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Coastal Overview for Loop Head to Slyne Head

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What is the route?
This is the primary coastal description and set of waypoints for the area between Loop Head and Slyne Head. The detailed coastal description may be used by those planning to come closer inshore or to approach one of the passage havens that are listed along the length of the route. The sequence of description is from south to north or coastal clockwise passing:

  • • Two to five miles offshore from Loop Head and Black Head

  • • Into Galway Bay through the South Sound

  • • Exiting Galway Bay through North Sound

  • • Passing to seaward of the Skerd Rocks
The preceding southern coast's set of waypoints and coastal description is available by clicking 'Previous', above, and vessels planning on continuing northwards, past Slyne Head and beyond, can find the following sets of waypoints and coastal descriptions by clicking 'Next'.

Why sail this route?
This route passes between two and five miles offshore for the forty mile run between Loop Head and Galway Bay, where the mainland is devoid of shelter. It then sets up Galway Bay that offers a host of berthing options either in the Aran Island chain to the west, or Galway town itself and the many bays and inlets eastward from Black Head. It then passes close south of the bights and inlets between Cashla and Slyne Head, opening up the exploration of the Connemara coast in the many bays and inlets such as those of Kilkieran, Bertraghboy and Roundstone bays.

Inner passes to the west of Golam Head are available for vessels exploring the Connemara coast that will be more convenient and subject to less sea than the offshore route suggested, outside of the Skerd Rocks. But these inner passes require significant pilotage as there are many rocks and shoals and few navigational marks.

Please note

The current tidal event is springs so expect streams to be at their strongest.

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.

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Please zoom out (-) if all of the waypoints are not displayed.
The above plots are not precise and are indicative only.


The fifty miles between Loop Head and Slyne Head is of moderate elevation in the southern part but rises to high peaks in its northern section. The voyage takes a vessel between many sailing extremes that are as remarkable as beautiful.

It commences in the south with an iron clad coastline from the Shannon Estuary to Galway Bay, that although largely free from outlying dangers, is a long passage over a lee shore that offers several fair weather anchorages but no real sanctuary for its entire length. It then transforms in the central section to the relatively protected cruising ground of Galway Bay. Finally, the coast reinvents itself again in the north with the irregular broken shores of Connemara. Here intricate channels lead through a maze of islands and inlets, reefs, tide-swept sandy bays all fronted by a host of outlying dangers that extend out for miles.

The southern forty-five miles between Loop Head and the promontory of Black Head is of moderate elevation but completely exposed to the full force of the Atlantic swell. There is no completely safe heavy weather anchorage throughout this length of this coast and it will wreck any vessel cast upon it. The shoreline is characterised by an exposed Atlantic wall that is typically a lee shore for vessels passing this way. It is spectacularly scenic from seaward with its most famous feature being the 200 metres high ‘Cliffs of Moher’. Despite this, unless in settled conditions, a vessel should stay well off this coast and admire it from a safe distance.

About midway between the two points is the extensive Galway Bay, with Galway city located in its northeast head. The approach from the ocean to this deep and spacious inlet is remarkably easy and well defined. The magnificent natural breakwater of the Arran islands, that extend across the mouth of Galway Bay, serves as an effective barrier against the heavy swell of the Atlantic Ocean, that would otherwise roll in unbroken to the head of the bay and entirely deprive it of its easy character. The bay offers Galway docks, set in the heart of one of Ireland’s greatest cities, along with several snug anchorages in the surrounding inlets. The shielding Aran Islands consist of three islands that from west to east are: Inishmore, the largest; Inishmaan, the second-largest; and Inisheer the smallest. The islands are inhabited with Irish being the main spoken language of the Islanders. Together, Galway Bay and the Aran Islands, make for an excellent cruising destination in itself.

Between Galway Bay and Slyne Head, about twenty miles, the coast no longer presents the bold features that distinguish the terrain to the south of Galway Bay. Here the irregularly broken shores of the Connemara are fronted by a multitude of dangerous outlying rocks that extend out many miles from the land. Channels lead through the outlying dangers to bays and inlets that provide secure anchorages, but with plenty of dangers in the approach. Some dangers are so numerous that they are seldom frequented and should never be attempted by strangers without the assistance of local knowledge.

Tidal streams are weak offshore streaming at about a quarter to half a knot six to eight miles out. Close inshore it runs stronger, and sets past Loop Head or between the Aran Islands at a knot in an east and west direction.


The complete course is 89.30 miles from the waypoint '2 miles west of Loop Head' to '3 miles west of Slyne Head' tending in a north north westerly direction (reciprocal south south easterly).

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.

       Next waypoint: 46.43 miles, course 33.97°T (reciprocal 213.97°T)

Clear water Slyne Head, 53° 12.019' N, 009° 15.839' W
This is over half a mile west of the Slyne Head lighthouse set upon the western extremity of the island of Illaunamid. It is a third of a mile to the west of the foul ground extending out for a quarter of a mile to the west of Illaunamid.

       Next waypoint: 18.09 miles, course 269.10°T (reciprocal 89.10°T)

North Sound, 53° 11.671' N, 009° 46.011' W
This waypoint is set on the leading marks for an approach to Kilkieran Bay for those who may wish to also use it to explore the inshore waters. For those choosing to do this the sight-line leads between Golam Head and Eagle Rock on the line of bearing 355.5° of Cashel Hill, seen over Birmore Island, which leads to the west of Dinish Shoal.

       Next waypoint: 10.19 miles, course 278.46°T (reciprocal 98.46°T)

2½ miles southwest of the Skerd Rocks , 53° 13.149' N, 010° 2.840' W
The unmarked Skerd Rocks are an extensive group of rocks and shoals some of which are always above water and others just awash. The outer rock, on the southwest side of the group, is called Skerdmore and it stand 18 metres high.

       Next waypoint: 14.58 miles, course 318.21°T (reciprocal 138.21°T)

3 miles west of Slyne Head, 53° 23.997' N, 010° 19.128' W
Slyne Head is the western extremity of the 23 metre high Illaunamid, the outermost island of a chain that extends about two miles west by southwest from the coast. A light, Fl (2) 15s, is shown from a conspicuous 24 metres high tower that stands on the island. The prominent ruins of a disused light-tower stand close south of the light.


The 33 miles of coast, between Loop Head and Cape Cancregga, the south entrance of Galway Bay, and for 16 miles further to Black Head, has an exposed aspect and cliff walled shore. Although generally of moderate elevation, and free from outlying danger, until Mutton Island lying 21 miles from Loop Head, it threatens destruction to any vessel cast upon it. Sailing vessels must at all times approach it with caution, as the heavy Atlantic swell sets towards it with great fury, and although there are several offshore havens there is no totally safe location throughout its whole length. Offshore there are regular soundings, over a bottom of rock, gravel, and sand, with a depth of 100 metres will be found at 20 miles from the shore, and that of 50 metres at one mile from it.

Loop Head penninsula
Photo: Tourism Ireland

The 80 metres high Cahercroghaun Hill rises about 1½ miles northeast of Loop Head and provides a good landmark. Less than a mile northeast of the hill and set into and sent into a large indent on the coast are two small inlets. They reside between Ross Point and Fondry Point and are separated by the rocky promontory of Moneen Point. A temporary anchorage may be had here in offshore winds within Ross Bay Click to view haven, the northern of the two inlets.

Cliffs northward of Loop Head
Photo: Tourism Ireland

Two islands reside immediately off the shore line on the path to Moore Bay and Kilkee. The precipitous 44-metre high Illaunonearaun will be seen 400 metres off the coast 6.5 miles northeast of Ross Bay. Then two miles further the 30 metres high Bishop’s Island, a 1½ miles to the southwest of Moore Bay.

Photo: Tourism Ireland

Bishop’s Island is again precipitous on all sides and high and has two old dome-shaped buildings standing on its summit. These are said to be the remains of an oratory and house ascribed to the recluse St. Senan the patron Saint of County Clare.

Bishop's Island and the Kilkee Cliffs seen from the south
Photo: Tourism Ireland

Set within Moore Bay, thirteen miles northeast from Loop Head and twenty-two miles south of the Aran Island is the small resort town of Kilkee Click to view haven. It offers an anchoring opportunity in a sandy cove around which the small town stands at the head of the bay. A temporary anchorage can be had in Kilkee in very settled weather with offshore winds or otherwise with the benefit of local knowledge. However it can be dangerous as if the wind turned suddenly northwest, and be accompanied by a swell, it would be difficult for a sailing vessel to beat out of Moore Bay. At night, in clear weather, the lights of the town show up well from seaward providing a sea mark for vessels passing along this coast.

Photo: Tourism Ireland

To the northeast of Kilkee, the coast is more indented with several detached rocks offshore. Three miles north from Kilkee, at Leim Chaite Point, the shoreline ascends to a magnificent range of 76 metres high cliffs. Between this point and a further point, 1000 metres east, is a remarkable indentation in the cliffs known as The Horseshoe.

Four miles further north is the wide-open Mal Bay that lends its name to this length of the coast. It is entered between Killard Point and Cape Cancregga, about 6 miles north northeast, and is always subject to a heavy swell as it is entirely exposed to the west.
Please note

In developed conditions it is important to stay well clear of this area, especially at night, so as not to get embayed on a lee shore.

Doonbeg Bay as seen from the south
Image: Lorigan Media

In the south part of Mal Bay is Doonbeg Bay Click to view haven . This rocky creek is open to the north and provides temporary summer anchorage for leisure craft and fishing vessels.

Doughmore Bay, eastward of Doonbeg, has a sandy strand about a mile in length, but is entirely open. The eastern side of Mal Bay to the north is of a low and sandy character, with alternating rocky points (the principal of which are Carrowmore and Cloghauninchy Points) and shallow shelving strands and outlying ledges. The sea almost incessantly breaks along this shore with gales out to a considerable distance from the shore.

