This is the primary coastal description and set of waypoints for the area between Mizen Head and Loop Head. The detailed coastal description may be used by those planning to come closer inshore or to approach one of the useful passage havens that are listed along the length of the route. The sequence of description is from south to north or coastal clockwise.
• Outside The Calf rock
• Outside The Bull rock
• Outside Great Skellig
• Outside Great Foze Rock
• Outside Tearaght Island
The preceding southwestern coast's set of waypoints and coastal description is available by clicking 'Previous', above, and vessels planning on continuing northwards, into the Shannon and beyond, can find the following sets of waypoints and coastal descriptions by clicking 'Next'.
Why sail this route?
This is a coastal sequence for cruisers who want to stay out in safe water but easily turn in and explore the simply beautiful islands, deep bays and estuaries this coast has to offer.
What are the navigational notes?
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the route. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Clicking the 'Expand to Fullscreen' icon opens a larger viewing area in a new tab.
Please zoom out (-) if all of the waypoints are not displayed. The above plots are not precise and are indicative only.
MIZEN HEAD TO LOOP HEAD OVERVIEW
The ninety miles of coastline between Mizen Head and Loop Head is characterised by bold mountainous peninsulas with deeply indented bays. Taking the full violence of the North Atlantic’s prevailing gales it is subject to heavy seas and swell.
This has created an irregular broken aspect, indented with several deep bays and estuaries that make it a perfect cruising haven. The deep inlets abound in safe anchorages with easy access and navigation is relatively easy as, although the headlands are fringed with outlying rocks and islands, they have deep water close to them with few hidden dangers. The area is also particularly beautiful; most of the coast is bordered by rock and cliff shorelines, with some of the headlands, bays and coves fringed with white sandy beaches. The coastal area to the north of Sybil Point has an added accent on the white sandy beaches lapped by turquoise waters and is outstandingly beautiful.
Offshore dangers and islands are few off this coastline. Dursey Island resides immediately west of its promontory with The Bull that has several detached rocks in its vicinity. The Skelligs, consisting of two conspicuous pinnacle rocky islets, lie about fourteen miles northwest of The Bull. Little Skellig also has the Lemon Rock sea stack a couple miles to the northeast.
The great tidal wave from the Atlantic Ocean splits a little to the south of the Skelligs, and sets in two separate paths around the island of Ireland. One part goes to the north, sweeping round the northwest coasts and enters the Irish Sea by the North Channel. The other part goes to the east, rounding Cape Clear to enter the Irish Sea by the South Channel. Seven hours after the separation occurred the two streams flow together again in the vicinity of St. John’s Point, to the south of Strangford Lough. Along the west and south coasts the stream is weak seldom exceeding a maximum of 1 to 1.5 knots, but as the Irish Sea’s constricting north and south channels are approached the flows acquire a higher velocity. This is particularly the case in the North Channel, where it runs at a rate of 6 knots on springs.
Cruisers should pay particular attention to the areas excellent weather forecasting and not risk a gale at sea; over what would most likely be a lee shore. On the first appearance of a change, seek shelter in one of the host of harbours the coast has to offer. Marine farming in and around this coastal area is rapidly growing. Large steel-jointed fish cages with tubular rubber sides, are marked on the charts but may be placed anywhere, and the structures are hardly visible. Each cage is required to be marked by two yellow flashing lights and a radar reflector.
The complete course is 94.93 miles from the waypoint '½ a mile southwest of Mizen Head' to '2 miles west of Loop Head' tending in a northerly direction (reciprocal southerly).
½ a mile southwest of Mizen Head, 51° 26.580' N, 009° 50.040' W This is immediately outside the races that form, in both directions, of Mizen Head. The headland is made conspicuous lighthouse on a concrete platform, Iso.W 4s 44m 15M, with the lantern visible 313° - 133° T.
½ a mile southwest of The Calf, 51° 33.552' N, 010° 15.468' W This is a 21 metres high rock that lies ¾ of a mile to the southwest of Dursey Head. Calf, with its off-lying Heifer about half its size and height, has a red unlighted iron pillar and the stub of a lighthouse destroyed in 1881.
1 mile west of the Bull Rock, 51° 35.520' N, 010° 20.040' W This 89 metres high remote and mighty pyramid shaped rock that that lies 2½ miles west-northwest of Dursey Head. Detached rocks lie out to 600 metres west from The Bull, terminating at the 6.1 metres high Gull Rock. Bull Rock Light, Fl 15s W Vis 220°-186° (326°), a white 15 metres tower stands on the seaward side of The Bull.
2 miles west of Great Skellig, 51° 46.108' N, 010° 35.810' W The 214 metres Great Skellig shows a light, from a 12 metre high white tower Fl (3) 15s, that stands on the islands southwestern extremity. The light is sectored to cover Little Skellig and Lemon Rock, West Vis 262°-115° (213°), the inshore dangers.
1½ mile west Great Foze Rock, 52° 1.392' N, 010° 44.040' W Great Foze Rock is a rugged little islet that lies about three miles south-southwest of Tearaght Island that carries a lighthouse. About 120 metres wide and 27 metres high it carries no light.
► Next waypoint: 3.19 miles, course ⇓ 350.47°T (reciprocal ⇑ 170.47°T) 3 miles west of Tearaght Island, 52° 4.540' N, 010° 44.900' W The small precipitous 179 metre high Tearaght Island lies almost three miles west of the southwestern end of Great Blasket Island and it is the most westerly and remote of all the Blasket Islands. It is steep-to all round, except to the west, where some high, detached rocks and islets lie about ¾ of a mile westward of the island's western extremity. The western side of the island has the prominent Inishtearaght Light, a white 17 metres high tower that stands at an elevation of 84 metres, Fl (2) 20s W Vis 318°-221° (263°).
► Next waypoint: 8.28 miles, course ⇓ 41.10°T (reciprocal ⇑ 221.10°T) 5 miles west of Sybil Point, 52° 10.770' N, 010° 36.030' W Sybil Point sheer cliffs lie about a mile from Clogher Head, and nearly in the same line of direction from Dunmore Head, and to the north of Great Blasket Island. It is surmounted by a ruined telegraph tower at an elevation 126 metres.
► Next waypoint: 32.15 miles, course ⇓ 44.30°T (reciprocal ⇑ 224.30°T) 2 miles west of Loop Head, 52° 33.670' N, 009° 59.120' W Loop Head is an abrupt 55 metres high precipice of 500 metres within the extremity of which stands the conspicuous Loop Head Lighthouse, Fl (4) 20s W vis 280°-218° (298°), a white 23-metre high tower at an elevation of 84 metres.
MIZZEN HEAD TO SHEEPS HEAD (Including Dunmanus Bay)
Mizen Head Photo: Public Domain
Mizen Head is one of Ireland's extreme points that was, for many seafarers, the first (or last) sight of Europe. The headland is made conspicuous by its remarkable 229 meters high Mizen Peak located about a mile to the northeast. This sharp peak is the highest hill in the vicinity and about halfway between Mizen Head and the peak a ruined tower can be seen at an elevation of 128 metres.
Mizen Head bridge that gives access to the lighthouse Photo: Public Domain
Mizen Head has a light shown from a light structure on a concrete platform with the lantern visible 313°-133°.
The tip of the peninsula is almost an island, cut off by a deep chasm, is spanned by a bridge that gives access to the lighthouse and weather station.
The three towers of Dunlough Castle the give Three Castle Head its name Image: Superbass via CC ASA 4.0
Two miles to the north of Mizzen Head, sloping down from the height of 111 metres to a low black point is Three Castle Head that forms the south point of the entrance to Dunmanus Bay. The small and open bay Dunlough Bay, residing between Mizzen and Three Castle Head, is exposed to the prevailing winds and offers no shelter.
Three Castle Head as seen from the southwest Image: Burke Corbett
700 metres to the west of Three Castle Head is South Bullig Rock. It has 4.6 metres of water over it and from 29 to 35 metres close around it. The seas break in bad weather around South Bullig and it should be kept clear of in any stiff weather conditions.
The square tower of Dunlough Castle positively identifies Three Castle Head Image: Burke Corbett
Dunmanus Bay as seen from Dunbeacon Cove Image: Michael Harpur
Dunmanus Bay is a long narrow Atlantic Ocean bay inlet situated between Mizen Head, to the south, and Bantry Bay to the north. It is entered 4 miles north of Mizen Head between Three Castle Head and Sheep’s Head, a distance of about 3½ miles apart. The bay extends easterly for a distance of 12 miles inland up to the small village of Durrus at the head of the bay within Dunbeacon Harbour. Dunmanus Bay is very exposed to southwest gales that tend to send a heavy ground swell up into the bay, more so than those from west or northwest. As such many coastal cruising sailors overlook Dunmanus Bay for fear of being trapped in the deep inlet by a strengthening of the prevailing south-westerlies. But this need not be the case as the bay affords ample room and safe anchorages with some unique cruising.
Kitchen Cove Image: Michael Harpur
At about midway up the bay is the wonderful Kitchen Cove that provides excellent protection.
Kitchen Cove as seen from seaward Image: Burke Corbett
It is surpassed by Dunbeacon Harbour , at the head of the Dunmanus Bay cul-de-sac where perfect security against all winds will be found with ample water excellent holding.
Yacht in Dunbeacon Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
Both of these provide more than serviceable havens that warrant a visit as part of a southern Ireland cruise. Outside of these, there is a host of havens to explore that are steeped in history and being off the beaten track you will most likely have it all to yourself.
Dunmanus Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
First and foremost is Dunmanus Harbour set into a rocky creek on the south shore 1 mile to the south of Carbery Island. It hosts leisure craft but can be subject to a heavy ground swell, more so in the winter, which makes it challenging in strong south-westerlies.
Dunbeacon Cove close south of the peninsula where the ruin of Dunbeacon Castle stands Image: Michael Harpur
To the eastward of this and on the south shore is the day anchorage of Dunbeacon Cove is identifiable by the spartan ruins of Dunbeacon Castle stood on a promontory to the east side of the cove.
Between Kitchen Cove and Sheep's Head on the north shore, there are a further three havens with piers. All three are for those cruising Dunmanus Bay in a settled weather window with a mind to discovering interesting day anchorages and short walks. These are exposed anchorages that are ideally better used as lunch stops or places to stop and enjoy a swim. In settled conditions, a night’s stop could be possible, if not at Ballynatra (Trá Ruaim) Cove. But all make for good landing sites to set down a shore party to explore the outer end of the Sheep’s Head Way. Especially so if a competent person can be left aboard to watch the vessel.
Kilcrohane Pier Image: Michael Harpur
These are from, Kitchen Cove westward, Kilcrohane Pier is situated close northeast of Kilcrohane Point and set into a bight in the northern shore. It is a small rocky southeast-facing cove 6½ miles from the entrance to Dunmanus Bay and 1½ miles east by northeast of Dooneen Point. At its head is a small shingle beach and a drying pier with a pair of slips. The principal village in the area is a short walk from the pier.
Dooneen Pier as seen from the southeast Image: Michael Harpur
The remote and substantial refurbished concrete Dooneen Pier is 1½ miles westward. This is set into the rocky outcrops and ridges that extend eastward from the rocky Dooneen Point projection 5 miles to the east of Sheep’s Head. The pier is located just inside the small craggy island of Illanunglass.
Ballynatra (Trá Ruaim) Cove Image: Michael Harpur
Just 3½ miles from Sheep's Head and very much open to the Atlantic and its prevailing south-westerlies, is the little fair-weather stay-aboard anchorage at Ballynatra (Trá Ruaim) Cove . It is the outermost of all the piers in Dunmanus Bay and a small and lonely cove with a substantial drying pier, recently restored, in its northwest corner. In favourable weather conditions, it offers an opportunity to drop a shore party down on the Sheep's Head headland as it narrows. The light structure at the tip is a 6.3 km or an hour and thirty minutes' walk from here and there is a wonderful Caher Loop of the same distance. But it would not be a place to leave a boat unattended.
Yacht anchored in Ballynatra (Trá Ruaim) Cove Image: Gareth Thomas
However, if vessels are time-bound a good weather window would be required to visit any of Dunmanus Bay’s havens. Especially so the inner havens that are situated close to the head of the bay. For those constrained by time, though good shelter may be found, it would, however, be difficult to sail out of the bay against an inauspicious strengthening of the prevailing wind to meet a schedule.
