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Ballynakill Harbour

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Overview





Ballynakill Harbour is a deeply indented bay on the west coast of Ireland located between Cleggan Point and Rinvyle Point. It offers several anchorages with drying quays to land upon with lovely views of the surrounding hills.

The bay has several berthing locations where it is possible to find protection from all conditions although it may necessitate a short move during a wind shift. There are many obstacles to avoid but all are visible or break with deep water between so access is straightforward at any stage of the tide but only during daylight.



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Keyfacts for Ballynakill Harbour
Facilities
Water available via tapTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableSlipway availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPost Office in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderScenic 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
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: fish farming activity in the vicinity of this location

Protected sectors

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

Approaches
5 stars: Safe access; all reasonable conditions.
Shelter
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.



Last modified
March 5th 2020

Summary* Restrictions apply

A completely protected location with safe access.

Facilities
Water available via tapTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableSlipway availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPost Office in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderScenic 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
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: fish farming activity in the vicinity of this location



Position and approaches
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Haven position

53° 34.294' N, 009° 58.841' W

This is the head of Derryinver Quay.

What is the initial fix?

The following Ballynakill Harbour Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
53° 35.243' N, 010° 4.363' W
This sets up the preferred approach to the northward of Freaghillaun South. It is set on the alignment of the summit of Diamond Hill, 6 miles southeastward and a lofty conical mountain at the head of the harbour, with the northeastern side of Freaghillaun South on 113°T.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in Western Ireland’s coastal overview from Slyne Head to Erris Head Route location.

  • The preferred approach passes northward of Freaghillaun South on the range mark of the prominent Diamond Hill on 113° T in range with the northeastern side of Freaghillaun South.

  • Then steer to pass 300 yards northeastward of Freaghillaun South, and then between the eastern end of the island and Ship Rock.

  • Thereafter, the north or south channels that lie either side of the Carrigeen Rocks to the desired anchorages.


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 Ballynakill Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Fahy Bay - 0.8 miles SW
  2. Cleggan Bay - 2.9 miles W
  3. Little Killary Bay (Salrock) - 3.2 miles ENE
  4. Clifden - 3.4 miles SSW
  5. Clifden Boat Club - 3.6 miles SSW
  6. Bofin Harbour - 5.3 miles WNW
  7. Mannin Bay - 5.3 miles SW
  8. Inishturk - 5.5 miles NNW
  9. Killary Harbour - 6.4 miles E
  10. Roundstone Bay - 6.7 miles SSE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Fahy Bay - 0.8 miles SW
  2. Cleggan Bay - 2.9 miles W
  3. Little Killary Bay (Salrock) - 3.2 miles ENE
  4. Clifden - 3.4 miles SSW
  5. Clifden Boat Club - 3.6 miles SSW
  6. Bofin Harbour - 5.3 miles WNW
  7. Mannin Bay - 5.3 miles SW
  8. Inishturk - 5.5 miles NNW
  9. Killary Harbour - 6.4 miles E
  10. Roundstone Bay - 6.7 miles SSE
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?
Yachts anchored in Derryinver Bay
Image: Graham Rabbits


Ballynakill Harbour is an open inlet off the North Atlantic Ocean situated on the northwest coast of the district of Connemara near the town of Letterfrack. It opens at the head of a bight formed by Cleggan and Rinvyle Points and reaches deep inland to include a number of islands and several small bays.

About 2 miles within the entrance there are many suitable places to drop anchor with good protection in moderate depths. Currents are generally weak and the shelter good so it is a great location for some exploring.


How to get in?
Ballynakill Harbour
Image: Keith Ewing CC BY-SA 2.0


Convergance Point Use western Ireland’s coastal overview from Slyne Head to Erris Head Route location for approaches.

The northwest-facing harbour is entered between Cleggan Point and Rinvyle Point a distance of about 3½ miles. The outer bay extends in a southeasterly direction for a distance of about two miles towards the Freaghillaun South islet, and then onwards for a further three miles to the head of the harbour at either Derryinver Bay, which is the northern fork, or to Barnaderg Bay the southern fork.

