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The North East

Lough Foyle to Carlingford Lough

The writing of this section of the guide was greatly assisted by referring to Robin G. Ruddock’s excellent publication North Coast Sea Kayak Trail Guide now published on-line at, the text of which is almost entirely subsumed into this work, including the same information utilising user-friendly maps, symbols and historical and environmental information.

County Derry

Lough Foyle

C659-387          Sheet 3/4

This lough between counties Derry and Donegal and Carlingford Lough to the SE between counties Down and Louth are the only two sea boundaries between the two legal jurisdictions on the island of Ireland.  While the two relevant parties split Carlingford Lough down the middle and each “own”, regulate and administer their respective halves out to the median line, no such arrangement was ever come to for Lough Foyle, where each side claims the entire lough as far as the opposite bank, 100 years after the issue first arose.  The day to day practical arrangements resulting from this inertia tend towards proving the ancient adage that “where everyone is in charge, nobody is in charge”.  Fishery regulation is shared as a stop gap, but on the water, one might be stopped by the authorities of either side, anywhere in the lough.  Military installations on both sides show the importance of the lough in such terms.


The logical embarkation point for the outer regions of Lough Foyle is Magilligan Point on the east side, by the Martello Tower. Access is by the B202 past the prison and rifle range. Do not block roads. Park by the hotel. The whole region is a security area, frequently patrolled. Especially beware of the military zone on the beach immediately to the east of the point, Benone Beach, on which it’s better not to land (certainly not while firing is going on). Accurate information for those passing the firing range can now be obtained from CANI.

Further to the east, beyond the military zone, there is public access at about C717-363. There is a concrete slip across the beach. However, the beach surfs and there is a strong tidal drift. This may have relevance for launching. Expect caravans, lifeguards, and beach casting anglers.

The whole lough is less interesting inwards to the SW. There are large areas of mudflats on the east side. That said, it is a busy, well marked and well lit area. It is excellent for night navigation, sheltered but with strong tides. If paddling up into the city, it is possible to take out at Prehen Boat Club upstream of the Craigavon Bridge on the east bank.

Road access is better on the Donegal side and there are nice secluded beaches. Greencastle at C648-400 lies directly across from Magilligan Point. The Donegal shore gets the more interesting up towards Inishowen Head at C686-439. The sea is much more exposed beyond the head.


Fierce tides push through the narrows. Rates of 3.5kn should not be treated lightly. Eddies on the Donegal side run from Warren Point to Moville and are usable on both flood and ebb. Moville HW is about 4.00 before Belfast, more in springs and less in neaps.

The Narrows
Direction Time Speed
In 3:00 after Belfast HW 3.5kn
Out 3:00 before Belfast HW 3.5kn

The ebb begins an hour earlier at Magilligan Point.

The Spanish Armada

The Trinidad Valencera hit a reef of Inishowen and came ashore East of Lough Foyle. Its crew of 450 mostly got off safely. Surrounded by English soldiers they eventually surrendered. 36 were ransomed and the rest were put to death.


C752-361          Sheet 4

There is public access at the extreme east end of Benone Beach at a point called Downhill Strand. The Downhill Hotel was closed and demolished.  An apartment block now fills the gap.  Parking and toilets are beside the apartments and access is by a stream through an archway under the railway. This spot is popular with anglers. The rocky area to the east of the prominent Mussenden Temple at C758-362 is loose basalt, eroded to provide caves and arches. Fulmar and Kittiwake thrive on the sewerage outfall.

There is good access and parking at Castlerock village itself at C774-362, where there is parking and toilets at the beach access point.

County Antrim

Tidal overview

On the north coast, the tide generally turns west at Belfast HW and east at Belfast LW. The tides are complex, particularly around Rathlin and should be studied carefully.

Tides flow strongly at the headlands but there are usable eddies between.

River Bann

C782-367          Sheet 4

To the east of Castlerock village is the Bar Mouth, where the River Bann flows into the sea. Turbulent water can be experienced quite a distance offshore. The flood at the mouth is weak by comparison to the ebb. Especially when the river is up, the ebb and the flow of the river combine to produce mighty standing waves. The flow of the river is controlled by floodgates well upstream. Powerful rip currents either side of the mouth are dangerous enough. The mouth artificially narrows the stream and this projects the fresh water out with great force. The fresh water is easily distinguished in the sea water and gives a good guide as to tide direction and strength off the beaches. The river is marked as far up as Coleraine. The area is a noted birding spot in winter.


C815-385          Sheet 4

The area behind Portstewart Strand to the west of the town is part golf course and part National Trust. There is fee-paying access to the NT section, where there are toilets and parking C811-367. There is a powerful rip each end of the strand. When the strand is dumping, it is better to launch off a slip at Portnahapple at C813-377, which is usable in most conditions, but be aware that access is difficult from car parks in the area.

The harbour at C815-385 can be difficult to enter or exit in heavy seas, with multi-directional reflected waves. The slip is exposed to surge. There is good parking and this is the access of choice in calm conditions.

There is some interesting rock hopping locally, clapotis almost always and some small caves and a blowhole that performs well in good swell. The tide can run fast around Portstewart Point.