Approaching the bay from seaward several prominent mountain peaks can be identified. On the north shore there is the 340 meters high Caher Mountain, located about 4.8 miles northeast of Sheep’s Head, then the 342 metre high Seefin 2 miles northwest, and the 302 metres high Gouldane a further 2 miles to the northwest. On the southern shore there are the 205 metres high Cruckna Sassenagh, located about 1.8 miles east-northeast of Three Castle Head, then the 311 metres high Knocknamaddree 2½ miles to the northeast, and then 1.7 miles further east-northeast is the 235 metres high Knockaphuca. Details for the approach and run up the long and narrow Dunmanus Bay are covered in the Dunbeacon Harbour entry.
SHEEP’S HEAD TO BLACK BALL HEAD (Including Bantry Bay)
The outer end of Sheep's Head as seen from Three Castle Head Image: Andreas F. Borchert via CC BY-SA 2.0
The bold and rugged Sheep's Head is situated at the extremity of the long and narrow promontory that separates Dunmanus and Bantry Bays, about 3½ miles north of Three Castle Head. Rising to an elevation of 168 metres within ½ a mile inland it stands conspicuous when viewed from the southwest, where it is easily recognised from seaward.
Sheep's Head as seen from seaward Image: Burke Corbett
A lighthouse resides on its extremity with a sectored light R007°-017° (10°), W017°-212° (195°).
Sheep's Head may be distinguished by its light structure Image: Tourism Ireland
The only danger near it is Bullig Rock, lying 300 metres from the point, with 6.2 metres of water over it and 18 to 30 metres of water 400 metres outside it.
Ardnakinna Point light just showing itself around Sheep's Head Photo: Burke Corbett
Immediately north of Sheep’s Head is Bantry Bay that is entered between it and Black Ball Head, located 7½ miles west-northwest. It is from 3 to 4 miles wide and extends into the land about 18 miles in an easterly direction. Depths gradually decrease from 50 metres at the entrance, between Sheep Head and Bear Island, to 27 metres at the head of the bay, over a clean bottom.
Black Ball Head with Sheep's Head in the backdrop Image: Michael Harpur
Being free from fairway dangers and with scarcely any tidal stream it is very easily accessed. It is however exposed to the effects of westerly winds, but against these, the harbours of Bearhaven, on the north shore, and those of Whiddy and Glengarriff near the head of the bay, provide complete protection with equally safe and convenient access.
Approaching Black Ball Head from the southwest Image: Graham Rabbits
From a leisure point of it is more interesting for visiting craft to make a 6-mile crossing to Castletownbere after rounding Sheep's Head. There are no havens on the south shore before Bantry Harbour and a range of spectacular berths along the north shore. The only advantage to following the southern shore is for those making for the fair-weather shallow southern entrance into Bantry Harbour, the shortest route from the west into the harbour. Those taking this route will find the south shore of the bay, formed by the Sheep’s Head promontory, presents a series of rugged inaccessible precipices, steep-to and free from danger. Off Glanalincoosh, 7 miles to the east of the head and 600 metres from the shore, there is a rocky patch with 9.3 metres of water, upon which the sea often breaks in gales. To the east of this, the shore may be approached to 300 metres. ¾ of a mile of Reen Point when it the only obstacle is a well-covered rock with 2.6 metres over it lying 300 metres off but this is of little concern to cruising vessels.
The mountain range of Gouladane, rising to heights in excess of 340 metres at ½ a mile from the shore, occasions heavy squalls with southerly and southeast winds.
Black Ball Head as seen from the southeast Image: Graham Rabbits
The north shore is of the same mountainous character if with a little more grandeur with the Slieves and Mountains of the Beara only about seven miles northward in a much more indented shoreline. The Slieve Miskish Mountains, will be sighted from a great distance from seaward. The key mountains that present themselves from the range are the 486 metres high Knockgour, with a television mast at its peak, located about 3.2 miles to the northeast of Black Ball Head. The 487 metres high Knockoura resides about 0.8 mile to the north-northeast and a further 1½ miles northeast the 384 metres high Miskish. Finally, the most significant mountain of Hungry Hillis easy to identify being 682 metres high. Notable for a pyramid on its summit, it rises about 6½ miles east-northeast of Miskish and to the northwest of Bere Island.
4½ miles to the east of Crow Head, Black Ball Head is a prominent feature when approaching the bay. It stands 81 metres high and is crowned by the ruins of an old signal tower. About 135 metres offshore and to the west of the head is Gull Rock which can be clearly seen above water. Black Ball Harbour, a little creek on the west side of the head, affords shelter for small fishing boats. Three miles northeastward and 1¼ miles to the west of Bearhaven’s western entrance, for which it has sometimes been mistaken, is Pulleen Harbour another which is another little inlet between the cliffs. It affords no practical shelter except for open shallow fishing boats. The coast between Black Ball Head and Berhhaven is composed of precipices of varying height that are free from dangers out beyond 200 metres.
During strong northwest winds this entire area is subject to heavy squalls, that vessels passing along shore must be prepared for.
Bere Island as seen from Hungry Hill Image: Olivier Riché via CC BY-SA 2.0
The west entrance to Berehaven (Bearhaven) opens 4½ miles east by north east of Black Ball Head and about the same distance north of Sheep’s Head. The entrance lies to Berehaven lies between the mainland the high and rugged Bere Island that rises to 209 metres at its western summit, where a conspicuous ruin of an old telegraph tower stands.
The entrance to Berehaven as seen from the south Image: Burke Corbett
Bear Island can be difficult to identify at a distance when viewed against the high land that forms its background. But on closer approaches, its Martello towers serve to define the outline of the island. 1 mile to the east of it the island rises to its 270-meter high central summit Knockanalling to descend gradually towards the eastern point. A mile east-northeast of Knockanalling, upon a 164 metres high crest, is a conspicuous Martello tower. Another prominent Martello tower will be seen on a 95-metre high crest on the southern shore. This is located about 1½ miles east-southeast from the higher tower and to the north of Cloonaghlin Head.
The Slieve Miskish Mountain ranges, rising to an elevation of over 304 metres ½ a mile inland, causing heavy squalls in south to south-easterly wind conditions.
Cloonaghlin Head on the south side of Bere as seen from the Lonehort Bay on its eastern side Image: Óglaigh na hÉireann
Bear Island’s southern shore is steep and cliffy, especially so on its western side, with deep water close to the breakers. Off its middle part of the island, at about 200 metres from the shore, lies the 12-metre high Greenane Rock, and 200 metres further to the south of it a smaller rock, about 0.9 metres high, called the Feagh Rock. About ½ to the east of these rocks and about 800 metres southwest of Cloonaghlin Head, distinguished by the aforementioned Martello tower, there is a rocky patch with 7.3 metres of water that breaks in westerly gales.
Leaghern's Point with Lonehort Harbour (right) close north Image: Óglaigh na hÉireann
Lonehort Harbour is an ancient natural harbour situated on the south coast of Bear Island about 1 mile from the eastern extremity of Bere Island. It is now a very rural and lonesome area but it provides leisure craft with excellent shelter in moderate weather.
Carrigavaddra perch situated 800 metres southeast of Lonehort Point Image: Burke Corbett
Lonehort Point, the east extreme of the island, is low, shelving, and ill-defined. The stump of an old pile lighthouse may still be seen on the point. It terminates in a dangerous reef, very much in the way of vessels going into Bearhaven by the east entrance.
Passing Carrigavaddra and Lonehort Point Image: Burke Corbett
The highest part of this reef is called Carrigavaddra. It is situated 800 metres southeast from Lonehort Point and is just covered on neap tides. It is marked by an unlighted beacon upon a 2.7-metre high rocky area ½ a mile southeast of Lonehort Point.
Bearhaven and Bere Island as seen from Castletownbere Image: Michael Harpur
Formed by the strait that separates Bere Island from the mainland is the excellent harbour of Bearhaven, or Berehaven.
Sailing in Bearhaven Image: Graham Rabbits
It is spacious, has easy access, has good holding ground and provides shelter to all vessels from all wind direction. With its ocean proximity, accompanied by a host of resources, it is an attractive and well-used sailing destination.
Bearhaven and Casteltownbere seen from Knockanalling Photo: Zoltan Pap
Castletown Bearhaven, or Castletownbere , which is the town built around it, is the principal port of Berehaven. It is a major fishing port and the main town on the Beara peninsula. The large harbour is situated close northwest of Dinish Island which is located on the north side of the Bearhaven. Dinish Island is connected by a bridge to the mainland. The harbour area occupies a space of about ¼ mile long and the same broad and it is home to a local fleet of sixty fishing boats and many others that berth here from around the world.
Castletownbere Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
There are two entrances to Berehaven, one round the western end of Bear Island, marked by Ardnakinna Light, and the other from the east end between Carrigavaddra and Roancarrigmore Island. Both are straightforward with the eastern been wider and deeper entrance and the western better marked and lit and more direct to Castletown Bearhaven. Castletown Bearhaven, or Castletownbere , provides approaches details for to both and the run up the strait.
The west entrance is subject to baffling winds and a heavy ground swell, and should not, therefore, be attempted under sail without a leading wind.
Bearhaven’s west entrance, is entered between Fair Head and Ardnakinna Point. It is situated between high precipitous shores that are 400 metres apart with a least depth of 7.9 metres in the fairway. About ½ a mile within the entrance, between Piper Point and Naglas Point, is the narrowest part of the channel that is 228 metres wide.
Ardnakinna Point lighthouse Image: Burke Corbett
As previously mentioned the natural features of the entrance make it difficult to recognise especially set against the mountainous backdrop. A lighthouse standing on the point Ardnakinna Point, the western end of Bear Island, assists greatly. This is a white 20 metres high prominent round white tower with sectored light; R319°-348° (29°), W348°-066° (78°), R066°-shore,
Doonbeg Head, a prominent 84-metre high headland on Bere Island, located 1.2 miles east southeast of Ardnakinna Point, also helps identify the entrance. The entrance has supporting beacons and leading lights all the way into Castletown Berehaven harbour.
The entrance to Berehaven as seen from the iside Image: Michael Harpur
Follow this bearing up the north by northeast-facing Western Entrance fairway, also known as Pipers Sound. Less than 1 mile within the western entrance the fairway opens out to the west at Dunboy Bay & Traillaun Harbour . The bay offers an excellent anchorage in a natural setting with secure mud holding.
Dunboy Bay and Traillaun Harbour opening within Colt Rock Image: Michael Harpur
The best mark for the haboutr is the Colt Rock beacon that uncovers on the last quarter ebb and dries to 2.1 metres, with a lited red perch, lies abreast of the northwestern side of the fairway here.
Colt Rock Perch - Fl(2)R.10s, position: 51° 38.068’N 009° 55.087’W
Colt Rock Perch and the Dunboy Castle Hotel in the west end of the harbour Image: Burke Corbett
Further within Berehaven, beyond Castletownbere are countless berthing opportunities. The most frequented is the Mill Cove anchorage located about a ⅓ of a mile northward of the Hornet south cardinal mark and on the north shore.
Bearhaven as seen from Mill Cove on the north shore Image: Michael Harpur
Mill Cove, is a natural recess that is enclosed on its eastern side by the old naval pier of the shore terminal that once corresponded with Lawrence Cove. Caution is required here as an aquafarm lies about 400 meters north of the Hornet south cardinal between it and Mill Cove.
Lawrence Cove Image: Adrian O'Neill
Lawrence Cove Marina's is situated on the north shoreline of Bere Island with its entrance positioned 1½ miles to the west of Lonehort Point and ¾ of a mile to the south of the George Buoy.
Lawrence Cove Marina provides a safe berth in all winds Image: Graham Rabbits
The terminal for one of the island's two ferry services and the island's main village of Rerrin (Raerainn), it has a full-service marina is located in the south part of this cove and provides an anchorage and moorings on its approaches. Lawrence Cove provides good shelter to leisure craft in all winds except the north. All-weather shelter can be found in the marina located in the cove's southwest corner.
Roancarrigmore Island Image: DF Archives
Continuing east from Bere Island is Roancarrigmore Island situated 1¼ miles eastward of Lonehort Point. It is flat-topped, 6 metres high, 300 yards long in an east and west direction, and 100 yards broad. Shoal water surround the island, extending with a rock that dries to 0.6 metres nearly 160 metres south-westward from it.