A central approach between the two points presents no danger. The southern shore east of Cleggan Point is steep-to and rises to bare high rocky cliffs that break at an altitude of 60 metres into cliffy coves. Not so the northern shores of Rinvyle Point which should be avoided as it has several rocks in scattered clusters along its length. Inishbroon Island, rising to 19 metres, forms the north point of the approach and it is connected to Rinvyle Point by a shallow ridge of gravel and rocks extending westward from the point. An outlying rock, drying to 1.9 metres and called Mweelaunatrua, lies near the outer edge of this foul ground about 1 mile westward of Rinvyle Point. Several above-and-below-water rocks lie on the foul ground which extends about ¼ mile offshore from a point about a ½ mile southward of Rinvyle Point.

The entrance to Ballynakill as seen from Diamond Hill
Image: Tourism Ireland


The inner part of the harbour is entered between Letterbeg Point about 1½ miles south by southeastward of Rinvyle Point and the southern shore to the southwestward. It is obstructed
by the following chain of rocks and islets that stretch across the entrance with deep water between them:
  • • Braadillaun, a small 11-metre high islet, that lies close westward of Letterbeg Point.

  • • Carricklaghan, a rock that dries to 0.7 metres.

  • • Mullaghadrina, drying to 3.4 metres, lie about a mile southwestward of Braadillaun.

  • • Carrigeen South, a low rock that dries to 0.7 metres on a drying reef, laying about 1 mile southwestward of Letterbeg Point.

  • • Freaghillaun South, rising to 26 metres, the largest and highest island in the harbour, lies about a ½ mile south southwestward of Letterbeg Point.

  • • Glassillaun, rising to 12 metres with a small islet close south and are together local know as the Cow and Calf, lies midchannel between Freaghillaun South and the mainland.




Diamond Hill, centre, and the 37-metre high Dawrosmore Hill, right.
Image: © StephenH16


Initial fix location The initial fix sets up the preferred approach into the inner harbour that passes northward of Freaghillaun South. It is on the range mark of the prominent Diamond Hill, a lofty conical mountain at the head of the harbour, in range on 113°T with the northeastern side of Freaghillaun South, 4¾ miles west by northwest in front, leads midway between Carrigeen South and Mullaghadrina.
Please note

Should Diamond mountain be obscured, keep the north shore of the harbour open of Freaghillaun, and it will clear Carrickeen South. And by not opening Carrigeen Rocks, inside to the eastward of Freaghillaun, Mullaghdrina shoals will be cleared.




Freaghillaun South, Glassillaun and Carrigeen South as seen from the north shore
Image: Alan Reid via CC BY-SA 2.0


Once inside the outer obstructions, keep a sharp eye out for the harbour's extensive fish farms, mainly mussel beds. Locations may shift but expect to encounter fish cages to the east of Freaghillaun South towards Carrigeen Rocks, to the east of Ross Point, and mussel rafts inshore to the southeast of Braadillaun.


Freaghillaun South and the Carrigeen Rocks
Image: James Stringer via CC BY-SA 2.0


Continue in pass no less than 300 yards northeastward of Freaghillaun South, and then between the eastern end of the island and Ship Rock that dries to 1.5 metres off the northern shore and about ¾ mile southeastward of Letterbeg Point. The line of bearing 325°T of the southwest extremity of Inishbroon, 2 miles northwest, open southwest of Braadillaun passes a couple of hundred metres southwest of Ship Rock.


Yacht passing in via north channel passing Carrigeen Rocks with Ardagh ahead
Image: Graham Rabbits


Once past Ships Rock the Carrigeen Rocks, with two heads always showing, 2.2 and 2.8 metres high, will be seen near the middle of the harbour. About ¼ of a mile farther east by southeastward the Ardagh Rocks that uncovered on the first-quarter ebb but are marked by an orange beacon.


Ardagh Rocks as seen from the north channel uncovered with their prominent orange beacon
Image: Graham Rabbits


Two clear channels lie north and south of these central rocks:
  • The north channel, with depths of 5.2 to 11.9 metres, leads through a narrow gut to Derryinver Bay 1¾ miles eastward. Pass to the north of the Carrigeen Rocks and Ardagh Rocks and then keeping an eye to the sounder steering for the 37-metre high Dawrosmore Hill, the low hill overlooking Derryinver Bay from the east, keeping it on 107°T. A range mark can be established by keeping on the line drawn from Dawrosmore Hill from the north side of Freaghillaun with the latter representing the reciprocal astern bearing of 287°T. This locates the narrow channel that leads into Derryinver Bay.