Portstewart to Portrush

C815-385 to C856-407  Sheet 4

The coastline here is basalt and reasonably interesting, low lying at first. Rinagree Point at C833-397 is the halfway point. To its west is Black Rock and just off it lies Lawson’s Rock, which breaks even in a moderate swell. It is possible to shelter in the lee of Black Rock. There is a tiny storm beach accessible from landward just east of Rinagree Point. Boomers may be expected hereabouts. Rock hopping and narrow channels are best enjoyed in calmer conditions and at about HW.


An eddy runs west on the flood tide between Ramore Head to the Bann Barmouth from 2 hours before Belfast HW.


C856-407          Sheet 4

Portrush West Bay is easily accessed under the railway line C855-400. The slipway in the harbour is awkward in swell, being quite close to the entrance and is quite busy. Consider using Portandoo Harbour at C857-412 instead, though the parking is a little more remote. There is also good parking at the west end of Curran Strand with parking at C862-405.

Ramore Head is interesting exploring in calm conditions. Skerries Sound often kicks up and is best avoided by the inexperienced. The ebb sets up powerful standing waves.

The Skerries – Portrush

C875-427          Sheet 4

These rocky islands lie about 2km NE of Portrush. The islands are basalt and the north side is ‘steep to’ and usually has unsettled sea conditions as the tide and swell often work in opposition. They are mostly grassy and low on the south side. Strong tide races set between the islands and associated rocks to their north. The sheltered south side is usually settled, and the best landing on the large skerry is towards the east end where there is almost a gap in the island. The Skerries are privately owned so get permission to land from Mr Metson in Portrush at 028 70857412, especially if intending to camp. There is a small brackish lake on the large skerry. Large numbers of birds nest and some rabbits survive. The best embarkation point is at Portandoo Harbour at C857-412 on the NE part of the headland, which is well sheltered. The rocks south of the harbour are a nature reserve and of interest to the geologist for its ammonite exposures. There are Grey Seal and a small colony of Common Seal.

The Storks at C897-424 are rocks lying 2km ESE of the Skerries, and 1km NNW of Dunluce Castle. They are marked by a tall, unlit red beacon. Fishing is good hereabouts.


Skerries Sound
Direction Time
East 6:00 before Belfast HW
West 1:00 after Belfast HW

On the east-going flood, there is an eddy between Curran Point at C875-411 to Reviggerly at C855-415.

HW Portrush is 4:40 before Belfast HW.

Portrush to Portballintrae

C856-407C926-422  Sheet 4

White Rocks Beach at C899-411 is accessible from the road and there are good toilet and day time parking facilities. Calm conditions are necessary as the surf can be quite powerful with large dumping waves in heavy seas. The rips are strong and the tide flows strongly just beyond the break line. The rips are easily read from above on the road.

It is mainly cliffs eastwards to Portballintrae. There are a number of interesting caves in the first section along under prominent Dunluce Castle at C905-414. One such cave is directly under the castle. Exploration of some of the other caves hereabouts requires a torch. There is good rock hopping eastwards to Portballintrae, with at least one good sheltered deep water landing in a channel about the halfway mark. Another cave just west of Binbane Cove is 40 to 50m long. Beware of a choke point halfway in, where the surge can catch the unwary.

In Portballintrae Harbour, there is a public slipway at C926-422. There are toilets and a car park which can become quite congested in summer. Local surfers prefer the larger car park at C929-423 overlooking Bushfoot Strand to the east of the town. Access to the beach is just west of the car park C928-424.  Kayakers always prefer the harbour.

Portballintrae to Dunseverick

C926-422 to D000-445 Sheet 5

The rocks between the harbour and Bushfoot Strand can be fun at HW. On passage however, give them plenty of clearance. Stay at least 200m clear of the east harbour entrance to avoid a boomer called the Blind Rock. Bushfoot is named for the River Bush which flows in here at the SW corner. Upriver 2km is the town of Bushmills, famed globally for its Black Bush whiskey. The beach tends to surf and should be used with caution. After rain, a brown tongue of water enters the sea and what happens to it is a good guide to what the tide is doing just then. The east part of the beach is irregularly rocky and not a good place for small boats. There is a small slip below Runkerry House at C935-434.

The coastline eastwards is the Giant’s Causeway section. It is committing and there are no easy landing places. It is also one of the most beautiful sections of the entire Northern Ireland coastline.

Just SE of the off-lying rock, the Mile Stone at C934-440, is the massive and beautiful Runkerry Cave at C935-439, complete with boulder beach and long dry passage. There are other caves hereabouts, most notably in a small cove 0.5km east of Runkerry called locally Portcoon, with a dry side entrance.

There is a slip in Portnaboe, the last cove before the Causeway proper. Visitors once walked from this point, before the access from above was organised.

The Causeway section itself C950-451 includes the 5km around Benbane Head C965-461. There are many exposures of geological features; dykes, sills and the various layers of volcanic activity are easily seen. Most cleanly seen here are the hexagonal columnar rock formations that can look like organ pipes when exposed from the side, easier studied than at Fair Head in Antrim or Staffa in Scotland.  The Causeway itself and all the related geology are far better seen from seaward. In strong offshore winds there are vicious down draughts and each of the bays can funnel the wind to strong gusts.