Low lying Mutton Island in silhouett at sunset
Photo: Wojciech Piotrowski

Situated 21 miles to the northeast of Loop Head and about two miles offshore is Mutton Island. It extends for a mile, in an east west direction, and lies at the outer edge of foul ground extending west from Lurga Point. The island is 30 metres high and made obvious by a ruined watch tower on its western end. It offers little protection from a heavy onshore swell and is on a lee shore in most circumstances. However, and although beset with a host of dangers, it is the only place along this length of coast that offers any chance of saving a vessel being overwhelmed by a southwest gale.

Mutton Island as seen from the south
Photo: Charles W Glynn via CC ASA 3.0
There are several dangers off Mutton Island. The most outlying of all these dangers, and the one to be specifically careful to position, is the mostly covered Grundel Rock. It lays 1½ miles west with little south from the southwest corner of Mutton Island. This rock uncovers at low water to 0.3 metres and is very steep-to with 44 metres close to its western side. The portion that uncovers is extremely small, but there are several rocky heads, within its area and to the west of it, that have about 1.2 metres of water over them.

To the north of the island is a broken chain of rocks called the Seal and Carrickaneelwar rocks. They are jointly ¾ of a mile long, some partly covered, but rising at two points to heights of 8 metres. They lie parallel to the north side of Mutton Island at the distance of ½ a mile from it.

The generally visible Brandon Rock lies 300 metres to the north of the west most point of the island and dries to 4 metres.

These rocks to the north of the island are steep-to to the north. Between them and the island, and for some distance to the east of Carrickaneelwar Rock, the bottom is foul and rocky with depths varying from 3.5 to 13 metres.

There are several dangers extending from the shore towards Mutton Island with the closest being at the east end of the island. Here it is almost connected with Seafield Point by a stony barrier that uncovers at low water. It has at its western extremity the Craggaun Rock that covers at half-tide. Between Craggaun Rock and the point of Mutton Island, there is a narrow passage with 0.6 metres of water in it. Although covered by the tide the anchorage on its eastern side derives some shelter from this stony barrier.

To the east of Craggaun Rock, about ½ mile east of the east most point of Mutton Island, is Carrigeen rock. It lies a ⅓ of a mile north by northeast from Seafield Point and dries to 1.2 metres.

To the south of Craggaun Rock, there is another drying finger of land called the Mal Rock that extends just over ½ mile to the west of Seafield Point.

Curragh Shoal lies 600 metres southwest by south from the southwest point of Mutton Island ad has 2.1 metres of water.

Mattle Island, a rocky elevation 10 metres high, lies on the outer edge of Carricknola Reef extending 1.25 miles to the west of the mainland.

Finally, the Doughmore Shoals lie about 1 to 1¾ miles southwest of Mattle Island and 1.4 miles north northwest of Killard Point. The shoals consist of two rocky patches, about 1,200 metres apart, with from 9 to 14 metres of water over them. The ocean breaks heavily upon them when a swell is up.

Mutton Island and Seafield with Mal rock exposed and a ripple over the stony

Image: Tom Bourke

To the east of Mutton Island and off the mainland there is a temporary anchorage off Seafield Pier Click to view haven that is otherwise colloquially known as Quilty after the nearby village. The pier is situated on the east side of Seafield or Lurga Point, as can be best seen on Admiralty 3338, and it best approached from a north northeast direction.

There is a Mutton Island Click to view haven anchorage that resides about 200 to 300 metres off the southeast end of the uninhabited island. It is marked on Admiralty 3338 as Tobacco Cove and offers the potential of landing at Seafield Pier. Depths of 2.7 to 3.7 metres will be found here on a bottom of rock interspersed with patches of sand. This anchorage is open to the south where Seafield Point provides shelter from all winds except northerlies. Although less convenient than Seafield the anchorage at the southeast end of Mutton Island is also less prone to swell.
Please note

In developed conditions it should always be remembered that both of these anchorages are situated on a lee shore, amidst formidable dangers, with bad holding ground and no one should willingly run to these anchorages in these conditions. However, in a case of an emergency, these anchorages might be the last means of saving a vessel caught out and not able to weather the seaway between the Shannon Estuary and Galway Bay.

To the east of Mutton Island the Coast is composed of low earthy cliffs based on a rocky foreshore and foul out to some distance. 1½ miles inshore of this is the town of Milltown Malbay. Six miles in the interior Slievecallan attains its 386 metres high summit and forms a conspicuous natural feature when making way along this coast.

The dangerous Muirbeg shoal, with 0.3 metres of water over it, lies 4 miles to the northeast of Mutton Island. It is nearly a mile out, northwest by west, from Cream Point, the nearest part of the shore, where there is 11 metres of water between it and the point. Outside Muirbeg the soundings are very irregular and at one spot, nearly 1.75 miles to the west of it, there is a rocky head with 19.5 metres of water, called Mweemgalle, that often breaks. The alignment 100°T of Milltown Malbay Church and the north summit of the 386 metres high Slievecallan, seen on Admiralty Charts 3338 and 2173 passes to the south of this shoal. The alignment 108°T of the same church and Cream Point 1½ miles west-northwest passes to the north.

To the east of this, the shore is foul a long way off. At Freagh Point a ledge of rocks extends ½ a mile to the northwest, on which two or three heads rising above high water. ½ a mile beyond Freagh Point another reef extends from Ship Point, the south point of the entrance to Liscannor Bay, to the distance of 1200 metres from the shore. Drumdeirg Rock on this reef uncovers 3 metres at low water. For ¾ of a mile to the east of this foul ground extends from the shore to a distance of a ½ mile, and is steep-to.

Liscannor Bay
Photo: Tourism Ireland

Seven miles north of Mutton Island Liscannor Bay opens between Ship Point and Cape Cancregga, the bold and abrupt termination of the magnificent ‘Cliffs of Moher’. Three miles wide at the entrance and 4½ miles deep the bay has the popular town of Lahinch at its head with an attractive sandy beach. The bay is exposed to the full violence of the Atlantic swell and affords no shelter with winds from that quarter. With off-shore winds and settled weather leisure craft can find a temporary anchorage in 5.5 metres off the village of Liscannor Click to view haven , in the northeast corner of the bay. It is possible to land at the little-protected harbour of Liscannor that has at least 1 metre at low water.

Liscannor Pier
Photo: Zenithe via CC BY-SA 2.0

The north shore of the bay is foul. Two miles within Cape Cancregga the Cooshniel Shoal projects out nearly a ½ mile off, with a drying section at one part and 1.2 metres of water at its outer end. Beyond this, at the distance of ¾ of a mile from the shore, is the Aughcooshneil Shoal, with 7.6 metres of water.

The extensive and dangerous reef Kilstiffin Rocks lies at the entrance of Liscannor Bay. Situated about ¾ of a mile south by southwest from Cape Cancregga it extends for about a mile in a southwest direction. The least water, 1.5 metres, is near its southwestern end; on other parts are from 2.4 to 4.6 metres. The position of the Kilstiffin Rocks is generally indicated by heavy breakers. There is a passage between Kilstiffin Rocks and the foul ground extending from Cape Cancregga. More than 20 metres of water is available in this cut but it takes a vessel close to the foul northern shoreline. When a swell is up the entire area is a mass of broken water and should be avoided. The line of bearing 027°T of the arch through the foot of Hag's Head open northwest of Cregga More, a bold point about 1000 metres south southwest, provides a clearing mark for the Kilstiffin Rocks. As best seen on Admiralty Chart 3338, this passes to the northwest of Kilstiffin Rocks.

The Cliffs Of Moher with Liscannor Bay in the backdrop
Photo: Tourism Ireland


The Arran Island group extend 14 miles across the middle of the entrance to Galway Bay. They are for the most part barren, treeless and stony, but are inhabited with a population numbering about 1,500. Their western shores are free from danger and steep-to but the eastern side of the large island is foul out to some distance. They have at either end, between them and the mainland, navigable sounds from 3.5 to 4 miles wide. They also have smaller channels with just as usable sounds separating the islands from each other.

The Cliffs Of Moher as seen from above Inisheer the southernmost of the Aran

Photo: Tourism Ireland

The eastern and southernmost isle of Inisheer is the smallest of the three Arran islands. Measuring just two miles in length, from east to west, and is about 1.25 miles wide. At its highest part, it is 59 metres above the sea where there stands the ruin of a telegraph tower plus the ruins of an ancient castle nearby.

The view of the island from the North Strand anchorage
Image: Terry Robinson

Its shores are rocky everywhere except on the northeast side where there is a small sandy beach called the North Strand Click to view haven situated close to the island's main pier.

Trawkeera Point, Inisheer with the Plassey Shipwreck
Photo: Tourism Ireland

Its shores are rocky everywhere except on the northeast side where there is a small sandy beach called the North Strand with a pier. A ¼ of a mile off this strand a temporary anchorage may be found in 7 metres over a sandy bottom. It provides shelter from southwest winds and should only be used in fine weather.
Please note

A floating marine farm has been established about a mile to the north of Trawkeera Point the southeast point of Inisheer.

March 1960 MV Plassy, or Plassey, ran onto Finnis Rock and was later
washed up on the island where it can be seen today

Image: CC0

On Fardurris Point, the southeast extremity of Inisheer stands Inisheer Lighthouse. This is a 34-metre high white tower with a black band. It directs vessels through the South Sound, whilst assisting in avoiding the Finnis Rock, that dries to 0.4 metres, in the direction of which a sector of red light is exhibited W (partially visible beyond 7M) 225°-231° (6°), W231°-245° (14°), R245°-269° (24°), W269°-115° (206°).

Inisheer - Lighthouse Iso WR 12s 24m 16/20M position: 53°02.797'N, 009°31.613'W

Finnis Rock is also marked by an east cardinal.