Passing southeast of Roancarrigmore lighthouse Image: Graham Rabbits
Roancarrigmore Lighthouse stands on the summit of the island (a white round tower, black band, 18 metres in elevation) as well as buildings, with a flagstaff west of the tower, enclosed by a white wall.
This irregular patch of rock called Roancarrigbeg is situated 600 yards northward of Roancarrigmore. 350 meters long and 160 metres wide, at high water it consists of four flat-topped rocks about 2 metres high surrounded by reefs and shoal water, which extend 200 metres southward from it.
Roancarrigbeg lying between Roancarrigmore and the shore Image: Michael Harpur
The channel between the island and the mainland should not be attempted without local knowledge as there is a fish farm in this area. The channel between Roancarrigmore and Roancarrigbeg has a depth of 8 metres, but is narrow and has a wreck so it is a danger that is best avoided.
Bulliga Point and Roancarrigmore Island as seen through the entrance to Adrigole
Image: Michael Harpur
Doucallia Rocks, which dry 1.2 metres, are situated about 1000 metres eastward of Roancarrigmore Lighthouse. Coarrid Point, within Bearhaven, open southward of Roanearrigmore clears south of the Doucallia Rocks. Roancarriginore Light shows red over Doucallia Rocks. The well-covered Bulliga Ledge, with 3.7 metres of water, lies ½ a mile northeast of the Doucallia Rock, and 600 metres southeast of Bulliga Point. There are deep channels between these dangers and also between them and the mainland, and leisure craft tend to pass outside them all.
The picturesque Adrigole Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
The picturesque inlet of Adrigole Harbour about 2½ miles northeast of the eastern entrance to Bearhaven, 1½ miles northeastward of Roancarrig Lighthouse and is entered ½ a mile northeast of Bulliga Point. Orthon's Island is located in the middle of the harbour, and is surrounded by sunken rocks with the deepwater channel is between it and the eastern shore.
Adrigole Harbour as seen from its western side Image: Michael Harpur
It is possible to anchor to the east of Orthons Island or further to the north in the centre of the bay. Seven seasonal visitor moorings are available in 4 metres. Vessels should keep 200 metres north of the island, to avoid offlying northern outcrops, and entirely avoid the area between the west side of the island and the bay’s western shore as it is completely obstructed. The northern shore of the harbour dries out.
Hungry Hill as seen over Adrigole Harbour Image: Kevin O'Sullivan via CC BY-SA 3.0
Two miles east of Bulliga Point, is the steep-to Shot Head. A temporary shelter may be obtained to the northwest of it during easterly winds. Between Shot Head and Sheelane Islet, about 3.2 miles, the shore is steep-to and free of dangers. The shore between Sheelane Islet and Four Heads Point to the northeast is fringed by foul grounds and the area has two lighted port hand markers Sheelane South, Fl(2)R.6s, and Coulagh Rocks, Fl.R.3s.
Glengarriff Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
However from Adrigole harbour to the east as far as Cowdy Point, at the entrance of Glengarriff Harbour, the shore is clear out beyond a distance of a 200 metres and steep-to.
Garnish Island Image: Trebography
Famed for its scenic beauty Glengarriff Harbour is on the north side of Bantry Bay, opposite to Whiddy Island, and presents two good anchorages, an inner and an outer. The former, sheltered by the island of East Garinish and its outlying rocks, affords perfect security against all winds and sea, whilst the outer harbour affords good summer anchorage.
The Italianate garden's ornamental reflective lily pool Image: Tourism Ireland
The village of Glengarriff, of approximately 140 people, stands at the head of the harbour on its northwestern side. Its population swells during the summer as this area is known internationally as a tourism venue with many natural attractions, most particularly Garinish Island that has been transformed into an exotic garden. Also known as Ilnacullin and Ireland's Garden of Eden, for its Italian Gardens which may be visited.
The view westward from the Casita on Garnish Island Image: Tourism Ireland
The shore at the head of Bantry Bay, lying between Glengarriff and Whiddy Harbours, is generally subject to a heavy swell that breaks violently over its outlying rocks. The dangers are contained within 400 metres of the shoreline. There are several deep shoals marked lit lateral marks for the benefit of commercial shipping approaching for the deep-water channel to Whiddy Oil terminal. In January 1979 a fire destroyed the offshore terminal was closed. This has been replaced by a large Single Point Mooring (SPM) moored offshore to allow liquid cargo to be taken ashore for tankers. This is positioned about ¾ of a mile north by northwest of Whiddy connected by floating hoses to the island. It is surrounded by a restricted area and a prohibited anchorage area, clearly marked on Admiralty chart 1838. Give this a berth of at least 500 metres, as charted. The prohibited ancoring area extends from the shore terminals past the SPM and out past a historic wreck just north of the SPM, that was part of the unsuccessful Armada.
It is prohibited to pass between Whiddy Island and the terminal, a platform about 396 metres offshore, due to the submarine high tension cables and pipelines laid between the jetty and the shore.
Glengarriff Bay sunset Image: Mike Roth via CC BY-SA 2.0
An obelisk stands on the southwest end of an islet called Illauncreeveen close southeast of Gun Point. A small beacon stands on Yellow Rocks about ½ a mile farther southeast. 350 metres west-southwest of this beacon, a ¼ of a mile from the shore, and ¾ of a mile to the south of Gun Point are the drying to 1.1 metres but steep-to Morneen Rocks.
The rocky 1.2 metres high islet of Carrigskye resides nearly ½ a mile to the south of Morneen Rocks and can be identified by its breakers. This is the outer end of a rocky spit that extends about 0.4 miles offshore and should not be approached nearer than 600 metres. Castle Breaker is located ¾ of a mile to the southwest and about 400 metres southwest of Ardnamanagh Point. Located on the north side of the approach to Whiddy Harbour this detached patch of rock has 3.6 metres of water. In the north arm of Whiddy Harbour, about 1 mile northeast of Whiddy Point East, there is a rock called Carrignagappul that dries 1.8 metres.
Oil tanks on the southwest end of Whiddy Island Image: William Stringer via CC BY 2.0
Situated opposite to Glengarriff Harbour at the southeast end of Bantry Bay is Whiddy Island. The island is distinguished by three conspicuous circular forts plus Bantry Bay Oil Terminal’s several prominent oil tanks and offshore terminal at the southwest end of the island. Steep-to on its northwest side the island is of a moderate height. Its east point is clear of danger and may be rounded at a distance of 200 metres. From its west end, low reefy rocks, about a metre high, extend for ½ a mile.
The strait behind Whiddy Island as seen from the southeast corner Image: Michael Harpur
The strait within Whiddy Island provides a secure and well-sheltered anchorage for all sailing craft and leads to, Bantry Harbour in in the southeast corner of the harbour. The bay is a deep-water gulf extending for 30 km (19 mi) to the northwest which makes it the largest of the long marine inlets in southwest Ireland. The small harbour stands at its head in the mouth of a muddy creek, dry at low water, that leads to the market town above.
Bantry Harbour with its visitor pontoon Image: Michael Harpur
The Bantry Bay Port Company operates a 40 berth Bantry Harbour Marina in the inner harbour with ample short-stay berths. These provide convenient access to the town pier and they also offer seven visitor moorings in the inner harbour area.
Bantry House overlooking the anchorage from the south side of the harbour Image: Tourism Ireland
The harbour offers a host of anchoring opportunities with excellent mud holding and convenient landings on the shore or on Whiddy Island.
North around Whiddy Island and into Bantry Harbour is the easiest approach Image: Dzjamkokarlis via CC BY-SA 4.0
Approaches may be made around Whiddy Island, either north around or south around and both are covered in the Bantry Harbour . In summary the best approach to Bantry Harbour the northern approach, by the channel between the islands and the east shore, which is 300 metres wide, with from 10 to 20 water. The north entrance is straightforward. Once around Whiddy Island’s north-easternmost point all that is required is to follow the channel markers in and then drop down into the harbour area.
The landing pontoon in the harbour area Image: Michael Harpur
The western entrance may only be used in good conditions as it has a 2-metre bar, just seaward of the narrowest point, which sometimes breaks. Tidal streams in the western pass reach 1.5 knots where, by comparison, you would only find up to ½ a knot in the northern entrance. Also outside the bar is Cracker Rock that has only 1.7 metres of cover.
Cracker Rock – position: 51° 40.390’N 009° 30.459’W
As already noted Whiddy Point East may be rounded close in but all other islands in the harbour are generally foul all round out to 300 metres in some cases.
East of Whiddy Island are a host of unlit oyster and mussel fishing rafts plus, in autumn, shrimp pots. These floating structures, some simple lines of barrels, are low, often unmarked and sometimes hard to see. The harbour commissioners do not allow these to encroach on the channel but they are always close by. Do not pass close to any rafts you may encounter as floating mooring lines may extend some distance. As a result, it is not advisable to make a night entry or in very poor visibility without local knowledge.
Bantry Harbour sunset Image: Maura Mc Donnell CC BY SA 2.00
BLACK BALL HEAD TO KENMARE RIVER
Crow Head and the southern end of Dursey Sound as seen from Dursey Island Image: Allie Caulfield via CC BY-SA 2.0
Four miles to the west of Black Ball Head is the 74 metres high Crow Head. This distinctive narrow finger of land extends out from the mainland for about a mile to the southwest.
Cat Rock as seen from the southeast with Dursey Island in the backdrop Image: Burke Corbett
The drying Cat Rock resides about 400 metres southwest of the extremity of the head. This rock is very much in the way of vessels moving between Bantry Bay and Dursey Sound and generally makes itself known by breakers.
Breaker on Cat Rock Image: Graham Rabbits
1½ miles west-northwest of Crow Head Dursey Island is readily identified by an old signal tower on its summit. The 250 metres high island is 3½ miles long and is connected to the mainland by cable car (the only such in Ireland) at Dursey Sound.
Dursey Island as seen from the Berra Peninsula Image: ArnoutVos via CC BY-SA 2.0
The deep but narrow channel Dursey Sound, resides between the island’s eastern end and the mainland. It is a narrow rock-strewn stretch of water with a tidal race that is open to the Atlantic Ocean on either end.
Approaching Dursey Sound from the south Image: Burke Corbett
In favourable conditions, the sound offers leisure craft interesting sailing and a shortcut from the Kenmare River in and out of Bantry Bay that saves at least 12 miles from a passage. It also avoids the complications of navigating a path through The Bull, The Cow and The Calf rocks that lie to the west of Dursey Island of which only the Bull Rock is lighted and the tidal streams are also strong in and between these. Waypoints and tidal timings and directions are available in the Routes entry Navigating through Dursey Sound .
Northbound yacht passing under Dursey Sound's cable car Image: Jan de Boer via CC BY 2.0
Exposed to the Atlantic Ocean on either side there can be a large seaway running that is further complicated by shifting and funnelling winds over tide, it should be noted that this is not a foul weather shortcut. Dursey Head is subject to 3.5-knot currents at springs so careful navigation is required and in this context, it may also present a challenge in boisterous conditions.
The anchorage as seen from Knockaree to the northwest on Dursey Island Image: Colin Park via CC BY-SA 2.0
There is also the ability to avail of a temporary Dursey Sound anchorage 800 metres to the southeast of the narrows in settled conditions. This is in the northernmost of these two bays in the large bight in the Beara Peninsula between the northern entrance of Dursey Sound and Cod's Head. The anchorage makes an ideal location for a northbound vessel to wait the optimal tide.
The Calf Rock with The Heifer immediately in front Image: Kathi Bellinger via CC BY-SA 2.0
Those planning to cruise around Dursey Island will find its shores clear of dangers except for the dangerous Lea Rock, which dries to 3.4 meters, off Dursey Head at the southwest corner of the island. Two above-water rocks lie close together about ¾ of a mile to the southwest of Dursey Head. These are the 21 metres high The Calf, with its off-lying Heifer, about half its size and height. The Calf has the remaining stump of a cast-iron lighthouse that once existed on the rock. It was destroyed by a great storm in 1881, just less than two decades after it was first built in 1866 and strengthened in 1870. The light was then replaced by the tower built on the Bull Rock in 1882. The passage between The Calf and Lea Rock is about ½ a mile wide and the tidal streams sets through it at a rate of 3.5 kn at springs.