Formidable tides run off Benbane Head and great seas can build up off it and off Bengore Head 1km east.

The Spanish Armada

The tragedy of the Girona, wrecked at Lacada Point C953-455, was that it was the most seaworthy of several ships that sailed on 16th October 1588 from Killybegs for Scotland. 1300 were drowned, including members of most of the noblest families in Spain. The remains of the wreck were discovered c1967 by a team of divers and a great number of artifacts including many many trinkets and jewellery did survive in the cracks and crevices off the Point, as well as cannons, cannonballs and other memorabilia which are now in The Ulster Museum in Belfast.

Port Moon

Port Moon at C979-451 on the east side of Contham Head C977-457 is a natural small boat harbour among low rocks at the base of a 60m cliff. A bothy with a rusty roof marks the spot to the passerby, as do the salmon net poles around it, when close in. The bothy is presently the subject of a renovation programme which should be finished by summer 2011. The gut is 100m by 8m and there are rings on either side for shorelines. The port enjoys 1.5m LWS at the outer end. Landing is possible onto a sheltered but rough and stony shore/slip. Camping is nearby on grass, and there is even a stream. It has the remote feel of an island, despite a steep zig-zag path up the cliff to the public Causeway Coast Path.

The coastline eastwards towards Dunseverick Castle falls away, but is bouldery. There is a small, well-sheltered harbour near Dunseverick at D000-445, about 1km east of the castle ruin, with a small maritime museum and good enough parking. Camping is possible here but forbidden, except in emergency. There are some lovely rock pools just west of the harbour, suitable for swimming and diving. This carpark has saved many a kayaker a long trip (east/west) if the weather breaks. Leaving a car at Dunserevick on a coastal passage is recommended.

Dunseverick to Ballintoy

D000-445D038-454    Sheet 5

The rocky area immediately east of Dunseverick is cliffy with caves hidden from view by raised beaches. White Park Bay to the east is particularly beautiful. Portbraddan is a small harbour at the west end of the beach at D008-442. It boasts the smallest church in Ireland. Access and parking are poor. It is possible to launch off a boulder beach. Very pretty. The salmon fishery, as with all those on the north coast, is closed. Wild salmon numbers in the Atlantic generally dropped alarmingly in the late twentieth century.  Great controversy still persists as to the causation.  Over fishing, global warming, diseases affecting the wild stock caused by sea lice endemic with farmed stock, all are blamed.  Stocks of similarly depleted wild Sea Trout have shown some signs of recovery recently, and perhaps wild salmon may someday be plentiful again?

There is a youth hostel set high above the beach itself, behind the official car park. It is a long carry to the beach and not in any way normally suitable for kayak launching. The beach gives good surf though. Boulders and a dyke called the Long Causeway obstruct the east end. The rocky islets east of the beach towards Islandoo at D038-456 are NT and give good sport in the right conditions.

Ballintoy – Ballycastle

D038-454D122-412    Sheet 5

Inside Islandoo lies the wonderful Ballintoy harbour at D038-454, a splendid embarkation place for this area generally, or for just a lunch stop. The tides are really powerful through the channels, even right outside the harbour mouth. The harbour has a strand for landing, two slips, toilets and even a coffee shop, but be aware that the owner has a great dislike of kayakers who use the public carpark near the cafe. It gets congested in summer. Take care towing a trailer down to the harbour, as the road is steep and twisty. Good facilities, great views. Lovely.


The tides set so strongly and eddy so fiercely in the main offshore current that it is possible to surf the deep water eddies in Boheeshane Bay eastwards towards Larry Bane Head at D049-452.

Sheep Island

D048-458          Sheet 5

Sheep Island lies ENE of Ballintoy Harbour and was bought by the National Trust in 1967. The rats on the island were exterminated by 1970 and it again became an important nesting site for Puffin and Cormorant. The large numbers of the latter indicate healthy fish stocks in the rivers of the NE coast. The island is flat topped with steep cliffs on all sides, essentially a large sea stack.

There is a strong eddy between the island and Larry Bane Head at D049-452. The power of the eddy gives only a hint of the strength of the tide races in the main current on the north side.


Landing can be made at two points. On the north of the island is an obvious bay. A boulder beach at the head of the bay gives access to a corrie-shaped area whose southern side is a narrow ridge linking the higher points of the SW and NE sides. The climb from the boulder beach is firstly on easy grassy slopes but then onto steeper rock. An exposed climb leads onto high grassy slopes. The climb should not be underestimated as the rock is loose and the slope steep.

A second landing, with easier access and support holds, is located on the SE corner.



Carrickarede Island

D062-450          Sheet 5

Carrickarede Island is about 2km east of Ballintoy Harbour and anyone visiting the area will be directed here. It is owned by the National Trust. It can be visited by land across its famous rope bridge, in place throughout the year, once used to serve salmon fishermen. Great bravery is required.  Far easier sometimes to visit by sea. The tide race off the NW corner is powerful, but can often be avoided by going under the rope bridge. The sand bar here is covered on the top two thirds of the tide. The rock strata is interesting, giving good nest sites for Kittiwake, Razorbill and Guillemot. There is a wonderful cave on the outside, visible only from the sea.

