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Carrigaholt Bay

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Overview





Carrigaholt Bay is on the west coast of Ireland immediately inside the entrance and on the north bank of the River Shannon. It provides the first safe harbour for boats travelling up the river by providing a good anchoring area off its quay with the potential of coming alongside.

Carrigaholt Bay is on the west coast of Ireland immediately inside the entrance and on the north bank of the River Shannon. It provides the first safe harbour for boats travelling up the river by providing a good anchoring area off its quay with the potential of coming alongside.

The bay provides good shelter in winds from south-southwest through west to north. A short sea sets up in conditions from opposite quadrants, south, round through east to northeast. During southwest gales, a long rolling swell sets in around Kilcredaun Point. However, protection from most quarters may be obtained by those who are prepared to move around. Access is straightforward as the open bay has no off-lying dangers and is less than two miles from the River Shannon’s well-marked main shipping route. This said, there are no lights to support a night entry.
Please note

Moorings that have been reported to be in this area have been removed. In strong winds, south through west to the northwest, there are bad races during the ebb tide at the Shannon entrance. Fish farming has been reported on the northeast side of the bay.




2 comments
Keyfacts for Carrigaholt Bay
Facilities
Water available via tapTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaPost Office in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: fish farming activity in the vicinity of this locationNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

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

Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
May 13th 2022

Summary

A good location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Water available via tapTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaPost Office in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: fish farming activity in the vicinity of this locationNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration



Position and approaches
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Haven position

52° 36.060' N, 009° 41.920' W

New Quay pier head

What is the initial fix?

The following Shannon Entrance Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
52° 32.528' N, 009° 46.944' W
This is the position of the Shannon Entrance marker, the Ballybunnion North Cardinal Marker Lt Buoy, VQ Fl. 6m.


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 forty-three-mile run-up the River Shannon, from the entrance to Limerick City, are detailed in the River Shannon Overview Route location.


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 Carrigaholt Bay for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Kilkee - 5.2 nautical miles NNE
  2. Kilbaha Bay - 6.2 nautical miles WSW
  3. Ross Bay - 6.5 nautical miles W
  4. Hog Island - 7.5 nautical miles E
  5. Kilrush - 7.7 nautical miles ENE
  6. Doonbeg - 10.3 nautical miles NE
  7. Mutton Island - 14.4 nautical miles NNE
  8. Seafield (Quilty) - 14.7 nautical miles NNE
  9. Barrow Harbour - 19.3 nautical miles SSW
  10. Illauntannig - 20.1 nautical miles SW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Kilkee - 5.2 miles NNE
  2. Kilbaha Bay - 6.2 miles WSW
  3. Ross Bay - 6.5 miles W
  4. Hog Island - 7.5 miles E
  5. Kilrush - 7.7 miles ENE
  6. Doonbeg - 10.3 miles NE
  7. Mutton Island - 14.4 miles NNE
  8. Seafield (Quilty) - 14.7 miles NNE
  9. Barrow Harbour - 19.3 miles SSW
  10. Illauntannig - 20.1 miles SW
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?
Carrigaholt Bay with he old quay in the backdrop and new Castle Pier front
Image: Michael Harpur


Carrigaholt Bay lies immediately inside the entrance of the River Shannon to the east of Kilcredaun Point and 1½ miles northward. The small fishing village of Carrigaholt lies on its western side at the mouth of the Moyarta river where its drying old pier.


Trawler alongside the outer end of the Old Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


This lies neglected as a new pier has been constructed which is often referred to as Castle Pier as it sits at the foot of a conspicuous 15th-century tower house that stood guard over the mouth of the Shannon. Fishing, to a limited degree, is still active in the village with a small number of boats delivering their catches to a local processing company. The village is also the local centre for the local farming community.