Finnis – East Cardinal Q (3) 10s position: 53°02.812'N, 009°29.126'W

Inisheer light on Fardurris Point the south side of the island
Photo: Tourism Ireland

Adjacent to the northeast is the 2.75 miles long Inishmaan. It is about 1.1 miles wide, from southeast to northwest, and 80 metres high. It terminates on its western side in 37 metre high vertical cliffs, against which the ocean swell breaks in all its force throwing spray to a great altitude above the cliff.
Inishmaan Dún Chonchúir near the central summit of the island
Photo: Tourism Ireland

The ancient fort of Dún Chonchúir or Conor's Fort, conspicuously rises near the central summit of the island. Along the ridge, but sheltered by the crowning step, several village houses may be seen. Three large wind turbines reside near the islands southwest point. Being the tallest features on the islands they provide an excellent seamark. At Cora Point on the southeast side of the island, there is a boat slip and pier that provides a temporary anchorage in fine weather with offshore winds. At Caladh Mór Click to view haven on the north side of the island, there is a pier that is used by the ferry. It has 3.5 metres throughout and offers good all-round shelter. In 2008 the pier was extended and two breakwaters to provide wave protection. It is possible to anchor clear of the fairway of the small boat harbour.

Ferry in Inishmaan's Caladh Mór
Image: Paranoid Android

Translating to ‘Large Island’ in English Inishmore is the largest of the islands. It is 7.5 miles long and 2 miles wide at its widest point. To seaward, it presents a perpendicular barrier of a cliff, while on the opposite side the land descends from its summit to the shore in a succession of abrupt ledges and terraces. On this side, the Galway Bay side, it is indented by Killeany Bay, near its southeast end.

Inishmore with Kilronan and Killeany Bay top left
Photo: Tourism Ireland

On the western side of the expansive bay and off the island's principal town and pier of Kilronan Click to view haven, is the only truly reliable anchoring location within the island group.

Kilronan Harbour
Image: Aran Camping & Glamping

Close east of the bay is the 11 metres high Straw Island. This located about ½ a mile north of the northeast extremity of Inishmore Island. The west side of the island is foul out to 400 metres. A light is shown on the north side of the island from a white tower and sub structure with a red railing.

Straw Island - Lighthouse Fl(2) 5s, 11m 15M position: 53° 07.065’N, 009° 37.840’W

Straw Island Lighthouse
Photo: Alan Piper via CC BY-SA 2.0

A starboard buoy resides in the mouth Killeany Bay about 600 metres northwest of the Straw Island Lighthouse marking the approach to the bay.

Killeany – starboard buoy Fl G 3s position: 53°07.259'N, 009° 38.226'W

Carrickfadda breaker, with 8 metres of water, lies on the outer edge of the bank to the east of Inishmore, and ¾ of a mile from the nearest shore. Within it is Priest’s Shoal, with 7.6 metres of water and running parallel to the shore, at the distance of 600 metres, are the Carrickadda and Carrickmonaghan rocks.

Dún Aonghasa, (Dun Aengus) Inishmore
Photo: Tourism Ireland

At somewhat less than one-third the length of the island from its northwest extremity, there is another indentation called Portmurvy. This cut penetrates to within ½ a mile of the outer shore creating a low neck of land that separates the central part of the island from the western part. This, when seen from a distance of 8 or 10 miles, gives Inishmore the appearance of two islands, and from this deceptive character the bay called Blind Sound on the seaward side. The latter, Blind Sound, is overlooked by the magnificent Dún Aonghasa (anglicized Dun Aengus) fort that is a must visit. Portmurvy offers a good anchorage in suitable and moderate weather and is a convenient location to set down and visit the fort.

The northwestern division of Inishmore attains at its centre an elevation of 104 metres. From there it gently slopes towards the southwest, breaks into magnificent 80 metre high cliffs. The centre and largest natural division of the island is also the highest, being 118 metres above the sea, but the cliffs nowhere exceed 60 metres and are generally less than 30 metres. The highest part was formerly occupied by a watch tower that was in the past used as a lighthouse, back in 1818. However, its height caused it to be obscured by fog or haze and in time it was substituted for the lights at the extremes of the islands. Close east of the old lighthouse the ancient fort of Oghil that is conspicuous from Killeany Bay.

Two shoal spots, called Brocklinbeg Banks and Brocklinmore, with 21 metres of depth over the former then stepping up to 12 metres of water over the latter, reside off the northeast side of the island. Brocklinbeg resides over ½ a mile from the shore whilst Brocklinmore is over a mile out. Both break heavily in a swell. The bank on which they are based is steep-to, with 30 metres at 200 metres distance in some parts, and must be approached with caution. Brannock East Sound, open 283°, leads to the north of them.

Situated a ½ mile west of the northwest extremity of Inishmore are a group of five Islets called the Brannock Islands. Including the 15 metres high Brannock Island, the eastern and largest, the 9 metres high Eeragh, the western one with a prominent lighthouse, also called Rock Island, and three other small islets. Two of these united on the southwest side of Brannock Island and the other resides to the western extremity of Inishmore. The whole occupy an extent of 1½ miles in length and are foul out to 400 metres.

Eeragh lighthouse at the northernmost extremity of chain of Aran Islands
Photo: Charles W. Bash via CC BY-SA 2.0

At the northwest end of Eeragh is the circular white tower, with two black bands 31 metres in height, of Eeragh Lighthouse that stands on the summit of Rock Island White Vis 297°-262° (325°).

Eeragh - Lighthouse Fl 15s 35m 18M position: 53° 08.909'N, 009° 51.402'W,

Brannock and Eeragh are separated from each other and from Inishmore by the West and East Sounds; the former is the deeper. Both are passable by adventurous leisure craft in moderate weather or when the swell is not high.

(Principal Approaches)

The area within Cape Cancregga, or extremity of the Cliffs of Moher, on the south and Golam Head on the north, that are about 21 miles apart on a north-south line, can be considered Galway Bay. The Aran Islands form an island chain across the approach to Galway Bay and it may be entered by one of four sounds.

The two principal entrances to the bay are through South Sound, between the southeast end of the Aran Islands and the mainland to the east, and through North Sound, between the northwest end of the Aran Islands and the mainland to the north. The passages between the islands are deep and wide, known as Gregory and Foul sounds, and may also be freely used when occasion requires. During heavy weather, the South and North Sounds are preferred, but passages through the other sounds are still viable. The lighthouses have been erected at each extremity of the Arran Islands for the purpose of directing vessels through the North and South sounds. The currents in the vicinity of the Aran Islands are negligible except those through Gregory Sound and Foul Sound. The tidal stream runs through both these sounds at rates of up to 1.5 knots and more at springs.

Doonnagore Castle overlooking South Sound, Doolin Point right, Inisheer in the

Image: Daniel Stockman via CC BY SA 2.0

Anciently known as Bealagh-na-Finnis, or way of the Finnis Rock, South Sound lies between the County Clare coast and Inisheer Island. It is nearly four miles wide and has a greatest depth of 59 metres on the island side.

The only danger in the South Sound is the Finnis Rock. It resides at the eastern extremity of foul ground that extends about 0.8 mile east of Inisheer Island. It only dries at low springs to 0.3 metres and is surrounded out to 200 metres on all sides by sunken rocks and shoal water. Between it and the point, there is a channel, with from 5 to 7.6 metres of water, that is a ¼ of a mile wide. Finnis Rock is marked by a lighted east cardinal buoy.

Finnis – East Cardinal Q (3) 10s position: 53°02.812'N, 009°29.126'W

A sector of red light from Inisheer Lighthouse also marks its position by night.

Inishmaan, or Middle Island, is separated from Inisheer by Foul Sound. This sound is 1.25 miles wide between the nearest points and has been greatly misrepresented by its name. Derived from its shale and rock bottom, as opposed to clean sands in the others, the name tends to indicate a bad character for the stretch of water for which it by no means deserves. Quite the reverse is often the case as in heavy weather the swell reflected from the cliffs can raise a confused sea in Gregory Sound when Foul Sound would be the calmer option. From the north eastern point of Inisheer a reef named Pipe Rock, or Carrickapipe, extends out more than a ¼ of a mile, about one-fifth the breadth of the sound, and, with this exception, it is entirely free from danger. Keeping ½ a mile northwest of Inisheer shore clears Pipe Rock. The navigable part of the sound is therefore nearly one mile in its narrowest limit, with a depth of 24 and 40 metres of water.

Gregory Sound between Inishmaan and Inishmore
Photo: Tourism Ireland

The channel between Inishmaan and Inishmore is called Gregory Sound and it is often used by fishing vessels. It is one mile wide in its narrowest part, between the high cliff of Inishmaan and Illaunanaur Point the southeast extreme of Inishmore, that is steep-to having 20 metres close to the cliff. The shallowest part in the middle of the sound has not less than 28 metres on it and deepens towards either entrance. The shores on both sides of this sound are bold, except on the Inishmore side, between Dogs Head and Straw Island, off which the rocks dry to a distance of 400 metres, with shoal water 200 metres beyond. With this exception of a projection of rocks, from the north point of Inishmaan, Gregory Sound is clear of any obstructions.
Please note

In westerly gales the rebound of the waves from the perpendicular base of Inishmaan cliff produces a turbulent sea. Foul Sound is not so much exposed to this by reason of the shelving character of the Inisheer shore.

Between Inisheer and the County Galway coast, is 4.5 miles wide North Sound, with a depth of up to 59 metres in mid-channel. The dangers to be avoided on approaching this sound from the northwest are the Skerd Rocks and other outliers from the Galway shore. Likewise, the breakers on the Brocklinmore Bank located on the northeast side of Inishmore. This said it is quite free from danger in the fairway.

(Cape Cancregga To South Bay)

Cancregga to Doonnagore Bay
Image: Tourism Ireland

From Cancregga the southern shore trends northeast by east about 15 miles to the promontory of Black Head, which, in a more limited sense, is generally considered as the southern entrance point to the bay. From there it bends round to the southeast and northeast to the Galway City.

