranging from gentle strolls along lovely sandy beaches to more serious hikes over craggy hills.


West Cove anchorage
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating point of view, West Cove is a good anchorage to explore this quiet beautiful and fascinating part of this most scenic corner of Ireland along the famous 'Kerry Way'.


What facilities are available?
There are no facilities in West Cove save for the small quay. The bakery is a short walk P: +353 64 947 5479 that has free WIFI is available to customers. Castlecove hamlet is 2½km to the east along the road and it has the Black Shop pub and O'Leary's small store and filling station.


Any security concerns?
Never an issue known to have occurred in West Cove.


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



About West Cove

West Cove, 'Dhrom Fada' in Irish, takes its name from being the westernmost bight of this coastal indentation. History runs deep here as the Iron Age Staigue Fort, one of the most remarkable and best-preserved of Ireland's ancient forts, Stands 4 km by road from the cove.


Staigue Fort
Image: Amanda via CC BY 3.0


'an Stéig' or 'Caiseal Stéig' in Irish takes its name from Stéidhq, meaning a strip of land, describing the location of the fort. This being on a low hill, nearly in the centre of an amphitheatre of barren mountains that opens southward to the Kenmare River inlet, from which it is about a mile and a half away directly. In this position, the nearly circular building's walls stand 5 metres (16-ft) high and are a half-metre higher on the north and west sides. They are 4 metres deep (13-ft) at the bottom tapering to 2.1 metres (7-ft) at the top. The top of the wall was reached by a series of steps which crisis cross against the inside of the wall. These outer walls are then surrounded by an earthen bank and ditch over 8 metres wide and, at present, 1.8 metres deep that gave further protection.


Staigue Fort's inner walls
Image: Keith Ewing via CC BY SA 3.0


The only entrance is by a tapered, lintel covered passage in the wall barely 1.5 metres (5-ft) high, through a wall 4 metres thick, which opens into an area of about 27.5 metres (90-ft) in diameter. Inside is an elaborate network of stairways leading to terraces and corbelled cells in the wall reached by passages. These lead to narrow platforms on which the lookouts stood. All of which, surviving to this day without mortar and only using local undressed stones, represents a considerable feat in engineering and building. No stone has the mark of any tool, having been evidently erected before masonry became a regular art. The outside surface is packed with small stones and splinters of stones that fill the joints so tightly that they could not be removed to this day without heavy tools.


The entrance to Staigue Fort
Image: adaenn via CC BY 2.0


The fort is thought to have been built during the late Iron Age, probably somewhere between 300 and 400 AD. Although forts like this are thought to have been used for ceremonial purposes the ditch surrounding the outer walls of Staigue Fort suggests its primary use was defensive. It was most probably the fort was the home of the chieftain's family, guards and servants, and would have been full of houses, out-buildings, and possibly tents or other temporary structures. No trace of these ancillary buildings has survived although two small chambers are contained within the wall.


The outside surface of Staigue Fort
Image: Keith Ewing via CC BY SA 3.0


It mostly served as a place of refuge for a local lord or king, the tribe and their cattle from a sudden seaborn incursion. These would have been at West Cove that would have been the local harbour over which the fort observed activity. The cove would have been a valuable harbour at this time its reefs provide the nook with year-round shelter and access on what is an otherwise treacherous coast. Many of the surrounding harbours face west rather than south which make them unusable for much of the year when strong westerly gales are common.


West Cove House overlooking the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


During the late 17th and 18th centuries, West Cove was believed to be a landing area for smugglers involved in the illicit smuggling trade in wool and French brandy. The practise was widespread in this remote area at this time when local Irish landowners could make large profits by avoiding the crippling English taxes. It was at about this time that the house existed on this site that was built many centuries before the existing one was built. A West Cove house was confirmed by Charles I as the property of the Siggerson family of Ballinskelligs and restored to them again in 1697 after all his property was confiscated during the Cromwell campaigns. The current Georgian West Cove House follows the typically 18th-century plan and it is believed to date from around 1740.


The quay was built to facilitate schooners and steamers
Image: Michael Harpur


This remote part of Kerry remained largely cut off before the mid-nineteenth century when the coastal road was built as part of a famine relief project. The previous road took tortuous routes over the mountain to avoid the bog near the coast. So the sea and the protected cove remained the easiest way of moving goods and people from the area and the quay was erected to facilitate schooners and steamers. It is difficult to imagine how they negotiated the reefs and rocks of the approach back then, even with the benefit of local pilots.


The Slieve Miskish Mountains on the southern shore of the River Kenmare are
always visible

Image: Michael Harpur


Today West Cove is another one of those little gems along this coast that is well worth a visit to take in the natural beauty. The scenery is spectacular in fine weather and it is a lovely spot to spend a night in settled conditions. The main attraction of West Cove, and particularly Castle Cove, are their beautiful white sandy beaches with southward views out across the River Kenmare toward the Slieve Miskish Mountains. For those interested in enjoying fine foods there is Jane Urquhart's small artisan bakery Westcove Bakery and Tea Garden, five minutes walk up the path from the pier is another attraction. Open from 9 am to 6 pm daily it provides fresh croissants and scones for breakfast, homemade soups, savoury quiches, pies, vegetarian pizzas for lunch and early supper, as well as homemade cakes, fruit pies and scones for afternoon tea. All of which are legendary.


Visitors experiencing Staigue Fort
Image: erin m via CC BY 3.0


The ideal way to burn off those calories is a walk to Staigue Fort which is an hour and a half's walk (5.9 km) from the pier. Those who do so should climb the steps inside the fort for some spectacular views, and duck into the elfin-sized interior storerooms. It is also worth walking a little way up the slopes of the valley to get a proper sense of the scale of the fort set against the surrounding landscape. The entire surrounding countryside is ideally suited for all types of walking, ranging from gentle strolls along lovely sandy beaches to more serious hikes over craggy hills.


West Cove anchorage
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating point of view, West Cove is a good anchorage to explore this quiet beautiful and fascinating part of this most scenic corner of Ireland along the famous 'Kerry Way'.

Other options in this area


Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Alternatively here are the ten nearest havens available in picture view:
Coastal clockwise:
Darrynane Harbour - 2.2 miles W
Ballinskellig Bay - 5.1 miles WNW
Great Skellig (Skellig Michael) - 11.1 miles W
Portmagee - 8.4 miles WNW
Cahersiveen - 7.8 miles NNW
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Sneem Harbour - 4 miles ENE
Dunkerron - 9.9 miles ENE
Ormond's Harbour - 7.3 miles ENE
Kilmakilloge Harbour - 5 miles E
Ardgroom Harbour - 4.1 miles E

Navigational pictures


These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for West Cove.





















































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