Carrickarede to Ballycastle

The cliff scenery now becomes quite majestic. The small wooded area at Port More is very unusual. Buzzards are common hereabouts. Landing may be had by an old winch on the west side of a forest. It is possible to escape here, but it is a long scramble to the nearest road.

Watch for the splendid through-cave in Kinbane Head at D089-439. Tides set strongly at the head, and a very defined line separates the eddy from the flow. This is an excellent teaching area. Landing is possible on the west side of the head. A long steep path leads up the cliff to a car park on the east side.

Nice cliffs join Kinbane Head to Ballycastle, with dramatic caves. The cliff structure hereabouts is liable to rock fall, the slips evident by lack of vegetation. One such is directly above an inviting cave entrance, so do take care.

Ballycastle has a number of options for landing. The large breakwater has a concrete slip. The old pier has a slipway beside it. Car parking abounds, except in summer congestion. There is also a car park at the east end of the beach at D132-413 by Pans Rock.

Rathlin Island

Rathlin lies just over 10km north of Ballycastle, where there is a good embarkation place at the pier at D122-415. The island is served by regular ferry, and boasts a stable population, about 150 in 2023. Most of the habitation and services are at Church Bay. Camping with water and toilets is possible amongst old caravans at D148-506, just south of the harbour. There is a hostel in the Old Manor House at the harbour, and some guest houses, the most convenient of which is just beside the large pier at D147-510. More remote camping spots can be had along the shore by Rue Point at D151-473 and along the east coast in the many secluded bays. Camping is convenient at Portawillin at D161-512 where there is a small pier with steps. The rest of the island is generally steep with cliffs towering above boulder beaches and landing is impossible or uninviting except in an emergency.

The island, steeped in history, has a distinct character all its own. Wallace Clark’s book ‘Rathlin – Disputed Island’ gives a lot of information about its history from the earliest settlers to modern times. In earliest times porcellainite, or flint (as in stone age axes) was mined here and exported. The island was successively conquered and reconquered by the Vikings, Scots, Normans and the English. Most famously, it was litigated over between Ireland and Scotland, and found to be Irish because there were no snakes (Saint Patrick is said to have banished all snakes from Ireland in the 5th Century).


Chart 2798 covers the general area, as does OSNI Sheet 5. The information in the Pilot and the Sailing Directions is essential on this challenging section of coastline.


For the sea canoeist, this is one of the most committing of paddles, which is best done clockwise as the shape of the island sets up eddies to one’s advantage. The east side is the only part where progress could be made against the tide. The island is ‘L’ shaped and at each of the headlands there are major tide races, which are always active except at slack water, though it is generally possible to stay inshore and avoid their full force. The MacDonnell Race at the NE corner is particularly fearsome.

The cliffs on the north side are high and dark and the feeling of exposure is greatest here. There are caves in the NE corner near the east lighthouse, the most famous of which is said to have been used by Robert the Bruce, where he met his spider. The south facing cliffs west of Church Bay are chalk overlaid with basalt, and very picturesque. There are some interesting shapes and stacks as one nears the west end of the island. There is an old pier at D102-509 in Cooraghy Bay, which gives a chance of a rest before tackling the committing part of the paddle.


Peregrine, Guillemot, Razorbill.

The island, and the NE corner of Ireland generally, is splendidly situated for passage migrants in spring and autumn. Puffin, Buzzard and Eider are amongst the birds abounding in summer.

A large colony of Common Seal may be found in Mill Bay, just south of the main harbour.

Rathlin mice are the biggest in Ireland.

In 2023 begins a major operation to exterminate ferret – mustela putorius furo, a member of the polecat family – a small furry animal, popular in the 20th century all over Ireland for its ability to be trained to enter a rabbit warren and scare all the rabbits into immediate panic stricken evacuation, only to be caught in snares for human consumption, and for their fur.  Their usefulness peaked during WW2.  They are blamed (along with brown rats) for decimating the islands important colonies of lapwing, corncrake, puffin, shearwater and chough.  Many of the island ferret are albino.

Tides and embarkation

The most obvious embarkation place is from Ballycastle. The tides in Rathlin Sound reach 6kns so the only time to make the crossing is on slack water (HW/LW Belfast). Start half an hour to an hour beforehand. Read the Irish Coast Pilot and study the hour-by-hour tidal chartlets the Sailing Directions of the Irish Cruising Club, North and East Coasts volume. Refer also to the Admiralty Tidal Stream Atlas for the Firth of Clyde and Approaches, NP222.

Southwest of Rue Point at D150-472, the overfall Slough-na-more is most dangerous for an hour from 1:30 after Belfast HW.

The flow on the north side of the island is always easterly due to an eddy on the ebb.

An alternative is to embark from Dunseverick Harbour at D000-445 or Ballintoy Harbour at D038-454 on the last couple of hours of the flood and to come back six hours later on the last of the ebb.