Hag’s Head with the conspicuous Moher Tower upon its summit
Image: Tourism Ireland

From Cancregga to Black Head the coast is bold-to and may be safely approached to a ⅓ of a mile off. Hag’s Head, one mile north from Cancregga, is a conspicuous point. Upon its summit, there is the conspicuous Moher Tower standing at an elevation of 122 metres.

The Cliffs Of Moher
Photo: Tourism Ireland

The spectacularly 200 metres high vertical Cliffs of Moher are a prominent feature of the coast in the vicinity northeast of Hag’s Head. A prominent tower in ruins stands on the shore about two miles northeast of Hag’s Head, called O'Brian’s tower, where the cliffs attain their maximum elevation. Close to the coast beneath this tower is Branaunmore, a remarkable 61 metres high pillar rock.

Branaunmore Rock just off O'Briens Tower
Image: Tourism Ireland

Between it and Hags Head there is a smaller one, called Branaunbeg, off which are the Stookeen Rocks at the distance of 300 metres from the cliff.

Cliffs of Moher as seen from the beach at their foot
Image: Bjorn Christian Torrisson CC ASA 3.0

At ¾ of a mile beyond O'Brian’s Tower there is another spectacular rock that rises from the extremity of Harragh (Colts cliff) Point. Here a reef projects 200 metres seaward and from Carrickatrial, the next point south, rocks and shoals extend nearly a ¼ of a mile.

The Cliffs Of Moher as seen from seaward
Photo: Tourism Ireland

From Harragh Point the coast falls back, and the cliffs decrease in altitude until, at the distance of 2 miles, they terminate in the bight of Doonnagore Bay. Doolin Point, located about 4.7 miles northeast of Hag’s Head, marks the bays northern boundary point. The 5 metre high Crab Island, bordered by foul ground, lies close off the point. The prominent Doonnagore Castle stands about 1.2 miles southeast of Doolin Point. Between these points the Murroogh River discharges itself over a low-water shore of sand and stones.

Doonnagore Bay with Dooling Point and Crab Island right, Inisheer in the

Image: Robert Linsdell

Doolin Click to view haven ferry pier is located close southeast of Doolin Point leeward of the island. In settled conditions with offshore winds leisure vessels can anchor in the cove or in 9.1 metres about 0.3 of a mile offshore in Doonnagore Bay abreast of some sand hills at the mouth of the Murroogh River.

The Burren's Ballylee Point to the Cliffs of Moher
Image: Burke Corbett

From Doonnagore Bay for the next four miles to Ballylee, or as it is sometimes called and charted Ailadie, is the next conspicuous point. The coast is generally cliffy, but not high and the inshore character is that of The Burren.

Ailadie Point to Fanore Point
Image: Burke Corbett

Four miles farther is Fanore Point, to the south of which is Fanore Bay Click to view haven that can be identified by a range of sand hills.

The beach at Fanore Bay
Image: Tourism Ireland

Vessels may anchor here with off-shore winds about a ¼ of a mile from the strand in a depth of 10 metres. Should the wind be blowing hard from the east it might be preferable to remain here than to attempt to beat up Galway Bay.

Black Head
Image: Tourism Ireland

The bold prominent headland of Black Head, or in Irish Carnbourne, rises steeply to the conspicuous 312 metres high Doughbranneen Hill about 1 mile south by southeast. It is steep-to and clear of danger, with more than 10 metres of water 200 metres out.

Black Head Light overlooking Galway Bay from The Burren
Photo: David Purchase via CC BY-SA 2.0

There is a small 20 metres high lighthouse standing on the headland - W045°-268° (223°), R268°-276° (8°).

Black Head - lighthouse Fl WR 5s 20m 11/8 M position: 53°09.253'N, 009°15.839'W

Gleninagh Castle
Photo: Mike Searle via CC BY-SA 2.0
On the east side of the head, is Black Head Bay that affords good shelter in winds between south, and west-northwest. The best anchorage is off the white cliffs, which will be seen to the west of the conspicuous Gleninagh Castle situated about 2.3 miles southeast of the headland. Small vessels should lie as close in as possible. However, leave sufficient swing room to weigh anchor should the wind veer round to the north and make the anchorage untenable.

To the east of Black Head, the south shore of the bay is of moderate elevation. It is indented with several shallow inlets and drying bays that are all fronted by rocks and shallows. Clearing marks are poor on the south side of Galway Bay and it is not advisable to work this area in poor visibility or strong onshore winds.

Ballyvaghan Bay
Photo: Tourism Ireland

Three miles east of Black Head and 1¼ miles east by northeast of Gleninagh Castle lies Ballyvaghan Bay with its very pretty village, Ballyvaughan, in its southwestern corner. The eastern entrance of Finavarra Point is made prominent by a Martello tower near its head.

Martello tower on Finavarra Point
Image: James Stringer via CC BY-SA 2.0

Ballyvaghan Bay is choked with sandbanks and the greater part of it dries at low water. A highly involved channel communicates with the village, 2 miles south by southwest, by an intricate boat channel. With a sufficient rise of tide vessels of a modest draft may cross these safely and lie alongside the southeast side of either an old quay, with a bottom of shingle and small stones, or a new quay where the shelter is better. Both quays dry but there is a small pool with about 3 metres LWS off the end of the new pier.

The east end of the bay gives access to the long creek of Lough Muckinish by a narrow, tortuous channel between rocky shores southward of Scanlan Island. It is shallow and the domain of the local boatman only.

Shanmuckinish Castle ruin
Image: Carlos Meade via ASA 3.0
In front of Ballyvaghan Bay lies Illanunloo Rock at a distance of 3½ miles southeast by east from Black Head. It is foul for up to 200 metres all round with its north side is steep-to. A small portion of this is always visible, but at 0.6 metres high, it is difficult to identify against the land.

To the southwest of Illanunloo are the Farthing Rocks that uncover on last quarter ebb and some of which dry 1.7 metres. They lie a ⅓ of a mile from the low shingly shore to the south.

The principal approach to the bay is on the alignment of the ruin of Shanmuckinish Castle on the shore 1½ miles east southeast, and Saint Patrick’s Church 1¼ miles farther behind, on 096°T that leads in between the foul ground south of Illaunloo and Farthing Rocks.

The creek-like inlet of Aughinish Bay, more generally known as New Quay, is navigable. It has its entrance on the north side of Finavarra Point, south side of Aughinish Island, and is very straightforward giving the south shore a berth of 200 metres. Vessels coastal cruising between Ballyvaghan and Aughinish bays should stand well clear of the southern entrance point of Aughinish Bay. The rocky ledge Carrickadda that dries to 2.5 metres extends almost ¾ of a mile westward from the southern entrance. The alignment of the north side of Illaunloo and Gleninagh Castle on 244°T passes northwest of Carrickadda and also clears the 2.1-metre patch that lies northwest of Aughinish Point 1½ miles further along.

Anchor at or above New Quay in about 4 metres. It is possible to go further up the bay but the channel is unmarked and a vessel but will need to slowly feel its way maintaining a continuous watch on the depth sounder.

Seven miles east northeast from Black Head and a mile north of Aughinish Point is the small 2 metres high Deer Island. It is surrounded by 200 metres of rock all round. At low water, it is nearly connected to the southern shore by a narrow spit of sand and gravel which extends almost a mile from the island towards the southeast. The island is hard to identify against the shore but once recognised offers a reference point to the entrance to South Bay.

Lying between Deer Island and Kilcolgan Point is South Bay. It is divided by Eddy Island where it forks out into two inlets that become very shallow towards its head. One runs towards the south to Kinvarra Bay, the other to the northeast, to Tyrone Pool and Kilcolgan River. The tidal heads of both these inlets are 6 miles from Kilcolgan Point.

Photo: Robert Linsdell via CC BY 2.0

Kinvarra Bay may be entered by passing east of Doorus Point, at the entrance to Kinvarra Bay. At neaps, there is an anchorage 500 metres from Kinvara or alternatively, berth at the small harbour.

Dunguaire Castle overlooking Kinvarra Bay
Photo: Public Domain

Approached through Mweenish Strait, between Mweenish Island and Eddy Island, Tyrone Pool, offers 6 to 6.9 metres of water and is approached over a bar with 2 metres of water. There is a group of boulders that dry 500 metres southeast of Mweenish Point called Meelan Rock.

Kilcolgan Point, lying between South and North Bays, is a low shelving point that is foul out to a considerable distance. It forms the western termination of a peninsula that is chiefly covered with shallow lakes. On the north side of this peninsula is Mweeloon Bay, a contracted shallow inlet penetrating for about 2.25 miles into the land and bounded to the north by the narrow peninsula of Ardfry.

From Ardfry Point the St. Brendon and other rocks extend in a north-westerly direction for nearly a mile in a continuous rocky chain. This terminates in the Cockle Rock, covered at half flood. It is marked by a north cardinal pillar buoy moored of its northern side.

Cockle Rock – North Cardinal Q Fl position: 53° 14.366’N, 009° 01.810’W

(Golam Head To North Bay)

From Golam Head, the northern shore of the bay runs in almost a straight east by southeast line for 26 miles to Mutton Island situated at the entrance to the harbour of Galway. The north shore of the bay is mostly low-lying and featureless, but a number of inland heights may be identified. With few exceptions, the coast is free from outlying danger. During stormy weather, seas break heavily on the off-lying rocks and shoals in the vicinity of Golam Head and over the Brocklinmore Banks extending north from Inishmore. The easiest access of any of the Connemara bays is Cashla Bay, with Rossaveal on its east side, that is well marked with buoys and leading lights all the way. This may be entered by day or night in almost all reasonable conditions. From here to the east the entire north shore is exposed and except for the drying harbours at Barna and Spiddle offers no shelter.