  • The south channel, with depths of 10 to 12 metres, leads southward of these rocks but shoals rapidly as the head of the bay is approached where there are sand flats that separate the Derryinver and Ross Point channels. This south channel leads to the anchorage off Ross Point, the separately covered Fahy Bay after which it winds its way for a further 1½ miles to the shallow Barnaderg Bay. Keep Glassillaun open north of a rocky islet, 3.7 metres high off the southern shore, to clear a shallow spit extends 200 metres northeast from the turning point situate just over a ½ mile to the northward of Ross Point. When the east Carrigeen Rock comes in line with Braadillaun it is safe to turn clear of the shallows.



The anchorages off the south channel
Image: Stefan Jürgensen via CC BY-SA 2.0


Haven location All of the approach channels can be used as anchoring locations in suitable conditions. The usual anchoring areas are as follows:

There is a good passage anchorage with depths of 5 to 8 metres on the east side of Freaghillaun South that is easy to access with the prevailing westerly wind. It is a most attractive island that was inhabited until about 1930 with the ruins of houses still visible.

The mid-channel anchorage northeast of Ross Point is always accessible and gives good shelter from the west with depths of 2 to 3 metres. This is a well-sheltered anchorage but it is little more than 300 metres wide, if that, tide rode and has fish cages in this area. Although the currents are generally weak the spring velocity in both directions may be as much as 2 knots. The separately covered adjacent Fahy Bay Click to view haven offers a snug anchorage out of the tide but it requires a rise of the tide to pass over its sandbar.


Placid Barnaderg Bay reflecting Tully
Image: Jan Mennens via CC BY-SA 2.0


Though requiring a rise of tide and careful sounding work to access, the landlocked Barnaderg Bay offers absolute shelter to shoal draft vessels or those that can take to the bottom.


Keelkyle Quay
Image: Keith Salvesen via CC BY-SA 2.0


Keelkyle Quay, at its southern end, dries 0.9 metres at the head. Keelboats should be able to lie afloat during neaps and there is a 6.7 metres pool that has been scoured out just to the northwest of Tonatulla Point on its approaches.


At anchor in Derryinver Bay
Image: Graham Rabbits


Passing to the north of Carrigeen and Ardagh Rocks affords entrance to Derryinver Bay. An anchorage can be taken about 100 metres southwest of the pier in 2 metres depth, or in depths of 2.5 metres at the northeast end of the bay. During southeasterly winds move to the south side of Derryinver Bay, to the northeast of the Roeillaun, or in the small inlet south of Roeillaun would be the most comfortable, which is accessible at half tide and has nearly 4 metres LAt at its centre. It offers better protection than the separately covered Fahy Bay in strong southeasterly winds.

Local Boats dried out at Derryinver Quay
Image: Jan Mennens via CC BY-SA 2.0


All of this has excellent holding but it is advisable to buoy the anchor with a trip on account of old moorings on the bottom. Derryinver Quay dries but there is a depth of 1.5 metres at MHWN, alongside its northeast side.

The pool through the narrows southeast of the quay is not recommended as the tide runs strongly and the passage is difficult. With a bit of flood water, it is worth rowing up to Dawros Bridge to see the salmon jumping the rapids during June and July.


Why visit here?
Ballynakill Harbour name comes from the Irish 'Baile na Cille' meaning 'settlement of the church'. It is a broad and beautiful Atlantic inlet, which sends its arms in for a long distance and is sheltered on every side by hills. On the north side is the rocky mass of Tully Hill, rising almost directly from the shore, and the east side of the bay runs nearly to the foot of the outliers of the Twelve Bens.


Tully Hill rising from the sea at the entrance to Ballynakill Harbour
Image: Tourism Ireland


The Twelve Bens or, Twelve Pins and in Irish Na Beanna Beola 'the peaks of Beola' who was believed to be a giant and chieftain of the Fir Bolg ancient mythological settlers of Ireland, is a mountain range of sharp-peaked quartzite ranges. The dark, brooding mountains create a uniquely Irish landscape that is quite desolate and uniquely that of Connemara in which they are at its heart. The tallest of the group, Benbaun, reaches 730 meters. Frequent rainfall and steep-sided mountains produce an abundance of small trickles and streams which descend into wide-bottomed valleys below the Twelve Pins to join larger streams with riffles and pools.