Rathlin Sound
Direction Time Speed
East 5:30 before Belfast HW 6kn
West 0:30 before Belfast HW 6kn

HW Rathlin and Ballycastle is 4:45 before Belfast in springs and 2 hours before in neaps. This large variation is due to the proximity of an amphidromic point at Port Ellen, Islay.


On a coastal trip, the eddies from Fair Head at D179-439 to Kilbane Head at D088-438 can be used as follows:

Fair Head to Kinbane Head eddy




Start Time End Time Strongest at…
East west 5:00 before Belfast HW 1:00 before Belfast HW 3:00 before
West east 1:00 after Belfast HW 5:00 after Belfast HW 3:00 after

Rathlin is a challenging paddle even for the experienced, and careful planning is required.

Ballycastle – Cushendall

D121-415D242-279    Sheet 5

There is a good view of Ballycastle Bay and Fair Head from the car park at the harbour. The strand all along Ballycastle Bay shelves steeply, and any swell produces powerful dumping waves onto the coarse sandy beach. The tides are powerful close inshore, and with rain, the outflow from the river by the harbour gives a good indication of what is happening.

The shore from Pans Rock at D133-416 to Murlough Bay 6km east is unrepentant. Initially there are large boulders after a cable or so. There is but the one landing, at Carrickmore at D164-427, the most secluded campsite in Northern Ireland. Around Fair Head, the tide races, off big boulders without shelter, backed by enormous climbing cliffs. There can be vicious downdraughts from winds from the south. Fierce tide races may be expected, and even the eddies close inshore are vicious.

These cliffs were discovered for climbers by a sea kayaker on passage, Keith Britton. In 1964, Geoff Earnshaw and Calvert Moore put up the first climb – Earnshaw’s Chimney. By 2003, there were 363 routes at Fair Head cliffs, the finest in the land, bar none. This was the first recorded of many such interactions between these symbiotic outdoor pursuits, kayaking and climbing.

Murlough Bay requires landing onto the rocks, but is sheltered, near the bottom of the NT car park. At LW a beach appears east of the cottages. The road here is private, but there is a natural ‘slipway’ at the cottages which allows easier access or egress, capable of being used without any bother from the cottage.

Eastwards, the shoreline changes to steep and unstable grass slopes, intermingled with loose cliff and scree. There is a small landing east of Torr Head at D234-408. Have a look at the interesting stone shelter in the mouth of the cave. The local fishermen are particularly informative. Have a fair tide hereabouts, or suffer.

The coastline south is much the same, steep grass eroded to provide exposed rock on the shore. The lack of distinct features makes judging progress difficult. There are some pleasant shingle beaches north of Cushendun.

At Cushendun, land at the south end where a lane gives access to a car park, near the outflow of the Glendun River at D250-327. There is a paying campsite up in the village, too far away to be convenient.

The coastline south to Cushendall is similar. There is a car park in Cushendall at the north end of the beach, with easy access at D242-280.


Off Cushendun
Direction Time Speed
North Belfast HW 4kn
South Belfast LW 4kn

An eddy works both ways between Cushendun and Garron Point at D303-243.

Cushendun to Garron Point eddy




Start Time End Time
South North 2:00 before Belfast HW 1:00 before Belfast HW
North South 3:00 after Belfast HW 5:00 after Belfast HW

Garron Point to Ballygalley Head


An eddy works both on the flood and the ebb between Garron Point at D303-243 and Ballygalley Head at D384-081.

The Maidens

The Maidens or Hulin Rocks are two small lighthouse islands located 9km ENE of Ballygalley. The West Maiden is also known as the Northern Rock, its lighthouse is called the West Tower. The East Maiden is known as the Southern Rock and holds the East Tower. Both were active lighthouses until the West Maiden was abandoned in 1903. The East Tower was modernised, automated and went electric in 1977.


The nearest is from a large car park with a slipway and access to a small shingle beach at D378-080 between Ballygalley and Ballygalley Head.

There is also embarkation at Portmuck D460-024 on Island Magee which has good launching,good carpark and toilets.From here though there is the need to exercise great caution as it will be necessary to cross the Larne  shipping channel which is used by a “fast” ferry in summer months and conventional ferries throughout the year.

Local paddlers tend to prefer the Port Muck embarkation and normally try to go out  about one and half hours before LW Belfast and return after the tide has turned.


The safest route to the island means staying north of Ballygalley Head. The port of Larne just south is busy with very fast cross channel ferries and shipping. Most take a line from Larne to Scotland that passes south of the Maidens, but some do pass north and then inside the Maidens when awaiting berthing space in Larne.

West Maiden

D450-115          Sheet 9

The West Tower Lighthouse and its attendant three storey cut-stone buildings dominate the island. The lighthouse tower is now gated to prevent access but with a bit of effort can be circumvented and can still be climbed internally, as the old stairway steps are still in reasonable condition. Access to the flat unprotected roof is through a narrow opening in the top floor. The view is worth the effort. An interesting iron walkway bridge links the tower to the accommodation block. The keepers’ quarters are now quite ruined and their layout compares interestingly with those on the more modern East Maiden.