Golam Head with its conspicuous watch tower as seen from the south
Photo: Graham Rabbits

The north entrance Golam Head, called also Gulin or Golden Head, is the western extremity of a small 24 metres high islet with the conspicuous ruins of a tower on its summit. It forms the western extreme of the northern shore of Galway Bay and is the north point of the entrance to North Sound. It resides 5.75 miles northeast by east, from the western Brannock Island, and nearly 4.75 miles from the nearest point of Inishmore, and is 26 miles below Galway Roads. Its western side is steep-to, but the Ullan Rock lies 200 metres from its southern side. To the west of the head there is a series of dangerous rocks extending 9 miles to seaward, and terminating in the Skerd Rocks.

Golam Head Connemara as seen from within Golam Harbour
Photo: Public Domain

Golam Harbour, opening immediately to the north of the head and has a depth of 5.5 and 7 metres of water over a considerable space. It is well sheltered, but the passage into it is contracted by rocks stretching from either side making it scarcely 18 metres wide. Through this passage, there is a depth of 2.4 metres at low water, which deepens on the inner side.

Two miles to the east of the head, situated between Gorumna and Lettermullan Islands, is the shallow Kiggaul Bay. The upper part of the bay is choked with rocks where Kiggaul Pass, at the upper end of the bay, admits the larger class of boats only towards high water.

This bay is easily identified from seaward by the 13-metre high Illaunnanownim and the outer anchorage is easily accessible by day or by night. A light is shown from a rectangular white beacon in the centre of the bay Fl WRG 3s 5m W5M, R3M, G3M; vis: 310°-G-329°-W-349°-R-059°.
Please note

The white sector from 329° to 359° leads in but is pitched too close on the west side where it touches Leacarrick Rock.

An extensive cluster of rocks covers the shore between Golam Head and Kiggaul Bay called Dawsy and Griffin Rocks. The westernmost of which is the Dawsy Rock, uncovered at half-tide, and lying with Golam head 1.25 miles northwest by north and nearly ½ a mile from the nearest shore. Foul ground extends to the distance of 600 metres outside it, on which the sea breaks heavily when the swell is high. Griffin Rocks, lying ½ a mile to the east of Dawsy Rock, on the west side of the entrance to Kiggaul Bay, uncovers to a distance of 600 metres from the shore. A spit with 3 metres of water over it extends 400 metres beyond them. Deer Island summit in line with Red Flag Island, leads a ¼ of a mile outside these dangers. Illaunnanowin and Loughcarrick Islands, on the east side of Kiggaul Bay, are foul to 400 metres distance.

Outside the entrance of Greatman’s Bay there are several dangers lying in the way of a vessel proceeding towards it. The most dangerous of these is English Rock. It resides 1600 metres west southwest from Trabaan Point, the west point of entrance to Greatman’s Bay, and 800 metres south from Aillewore Point the nearest point of the shoreline to it. It is of small extent, dries to 1.2 metres at the springs, and is surrounded by shoal water to the distance of 100 metres. Beyond this, there is a depth of 12 or 14 metres on all sides. Golam Tower, seen over the north side of Loughcarrick Islands, leads outside this danger.

A little short of a mile southwest from Trabaan Point is Arkeena Rock with 1.8 metres over it. It resides about half way between Trabaan Point and English Rock. Between Arkeena Rock and the shore the depth exceeds 9 metres, and between it and English Rock 12 to 14 metres. Golam Tower, open of Loughcarrick Island will lead outside English Rock.

Near the middle of the entrance to Greatman’s Bay are the Keeraun and Trabaan Shoals upon which the sea breaks heavily when the swell is up. The former, with 1.6 metres of water, is ¾ of a mile from Trabaan Point, and nearly as far southwest by west from Keeraun Point, the east point of entrance to Greatman’s Bay. Trabaan Rock, with 0.7 metres of water over it, lies 800 metres to the southeast of Trabaan Point, about half way between it and Keeraun Shoal.

Residing 4.5 miles to the east of Golam Head and entered between Trabaan Point and Keeraun Point, nearly 1.2 miles east, Greatman’s Bay is a shallow inlet penetrating the land to a distance of 5.5 miles. The whole of this deep inlet, as well as the approach to it, is studded with dangers, whose position and extent will be best understood by a reference to the Admiralty chart 2096. Small vessels with local knowledge can anchor about 2 miles within the entrance, but it cannot be recommended to strangers and should not be attempted by those without local knowledge.
Please note

The currents in the entrance and in the narrows to the north of Greatman’s Bay attain a velocity of about 2 knots in both directions at springs.

Seven miles to the east of Golam Head and 19 miles from Galway is Cashla Bay. It has several dangers in the entrance but is easy to access and affords secure anchorage for leisure vessels against all winds and sea. The bay, about 2 miles east of Greatman’s Bay, is entered between Killeen Point and Cashla Point about 1.2 miles east. At the visible head of the bay two small but remarkable features will be seen; Round Hill on the left, and Mount Ballagh on the right, backed by the superb chain of mountains called the Twelve Pins, or Benna Beola, that stretch between Lough Corrib and the Killary Bays.

The bay extends for about 3 miles north and is easy to access. A Martello tower stands on the eastern shore under Rossaveel Hill. Above it, the bay, which is a mile wide at the entrance, contracts to less than 400 metres between Curraglass Point on the west and Lion Point on the east, and again expands and turns to the east.

At night a sectored light on a white column on concrete structure on Aillecluggish Point, close northeast of Killeen Point on the west side of the entrance, visible 216°-W-000°-R-069°, shows red over Carrickmarian and Narien Spit dangers that reside ½ a mile south of from Killeen Point.

Cashla Bay - West of entrance Fl (3) WR 10s 8m W6M, R3M position: 53° 14.230’N, 009° 35.180’W

Cannon Rock, that dries to 1.7 metres and has a perch, is fringed by foul ground lies in the centre of the outer approach and is marked by a starboard hand buoy.

Cannon Rock – starboard buoy Fl G 5s position: 53°14.078'N, 009°34.352'W

The main entrance channel lies west of the Cannon Rock and is indicated by a directional light situated on Lion Point that indicates an entry path to the west of Cannon Rock up to the pass between Lion and Curraglass Points - G005°-008.5° (3.5°), W008.5°-011.5° (3°), R011.5°-015° (3.5°).

Cashla Bay - Direction Iso WRG 5s (24hr) position: 53°15.834'N, 009°33.982'W

The channel is about 0.2 miles wide with depths of 14 metres. The fishing harbour of Rossaveel is situated on the northeast side of the bay. Rossaveel Pier has its own leading lights in line 116°T. The front a white mast Oc 3s 7m 3M and rear, 90m from the front, Oc 3s 8m 3M.

Rossaveel Pier - Front light Oc 3s 7m 3M position: 53°16.023’N, 009°33.393’W

To the east of Cashla Bay, the north shore of Galway Bay has few outlying dangers until two miles from Mutton Island when the Black Rock is approached. Inshore the 157 metres high and remarkable hill of Cruckdough rises about 4 miles northeast of Cashla Point and is conspicuous when seen from the seaward. If it is easily recognised by a nipple like summit plus it has the somewhat higher, but less conspicuous, hill of Bovroughaun ½ a mile within.

5½ miles to the east of Cashla Bay the Mantle Rock is dry at low-water and resides at the extremity of a reef projecting nearly ½ a mile from the shore. It is shoal to 3.4 metres 200 metres outside it. For coastal huggers, it is the most dangerous part of the northern coast between Cashla Bay and Black Rock and should be noted. Some detached rocks also lie a ¼ of a mile from the shore, to the east of the Mantle, between it and Awleen Bay.

At 9.5 miles from Galway, is the village of Spiddle, there is a small tidal harbour for boats, with a clean sandy bottom and a pierhead light visible: 102°-G-282°-W-024°-R-066°. The entrance is narrow and exposed to the prevailing southwest winds and the strand is dry for some distance outside the pier at spring tides. 300 metres to the south of it lie the Trawuahawn Rocks and a ¼ of a mile from the strand on the east side of Spiddle is Trawmore Rock, dry at low water springs, with 7 metres close to it. Another small steep-to rock, Donnellan Rock, lies east-southeast 400 metres from Trawmore Rock.

Spiddle - Pier Head Fl WRG 3.5s 11m W6M, R4M, G4M position: 53°14.450’N, 009° 18.490’W

Please note

There is a wave energy test area with heavy equipment awash 2 miles to the southeast of Spiddle. The area is marked by four lit cardinals that mark out the extremities of the area.

At 3.5 miles from Galway, is the village of Barna with a pier with a sectored light at its head Fl(2) WRG 5s 6m 5-8. The small harbour, protected by the pier, dries out beyond the pierhead at low water but supports depths of 3.7 metres alongside at high-water springs. The rocks dry a ¼ of a mile from the shore on its western side, the extremity of which is marked by a light beacon, and a detached rock lies 100 metres south from the pierhead. The best course for running in is with the pierhead bearing north-northeast.

½ a mile south of Barna pier is the Carrickanoge Rock that dries to 1.3 metres above low water and is marked by a west cardinal beacon. It is steep-to on its southwest side, but within and to the east are several rocky patches that dry to 0.1 and 0.5 metres situated to the northwest and in the channel to Barna pier.

Lying on the north side of the channel leading to Galway Harbour is Black Rock that uncovers over an area of 400 metres. It consists of numerous detached masses of rock, the principal part lying at the east end. It dries to 1.6 metres above low water on which stands a beacon that has a red metal cage topmark.

Black Rock - perch unlit position: Fl R 3s position: 53°14.311'N, 009°06.403'W

This perch bears west a little northerly just over two miles from Mutton Island, and just under ¾ of a mile from Seaweed Point, or Barna Cliff an eastern cliffy peninsula on the north shore. Foul ground extends from the north shore nearly out to the Black Rock, terminating with the North Channel Rock, a small rock that is uncovered on springs and dries to 0.6 metres, located 600 metres northwest of Black Rock. Black Rock is also marked by Black Rock Lighted Buoy moored to the south of the group.

Black Rock - Buoy Fl.R.3s position: 53°14.003'N, 009°06.562'W

Please note

Vessels navigating with radar should take care to positively identify these features as there are reports of the beacon on Black Rock being mistaken for the radar signature of the Black Rock Lighted Buoy.