Carrigaholt Bay's new Castle Pier
Image: Michael Harpur


Lying to the north of Kilcredaun Point and protected by it, Carrigaholt Bay offers the first safe haven with all westerly component winds within the entrance. But with the wind from east-northeast to south, there is an uneasy short sea for leisure craft, and in southwest gales a long rolling swell sets in around Kilcredaun Point. However, by working the bay, moving into the area between the old and new quays, alongside the new quay, or by anchoring to the south of Carrigaholt Point, protection from most quarters may be obtained. Shallow or moderate draft vessels can come alongside the old quay at high water and dry will find protection from all conditions. Should an extended strong blow be forecasted, the complete protection and facilities of Kilrush are only 7 miles away.


How to get in?
The run up from Kilcreadaun Point to Carrigaholt Bay
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location The Shannon Entrance Initial Fix is the position of the Ballybunion North Cardinal that marks the mouth of the Shannon. Use the River Shannon Overview Route location for approaches.
Please note

Strong winds south, through west to northwest, can cause bad races at the Shannon entrance during the ebb tide. The ebb tide sweeps out in a south-westerly direction. Vessels forced to endure the Shannon ebb tide, or foul conditions will find the best point of entry along the north shore to the east of Loop Head. This area is free of off-lying dangers, affords some swell protection and avoids the strongest run of the tide.




Kilcredaun Point with its lighthouse
Image: Peter Hurford


Note the position of Ladder Rock directly under Kilcredaun Head Lighthouse and the wreck of the Okeanos which shows 1.2 metres at LW under the battery at Kilcredaun Point. Apart from these two inshore obstructions, the north coast is clear of dangers.

To the east of Kilcredaun Point the shore falls back to the north, forming Carrigaholt Road and Carrigaholt Bay. Carrigaholt Road, and Kilcredaun Bay, lying to the north of Kilcredaun Point and protected by it, also offers a secure anchorage with all westerly component winds. Once the River Shannon has been entered it is safe to follow the north shoreline keeping out a few hundred metres as there are no obstructions. There are reports of unlit mussel farms but currently [2022] they do not seem to be present.


Carrigaholt Bay
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Carrigaholt Bay shoals gradually towards the shore where it dries and is mostly level throughout with the advantage of being free from any great strength of tide. Anchor according to draught and conditions. The usual and most convenient position is north round to the east of the new Castle Pier. Excellent holding will be found here and throughout the bay over a bed of sand, clay and mud.


Anchor as convenient off Castle Pier
Image: Michael Harpur


It is possible to come alongside the wall of the new quay which has 1.7 metres LAT. This offers good protection in southerly winds. However, this is a very busy fishing quay and it is mostly occupied by lobster boats so a berth cannot be relied upon as fishing boats must be given priority.

The north end of Kilcredaun Bay to the south of New Quay and Carrigaholt Castle
Image: Michael Harpur


In northwest through north to northeast winds, boats will slam against the wall and those taking to the ground will pound. During northwest winds protection may be had to the south of New Quay and Carrigaholt Castle in the north end of Kilcredaun Bay with good holding in 3 metres over sand. Or off the north shore during north to northeast winds.


The upper end of the old quay
Image: Michael Harpur


The old quay at the village is also used by fishing boats and can be used by shallow or moderate draft vessels if approached at high water. It is protected from all conditions but it is advisable to thoroughly inspect it and seek local advice before approaching it.
Please note

The eight visitor moorings that were once in Carrigaholt Bay no longer exist. When anchoring in shallower waters well into the bay observe the tidal heights and note that the chart soundings date back to 1842.




Why visit here?
Carrigaholt takes its name from the Irish 'Carraig an Chabhaltaigh' meaning 'rock of the fleet'. It acquired this name from the rock rising over the bay where the 15th-century McMahon tower house is perched overlooking the vessels anchored here. The local pronunciation of the Irish name is 'Carrigaholty', from which the present name is derived by the omission of the final syllable.