Landing on the West Maiden is more difficult than on the East Maiden. The most suitable area for deep water landing onto rock shelves is located on the west side, north of the old pier under some large rocky outcrops. No beach was found but several cuts may be usable at HW. There is an old pathway that leads NW from the main building to NW corner but no steps or obvious landing was located. The old pier at the SW corner is not suitable for kayak landings.

East Maiden

D457-114          Sheet 9

This is a small but attractive low-lying rocky island dominated by the East Tower Lighthouse and its attendant buildings. Space is at a premium but the lighthouse buildings are well maintained and their layout invites one to explore.


Landing is at either the NW or SE corner onto steps or onto rock shelves at lower tides. Landing should not be underestimated as tides run strongly around the island and through the sounds and channels that separate the lighthouse islands from a series of outlying skerries. An older disused pier is located at the south end.

Muck Island

D465-025          Sheet 9

A medium sized island, about 1km north/south, located 300m off the mainland near the beautiful little harbour of Portmuck at D460-024. The island is interesting and has a nice mixture of wilderness habitats. Coastal grasses dominate the central part and the island rises steeply from west to east. There is a beach of mixed sand and shingle on its western side and a rocky bar extends shorewards off its southern point. This dries and is a problem for kayakers attempting to pass inside, especially at LW, when it is possible to walk out to the island. The island increases in height on its eastern flank to give quite attractive steep basalt sea cliffs and holds breeding populations of Puffin, Kittiwake, Razorbill, Black Guillemot and Guillemot. Three small rocky stacks lie off the northern end. The Ulster Wildlife Trust owns the island and information signs on the mainland do not encourage visitors. A strong tide race runs off the southern end of Muck at about 5/6 knots and can produce some great standing waves and broken water.

Muck Island is off Island Magee which, despite its name, is not an island. However, it does have some excellent paddling, particularly in the section known locally as ‘The Gobbins’. The best part starts after Heddles Port at J479-991 and continues to Hills Port at J485-972. It boasted a great Victorian walkway, the remains of which are still visible from the sea. Unfortunately it was closed years ago due to disrepair. There are also seven caves in this section.

County Down

Cockle Island

J536-837          Sheet 15

Rumoured to be either privately owned or National Trust property, Cockle is quite extensive at LW but tiny at HW.  It shelters the harbour at Groomsport, enabling a couple of dozen moorings in its lee.  A remarkable reef, it is submerged by the highest tides, and there is no grass or greenery of any kind.  It is always separated from the shore by deep water.  Black Headed Gulls and Herring Gulls occupy different sections of it for roosting.  There are reports of Terns nesting.  Its claim to fame includes a Sooty Tern (called locally “Wideawake Tern” in Ascension Island where they spend the rest of the year) in summer 2005.

Launch from the slipway at Cockle Island Sailing Club on the pier just SE (the pier is not shown on the OS).

Groomsport is an unsatisfactory embarkation point for the Copelands because the tides are never right.  The ebb from Belfast Lough pushes east towards the islands while the ebb outside is pushing north away from them.  The flood in the Lough pushes away when outside it is pushing towards.  A slingshot from Donaghadee is far preferable, if it can be arranged.

Copeland Islands

Sheet 15


Donaghadee is the logical embarkation point for a day trip to the Copeland Islands. There is access via ferry which allows time for wandering about Copeland Island itself. It seems to run in summer months only from the harbour. For kayaks, there is a small car park and slipway just west of the harbour at J589-801.

Copeland Island is the innermost of the group, with Lighthouse Island next and Mew Island on the outside. Donaghadee Sound lies inside Copeland Island. Copeland Sound lies between Copeland Island and Light House Island. Given the strong tides, this is an excellent proficiency training and testing ground. Any trip around the group can be challenging, as the tides do run hard in the sounds. Grey and Common Seals are both found, the latter on Copeland itself and the former favouring the more exposed channels between Mew and Lighthouse.


There are strong tide races throughout the sounds.

Donaghadee & Copeland Sounds
Direction Time Speed
Donaghadee Copeland
SE 5:00 after Belfast HW 4.5kn 2.5kn
NW 1:00 before Belfast HW 4.5kn 2.5kn

Eddy south and east of Copelands

This eddy runs north on the flood and starts off Ballyferris Point where it is narrow. It widens out to meet the main stream off Mew Island where it forms the Ram Race.

Direction Time Duration
SE 5:40 after Belfast HW 3½ hours
NW 3:00 before Belfast HW 9 hours

The Ram Race occurs east of Mew Island at the following times.

Ram Race
Start 2:15 before Belfast HW
Finish 0:30 after Belfast HW

The Northern Race occurs north from Mew Island at the following times.

Northern Race
Start 3:45 after Belfast HW
Finish 6:10 before Belfast HW

Bangor Marina produces an excellent tidal chart which is essential to understand the complex tides here.SPA

Arctic Tern, Brent Goose, Ringed & Golden Plover, Turnstone.


The islands are internationally important sites for breeding populations of Manx Shearwater and Arctic Tern and nationally important sites for breeding Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull and Eider Duck.  The Manx Shearwater colony on Copeland Islands holds more than 1.7% of the world population. The colony is in excess of four thousand pairs.  The rabbit populations on the islands play an important role in the breeding success of the Manx Shearwater as the latter mainly nest in the rabbit burrows that honeycomb the islands. Grazing by rabbits maintains a short sward, which is desirable for the fledglings.