From the Black Rock to Mutton Island the shore is covered by foul ground out to a distance of ½ a mile off. Foudra Rock, lying near its outer edge, and about a mile west-northwest from the lighthouse has about a metre over in parts at spring ebbs. This is marked by a Foundra Rock South Cardinal Q(6)+L Fl. 15s that is moored to the south of the rock.

Approaches to Galways Docks
Image: AerialStockIreland.com

Mutton Island is a low rocky islet, based on an extensive field of rocks that uncover to a considerable extent. It lies at the outer end of a rocky flat extending from the north shore. The island and the flat form the west side of Galway’s outer harbour and providing shelter to Galway Harbour against westerly winds. Except for a small swampy portion on the eastern side, the island has been entirely taken over by a sewerage works. A conspicuous now disused low 10 meters high light tower, white with a red railing at its head, stands near the centre of the island. Mutton Island is foul out to almost ½ a mile on its west side and 400 metres on its south side. The southern rocks are easily passed by staying south of the light buoy marking the outfall diffusers moored to the south of Mutton Island.

Mutton O/F - Buoy Fl.Y.5s position: 53° 14.960’N, 009° 03.310’W

The Mutton Island port buoy, by night Fl(2).R.6s, is moored east southeast of the island located on a bearing of 136°T and 500 metres from Mutton Island Tower.

Mutton Island - port buoy F(2)R 6s position: 53° 15.062’N, 009° 02.923’W

A ⅓ of a mile north by northeast of the Mutton Island port marker buoy is the Mid Channel port marker buoy, by night Fl.R.4s.

The normal anchorage for leisure vessels awaiting the tide to enter Galway Docks is in Galway Roadstead to the east of Mutton Island. 5 metres of water will be found here and there are a host of moorings in this location. Heavy gales from west or southwest raise an uneasy sea in the outer parts of the anchorage, but the holding ground is excellent. In westerly gales, a vessel will find a more protected anchorage to the east of Black Head.

Lying to the southwest of Mutton Island, North Bay comprises Galway Harbour and roadstead, plus Oranmore Bay, and New Harbour. Galway Harbour and Roadstead is formed by a shallow bay on the north shore, opening between Mutton Island and Hare Island, at the head of which stands the town of Galway. The head of the bay is surrounded by extensive foreshores of rock and stones, between which the River Corrib discharges itself forming the channel of approach to the docks. A conspicuous large round ore silo stands close northeast of the dock entrance. The prominent Saint Nicholas Church Spire with an illuminated clock face stands close northwest of Galway dock and the prominent dome of the Saint Nicholas Cathedral stands close northwest of the spire.

The depths in this area are from 4.2 to 7.7 metres, shoaling at the distance of 800 metres within this line to 1.5 metres on the outer edge of the great flat or bar that lies across the entrance to the River Corrib. Through the centre of this flat, the channel to Galway Harbour has a maintained depth of 3.4 metres.

Galway Docks
Image: Autonomous Aerials Ireland

The City of Galway stands on both banks of the river Corrib and is connected by several bridges. It is the fourth most populous urban area in the Republic of Ireland and the sixth most populous city in the island of Ireland. Galway Docks lie on the east side of the river and it has a commercial port with a small fishing and marina within the docks. Galway Docks Click to view haven, the inner harbour, is a wet dock controlled by a tide gate that operates by impounding the preceding high tide. The port provides services to the oil and gas exploration industry. The mouth of the harbour resides between Nimmo's Pier, by night Fl.Y.2s7m7M, on the west and Rinmore Point 250 metres to the northeast, by night Fl.G.5.2m2M. The dredged channel, leading from the entrance of the outer harbour between Mutton Island and Hare Island, up to the inner harbour is on a bearing of 325°T, off a red diamond, yellow diagonal stripes on a mast at the inner end of New Pier, by night this is defined by a Directional light on New Pier Alt GWR 7m 3M.

Photo: Public Domain

½ a mile east of Galway Pier on the north Rinmore shore, between the entrance and Ballyloughaun Point, there is a square white tower 7 metres high that by night shows a light Iso WRG 4s, 7m, 5M. The white sector 008° to 018° intercepts the lead into the roadstead by the Leveret Tower’s and leads for a short distance to the seaward end of the dredged entrance channel to Galway Docks.

Cliffy on its west side the low Hare Islet lies on the east side of the entrance of Galway Harbour. A ½ mile causeway, to the northeast, dries to a neck of sand and shingle at about 90 minutes either side of LW and continues to rise to 1.2 metres above the level of low water. It is connected to Ballyloughaun Point on the mainland in the suburb of Renmore where there is a camping and caravan park. On its northwest side of the island, there are the Bridget Rocks as part of drying mud flats.

The Hare's Ear, a continuous rocky ridge that extends from Hare Island, hosts Sugar Rock and Leverets Light 400 metres south by southwest. 500 metres to the southwest of Hare Island is The Leverets tower, colloquially known as the candle stick, that provides a directional light for the harbour. It is a narrow round tower, black with white bands that by night it shows a light Q WRG 9m, 10M. The white sectors 058° to 065° lead in from seaward, with R and G sectors port and starboard, or astern out from Galway Docks respectively. When vessels have approached to within 400 metres of the tower, the Rinmore directional light leads for a short distance to the outer end of a dredged channel to Galway Dock that in turn is then indicated by its range light.

A ¼ of a mile from the nearest point of Hare Island is Trout Rock that dries to 1.2 metres. It is about 18 metres long, 12 metres wide, steep-to on all sides, and dries 1.2 metres above low water.

To the south by southeast of this is the covered Peter Rock with 0.6 metres of water over it. Moored to the south of both these dangers is the lit Peter Rock South Cardinal.

Peter Rock - South Cardinal Q(6)+L Fl 15s position: 53° 15.163'N, 009° 01.091'W

Choked with rocks, and nearly all dry at low water, Oranmore Bay is a prolongation of the shallow inlet between Rinville Point and Hare Island. It is exposed to the full force of the westerly winds blowing up Galway Bay. A conspicuous 93-metre high radio mast stands over Oranmore Bay about 2.2 miles east southeast of the entrance to Galway Dock. With the assistance of local knowledge, a vessel may enter Oranmore Bay towards high water, and lie afloat in a pool a ¼ of a mile long and 100 metres wide, in which the depth varies from 2 to 4 metres. At low water the approach to this pool is nearly closed by the rocks extending from each shore, leaving but a narrow pass, with 1.3 metres of water in it.

Although open to the northwest New Harbour is oddly not exposed to any swell from that quarter and offers a safe anchorage. In past times it was used by trading sailing vessels awaiting a fair wind for leaving the bay. Likewise today the inlet offers good protection and a base to Galway Bay SC. Rinville Point, on the north side of the harbour, is foul for a ¼ of a mile to the west with Rinville Spit. The spit extends 600 metres west southwest, on which lies Dillisk Rock. New Harbour, to the south, is entered between Renville Spit and the Cockle Rock buoy. The dome of Galway Cathedral in line with the west side of Hare Island, 312°T leads clear of Renville Spit. Rinville and its entrance may be also identified from seaward by the conspicuous Marine Institute building as marked on Admiralty 1984. Black Rock dries to 4.1 metres on the south shore and is marked by a lighted starboard perch, Fl G 5s, with a corresponding port perch Fl R 5s on the point opposite.

Lying on the south side of the channel Margaretta Shoal is only dangerous for larger vessels. The shoal has 6.2 to 9 metres and a small rock at its eastern extremity, on which there is a depth of 2.9 metres at low water. Its position is shown by Margaretta Marker Buoy moored on the west side of the shoal and rock.

Margaretta - starboard buoy Fl.G.3s position: 53° 13.683’N, 009° 05.996’W

The extensive Tawin Shoals, that lies to the east of the Margaretta Shoal, is only dangerous for commercial vessels that carry deep draughts. The shoal has a general depth of 5.3 to 9 metres with a shallow patch of about 2.9 metres near the east end. Several patches of 4.7 metres are also scattered to the west of it. Between this and the Margaretta Shoal, there is a clear channel ½ a mile wide with up to 10.4 metres of water. Tawin Shoals is marked by Green Cone Lt buoy, Fl(3) G10s.

Tawin Shoals - buoy position: 53° 14.287’N, 009° 04.286’W

Ardfry Shoal with 1.9 metres of water resides nearly midway between Tawin Shoals and the Cockle Rock that lies to the west-northwest of Ardfry Point.


From Galway Bay to the north, as far as Clew Bay, the coast is very much in contrast to the bold features that distinguish the terrain to the south of Galway Bay. Here the coast is fronted by a multitude of dangerous outlying rocks and shoals, some of which extend six miles offshore, with intricate channels among them leading to bays and inlets that penetrate the irregular broken shores of Connemara. Some of these inlets provide secure anchorages, but the dangers in the approach are so numerous that they are seldom frequented and should never be attempted by strangers without the assistance of a local knowledge.
Please note

In thick weather, it would be ill-advised to approach this part of the coast unless absolutely certain of position, safe path and the location that is being addressed.

The unmistakable landmark for vessels approaching this coast the coast is the 296 metres high Errisbeg Mountain. It is the highest of several peaks rising from a ridge that forms the mountain. 5.75 miles to the miles east-northeast of Mount Errisbeg and at the head of Bertraghboy Bay, is the scarcely less remarkable 307 metres high and conspicuous Cashel Hill. It stands out in prominent relief from the magnificent chain that stretches between Lough Corrib and the Killaries. The Knockmorden Range, rising to a 350 metres high peak about 4.5 miles south east of Cashel Hill, is easily identified stretching along the western side of Kilkieran Bay, whilst presents a conspicuous feature when viewed from the south. Likewise, the outer Skerd Rocks, form conspicuous objects whilst navigating in their vicinity, plus the lighthouses on Slyne Head and Rock Island are invaluable marks when approaching this dangerous coast.