The Bull Rock Image: Colin Park via CC BY-SA 2.0
2½ miles west-northwest of Dursey Head, the headland at the outer tip of Dursey Island, is The Bull Rock. This 89 metres high remote rock is the outer islet lying west of Dursey Island with a lighthouse complex on top. Precipitous and steep-to when viewed from the east it appears as a mighty pyramid. The rock is perforated in an east-west direction by an arched cavern. The sides of this cavern are even and smooth as glass and it carries a depth of 9 metres. Interestingly, in early Irish mythology, the dead were said to go to 'Tech Donn', 'the house of Donn', an otherworldly figure associated with death. 'Tech Donn' is believed to be the Bull Rock.
Detached rocks lie out to 600 metres west from The Bull, terminating at the 6.1 metres high Gull Rock. A white 15 metres tower, Bull Rock Light, stands on the seaward side of The Bull W Vis 220°-186° (326°).
Bull Rock – lighthouse Fl 15s 83m23M position: 51°35.521'N, 010°18.073'W
The Cow Rock lying about midway between Dursey Island and Bull Rock Image: Kate Allen via CC BY-SA 2.0
Halfway between Dursey Head and The Bull lies The Cow islet or Oileán Baoi. 62 metres high it and surrounded by sheer walls it has a mighty sea arch off its northeast side. Along the south side of the island lies a thin, offshore rock also called Gull Rock. The Cow is a steep-to pinnacle rock with depths of 30 metres 100 metres of fairways on either side that are clear of dangers.
The tidal currents in between The Cow and Dursey Island are strong and trigger breaking seas in heavy weather.
KENMARE RIVER TO LAMB’S HEAD
On the north side of the Dursey Promontory, the coast falls back eastwards towards the deep and narrow Kenmare River. Truly it is a narrow sea inlet that penetrates the land, in an easterly direction, for a distance of 28 miles. Its initial entrance is between Dursey Island and Scariff Island an opening that is 7½ miles wide. The inlet is properly entered between Cod’s Head and Lamb’s Head, on the north shore, where it is 4 miles wide, with a general depth of 60 metres water. Inside its rocky and indented shores are generally foul, and must be approached with caution but there is no danger near a mid-channel course until the Maiden Rock is approached, 18 miles within the entrance.
The Kenmare River, gateway to a lovely cruising area (as seen at Kilmakilloge Harbour) Image: Michael Harpur
There is plenty of well-protected havens to be found in the Kenmare River’s host of bays that line each shore and one anchorage is conveniently near the head of the inlet. The inlet provides a wonderful cruising ground but it is an excellent base for exploring not only the Ring of Kerry but also the Beara Peninsula, part of which, including the contrasting scenic beauties of Gleninchaquin valley and Derreen Gardens, lies in County Kerry. The cosmopolitan town at its head is neat, with an array of restaurants and accommodation and a lively, sociable nightlife. The only difficulty with the inlet is of getting to sea again against the prevailing southwesterly winds. This should be considered before deciding to cruise this otherwise lovely sailing destination.
Garnish Bay tucked in around Garnish Point Image: Tourism Ireland
Immediately on the north side of the Dursey promontory, there is the large coastal bight of Garnish Bay that lies between Garnish Point and Cod’s Head, situated 2¾ miles to the northeast. Within Garnisn Bay there are two bays, Garnish Bay and Ballydonegan Bay.
Garnish Bay with its small harbour Image: Michael Harpur
Garnish Bay is the first of these bays, in the southwest 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.
Carrigduff Rock with its beacon as seen from the Garnish Beach Image: Michael Harpur
Its area is reduced by the Carrigduff Rock, which lies in the most sheltered part of the bay, uncovers at half-tide and is marked by a 5 to 7 metres high concrete beacon. Ballydonegan Bay lies 2½ miles to the east of Garnish Bay but it is of a more exposed nature and dangerous character.
Ballydonegan Bay and Allihies village backed by the Slieve Miskish Mountains Image: Tourism Ireland
It small old quay that used to serve the copper mines of Allihies centuries ago has now been refurbished and has a slip. A reasonable anchorage can be had over its steeply shelving beach between two flanking reefs in offshore easterlies. Outside of that it is best avoided.
Ballydonegan beach at sunset Image: Tourism Ireland
About five miles northeast of Dursey Island, Cod’s Head, formed by a spur from the Knocknagallaun Mountain, presents a rocky sterile appearance. Terminating to the west, in vertical cliffs from 90 to 100 metres high, it is steep-to with from 30 metres of water a distance of 200 to 400 metres off.
Coulagh Bay as seen from the northeast Image: Michael Harpur
Continuing along Kenmare River’s southern shore, the deep and dangerous Coulagh Bay opens up upon rounding Cod Head. Its rocky shores, backed by high mountain ranges, terminate to the northwest in the green 45-metre high island of Inishfarnard. To the west of Inishfarnard two very dangerous rocks projected towards an advancing vessel.
Coulagh Bay as seen from the southwest with breakers on Carrigeel and Stickeen Image: Upupa4me via CC BY-SA 3.0
The westernmost of these, with 1.5 metres of water over it, is Stickeenor Steeple Rock. It lies about a ½ mile to the west from the westernmost point of Inishfarnard. The other rock uncovers at last quarter ebb, drying to 1.2 metres, is called Bulligabridane and it resides 200 metres from the point. Between Bulligabridane and Stickeen there is 26 metres of water. There are two alignments to avoid these dangerous rocks.
Ballycrovane Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
To safely continue up the Kenmare Inlet clear to the northwest of Stickeen, keep the line of bearing 220° T, astern, of the tower on Dursey Island well open of Cod's Head. This also passes to the northwest the 18.9 meters deep Rocky Patch a mile to the west of Kilcatherine Point that breaks in gales. In bad weather keep the whole of Dursey Island open.
Ballycrovane Quay set into an inlet in the back of the harbour Image: Michael Harpur
For those venturing into Coulagh Bay there is the astern alignment 238° T, of The Bull and the northwest side of Cod's Head. This leads into the south Inishfarnard clear of all the outer dangers of Coulagh Bay. This alignment is used to approach Ballycrovane Harbour and details of the dangers of the bay are described in its approaches.
Ballycrovane Harbour is set into a niche in the eastern bight of Coulagh Bay, about 200 metres wide and 300 metres long with a quay and slip, it has room for several vessels to moor in depths of 10 to 15 metres in sand. Ballycrovane is the only sheltered anchorage that this dangerous bay affords as it is exposed to winds from the west, and both during and after bad weather a heavy sea runs in.
Deenish and Scariff Islands Photo: Tourism Ireland
The land on the north side of the entrance, like that on its south side, is bold and conspicuous, rising to elevations of from 400 to 500 metres. Lamb’s Head, forming the western point of the mainland on this side, is 101 metres high, with some high detached rocks at its base, but no outlying danger beyond 100 metres.
From Lamb’s Head to Illaunnaweelaun Island, 1 mile to the east along the shore, the shoreline is clear of danger. But between Illaunnaweelaun Island and the 9 metres high Daniel Island, a distance of 3½ miles further to the east, it is encumbered with numerous dangers that extend out for a considerable distance off.
The first of these is the awash Brigbeg, otherwise know as Bulligmore. It lies a ¼ of a mile to the east of Illaunnaweelaun Island; in the bay within it are two other dangerous rocks, Bulligbeg and Carrigbeg, all of which are generally identifiable by their breakers.
The Beara Rocks, covered at high water but dry to 3 metres, extend 600 metres offshore at the foot of a sharp peak of the 116 high Knocknasulig that is conspicuous to a vessel coming round Lamb head. This mountain forms the western boundary of the dangerous bays of Castle Cove and West Cove.
West Cove Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
The two rocky indentations of West Cove and Castlecove, 3½ miles northwestward of Lamb's Head, are full of rocks and shoals the most of which cover at high water. When there is any swell up these rocks present a confused mass of breakers, between which it is often impossible to navigate a vessel with any degree of safety.
Power boat exiting via West Cove's marked approach at low water with the reefs all showing Image: Michael Harpur
However, in fine weather and when approached in settled conditions, using its substantive alignment marks, with a vessel operating under power, West Cove in the bight's northwest corner, makes for a well-sheltered harbour that is entirely protected by its surrounding reefs. It has a quay and a slipway but little else. The adjacent Castlecove, less than 2km by road, has a store and a pub.
West Cove's pier Image: Michael Harpur
It is 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 House overlooking the harbour form its northeast side Image: Michael Harpur
A group of dangerous rocks lies in front of these coves, extending ½ a mile to the southwest of Daniel Island with the outer rock being called Carrigheela. They all cover at high water springs except the inner one called the Coosane, which is always above water. Their position is generally indicated by the breakers, which when the sea is up are visible from a long way off.
A stranger to this coast should stay ¾ of a mile out or in deeper than 30 metres of water.
For a distance of 1½ miles to the east of Daniel Island the shore is fronted by a series of islets. Illaundrane, the most eastern of these, affords shelter to the Bunnow Harbour, where leisure craft can find 3 metres of water. The whole shore here is strewn with rocks and should not be approached by a stranger any closer than 600 metres.
From this to Illaunleagh, 1¾ miles further to the east, the shore is free from danger and may be approached to 400 metres. Lying close to the shore this little island is scarcely noticed in passing. Immediately to the east of it, outstanding to near the middle of the inlet, is the 34 metres high Sherky Island that forms the western limit of Sneem Harbour.
Sneem Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
Lying on the north shore, opposite to Ardgroom and Kilmakilloge, is Sneem Harbour . The harbour's location is easily identified by Sherky Island which stands out from the north shore of Kenmare River nearly to the middle of the inlet. It is low lying only attains 33.5 metres at a hummock near its south end and is covered in uncultivated moorland. The islands and rocks in its vicinity provide partial shelter to the capacious Sneem Harbour within.
The Bag, tucked into Garinish Island, offers excellent protection in Sneem Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
The inner harbour, in the northwestern arm of Sneem Harbour, affords complete protection to a vessel in a range of anchoring locations plus visitor boat moorings. Its village, with a population of about 250, stands 1½ miles upriver with a drying quay that may be accessed by shoal draft vessel on the latter half of the tide.
The inner harbour and Oysterbed Pier Image: Michael Harpur
The best protection is to be found in the inner harbour between Garinish and Illaunslea islands that lie close off the north shore where Oysterbed Pier with its slipway is located. Outside of this the large estuarial harbour has a wide range of additional anchoring opportunities in good weather.
The upriver quay 400 metres downriver of Sneem village Image: Adie Jackson via CC BY-SA 2.0
The shore between Sneem Harbour and Coongar Bay, three miles to the east, is indented and fringed with outlying rocks. Vessels working up or down should be careful to give it a good berth, by not standing into a depth of less than 20 metres. Coongar Harbour provides no secure anchorage but may be used as a stopping place in settled conditions. A vessel can anchor near the middle of the bay in 16 metres, and find partial shelter from the prevailing westerly swell. This is a very pretty location that is set on one of the prettiest corners of Ireland that should not be overlooked by a passing coastal cruiser.
The Kenmare River as seen from the mainland close east of Inishfarnard Island Image: Michael Harpur
The south shore of Kenmare River to the east of Inishfarnard, is composed of low cliffs, lying at the base of wild mountain moorlands, which a short distance inland attain an elevation of 150 metres. The shore here is steep-to with no danger beyond 200 metres.
Cleanderry Harbour as seen from the southwest Image: Michael Harpur
The small inlet of Cleanderry Harbour lies on the southeast shore 3 miles to the east of Inishfarnard Island. It is sheltered by the low outer islands as well as a shallow ridge of awash rocks on its western side. Within these, it has depths of 9.1 to 12.8 metres but like most all the enclosed waters on the north Beara coast, these waters are heavily obstructed by mussel rafts and the associated aquafarming equipment close by.