Copeland Island has an internationally important Arctic Tern colony, with some 550 pairs. The site now represents the largest colony for this species in Ireland.

Mew Island has been an important tern colony in the past and it is hoped that positive management will encourage terns to become re-established.  The islands are the most important breeding sites in Northern Ireland for Common Gull with over 250 pairs present.

Copeland has recently held Northern Ireland’s first successful breeding pair of Mediterranean Gull.

The islands are home to a nationally important population of breeding Eider Duck. In total the three islands account for 14% of the Irish population. Non- breeding Eider form part of the nationally important population that occurs along the Outer Ards coast and Belfast Lough areas.

Other breeding colonies of note include Black Guillemot, Water Rail and Stock Dove. The latter species has suffered a dramatic decline in Northern Ireland, but numbers have increased on Copeland with some 100 pairs now breeding.

Breeding waders such as Lapwing and Snipe may be found further inland. Here the taller vegetation, interspersed with open areas, provides an ideal breeding habitat.

Birds of prey favour the islands when the breeding season is over. Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine are all be seen regularly.

Grey Seal and Common Seal can be found off the Copeland Islands in significant numbers. They utilise the off-shore islands and reefs as haul-outs and as pupping and mating sites.

Copeland Island

J589-834          Sheet 15

The very beautiful Copeland Island is the largest island of the group at 2km by 1km.  It is also closest to the shore, lying 3km north of Donaghadee. There are seven holiday/summer homes on Copeland, and the island seems deserted all winter.  The island never had fuel of any kind, neither wood nor peat, all having to be imported. Bleak enough in winter, grassy, and bracken covered in parts.  It rises to 31m


Historically called Aran Island, the gaelic name was lost in early mediaeval times, when the Norse used the island as a trading base.  The modern koopman or older kaupmann means “merchant”, and Kaupmannaeyjar means “Merchants Isle”.  Both names were is use side by side until the 17th century when the Norse version won out.  Anglicised as Copman, this corrupted in time to the present Copeland.  A theory that the islands were named for William Coupeland, a Norman settler, has been debunked by distinguished local historian Peter Carr.

The graveyard 200m from the landing at Chapel Bay is very old, the inscribed headstones dating back to at least 1742, pointing to a once thriving community.  Cleggs, Emersons and Wrights are popular names.  A 1930s newspaper reporter wrote that the island was neat as a new pin, the hedges cut and shaped, the garden walls whitewashed.  Careful of their property the islanders were said to have been neglectful of their perception of their culture.  Neither could the aging population explain island placenames, nor did they show interest.  The population was mostly evacuated in 1946.  The very last to go, Frederick and Aise Clegg, moved to the mainland in 1953.  They died in 1964 and 1965 and were the last burials in the island graveyard.


Sandy beach landings are possible in Chapel Bay at J591-834 on the SW and the even more beautiful Deer Bay on the NE side at J596-838. In fact there are other perfectly adequate landing points, either side of the south tip, and elsewhere.  Port Dandy at J585-836 has a beach, and its sheltered water is a popular gin palace anchorage of a sunny summer afternoon.  Best altogether keep away from the main settlement areas, as island folk value privacy. Ask on the island for permission to camp.

Flora and Fauna

Grazed mainly by rabbits and sheep, the island is short grassed and pleasant to walk.  Two immature Golden Eagle were seen in April 2006, some Pheasant, and a Short Eared Owl.

Lighthouse Island

J597-856          Sheet 15

Lighthouse Island (sometimes referred to as John’s Island) lies 2km north of Copeland Island, is owned by the BritishTrust For Ornithology, and has a bird observatory on top, used by the NT. Landing is at the SE corner at J597-856 onto sand at LW but stones on higher tides. Originally the lighthouse was here, but a later light was lit on the better placed Mew Island. Apparently, many wrecks were caused by the light on Lighthouse Island being clearly seen but the low lying Mew being totally overlooked. Hence the lighthouse was moved to the more logical position.  Landing is discouraged (especially in season) as there are sensitivities around the nesting sites here.

Mew Island

J602-861          Sheet 15

Mew Island is owned by the Commissioners of Irish Lights, and has a number of small associated islands on its SW side, all linked and walkable. The lighthouse (built in 1884) is reminiscent of an airport control tower. Apparently, this lighthouse was only automated in 1996, and until then the keepers even maintained a golf course for their entertainment! Landing is possible at the lighthouse jetty tucked into the channel, or into a cut in the NW, both deep-water landings.

Before the lighthouse was built on Mew, a spectacular wreck was that of the ‘Enterprise’ in 1801. Then, in 1833, Alexander Graham Bell used a new fangled invention called a diving apparatus to retrieve its valuable cargo.

A great tragedy was played out here on 31st January 1953 when the ferry ‘Princess Victoria’ got into trouble en route from Stranraer to Belfast in a severe NW gale. Heavy seas stove in the car deck doors, just after leaving the Scottish port. As the ferry slowly listed and began to sink, it drifted. The ‘Princess Victoria’ thought it was drifting down the Scottish coast, so the rescue services were sent to the wrong place. Only when the Copeland lighthouse was sighted was their correct position transmitted. The order was eventually given to abandon ship, and the life rafts were launched. The women and children were all in the first two rafts, both of which capsized. All drowned in sight of the men still on board.