The Skerd Rocks
Photo: Graham Rabbits

The most outlying danger between Slyne Head and Golam Head are an irregular group of rocks and shoals called the Skerd Rocks. Occupying a space of about two miles; some of the Skerd Rocks never cover, others are just awash, whilst the remainder are generally indicated by their breakers.

The highest rocks are on the southwest face of the group, where the easily identified Skerdmore attains a height of 18 metres. Skerdmore lies on a bearing 136°T and 11.8 miles from Slyne Head plus on a bearing 010°T and 8.7 miles west northwest of Golam Head. It is the largest and outermost of an extensive group of rocks and shoals that, along with the 12 metres Doonguddle, serve as conspicuous daytime positions beacons to guide vessels to the south of the group and into the North Sound of Galway Bay.

On the west and south sides, the Skerd Rocks are steep-to clear of danger with deep water close home with 75 metres plus of water ½ a mile from them. To the southeast the irregular rocky bottom is prolonged from Broadweed Shoal, the southeast danger of the Skerd group, then into the Yellow Ridge and East Shoal. These have from 8 to 13 metres of water over them with intervening patches of 16 and 18 metres and form a chain of rocky summits extending 4.5 miles to the southeast of the outer Skerd Rock. On all of this area, the sea breaks furiously in rough weather, even in depths of 18 metres.

Lying to the southeast of the Skerds, and between them and Golam Head, are the Namackan Rocks. They cover a space of nearly two miles in extent and are separated from the East Shoal of the latter group by a channel a mile wide, with 20 metres of water in it. Some of these rocks never cover, others appear at various periods of the tide, and all may generally be known by their breakers. An irregular bank with 13 metres of water extends nearly a mile to the west of them, towards East Shoal, on which the sea often breaks. Golam Tower kept open of the Eagle Rock, southeast by east, leads to the south of Namackan Rocks and Golam Head well north of Red Flag Island, south southeast, as best seen on Admiralty 3339, leads to the north of them and through the Inner Passage.

The 8 metre high Eagle Rock is the highest of a group of rocks lying between Namackan Rocks and Golam Head. It extends about a mile in length, in a north northeast or south southwest direction, with a good clear ½ a mile wide channel between them and Golam Head. 300 metres to the southeast of Seal Rock, the southern rock of this group, lies Fairservice Rock, with 0.9 metres of water over it. Cashel Hill, a conical 308 metres high hill that stands out in prominent relief from The Twelve Pins, open to the east of Birbeg Island to the north northeast, bearing 355.5° T, as best seen on Admiralty 2096, leads to the east of it.

The most outlying dangers to the north side of the Skerds Rock are the Mile Rocks, Toole Rock, and Bellows Rock.

At their west extremity Mile Rocks are 4.4 metres high, lie 1½ miles north of the Skerds and about 2.5 miles west by south from Deer Island. They extend toward Deer Island for nearly 1½ miles in irregular patches of increasing depth and terminate in the Mile End Patches, with from 7.9 to 9.8 metres of water over them. ½ a mile west of the Mile Rock there is a shoal of 13 metres and between them and the Skerds some patches of 22 metres. The sea occasionally breaks over this extended area. The passage between these groups is otherwise clear of danger.

With a least depth of 8.2 metres of water over it Toole Rocks reside 1½ miles north of Mile Rocks, and are nearly midway between the latter and Wild Bellows.

Covered at high water neap tides Wild Bellows Rock lies 1½ miles to the north of Toole Rocks, and 2.75 miles west by north from the nearest point of Croaghnakeela Island - otherwise known as Deer Island. It is steep-to on all sides to within a short distance, but some detached shoals, with from 9.8 to 11.6 metres of water over them, lie to the south and southwest of the rock. Sunk Bellows, lying 1.75 miles to the east of Wild Bellows, about midway between it and Croaghnakeela Island, has 1.8 metres of water over it and is steep-to all round. The line of bearing 111°T of Saint Macdara's Island, that has a large boulder on its summit, open south of Croaghnakeela Island, 2 miles west northwest, leading east by southeast, as best seen on Admiralty 1820, passes between Toole Rocks and Wild Bellows.

All of these dangers, of which the Skerds form the salient point, stretch from Golam Head to Wild Bellows Rock, a distance of 14 miles.

Between them and the shore there are several other dangers, the most extensive of which, called Tonyeal Rocks. These are a group of dangerous sunken rocks that occupy an area of ½ a mile. They rise in detached patches to less than a metre below the surface and at one spot uncover on low springs. The sea breaks over the shallowest part but is liable to break anywhere over the group in a heavy swell. By day the line of bearing 126°T of Golam Head well open northeast of Redflag Islet leads in the channel between Tonyeal Rocks and Saint Macdara's Island.

The extensive inlet of Kilkieran Bay opens between Dinish and Birmore Islands, 1.2 miles west northwest, and to the north of Golam Head. It penetrates the land in a north-easterly direction, to a distance of 8 miles, with sections extending in a more easterly direction to Upper Camus Bay and the lakes communicating with it. The upper part of these waters are generally shallow and studded with dangers, but with the assistance of buoys and beacons may be navigated by small leisure vessels. The bay offers a host of anchoring locations that may be accessed in all reasonable conditions and provide excellent shelter.

Situated to the east of Deenish Island, on the east side of the entrance to Kilkieran Bay, is Casheen Bay. It is well sheltered, provides easy access and has sufficient depths for vessels having drafts of up to 10 metres. Leisure vessels should note that there is a flat stretching across from Knock Point towards Dinish Point called Knock Spit, part of which dries at low water. This shuts off the deep interior pool of Coonawilleen Bay from the anchorage in Casheen Bay. Prepare to anchor on the south side of the bay soon after a line taken with a large boulder close off the north end of Dinish Island in range 278°T with the south end of Birmore Island.

With the shallowest part having 1.5 metres of water Dinish Shoals lie on the west side of Dinish Island perfectly in the track of vessels running into Casheen or Kilkieran bays. The shallowest part lies near their western extremity, at the distance of ¾ of a mile from the nearest part of Dinish Island. They need to be avoided by a yacht at low water or during a swell.
Please note

Bruiser Rock has less than 2 metres over it residing 200 metres west of Dinish Island.

To the north of Illauneeragh the Fork Rocks are extremely dangerous. The southwest rocks cover first making it easy for an approaching vessel to run up on them.

West of Kilkieran Bay the Coast assumes a sandy character, with extensive foreshores drying out and numerous rocks scattered over them.

The next bay to the west of Kilkieran Bay is Mweenish Bay. This shallow inlet is accessible to leisure vessels in fine weather only. When the swell is high there are dreadful breakers in the channels leading to it and none but those intimately acquainted local dare venture among them.

Inishmuskerry Island, a low sandy island surrounded by rocks, lies in front of Mweenish Bay. On its southern side, the rocky foreshore dries out to 800 metres. Beyond it, at the distance of ½ a mile from the island, there is a dangerous rock Inishmuskerry Shoal with only 0.9 metres over it at low water. The Inner Passage lies between this and the Kenny Rock and it is ¾ of a mile wide here.

Saint Macdara's Island, lying 4 miles northwest by north from Inishmuskerry Island, is 27 metres high and crowned by a large boulder. On its eastern side are the ruins of an ancient stone roofed chapel.

Mason Island, to the southeast of Saint Macdara's Island, is low and mostly covered with sand. ½ a mile to the south of Mason Island are the Carrickaview Rocks that covered at high water neap tides and are steep-to to the west. These rocks, with Saint Macdara's Island, form the north side of the inner passage; the south side is bounded by Tonyeal Rocks.

Skippers passing between Slyne and Golam Head, that are acquainted with the area or prefer interesting navigation, typically take the Inner Passage. The Inner Passage is to the east of the Eagle and Namackan rocks. This not only shortens the distance to going outside the Skerds, but makes for much less of a sea. This passage is particularly convenient to vessels navigating between Galway and Roundstone bays. The best leading mark for it is the aforementioned line of bearing 126°T of Golam Head, seen just open to the north of Redflag Rock. This leads between Inishmuskerry Shoal and Namackan Rocks, towards Saint Macdara's Island, between which and Tonyeal Rocks the passage is ½ a mile wide.

Lying 1.75 miles northwest from Saint Macdara's Island, Croaghnakeela Island, or Deer Island, is 60 metres high and forms a very conspicuous reference point when navigating in this area. It is covered with low brushwood and furze among which the deer find shelter. Deer Shoals, with 5.8 metres of water, lie a ⅓ of a mile to the east of the island. ½ a mile northeast of it are the Illauncroagh Islands, separated from each other by a narrow sound, and from Croaghnakeela Island by a deep and clear channel that is ½ a mile wide.

To the north of Mason Island is Ard Bay. It affords shelter against southwest winds and may be used by leisure vessels in summer, but northwest winds blow right in. The anchorage is on the east side of the rocks that lie between Saint Macdara's and Mason islands, the most outlying of which, Rourke Slate, is a small rock visible only at low water springs, and must be carefully avoided by vessels going into the anchorage.

About ½ a mile from Mace Head, at the entrance of Ard Bay, lies the dangerous rock called Lebros Rocks that dry at low water. A rocky patch of 7 metres and less resides a ¼ of a mile to the west of it. The alignment of 003°T of Pat's Point, the northeast extremity of Inishlackan, and Roundstone Church, 1.25 miles to the north, passes west of Lebros Rocks and Smith Rock. This leads over the 7 metres patch to the west of the rock, which it is necessary to avoid as when the sea is up it breaks.

Lying in the bight about midway between Slyne Head and Golam Head, Bertraghboy Bay affords perfect security vessel against all winds and seas. The approach is encumbered with dangers with few marks to distinguish it. This makes it imprudent for a stranger to venture in here except in very favourable circumstances or with the benefit of local knowledge. The entrance is a ¼ of a mile wide and lies east northeast 3.5 miles from Croaghnakeela Island. From here the bay extends about 4 miles in an east direction and is about one mile in width. There is a general depth over the anchorage ground of 4 to 20 metres on a muddy sand bottom.