The entrance is lying between the mainland and the islets Image: Michael Harpur
The principal issue with the harbour is its entrance which is only 7.6 metres wide, with 2.1 metres of water and is concealed behind the low-lying outer grassy island of Illaunbweeheen and then the inner island and the mainland. Approached from the north by northeast, it would not be easily picked out by a newcomer and add to this the middle of the harbour is exposed when the rocks cover in its southwest end. Lying between several excellent harbours it is best passed by except by smaller nimble vessels looking for some coastal niches to explore during fine weather. For those intent on visiting the best berth Cleanderry offers is in the northeast end in about 5 metres clear of a handful of moorings, but with little room to swing.
Cleanderry Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
To the east of this as far as Ardgroom the shore presents a rugged aspect, skirted by outlying dangers, and should not be approached nearer than 800 metres. About halfway up Kenmare River, there are three small harbours, Ardgroom and Kilmakilloge on the south shore, opposite Sneem in the north.
Spacious Ardgroom Harbour as seen from eastward Image: Michael Harpur
The land-locked harbour Ardgroom Harbour on the south shore, offers protection from all conditions in a capacious land-locked area, with 2 to 6 metres of water. However, Ardgroom has an intricate entrance, over a rocky 2.4-metre bar, that requires the use of multiple transits based around five unlit stone beacons. One of the beacons is often obscured by trees and very hard to see.
Ardgroom's inner harbour and Pallas Pier as seen from the southwest Image: Michael Harpur
This makes it a testing exercise for the first visit with good visibility, settled conditions, binoculars, and a bearing compass are recommended for a carefully piloted approach under power. The inner bay is much given to mussel fishery but do not be deterred by the hectares of mussel barrels as there is ample room.
Pallas Pier Image: Michael Harpur
The land-locked harbour within however offers complete protection from all conditions off Pallas Harbour with 2 to 6 metres of water. Pallas Pier lies in its northwest corner sheltered by a long spit of land called the Cus that juts out from the inner side of the western entrance. The small village of Ardgroom lies inland to the southwest.
Kilmakilloge Harbour as seen over Bunaw Image: Michael Harpur
Lying close to the east of Ardgroom, Kilmakilloge Harbour provides perfect security for a small vessel against all winds. Its position is easily recognised from its proximity to Ardgroom, and by a grassy precipice, 29 metres high, on the east side of the entrance.
The entrance to Kilmakilloge Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
Although appearing very spacious the harbour is restricted by a number of shoals so some pilotage is required. Likewise, as is the case with most all the sheltered harbours around the Beara Peninsula, they all have an element of aquaculture and this is very much the case here. The area to the south of the entrance is dominated by mussel farms but they do not impede access to the harbour's principal anchorages and are easily circumvented.
Collorus Harbour in the southwestern arm of the harbour Image: Michael Harpur
Kilmakilloge Harbour is popular with leisure craft on account of its natural beauty and perfect shelter. The harbour is well protected as a whole but within it there are four broadly recognised berthing locations that offer additional protection from various wind quadrants.
The view from the head of the inlet behind Escadawer Point Image: Giles P Croft via CC BY SA 3.0
These are Bunaw Harbour with a pier set within a rocky cove on the northeast side of Kilmakilloge Harbour. Carrigwee Islet and Escadawer Point, in the eastern arm, and Collorus Harbour in its southwestern arm that offers the best protection of the harbour area.
The view over Kilmakilloge Harbour from Bunaw Pier Image: Michael Harpur
However, the spacious harbour has ample nooks and crannies with long, thin islets and inlets where leisure could find a wide range of berthing locations and ample to explore.
The opposite southern shore of Kenmare River is generally foul. ½ a mile to the east of Kilmakilloge a rocky prong, dry at low water, called Carrignawohil, extends 400 metres from the shore. 1½ miles further east the now scarcely conspicuous ruin of Ardea Castle, pronounced Ardee, may be seen perched on the brow of a grassy precipice of 35 metres high and collapsing down. At the foot of this is a stony beach, thrown up by the action of the western swell, that forms a barrier across the mouth of the little River Cloone.
Lehid Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
In the southeast corner of the bight is Lehid Harbour 600 metres southward of Ardea Castle. Most of the harbour dries but it is possible to anchor in the centre of the harbour that has a deep pool of 3 metres LAT. But it is difficult to imagine why the risks would warrant the use of this harbour by strangers. It has no nearby facilities, a drying sill of rocks at low water that bars entry and an extremely narrow entrance between rocky ledges on either side. This makes it the domain of only the very curious in settled weather at high water and preferably in RIB or a tender to visit the site of the castle.
Outstanding to the north of Ardea Castle is Leaghillaun Point, a low and dark looking point that forms an island at high water. Between it and Rossmore Island, on the north shore, Kenmare River contracted to about a mile in width and is obstructed by dangerous rocks, lying in the fairway called Maiden Rock.
Lying nearly in the fairway, at the distance of 850 metres from Rossmore Island, and with Ardea Castle to the south Maiden Rock is nearly awash at very low tides, but at ordinary spring ebbs, it has about 0.6 metres of water on it.
The highest part of the rock is about 25 metres in diameter, but only a small pinnacle has the aforementioned 0.6 metres of cover. When any considerable swell rolls up the river it breaks violently towards low water. The general depth between the Maiden Rock and Rossmore Island is around 25 metres, but nearly midway there is a very small rock with 9.8 metres, on which the sea occasionally breaks during heavy westerly gales. To the north of this, there is a starboard marker indicating a safe passage between it and Rossmore Island.
Maiden Rock – buoy Fl G 5s position: 51°49.023'N, 009°48.034'W
Off the southern shore, a dangerous tract of rocky ground extends towards the Maiden Rock, called Church Rocks. These have two distinct heads of 2.1 and 2.4 metres of water at its extremity, lying a little more than ½ a mile west from Leaghillaun Point.
The passage between these rocks and the Maiden, is almost ½ a mile wide, with 20 metres of water, and is considered the fairway. Unfortunately, there is no good leading mark for it that a stranger could pick up so it is perhaps best to pass on the north side, between the marker and Rossmore Island.
Ormond's Island Image: Michael Harpur
The south shore, from Leaghillaun point to Ormond's Island, 1½ miles to the east, is fringed with outlying rocks with an obstruction with 1.4 metres of water over it, lying 400 metres off, and must be carefully avoided by vessels working up or down the estuary.
Ormond's Harbour with Coornagillagh Quay at its head Image: Michael Harpur
Ormond's Island forms a low 10-metre high projection from the south shore with a clay cliff at its west end. Sunken rocks extend 300 metres from this in a westerly direction. Ormond's Harbour, sheltered by Ormond's Island on the north and Hog Island with its adjacent rocks on the west, is a little rocky inlet. Although forbidding in appearance, from the number of rocks around it, it provides a useful berth with good shelter in 5 metres over a muddy bottom off its southern shore. Landings may be had at Coornagillagh Quay at the head of the harbour.
Coornagillagh Quay as seen at low water Image: Michael Harpur
On the north shore, about 2 miles above Rossmore Island, a deep glen that forms the channel of this picturesque little Blackwater River. There are no navigational marks nor facilities in the surrpunding area.
Blackwater Harbour in the mouth of the river Image: Mark Murray
A stone pier stands on the west side of the river mouth with 1.2 metres LAT at its outer end and it may be possible to dry out over its sandy bottom. It has steps near its inner end where it dries.
Yacht anchored in the mouth of the Blackwater River Image: Graham Rabbits
Beyond the pier, it becomes shallow very quickly and it is full of local moorings. The pier should be considered the domain of the adventurous on account of the adjacent shallows and lack of turning space. A goo anchorage is possible outside the river mouth with about 5 metres or more close seaward of the point to the south of the pier. It is by far the simpler optin with good shelter from westerlies.
With from 2.4 to 2.7 metres of water over them, the well-covered Lackeen Rocks are the shallowest portion of an extensive tract of foul ground lying near the middle of Kenmare River. One mile long and nearly 600 metres wide it commences to the south of the Blackwater River mouth. On each side of it, there is a channel with from 13 to 20 metres of water. The channel between it and the south shore is further obstructed by well covered Halissey Rock, with 3.4 metres of water. To the east of this, both shores are foul to a considerable distance.
Sunrise over the Kenmare River Photo: A Ryan via CC BY-SA 2.0
The channel to the upper part of Kenmare River is narrowed 1½ miles before the Dunkerron, by Brennel Island on the south shore and Carrignaronebeg Rock midchannel. Both are made known by lateral marks.
Brennel Island, on the outer edge of a series of rocks that extend a mile to the west of Cappanacush Island and cover the north shore to near the middle of Kenmare River. Some of these rocks are always above water. The 3-metre high Brennel Island is the highest part of a reef that extends a ⅓ of a mile from the south shore. Its outer eastern rock, Bat Rock with 0.8 metres of water over it uncovering at half-tide, is situated 230 metres to the north of the island and is marked by a buoy to the north.
Bat Rock – Starboard Buoy Fl G5s position: 51° 50.914'N, 009° 40.929'W
Carrignaronebeg rock lies in the middle of the Kenmare River opposite. It dries to 2.6 metres but covers at high water and is marked by Carrignaronebeg buoy.
The pass between Bat Rock and the Carrignaronebeg Rock is 500 metres wide and has 11 to 17 metres of water.
A small detached pinnacle called Bowlings Rock has 0.8 metres of water and lays ¾ of a mile to the east of Carrignaronebeg. From this towards the head of Kenmare River, the water becomes gradually shallower, with not more than from 0.6 to 0.8 metres over a large area above the Dunkerron Islands.
Templenoe stone pier in the western end of Dunkerron Image: Michael Harpur
Dunkerron Harbour lies on the north side of the main navigational channel of the Kenmare River, between Dunkerron Islands, to the southeast, and the Cappenacush and Greenane Islands, to the west. The protected inlet is to the largest part in a natural setting with the only man-made structures being the small pretty Templenoe stone pier, dry at low water, in its western end, and the Dromquinna Manor Hotel in the east end with a pier and a jetty.
Dromquinna Manor Hotel jetty and pier in the east end of the inlet Image: Michael Harpur
The inlet provides a well-sheltered anchoring area with ample depths with excellent mud holding as well as the possibility of coming alongside the hotel's jetty.
Dunkerron offers a tranquil anchorage Image: Michael Harpur
Kenmare Quay, often also known as Kenmare Pier, sits at the head of Kenmare River 3 miles above Dunkerron Harbour. It is a neat cosmopolitan town of about 1,800, with an array of restaurants and a lively, sociable nightlife that is most attractive.
Kenmare Quay Image: Michael Harpur
A drying quay stands on the north side of the inlet about a ½ mile below the town. It accommodates vessels of 3 metres draft at high water that can take the ground at LW on a bottom of soft mud.
Kenmare Quay at low water Image: Michael Harpur
The last mile to the quay is extremely shallow, poorly charted and a great impediment to those keen to visit. But it is well marked and although the quay may be reached at high water it is not recommended for drying out.
Buoys leading the last length to Kenmare Quay Image: Michael Harpur
Moderate draft vessels may anchor and stay afloat at low water to the southeast of the pierhead although depths are restricted. But the quay itself, and hence landing for access to the town, will be dry for approximately three hours.
Kenmare Street Image: Michael Harpur
All things considered, using Dunkerron Harbour is the best option for those intending on visiting Kenmare.
LAMB’S HEAD TO DOULUS HEAD (Including Ballinskelligs Bay and Valentia Island)
The hog islands as seen over Darrynane Image: Michael Harpur
To the north of Lamb Head, the coast is fronted by the outlying colloquially known 'Hog Islands', and then trends in a northwest direction for four miles to Hog Head, the southern point of Ballinskelligs Bay. The 'Hog Islands', lay to the west of Lamb’s Head, are bold and conspicuous. Likewise, the 162 metres Hog's Head to the north of them, stands out conspicuously from the south side of Ballinskelligs Bay.
Hog's Head as seen from within Ballingskelligs Bay Image: Michael Harpur
The outer of a group of islands is Scariff Island, otherwise known as 'Great Hog Island', lies 4½ miles west from Lamb’s Head. The 252 metres high island is one mile long, ¾ of a mile wide, and surrounded by steep precipices.
Scariff and its adjacent smaller Deenish Island Image: Michael Harpur
The 141 metres high similar adjacent Deenish, or Little Hog island, lies 300 metres to the east of Scariff. It is about ¾ of a mile long and a ⅓ of a mile wide. Rocky prongs extend for 400 metres from the west side of Scariff and the north end of Deenish, but they are clear of hidden dangers and steep-to.