Carrigaholt Castle perched on a rock overlooking the bay
Image: Michael Harpur


The tower house was built in what was once one of the most strategic locations in Ireland, at the mouth of, at over 370 km long, the longest river in Ireland and Britain. The bay is the first safe anchorage for ships coming in from the Atlantic and in a world where water was the safest, easiest and fastest mode of transport this was an important site. Some of the earliest evidence of human activity comes from this area in the form of the 'Corcu Baiscind' an early 'Érainn' people descended from 'Cairpre Baschaín', son of 'Conaire Cóem', a High King of Ireland. Closely related were the 'Múscraige' and 'Corcu Duibne', both of Munster, and also the 'Dál Riata' of Ulster and Scotland, all belonging to the 'Síl Conairi' of legend. These 'Corcu Baiscind' were nomadic, sea-going hunters and gatherers that inhabited the Loop Head Peninsula that became known as 'Corca Baiscinn'.


The four story Carrigaholt Castle
Image: Michael Harpur


In the 6th-century St Credán built his church on Kilcredaun, about a mile south of this castle. St Chonla founded his church on the opposing headland, across the river at Kilconly Point, and St Senan built a monastery on Scattery Island upriver. Viking fleets appeared on the Shannon in the early 9th-century, raiding monasteries, the main centres of population and wealth. Later they served as mercenaries in battles between Irish kings and established towns and cities. Most notable, in 922, the Vikings founded a settlement that is the present-day Limerick.


Round turret (probably 18th or 19th century) in the northeast corner
Image: Michael Harpur


The tower house was built circa 1480 by the McMahons the last Gaelic Chieftains of the peninsula of 'West Corca Baiscinn' or 'Western Corkavaskin'. It has a fiery and colourful history that includes rebellions, battles and much pirating of merchant ships headed for Limerick. On 15 September 1588, seven tattered ships of the Spanish Armada took shelter off Carrigaholt seeking refuge and fresh water in exchange for casks of wine. Their request was denied by the English authorities and anyone helping them was threatened with death. Without the manpower to sail all the ships home, they scuppered two of them by setting them alight, one of which was probably the galleon 'Anunciada', and left them to sink somewhere out in the estuary waters.


The castle dominates the new pier
Image: Michael Harpur


Even though the MacMahons had offered no aid to the Spanish the tower house was unsuccessfully besieged by Sir Conyers Clifford, the Governor of Connacht shortly afterwards. The following year, 1599, the castle was captured after a four-day siege by O’Brien, the Earl of Thomond who was loyal to the Crown. This was part of the final conquest of Gaelic Ireland by England’s Tudor Dynasty. The defenders were deemed to be in breach of the surrender terms and were all summarily hanged. Their notorious rebel chief, Teigue MacMahon, who was not present, lost his estate and was subsequently killed in rebellion on the Beara Peninsula. Daniel O’Brien, brother of the Earl of Thomond, was then granted the castle in 1602.

Uniform of the Clare Regiment
Image: Jas Hennessy via CC ASA 3.0
Surviving one final siege by Cromwell's army in 1651, Daniel’s grandson was made First Viscount, Lord Clare of Carrigaholt in 1662. Daniel O'Brien, 3rd Viscount, Lord Clare of Carrigaholt, lived here when he raised a regiment of horse, called the 'Yellow Dragoons', along with two other infantry regiments commanded by his sons. This was in the late 1680s and the regiments were raised to support the deposed King James II in his attempt to regain the English throne. The Clare Dragoons, known as 'the Flower of King James' Army', went on to fight in James' disastrous campaign that saw defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

The war finally ended with the Treaty of Limerick by which armed Irish soldiers were allowed free passage to France in an event known as 'The Flight of the Wild Geese'. The 6th Viscount, Lord Clare, Charles O’Brien, became Marshal of France in 1757. During the Napoleonic period, there were eight defensive stone forts built along the mouth of the Shannon between Carrigaholt and Labasheeda. Of these the nearby Kilcredaun Point Fort today still stands in excellent condition.