The brushwood covered Croaghnakeela Island, situated about 4.5 miles north northeast of Skerdmore, is easy to identify. A light is shown from a structure standing on its southeast side visible: 034°-045°, 218°-286°, 311°-325°.

Croaghnakeela Is – White column Fl 3 7s 7m 5M position: 53° 19.385´N, 009° 58.133´W

The figure-of-eight-shaped island of Inishnee almost fills the western part of Bertraghboy Bay. The island lies east of Roundstone and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. It has a rocky shore all around and no sandy beaches. The eastern side is quite interesting in that there are a large number of small, hand-built little harbours and jetties. These are now all disused and at times may only be identified at close quarters. One can land here on the east coast almost anywhere. The island has a light on a white column on a white house base; visible: 314°-G-017°-W-030°-R-080°-W-194°.

Inishnee - white col Fl (2) WRG 10s 9m W5M, R3M, G3M position: 53° 22.750´N, 009° 54.500´W

Inishtreh Island forms the south point of the entrance. It is based on an extensive rocky foreshore that connects it with the mainland at low water. Some rocks called the Small Breakers, lie 300 metres from its west side, which will be avoided by keeping the whole of Saint Macdara's Island open to the west of Freaghillaun. It's north point may be passed 200 metres off. The north point of the entrance is formed by the south end of Inishnee. It is sleep-to and has 18 metres of water at 100 metres off.
Please note

Between Inishnee’s southernmost Tawnrawer Point and Inishtreh Island, 600 metres to the south, there is a clear channel with a depth of 23 metres through which a spring ebb runs at about 1.5 knots.

Inishlackan Island, lying immediately before the entrance, and ¾ of a mile from it, is foul to the south out to a ¼ of a mile off. On its east side, the rocky foreshore uncovers out to 200 metres distance beyond which it is moderately bold-to.

The south shore of Bertraghboy Bay is covered by a flat extending a ¼ of a mile off. At the head of the bay, there are several small islands, the highest of which is the 28-metre Croghnut that is conspicuous from the entrance.

Cashel Bay, lying to the north of these islands, is an extensive inlet that is choked with shallows and oyster banks. In its southeast corner and enclosed by the islands there is a pool called Leanagh Pool. It has as much as 20 metres of water in it but does not have any deep channel of approach to it.

Gowla Cove, at the head of the bight, to the south of the islands, affords excellent anchorage for vessels in 5 metres of water with a rock lying in the fairway, obstructs the approach to it. From the south point of the islands, a flat stretches to the west across the entrance of Cashel Bay, and joining the shore again at Salt Point. Its outer edge is steep-to, with 14 and 16.5 metres close to it.

Cloonile Bay, separated from Roundstone Bay by Inishnee, is a narrow inlet extending 3.5 miles in a north northeast direction. It is easily navigable with 12 to 16 metres of water for a mile within its entrance. Vessels of up to 3 metres draught may go alongside at high water at Cloonile Pier.

Immediately in front of the entrance to Cloonile Bay there is a small 7-metre high island called Oghly Island. A ¼ of a mile to the south of it and nearly a mile within the entrance of Bertraghboy Bay lies Oghly Shoal, with 1.2 metres of water over it. Keeping a water tank on Inishlackan open of Inishnee’s southernmost Tawnrawer Point on a line of bearing of 257°T clears this to the south.

Roundstone Quay
Photo: Tourism Ireland

Roundstone Bay, lying on the west side of Inishnee, immediately outside the entrance of Bertraghboy Bay, penetrates for 2 miles in a north northeast direction and affords a well-sheltered harbour for leisure vessels. From a depth of 23 metres in the entrance, it shoals gradually to 1.2 metres on the bar that crosses the harbour a little below the town. Above the bar, the water again deepens to 2.4 metres where vessels may safely anchor off the Roundstone Quay, lie aground on the mud or go alongside the pier when the tide serves. Roundstone Bay may offer a more convenient anchorage than Bertraghboy, where there is no town.

Yachts anchored in Roundstone Bay
Photo: Tourism Ireland

Bertraghboy and Roundstone bays may be approached either by the sound between Deer Island and Mace Head, or to the north of the Illauncroagh Islands. Besides the offshore rocks, already described, there are several other inshore dangers lying in the approach to these harbours. Of these the Floor Rock and Smith Rock, in the eastern passage, and the Muckranagh Shoal and Caulty Rocks with the Shark Patches, lying to the north of the Illauncroagh Islands, are the most dangerous.

Smith Rock, with 2 metres of water over it and it rarely breaks. It lies a ⅓ of a mile to the northwest of Freaghillaun and between these, there is a clear channel with 14 metres of water. The alignment of Pat’s Point, the northeastern extremity of Inishlackan, and Roundstone Church on 003°T clears Smith Rock.

With 1.2 metres of water over it Floor Rock is the shoalest part of a rocky ledge that extends 300 metres in an east west direction and is a 100 metres wide. It lies just over ½ a mile to the northeast of the north most point of Illauncroagh More Island and it usually breaks.

The 4.6 metres deep Croagh Rock shoal also lies 400 metres off the north of Illauncroagh More Island. Also the less dangerous Muckranagh Shoal with 6.4 metres of water resides nearly midway between Illauncroagh More and Mutton Island on the north side of the sound.

The dangerous Caulty Rock reside ¾ of a mile to the northwest of Muckranagh Shoal. It is covered at high water springs and dried to 4.3 metres. The nearby Shark Patches, with from 9.8 to 18 metres of water, lie ¾ of a mile to the northwest of Caulty Rock.

These three dangers lie very near the fairway of vessels running from the north for Bertraghboy and Roundstone bays. In addition, the heavy breakers, caused by the general irregularity of the bottom in this area, are especially dangerous to leisure vessels in rough conditions. They are, on the other-hand, sufficiently deep for vessels to pass over them in fine weather. During westerly gales, these rocky shelves offer so much resistance to the Atlantic seas as to throw the whole region into a wild sea of breakers.

To the northwest of Bertraghboy Bay the Coast presents features similar to that to the south of it; low, rocky, and covered by outlying dangers extending from one to two miles offshore.

A conspicuous islet called the Murvey Rock resides three miles to the northwest of Lackan Island. It stands at the south extreme of a chain of rocks that run nearly parallel to the shore in the direction of Slyne Head. Between these rocks and the shore, there is a channel for leisure craft leading to Ballyconneely Bay. The 49 metre high Maumeen Hill rises a mile within the shore to the east of these rocks. Lying about two miles to the west of the hill is Ballyconneely Bay that is so studded with dangerous rocks that it provides no safe anchorage.

The next creek to the west is Bunowen Bay that resides 4.5 miles to the east of Slyne Head. It is easily recognised by the 61 metre high Doon Hill, with a ruined tower on its summit, that stands at the head of the bay. Lying among rocks and dangerous shoals, from which it derives most of its shelter, Bunowen Bay provides an anchorage for several leisure vessels. It also has a pier capable of receiving one or two vessels of 3.9 metres draught at high water springs.

Immediately in front of Bunowen Bay is the 1.1 high islet of Mullauncarrickscoltia that rises to 5.5 metres above low water. As it is never covered it serves as a guide to the dangers in its vicinity. A ridge of rocks stretches from it towards the islands lying off the west point of the bay more than a mile away. Cromwell Rock, the shallowest of these, has but 2.4 metres of water whilst on other parts, there are from 7 to 8 metres. But when there is any sea up it breaks all over the ridge making it dangerous for vessels to enter Bunowen Bay from that side. For a mile to the west southwest of Mullauncarrickscoltia the soundings are very uneven, with depths of 13 and 15 metres, on which the sea also often breaks.

Duke and Hen rocks, respectively 1.1 and 4.8 metres above high water, lie on the outer end of the reefs on the east side of Bunowen Bay.
Please note

Highly familiar local fisher men often pass through the channels inside these rocks to utilising the smoother water and save time. Following these vessels in would be highly unadvisable for strangers to the area.

Ballinaleama Bay, lying to the west of Bunowen Bay, is choked with dangerous rocks. Iris Shoal with 6.4 metres of water over it, lying in front of it, is the outer danger to the west of Mullauncarrickscoltia, from which it bears west by northwest 1½ miles away. Within the Iris Rock there are numerous other dangers, having deep passages between. It would be highly dangerous for a stranger to venture among them and it should be avoided.

Further offshore, about four miles south of Bunowen Bay, are the Thanymore Shoals. They consist of several patches with 19 and 21 metres of water over them and lie midway between Slyne Head and the Mile Rocks. They form the outer limit of the foul and uneven ground that covers the shore from the Skerds to Slyne Head. The line of bearing 111°T of Saint Macdara's Island, open south of Croaghnakeela Island, and leading east southeast, passes north of Thanymore.

Slyne Head
Photo: Graham Rabbits

Set upon the western extremity of the island of Illaunamid is Slyne Head. The island is the west most of a chain of rocks and islands that extend two miles west by southwest from the nearest part of the mainland. The north side of the head is steep-to, with 30 metres 200 metres out from it. To the west, foul ground extends out for a ¼ of a mile, succeeded immediately by deep water. Two circular white lighthouses stand on Illaunamid, the largest of the Slyne Head islands. The conspicuous black 24 metres high active Slyne Head Lighthouse stands on the higher ground with the prominent ruins of the former lighthouse standing close south.

Slyne Head - Fl (2) 15s 35m 19M position: 53° 23.997'N, 010° 14.051'W

There are several boat passages between the islands. Joyce’s Sound, the one most frequently used, near the inner end of the chain, is only 45 metres wide and the sea frequently breaks across it. But in settled weather and smooth water these passages may be taken in safety by those acquainted with them.
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.

With thanks to:
inyourfootsteps.com research

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