Two Headed Island (middle) Moylaun Island (right) Image: Michael Harpur
The 21 metres high Moylaun Island lies 1½ miles east of Deenish Island. It is a ¼ of a mile long and 21 metres high. The aptly named Two Headed Island lies ½ a mile to the southeast of Moylaun, and is about 200 metres from the Leaghcarrig, the islet under Lamb's Head.
The passages between these islands are clear of hidden danger with about 40 metres of water and can be safely navigated in fine weather. The only exception is when passing outside Moylaun Island where vessels should stand well off the southwest corner to avoid a reef that extends out 400 metres to Moylaun Rock.
The flood tide sets to the north through them, and the ebb to the south, at the rate of 1.5 knots per hour.
There is also a deep water mid-channel cut between Two Headed Island and Leaghcarrig that lies close west of Lamb's Head. It has 14 metres and can be used in very settled conditions in the absence of swell.
Darrynane Harbour, with Lamb's Head, Leaghcarrig and Two Headed Island in the backdrop Image: Michael Harpur
Between the islands and Hog's Head there are some rocky patches on which the sea breaks heavily in bad weather. The most eastern and shallowest of these is called Bullignalorbau (1½ miles northeast of the summit of Deenish Island) has 7.9 metres of water over it, plus Bullignamylaun, a ⅓ of a mile east of Moylaun Island, has 18 metres of water over it. Both of these break in gales.
Darrynane Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
Between them lies the little bight of Darrynane Harbour . The small harbour has a narrow entrance between rocks that leads into an excellent anchorage with secure moorings providing complete protection. However, it is inaccessible except in the finest weather. The harbour is remote, by sandy beaches with a substantial Bunavalla Pier in its northeast corner and a smaller drying pier in the southwest end. The tiny hamlet of Caherdaniel sprawls along Derrynane Bay’s eastern flank hidden among the trees.
Yachts at anchor in Darrynane Harbour Image: Michael Harpur
The outlying rocks, as well as the foul ground between Darrynane and Hog Islands, break furiously in unsettled weather. Closer in, especially in rough conditions from the southwest, the sea will break between the rocks of the narrow entrance making it dangerous if not impassable. This is also the case with a high southwest swell. So it can only be entered/exited in fine weather. But in settled conditions, this is a harbour is an absolute must-visit along this coast.
The view west out through Ballinskelligs Bay with the Pig's Rock showing Photo: Tourism Ireland
The entrance to Ballinskelligs Bay located between Hog Head, and it's off-lying Pig's Rocks with a drying reef close seaward of them, and Horse Island and is nearly two miles wide with deep water all the way. Inside the bays expands to four miles in width and three in depth, with moderate depths, but quite open to the southwest, and exposed to a very heavy sea with the wind from that quarter.
Ballinskelligs Bay Photo: Robert Linsdell via CC BY 2.0
The northern boundary of this deep bight is Bolus Head. The extremity of a bold 407 metres high mountainous promontory, that drops down here to terminate in the 183-metre high precipice. ½ a mile to the northeast of the head, at an elevation of 283 metres, a tower will be seen. The 407 metre high Bolus Mountain will be seen standing about a mile and a ½ to the northeast of the head.
Bolus Head Photo: Tourism Ireland
A mile to the north of Bolus Head is Ducalla Head, foul out to 200 metres. It forms the southern limit of Saint Finan’s Bay, an open bay lying between Ducalla Head and Puffin Island to the north, with bold rocky shores and deep water.
Puffin Island's Black Head (Canduff) Photo: Graham Rabbits
About three miles northwest of Bolus Head is the 166 metre high Puffin Island. The island lies close to the shore at the northwest point of St. Finan’s Bay. The sound between it and the shore is obstructed by rocks, having a narrow passage 45 metres wide, with 9 metres of water, through which the tide runs with rapidly.
Both the island and the mainland point, Ballaghnanea (Ballagh Point) close northeast, can be distinguished by steep cliffs. Inland, about 3.2 miles northeast of Puffin Island, a conspicuous television mast stands at an elevation of 368 metres. Puffin Sound is a rock-encumbered sound between Puffin Island and Ballaghnanea Point. It has a narrow 45-metre wide passage with a depth of 5.5 metres, through which tidal currents run very strongly.
The mystic Skellig Islands Photo: Tourism Ireland
Offshore, between 6½ and 7½ miles to the west of Bolus Head, and about 14 miles northwest of The Bull, reside the Skellig Islands. These islands consist of two conspicuous pinnacle rocky islets, Great Skellig, also known as Skellig Michael, is the outer islet, and Little Skellig the inner.
The formidable Great Skellig (Skellig Michael) Photo: Jerzy Strzelecki via CC BY-SA 2.0
The uninhabited Great Skellig , also known as Skellig Michael, majestically rises out of the sea to a height of 214 metres.
Little Skellig as seen from the remains of a beehive on Skellig Michael Photo: Tourism Ireland
A Gaelic Christian monastery was founded on the island at some point between the 6th and 8th centuries and it remained continuously occupied until it was abandoned in the late 12th century. The remains of the series of early Christian beehive buildings and walled enclosures, of dry masonry construction, remain today on its eastern heights, solid and unbroken for 14 centuries. The remains of the monastery and most of the island became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Its breathtaking appearance has lead to it being a filming location for the Star Wars movies 'The Force Awakens' and 'The Last Jedi'.
A light is shown from a 12-metre high white tower, standing on the islands southwest extremity, plus the remains of a disused lighthouse can be seen 200 metres to the northwest of the new light. The light is sectored to cover Little Skellig and Lemon Rock W Vis 262°-115° (213°).
The dangerous Washerwoman Rock, drying to 1.8 metres high, resides a ⅓ of a mile to the southwest of Great Skellig. There are two further dangerous sunken rocks that reside 90 metres off the islands north end.
Little Skellig as seen remains of a monastic settlement on Skellig Michael Photo: Carolyn via CC BY-SA 2.0
Situated about 1.3 miles east-northeast of Great Skellig, Little Skellig is 130 metres high. It hosts sizable gannets and kittiwakes bird colonies. A rock lies less than 90m from its S side.
The 21 metre high Lemon Rock resides about 2.2 miles northeast of Little Skellig.
Between Puffin island and Port Magee, the western entrance of Valentia Harbour, the coast is of the same bold precipitous character, fringed with rocky prongs and detached masses of rock. The coast declines in height to the north, where it terminates in a series of low black islands at the south side of the entrance channel to Portmagee.
The view southward from Valentia Island Photo: @storytravelers
Residing 2.7 miles north of Puffin Island and on the south side of the entrance to Dingle Bay, Valentia Island is a large and significant island. Six miles long the island has highlands at each end, the 238 metres hill at its west end and a 267-metre hill at its northeast corner; the latter made conspicuous 30-metre high radio mast standing on the summit. The seaward northwest side is shrouded by remarkable slate cliffs where the disused workings of a quarry will be seen.
Bray Head, the southwest extremity of Valentia Island Photo: Tourism Ireland
Bray Head, the southwest extremity of the island, is bold and precipitous. The north side of the island between Fort Point and Beginish Island, at the northeast extremity, forms the south side of Valentia Harbour. The southeast side of the island forms the northwest side of Portmagee Channel. These are separated by a swing bridge that spans the channel and is located 90 metres east of Port Magee Pier. Although the bridge offers a 10.7-metre wide opening it has become inoperable and so forms an airdraft restriction.
Valentia Harbour and the mouth of Valentia River Photo: Tourism Ireland
Clear of danger with plenty of depth Portmagee , opening immediately to the south of Bray Head, at the western end of the strait that separates Valentia Island from the mainland, affords secure anchorage at the west end of the channel, to the southeast side of the island.
Although providing a safe anchorage it is a dangerous place for sailing vessels to run for in bad weather. A very heavy sea runs into the entrance, and with the wind coming off either shore it is subject to unpredictable and heavy gusts from the high land that surrounds it.
Situated at the east end of the island, Knightstown or Valentia Harbour, entered between Valentia Island between and Beginish Island, affords perfect shelter against all winds and sea, and is easy of access.
For sailing vessels a leading wind is necessary, as the entrance is very narrow, and exposed to a heavy sea, which in northwest gales sometimes breaks right across it.
Cromwell Point (Fort) Lighthouse Photo: Tourism Ireland
Cromwell Point, forming the west point of entrance, is composed of a ledge of rocks that extend 150 metres beyond the lighthouse and are steep-to. It is distinguished by a lighthouse with a sectored light R304°-351° (47°), W104°-304° (200°).
Cromwell Point - Fort lighthouse Fl WR 2s position: 51° 56.022'N, 010° 19.280'W
The northeast, or Beginish Island, side of the entrance will be identifiable by a former pilot lookout tower standing on the summit of the island at an elevation of 63 metres.
The channel is reduced to 160 metres in width by the Cloghavalig Rocks, these extend 180 metres from the west point of Beginis Island, and have less than 0.5 metres of water over them.
By night the Valentia directional light lights a path through the center G136°-140° (4°), W140°-142° (2°), R142°-146° (4°),
Valentia Harbour Photo: Tony Webster via CC BY-SA 2.0
The channel between the northeast extremity of Valentia Island and Reenadroulaun Point on the mainland, to the east, is narrowed to a width of about 100 metres by shoals which extend from each shore. The drying spit on the west side of the channel is known as The Foot.
DOULUS HEAD TO SYBIL POINT (Including Dingle Bay)
North of Valentia Island the mainland recommences with the 104 meters high Doulus Head. The headland is conspicuous from seaward and is backed by 276m high Killelan Mountain about ¾ of a mile to the northeast.
Doulus Head resides on the south side of the entrance to Dingle Bay. Dingle Bay is entered between Valentia Island and The Blaskets, between Dunmore Head, the Dingle Peninsula western extremity, and Doulus Point its south-westernmost point. The bay is about 11 miles wide at its entrance and extends east-northeast for 20 miles. It is deep and clear in the entrance and shoals gradually toward its head. The land on both sides of Dingle Bay is high and bold, particularly the Dingle Peninsula, where the Brandon Mountains rises up to a height of 949 metres. This high land terminates to seaward in precipitous cliffs in the outer part of the bay.
Castlemaine Harbour is at the head and Ventry and Dingle Harbours residing in bights out of its northwest shoreline. The rest of the bay offers no shelter as it is exposed to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean and westerly swell.
At the head of Dingle Bay is Castlemaine Harbour, formed by the estuary of the rivers Laune and Maine. The harbour is strictly a prolongation of Dingle Bay, and' penetrates the land for a distance of about 6½ miles with an average width of upwards of two miles. The greater portion of this uncovers at low water. It is sheltered by the low sandy peninsulas of Inch and Rossbehy plus the extensive sandbanks projecting from the north and south shorelines for nearly two miles to the west into Dingle Bay.
Dingle Harbour Photo: Tourism Ireland
It affords a safe and well-sheltered anchorage for leisure craft, in from 3 to 7 metres of water. However, its entrance is rendered difficult by a 3-metre bar, two miles seaward of the entrance, and by some shallower shoals lying around the bar.
Castlemaine Harbour intensively farmed for shellfish.
The conspicuous Eask Tower from seaward Photo: Graham Rabbits
Situated on the north side of Dingle Bay, Ventry Harbour is located four miles east of Slea Head. The bay’s opening is a mile wide and it is entered between Parkmore Point and the 30 meters high Paddock Point on the eastern side. Paddock Point is easily recognised upon approach as it lies 1½ miles to the west of the conspicuous Eask Tower situated upon a 195-metre high summit. The large bay provides easy access and an anchorage with good holding ground.
Crow Rock Photo: Graham Rabbits
About three miles to the east of Ventry is Dingle Harbour . At high water, it presents a magnificent basin, completely landlocked, and surrounded by lofty hills, but with the falling tide a large portion of it uncovers, and what remains is very shallow except for a narrow channel to the harbour, with a marina, situated on the north shore.
It is essential to keep at least a mile from the north shore of Dingle Bay between Ventry Bay and the entrance to Dingle Bay. Foul ground extends ¾ of a mile southwest from Reenbeg Point 600 metres offshore.