In 1697, the Carrigholt estate was granted to the Earl of Albermarle and later sold. The Burton Family acquired the castle and lived here until the end of the 19th century and all that remains today is a shell of its former nobility. Legend has it that Lord Clare trained his dragoons in front of the castle, on a lawn, long since eroded by the water of the Shannon. On stormy winter nights, tales were told of the Dragoon's ghostly images marching across the same fields where they were drilled, only to disappear into the cold misty Shannon at dawn. The yellow or saffron trim of the Dragoon uniform is still seen today in the blue and yellow colours worn by the Clare GAA teams.


Carrigaholt Castle is one of Ireland’s best-preserved Tower Houses
Image: Michael Harpur


Today Carrigaholt Castle is one of Ireland’s best-preserved 'Tower Houses' and is under the protection of the Office of Public Works and National Monuments. The grounds are privately owned. The village is centred between its two quays and has a very attractive, displaying distinctive streetscapes and local character. Although both piers are used by fishing boats only the southern pier or 'New' or 'Castle' pier, is fully operational on a commercial basis serving dolphin-watching and fishing boats.


The Long Dock
Image: Joseph Mischyshyn via CC BY-SA 2.0


This is capitalised upon in the village by having one of County Clare’s best seafood-focused pubs and restaurants, The Long Dock. Almost 200 years old and complete with Liscannor stone flooring, beamed ceilings, fisherman’s lamps, and an open-hearth fireplace, it is the perfect place to come ashore to enjoy the best chowder, oysters, mussels, lobsters or the catch of the day fresh from the boats.


The village makes use of its quays to have the finest seafood of the Loop Head
area

Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective, Carrigaholt Bay is an ideal sailing base for many reasons. A vessel entering the Shannon seeking shelter from stiff westerlies need to go no further. Access is convenient and it is also the perfect location to wait out a tide, have a night stop in reliably flat waters before going up the Shannon to Limerick, or for making an early start west to the Blaskets. Most of all it is the gateway to the River Shannon. And it may throw a very pleasant welcome as 100 bottleneck dolphins occupy the area where the Shannon flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Keep a sharp eye out on the approaches as it is a wonderful opportunity to see them up close and personal as they swim, feed, play, and (if you’re very lucky) jump. The dolphins breed here, and sightings of young dolphin calves are not uncommon.


The River Shannon is navigable by deep draught vessels to Limerick City
Image: Tourism Ireland


The River Shannon, in Irish 'Abha na Sionainne' or an 'tSionna / an tSionainn', is the longest navigable river in the British Isles and its name is derived from the rivers Goddess "'Sionna'". It flows through 113 km (70 miles) generally southward from the ‘Shannon Pot’ in County Cavan before turning west and emptying into the Atlantic below Carrigaholt. Limerick City stands at the point where the river water meets the seawater of the estuary and beyond the city, the river is unaffected by sea tides. Up-stream from Limerick, the Shannon effectively becomes an inland waterway where progress is restricted by locks and bridges - see upriver in the interactive map External link view. Further information, maps etc. regarding Shannon navigation are available from the Inland Waterways Association External link of Ireland.


What facilities are available?
Water is available via taps on the Old and New Quay. Carrigaholt village is a ten-minute walk where basic supplies are available. It has two restaurants, a fast food takeaway and four public houses, some of which offer live entertainment, particularly during the summer high season. There is a holiday caravan park located nearby. Available resources include, groceries, fuel, meat, post office, and the food in the public house is as already mentioned completely excellent.


Any security concerns?
Never an issue known to have occurred in Carrigaholt Bay.


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







Views of Carrigaholt Bay and its surrounds



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Add your review or comment:


Micheal O'Shea wrote this review on May 29th 2017:

Hi there, Just to correct this page. There are no visitor moorings in the bay. I was up there this weekend and they have been removed. Hope this helps someone. Micheal O Shea

Average Rating: Unrated


Michael Harpur wrote this review on Jun 15th 2017:

Thank you Michael, I have noted that. If you see any other corrections please do not hesitate to let me know.

Average Rating: Unrated

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