The view westward over the harbour from Diamond Hill
Image: Randi Hausken via CC BY 2.0


Some of the romance and beauty of the area have been captured in films such as 'The Quiet Man' and more recently 'The Field'. Augustus John described the area including the Renvyle Peninsula as "the most beautiful landscape in the world", and it was the inspiration for renowned works of art by Yeats, Gogarty, and Oscar Wilde. It remains very much unchanged from what they would have seen today as 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) of the region is preserved in the Connemara National Park, which spreads across the moors up the flanks of tile Twelve Bens. The parks visitor centre is based in Letterfrack village that lies at the head of Ballynakill Harbour


The view eastward over the Twelve Bens from Diamond Hill
Image: Leo Daly via ASA 4.0


The small village, in Irish Leitir Fraic meaning 'The Speckled Hill', was founded in the mid-19th-century by a Quaker couple James and Mary Ellis from Bradford. They came to contribute to post-famine relief in the area. Within a decade they had established a schoolhouse, a farm, doctors surgery, housing for workers, and planted over 40 acres of woodland that the vast majority of which today is now part of Connemara National Park. The park's visitors centre is the best introduction to The Connemara National Park that stretches from sea level at Letterfrack to some of the peaks of the Twelve Bens mountains. Large parts are enveloped by blanket bog and wet heath vegetation with characteristic and varied wildlife.


Hiking trails in the Twelve Bens
Image: Public Domain


The park provides excellent walking and climbing opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts and the visitor centre is the best starting point for some lovely walks, including a track all the way to the top of Diamond Hill. The 16–kilometre 8–9 hour 'Glencoaghan Horseshoe', in Irish 'Gleann Chóchan', is noted as providing some of the "most exhilarating mountaineering in Ireland", and is called "a true classic" by guidebook authors. Other similar distanced 'horseshoe' loop walks that can be addressed are the 19–kilometre 10–12 hour 'Owenglin Horseshoe', the 15–kilometre 8–9 hour 'Gleninagh Horseshoe', and the 14–kilometre 6–7 hour 'Glencorbet Horseshoe'. For the ultra-fit there is 'Twelve Bens Challenge' which is a serious challenge. This involves 28–kilometre hike climbing all 12 Bens in a single 24-hour day.

Derryinver Bay provides an anchorage with a spectacular vista
Image: Graham Rabbits


Those that set out to explore any walkway in this area or the Renvyle Peninsula will find a landscape shaped by time and nature and castles, ancient forts and ecclesiastical remains that illustrate an epic past.


Fishing boats Derryinver Pier
Image: Jan Mennens via CC BY-SA 2.0


Also situated in Letterfrack is the Ocean and Country Visitor Centre and Museum which is the base for Ireland's only glass-bottomed boat tours which sail across Ballynakill Harbour and enables visitors to see the underwater world as only seen before by divers.


Fishing pots Derryinver Pier
Image: Jan Mennens via CC BY-SA 2.0


From a boating point of view, Ballynakill Harbour is one of the loveliest, well-protected and natural harbours in the world. It is a mecca for hikers but the same mountains, when combined with the deep reaches of the inlet, also provide for a wonderful backdrop for some exploration by boat of its various arms and anchoring locations.


Connemara Pony
Image: Leo Daly via ASA 4.0


Those who venture about by boat will be in good company as there is ample wildlife in this sequestered part of the country. There is birdlife that includes meadowlarks and merlins (small falcons), grey seals, otters and other frequent visitors such as dolphins and porpoises. Ashore, many fields are quietly grazed by the area's famous Connemara ponies. The sure-footed pony is the only horse breed native to Ireland though it is said to have descended from stock grounded when the Spanish Armada was wrecked offshore.

Sunset over Barnaderg Bay with Tully Hill in the backdrop
Image: Jan Mennens via CC BY-SA 2.0



What facilities are available?
There are no facilities around the shoreline of this location, except freshwater is available from a pump in the yard of Ross Lodge House by arrangement with the owner.

At Tullycross, 2 Km from Derryinver Quay, there is a small supermarket and a pub and, 3 km away, at Letterfrack there is a provisions store, two pubs, a post office, and filling station. This is less than a kilometre from Keelkyle Quay. Also, at Moyard, 2 Km from Keelkyle Quay has an excellent shop for provisions, a post office, and gas refills are available. Major restocking or other services are likely to be found at Clifden 9 miles away.


With thanks to:
Michel Harpur eOceanic.







Connemara National Park



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