Crow Rock, that is covered on high water springs and dries to 3.7 metres, lies on the outer part of the foul ground Colleen-oge Rock, with 1.8 metres of water over it, resides about half way between it and the shore to the northeast. There is also a detached head, with 2.4 metres of water over it, that lies about a 100 metres west-southwest of Crow Rock. The line of bearing 024° of the light tower, on the northeast side of the harbour entrance, open southeast of Reenbeg Point, as best seen on Admiralty 2790, provides a clearing line for these dangers.
Upon the north side of the entrance to Dingle Bay, immediately west of the extremity of Dingle peninsula, are the Blasket Islands. These are a cluster of precipitous rocky islets surrounded by deep water. However, the bottom in their vicinity is uneven, with sudden transitions from deep water to comparatively shallow. When this combines with strong tides and thick weather it causes a heavy breaking and dangerous seas. In heavy westerly gales, the appearance of the sea among the islands is so utterly deadly that no one would dare venture into it. However, in fine weather, they offer a very interesting and enchanting cruising area. The key Blasket Islands and islets that will be encountered are described here from south to north.
A local magnetic anomaly is reported to exist in the vicinity of the Blasket Islands.
Blasket Islands and Dunmore Head Photo: Chris Brooks via CC-BY-SA 2.0
The southwestern most islet of the group is Great Foze Rock. It lies about three miles south-southwest of Tearaght Island and the rugged little islet is about 120 metres wide and 27 metres high. It is steep-to with about 40 metres of depth within 200 metres all around, except for a 16.2-meter patch about 200 metres northwest of it.
Great Foze Rock – unmarked position: 51° 01.405'N, 010° 41.437'W
The smaller 7 metres high Little Foze Rock lies just under a mile north-northeast of Great Foze Rock. It is 7.9 metres high, steep-to and clear of danger all round. Depths in excess of 50 metres of water will be found in the channel between them.
Little Foze Rock – unmarked position: 51° 02.070'N, 010° 40.555'W
Inishvickillane, Inishnabro with Great and Little Foze Rocks just visible as seen great Great Blasket Photo: Janek Kloss
Residing north and south of each other Inishnabro and Inishvickillane Islands together occupy a space of about 1½ miles. The islands western ends incline towards each other and reach heights of 174 and 134 metres respectively. Their surrounding shores are broken and rocky, with outlying dangers to the south and west. They are generally inaccessible except for Inishvickillane. On its northeast side, there is a little bay in front of which a vessel may anchor with settled weather or with moderate westerly winds. A landing is also possible here in fine weather.
The north end of Inishnabro lies just over a mile to the southwest from Canduff, the south-western end extremity of Great Blasket Island, with a clear channel between them that carries 50 metres of water. However, 400 metres from the northeast end of Inishnabro is the dangerous off-lying Sound Rock that dries at last quarter ebb to 0.9 meters.
To the south of Inishvickillane are several detached rocks, some always above water, and others only appearing at low water. There is also a shoal that causes breakers, with the least depth of 11 metres, stretching for almost a mile to the east of the eastern extremity of Inishvickillane.
The 32 metres high Thunder Rock lies about 200 metres south-southwest of the southern extremity of Inishvickillane, and is nearly connected to it by a sunken ridge.
Off the northwest point of the island is the above water Stack Rock 0.8 mile northwest of Thunder Rock. About 400 metres southwest of Stack Rock is a rock that dries to 0.3 metres.
To the south of Inishvickillane are the Fohish Rocks that cover on last quarter flood and dry to 2.7 metres. They lie nearly ½ a mile southeast of the southern extremity of Inishvickillane, with 40 metres of water, 200 metres outside them. Two above water rocks Milkaunmore and Milkaunbeg reside between Fohish Rocks and the southeast end of the island. The alignment of the southeast extremity of Inishtooskert in range with, the southwest extremity of Great Blasket Island, on a bearing about 006°(T), leads west of the Fohish Rocks as best seen on an Admiralty chart.
About 2½ miles to the southeast of Inishvickillane there is the well-covered Barrack Rock. It has 8.2 metres of water over it and it is steep-to, but breaks during gales.
Barrack Rock – unmarked shoal position: 52° 01.130'N, 010° 32.820'W
Likewise, the nearby Wild Bank should be noted. It lies about 4 miles to the northwest of Barrack Rock and 2½ miles south-southwest of Slea Head. It has general depths of 11 to 18.3 metres but a least depth of 5.5 metres over a pinnacle rising from a rocky bank and likewise causes breakers.
Wild Bank – unmarked shoal position: 52° 03.515'N, 010° 28.840'W
Inishtearaght Island Photo: Janek Kloss
The small precipitous 179 metres high Inishtearaght Island resides almost three miles west of the southwest end of Great Blasket Island and it is the most westerly and remote of all the Blasket Islands. The island is perforated by an archway that will be seen as open to a northeast by east or southwest by south bearing. It is steep-to all round, except to the west, where some high, detached rocks and islets lie about 400 metres west of the western extremity of the island. 400 metres south of these there are two reefs that uncover, between half and last quarter ebb to 2 metres and 0.8 metres.
The lighthouse on Inishtearaght Island Image: Tourism Ireland
The western side of Inishtearaght has a prominent lighthouse. Inishtearaght Light is a white 17 metres high white tower standing at an elevation of 84 metres.
¾ of a mile to the west of Inishtearaght are Tearaght Rocks with deep water close home to them. One rock attains a height of 13 metres. The channel between it and the outlying islets and rocks, to the west of Inishtearaght, is quite clear of danger, with depths varying from 60 to 25 metres in mid-channel.
Great Blasket Island Photo: Barbara Walsh via CC BY 2.0
Three miles long, in a southwest-northeast direction, and less than ½ a mile wide; Great Blasket Island is the largest of the group. It resides just ¾ of a mile to the west of Dunmore Head, the nearest point of the mainland. Rising from such a narrow base to the height of 289 metres at its highest point at Croagmore, about a mile northeast of Canduff Point its southern extremity, it is a very steep island and presents along its northwest side a wall of vertical cliffs.
Low clouds clinging to Great Blasket Island Image: Tourism Ireland
Near its eastern end, a ruined tower stands on the summit of the ridge. Close northwest of Garraun Point, the eastern extremity of the island, upon the shore facing the mainland, there is a beach called An Tra Ban . In fine weather, a vessel may anchor here in 3 metres on a sandy bottom and land on the beach.
Ruin overlooking An Trá Ban, Great Blasket Island Photo: Tom Bennett via CC BY-SA 2.0
The northwest shore of the island is free from outlying danger, but from the north point, there is a dangerous cluster of rocks and islets extending a mile in a north-northeast direction. These include attached at high water 11 metres Illaunbaun, and the 10-metre high Illaunboy, and 11.9-metre high Carrigfadda islets that reside 270 metres northwest of the northern extremity of Great Blasket Island, with foul ground between. Several rocks, awash, lie within 400 metres west and northwest of the latter two islets, and a group of sunken rocks and islets extends for nearly a mile north of them. Near their north end of this cluster are the Edge Rocks standing 17.4 and 16.2 metres high, with out-lying rocks, that uncover at low water, 200 metres farther north, and Connor Rocks, also awash, 400 metres farther northeast. The bank on which this scattered group reside extends ½ a mile further to the north carrying depths of 9.1 to 18.3 metres of water and it breaks heavily in bad weather.
Blasket Sound seen over Dunmore Head Photo: Tourism Ireland
The rocky islet, Beginish, with Youngs Island, close north, lies within 0.8 mile northeast of the northern extremity of Great Blasket Island. These islets form the eastern boundary of this group and the western side of Blasket Sound.
Youngs Island has an outlying rock situated 400 metres east from the islets northern extremity, that dries at low water springs and breaks at other times. There is a depth of 4.6 metres over a group of pinnacles about 90 metres south of the rock.
East of Beginish, the Theogh Rocks extend 200 metres in a southerly direction. Likewise, some rocks extend for 200 metres off the northeast corner of Beginish. All of these western dangers must be avoided by vessels working through Blasket Sound.
Blasket Sound as seen from Great Blasket Island Photo: Janek Kloss
In moderate weather, the relatively easy to navigate Blasket Sound is a very attractive option for leisure craft as detailed in Navigating Blasket Sound . It offers considerable distance savings for vessels rounding the Dingle Peninsula as it cuts at least twenty miles off passages between Valentia and the River Shannon, or destinations further north.
Dunmore Head as seen from above the Lure Image: Tourism Ireland
Blasket Sound’s narrowest part resides between the mainland’s Dunmore Head and Garraun Point (the east point of Great Blasket Island) is reduced to ¾ of a mile in width by a remarkable narrow 44 metres high strip of rock called the Lure.
The Lure as seen from above Dunmore Head with Great Blasket in the backdrop Image: Tourism Ireland
The Lure extends into the channel from Dunmore Point and from a short distance, this strip of rock appears as an island. Scollage Rock, that is covered at high water, resides 150 metres out from its extremity. Beyond these again, and lying nearly in a direct line between the Scollage Rock and Garraun Point, one-third of the distance across from the former, is a sunken rock called the Stromboli Rocks.
The Lure seen as seen from Blasket Sound Photo: Tourism Ireland
Consisting of several small sunken pinnacles Stromboli Rock has a least depth of 1.8 metres of water over it. The pinnacles lie 500 metres west by north from the Scollage Rock, and in stormy weather is surrounded by heavy breakers.
Fishing boat passing south through Blasket Sound Photo: Tourism Ireland
Between Stromboli Rock and Garraun Point, there is a clear ½ mile wide passage with 25 metres of water. A useful shared set of waypoints and tidal timings can be found in the Route navigating Blasket Sound .
The passages between the islands or through the Blasket sound may be freely used in moderate weather, taking care to avoid the above-described dangers plus eddies near the islands. In unsettled weather or at night, it is best to pass to the west of the larger islands. Be prepared for sudden and violent gusts of the wind, that come off the mountains and high islands in this area.
Inishtooskert, seen from the mainland appears like a sleeping giant Photo: Barbara Walsh via CC BY 2.0
The northernmost of the Blasket group is Inishtooskert Island. It resides 2¼ miles north-northwest from the northernmost point of Great Blasket Island and about 3½ miles northeast of Tearaght Island. The small island is about 1 mile in length and ½ a mile wide. In Gaelic, the name means island of the tusks and is so called as a result of its pinnacle rocks having that appearance. The islands northern face is composed of nearly vertical 171 metres high cliffs that slope down to the southeast. The island is quite free from outlying danger, except off its southwest end. Here there is a detached rock that is awash at low water and situated about 600 metres southwest of the southwest extremity of the island. It usually makes itself known by the seas breaking over it. Between it and the island are the always exposed Carrigduff and another high rock.
The north side of Blasket Sound Photo: d_marino2001 via CC BY-SA 2.0
The channel between Inishtooskert and the rocks north of Great Blasket is 1½ miles wide, with irregular soundings, varying from 60 and 18 to 35 metres. In fine weather, the elevations of the bottom are marked by tide ripples but in westerly gales, there are heavy breakers in this area. The most severe are about a mile directly south of Inishtooskert over an 18.3-metre section of the bank.
The eastern mainland shore of Blasket Sound lays at the base of the high mountains that terminate the Brandon range. It is rugged and broken but, with the exception of Stromboli Rock, is free from hidden danger beyond what a sensible boatman would comfortably venture into.
Lying between Slea Head and Dunmore Head is Coumenoole Bay at the south end of the sound. It is clear of danger and shoals gradually to the shore with a depth of 5 metres at 50 metres out. It provides an anchorage in offshore wind for vessels waiting for a fair tide to pass through the sound.
Coumeenoole Bay and Slea Head seen from the north Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen via CC BY-SA 2.0
From Dunmore Head, the coast trends in a north-northeast direction for 2½ miles to Clogher Head, and is fringed by rocky prongs. Abreast of the village of Dunquin these extend nearly 400 metres out to terminate in detached rock Carrigduff. Within the sheltered are of outlying rocks is a fine weather landing place here.
The rugged 113 metres high Clogher Head has a prominent sharply pointed above-water Clogher Rock close off the head.
Terminating in a bold precipice that rises to a height of 206 metres, Sybil Point resides 1.7 miles north of Clogher Head, and nearly in the same line of direction from Dunmore Head. The point has the ruins of a telegraph tower on its summit, at an elevation 126 metres. Although the tower is now difficult to discern the summit on which it stands provides a useful leading mark when traversing Blasket Sound. The alignment of the sharp pointed Clogher Rock, in range 015° with the ruins of the tower, or the summit on which it stands leads clear of the dangers in the sound.
Sybil Point as seen from the south Photo: William Glasgow Howe
A 47-metre high rock lies close southwest of Sybil Point. Drying rocks and shoals extend about ½ a mile from the point with a rock awash at low water about 200 metres to the south of the always visible Maher-aneig rock. At the head of the bight between Clogher Head and Sybil point is Ferriter’s Cove, where a landing is possible on a sandy beach in fine weather.
SYBIL POINT TO THE MAGHAREES
Aerial view of Sybil Point Photo: Irish Air Corps
From Sybil Point, almost a barb of rock topped by a tower, the coast turns suddenly to the east for a distance of 13 miles to Brandon Point, at the west side of Brandon Bay. Backed by ranges of high mountains that terminate near Brandon Head the area is shrouded with breath-taking cliffs. Brandon Mountain rises sheer from the sea and it presents a strikingly bold and magnificent feature, easily recognised from a great distance. The shoreline here is generally steep-to and clear of hidden danger with 50 metres water within ½ a mile of the rocks. The Brandon headland, surmounted by the 949 metres high mountain of the same name, forms the most remarkable feature of this coast when approaching Tralee Bay from the west.
The distinctive outline of the Three Sisters as seen from the west Photo: Burke Corbett
The open bay of Smerwick Harbour lies three miles to the east of Sybil Point. The precipitous coast between them presents the remarkable elevations of the Three Sisters, West, Middle, and East over a distance of ½ a mile, with the latter attaining an elevation of 150 metres. There are off-lying rocks in beneath the three sisters and vessels should keep ½ a mile off this coastline.
View of the three sisters across Smerwick Harbour Photo: d_marino2001 via CC BY-SA 2.0
These form the east point of the entrance to Smerwick Harbour, with the 29 metres high Dunacapple Island, a mile to the east, forming the west point of entrance. Between Dunacapple Island and the shore on the east side of the entrance, there are sunken rocks called Black Rocks that partially protect the harbour from northeast winds.
Just under a mile northeast of Dunacapple Islet is Ballydavid Head. This is made known by a prominent 251 metres high conical hill upon which stands a signal tower, close east by northeast of the head, of which only two vertical walls remain. Within the harbour, a prominent 126-metre high radio mast will be seen standing on the eastern shore.
View from the summit of Brandon Mountain Photo: Tourism Ireland
Thirteen miles to the northeast of Sybil Point is the precipitous Brandon Point. The coastline between Ballydavid Head and Brandon Point is backed by high mountain ranges that terminate in distinctive cliffs about 3.2 miles southwest of Brandon Point near Brandon Head. The head, together with several peaks in the vicinity including the 760 meters high Masatiompan Hill, close within, and the 949 meters high Brandon Mountain, located about two miles to the south of Brandon Head, make for an awe-inspiring coastline. The wild and rock bound bight of Sauce Creek is 1½ miles to the northeast of the summit of Masatiompan and about midway between it and Brandon Point. Deelick Point has an old coastguard look-out.
Keep an eye out for pot buoys commence in the area just before Deelick Point. A rocky bank with a least depth of 12.8 metres resides 2½ miles north of Brandon Point. In heavy weather the sea breaks over it and the area should be avoided.
Four miles wide and three deep Brandon Bay is entered between Brandon Point and the northwest extremity of a sandy peninsula, about four miles east-northeast that separates it from Tralee Bay. Brandon Bay is open to the north with moderate depths of water, and clear of danger, except for two shoal patches lying near its southern shore.
Brandon Bay Photo: Tourism Ireland
To the west of Brandon Bay, the depths vary from 25 metres to 50 metres and the bottom is pretty level. To the east, generally between the Magharee Islands and Kerry Head, it becomes shallower irregular soundings that include rocky patches of 16 to 22 metres of water.
The sea breaks here in bad weather and it should be avoided at such times.
The MAGHAREES TO FENIT
Due east of Brandon Point, at the distance of four miles, are the Magharee Islands, or Seven Hogs. The group of islands lie north of the northern end, Rough Point, of a sandy peninsula that separates Brandon Bay from Tralee Bay. The Magharee Islands lie to the north of the sandy peninsula that separates Bandon and Tralee bays. Gurrig Island, the westernmost and highest of the group, is 19 metres high. Along with the adjacent islands of Inishtooskert, 14 metres high, and Illaunimmil, 20 metres high, is clear of hidden danger with deep water all round.
The western Magharees as seen from Brandon Point Photo: Loz Pycock via CC BY-SA 2.0
The largest of the eastern islands is the 7 metres high Illauntannig with a dwelling house and anchorage. Illauntannig is clear to the south and west but connected with the islets on its eastern side by a bank of foul ground. Mucklaghbeg, the easternmost rock, is foul all round. Patches of 2 to 3.6 metres of water extend nearly a mile to the north by northeast of it and the sea breaks heavily upon this. From 2.2 to 7.2 metres of water will be found to the south of Mucklaghbeg leaving a narrow channel, called Magharee Sound.
the Magharee Islands Photo: Johi Island
On the south side of the island group is the aptly named Rough Point that is the northern projection of the mainland sandy peninsula separating Brandon Bay from Tralee Bay. Rough Point may be also distinguished by an old telegraph tower standing on the point.
Remains of the monastic settlement on Illauntannig Photo: Burke Corbett
To the east of this tower, and directly south of Illauntannig, is Scraggane Bay located within a bight at the head of the peninsula. This provides an anchorage amongst fishing boats plus a pier. The small village of Fahamore, on the Brandon Bay side of the peninsula, is accessible via a short walk from Scraggane Bay pier.
The Reennafardarrig Islet seen from the anchoring area Photo: Burke Corbett
Narrow and intricate Magharee Sound passes between the islets and the foul ground off Rough Point. It has a least depth of 4.5 metres and a ⅓ of a mile wide. In moderate or clear weather with a favourable tide, there is no great difficulty in running through this cut that saves at least an hour from the passage whilst adding interesting sailing.
Pier at Scraggane Point Photo: Terry Ballard CC BY 2.0
Two transits mark the Magharee Sound’s best water. Admiralty Chart 2739 presents a leading mark shown of 106°(T) of the rock islet The Rose with Fenit Castle, a ruined square tower, in line with the highest part of Church Hill, upon which stands two prominent churches. This will lead out through the eastern side of the sound. However, this transit may not always be easily picked out by an unacquainted visitor.
Minnaun, Illanturlogh, Mucklaghbeg and Mucklaghmore in the distance as seen over the monastic settlement on Illauntannig Image: Burke Corbett
Another possibly more easily identified lead through the sound is to give Illauntannig a reasonable berth and then keep Gurrig Island, a flat island that looks like a pan lid almost replete with knob, about its own breadth open to the south of the south point of Illauntannig, providing a line of bearing of 282°(T) astern.
Two charted obstructions that have no depth details reside on the track from the Sound to Fenit harbour.
But Magharee Sound requires good conditions. During west gales, a heavy breaking sea breaks right across the sound where it meets an opposing current and it should be absolutely avoided. In these times it is best to pass two miles north of the Magharees to avoid possible breakers over two shoals located to the north of the group. It should also be noted that tides run up to 3 knots in Magharee Sound.
Little Samphire Island Lighthouse Photo: Public Domain
Opening to the northwest, Tralee Bay is entered between Rough Point, the northeast extremity of the sandy peninsula, and the bold bluff headland of Kerry Head, about six miles to the northeast. In the outer part of the bay the depths are moderate, but to the south of the Magharee Islands it becomes shallow, and the shores run off flat to a long distance. The bay is open to the Atlantic’s prevailing wind and swell offers poor shelter, except in Fenit Harbour. Tralee, the chief town of County Kerry, stands near the head of the bay, where the great part of which dries at low water. In the past, a ship canal 1¾ miles in length carried vessels to the town.
The primary light of Tralee Bay stands upon Little Samphire Island. It resides on the outer edge of the foul ground on the north side of the approach to Fenit Harbour and about a mile south of Fenit Island. The island is entirely occupied by the 17 meters high stone tower lighthouse, the attached buildings and their surrounding stone wall. The lighthouse provides a sectored light to assist vessels past the dangers in the bay: 262°-Red-275°, 280-Red-090°-Green-140°-White-152°-Red-172°.
⅔ of a mile southeast by east from Little Samphire is Great Samphire Island and Fenit Harbour . Originally this was a small 10-metre high rock, it has been extensively developed and joined to the mainland by an 800-metre bridge. A 250 metres long breakwater extends east by northeast from the island enclosing a quay where a little fishing village of Fenit resides with a marina. A modern working fishing and manufacturing facility along with fuel tanks will be clearly visible on the island. There is also an RNLI station that launches from the marina, sailing and fishing clubs. The island exhibits a light visible 242°-097°.
Great Samphire – light QR 15m 3M position: 52° 16. 148’N, 009° 51.816’W
To the west of Great Samphire and 600 metres off from the nearest shore is The Wheel Rock that is covered on last quarter flood but dries to 3.5 metres. It lies 200 metres to the west of the bridge and between Wheel Rock and the shore, there is about 1.7 metres of water.
Yachts in Fenit Marina Photo: Tourism Ireland
The deep water channel, about 200 metres wide, runs close to the south of Great Samphire Island and is bounded to the south by the great banks that cover the southern shore of Tralee Bay. To the east of this, the flats entirely fill the inner portion of the bay. This section completely uncovers to the mouth of the River Lea where the little drying harbour of Blennerville resides.
It is possible to anchor near Castlegregory off the sandy peninsula separating Brandon Bay from Tralee Bay. This area, located to the south of fish farms, is often used as a wait point for commercial ships planning on berthing at Fenit. For leisure craft, it offers an anchorage off miles of attractive blue flag beaches backed by sand hills.
Kerry Head just visible in the backdrop to the northeast of The Magharees Photo: William Glasgow Howe
The River Shannon, the largest river in Ireland, is entered between Kerry Head and Loop Head to the north. It offers spacious and secure anchorage for all classes of vessels and may be easily accessed in all reasonable conditions. The River Shannon provides a set of waypoints for the estuary, the inner entrance, and river’s main features as far Limerick.
Loop Head penninsula Photo: Tourism Ireland
Loop Head, the north entrance point of the estuary, terminates west in a steep precipice, 55 metres in elevation with barely a mile of land saving it from island status. The sea breaks on two rocks, 59 metres high, that lay close north of the head. Loop Head is marked by a prominent white lighthouse, that stands 23 metres high about 400 metres inside the extremity of the cape.
Loop Head Lighthouse - Fl (4) 20s W vis 280°-218° (298°) position: 52°33.672'N, 009°55.938'W
What is the best sailing time?
May to September is the traditional Irish Sailing season with June July offering the best weather. June and July’s statistical incidence of strong winds are however two days of winds up to force seven. As such, depending on personal sailing preferences, a vessel may expect to be held-up or enjoy robust sailing conditions. Ireland is not subject to persistent fog. Statistically complete days of persistent fog occur less than once in a decade.
Are there any security concerns?
Never been a security issue known to have occurred sailing off the Irish coast.
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Add your review or comment:
Colum Layton wrote this review on Feb 1st 2017: Thanks for the very informative route. Just a small correction; in the photographs associated with the entry on Sybil Point, the captions should read "Sybil Point from the south" or "Sybil Point from Clogher Head" (not Clogher Head from the south, and Clogher Head). The photographs were taken from Clogher Head and show Sybil Point and the Three Sisters (peaks at the middle right hand side) and associated rocks on the LHS.
It might be of interest that filming of part of a new Star Wars film took place on Sybil Point in May and June 2016, where a replica of the monastic settlement on the Skellig Rock (Sceilig Mhichíl) had been constructed for the filming and was subsequently dismantled.
Average Rating: Unrated
Michael Harpur wrote this review on Jul 20th 2017: Thank you for pointing that out Colum. Just before I corrected it I had another look and found a slightly better image of Sybil Point, which I replace the original with and correctly labelled. Also managed to get the Star Wars reference in. Thank you for your help. Any other issues please do not hesitate. ;-)
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