When the rescue services finally came on the scene, the seas were truly mountainous. Great heroism later merited several gallantry awards of the highest level available to non-military personnel. Captain Ferguson (brother of Harry Ferguson, inventor of the modern tractor) and his radio operator David Broadfoot stayed at their posts to the end and went down with the ship. 121 died. There were 44 survivors, all adult males.

The same storm peaked in the North Sea that night. A combination of low pressure, a spring tide surge, and sustained NW winds raised the sea level more than 3m, flooding Holland over its dykes, and 1,600 were drowned.

There have been issues with canoeists having BBQs on the island and leaving scorch marks on the grass areas.  This is a bird breeding island, and the grass is their home.  So it is important when landing on these islands to show respect and follow ”leave no trace” principles.

Bangor to Strangford Lough

Sheet 21 / Sheet 15

The paddling from Donaghadee at J589-801 to Ballyquintin Point at J624-454 at the mouth of Strangford Narrows – a distance of about 40km – is a straightforward but interesting enough piece of coastline. The Ards Peninsula has almost an island feel to it because of its remoteness by road and the ferry service which operates at the southern end at Portaferry.

The coastline from Donaghadee to Ballyhalbert Point at J664-630 is less interesting than further south, being of shingle and sand beaches.

Next comes Portavogie at J663-595, a busy fishing harbour often congested with trawlers.

North Rocks

Sheet 21           J674-561

North Rocks at J674-561 with its breeding Grey Seals, lies 3km SSE of Portavogie.   Consisting of two islets that stand no more than 1m above HW, this is Ireland’s most easterly “substantial landfall”.   Landing at rocky coves to the NW and east is easy at LW and when conditions are calm.  At LW a decent ramble can be had among the deep rock pools and Cormorant nests.  Many ships have been lost here and the North Rocks beacon (an unlit 12m high tower 250m to the NW) gives a sense of maritime history.

South Rock at J677-531 lies 3km south of North Rocks, 2km offshore, 3km NE of Kearney Point, and boasts the disused but oldest waveswept lighthouse in Ireland (and possibly in the world) still standing, built in 1797 by Thomas Rogers and known locally as the Kilwarlin Lighthouse. It was replaced in 1877 by the South Rock lightship.

Cannon Rock J684-536 is a skerry 500m NE of South Rock and is the most easterly point of the island of Ireland, period.

The rocky shoreline of Kearney Point at J644-511 is owned by the National Trust and is a good place to go ‘rock pool peering’ for marine invertebrates such as Dog Whelks, Mussels, and Starfish. It is a very enjoyable day trip to catch the ebb tide from Strangford out to the mouth, then north to the Rocks, and back on the flood. There is a spit of land between the North Rocks and Ringboy Point at J650-574 to the WNW. Occasionally the sea can become steep and untidy here, particularly when the swell is against the tide.


Off Skullmartin Rock at J649-687
Direction Time Speed
North 0:35 before Belfast HW 2.5kn
South 6:00 after Belfast HW 2.5kn

Further south, from Ballyhalbert Point at J664-630 to Ballyquintin Point at J624-454, the tides run along the coast and reach 1.5kn in springs.

Strangford Lough

Sheet 21

Strangford Lough is one of the largest sea loughs in Britain and Ireland. In ecological terms it is unique and the jewel in Northern Ireland’s coastline. It has a great deal to offer sea canoeists at every level, from sheltered backwaters for introducing novices, to powerful tide races, overfalls and whirlpools for the more experienced at the narrow entrance, called the Narrows. The old name for Strangford was ‘Cuan’ (meaning safe harbour) but the Vikings renamed it Strangford or ‘The Violent Fjord’.


Arctic, Common and Sandwich Tern, Bar-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover,kn, Brent Goose, Redshank, Shelduck.

Strangford is the premier autumn arrival site for the Brent Goose. Some remain on for the winter but most disperse to other sites throughout Ireland.

There are 2 species of seal to be found around our coasts. They are the Common (or Harbour) Seal and the Grey Seal. They are quite distinctly different. The Common has a spaniel dog type of head and is considerably smaller than the Grey, which has a flat head with a large obvious nose. There are about 400 Common Seals and 80 Grey Seals in the lough.

The Common Seal give birth in June and it is most entertaining to watch the antics of the pups from the quiet position of a sea kayak. The greys give birth in October and it is a rare and beautiful sight to see the white furry pups of these much larger seals.

Chart 2156 and OS sheet 21 each covers the lough in detail.

Angus Rock

Sheet 21                       J610-453

Angus Rock is the first point of note entering the Narrows, near the mouth. It is just a rock, virtually covered at HW, but on it stands a small lighthouse, white with an unusual red top band. At HW, there is just a concrete ramp proud of the water which can take a few kayaks at picnic time. At lower water, quite an extensive area of rock gets exposed. This is an important waystop, a most useful journey breaker on local day trips.

There are overfalls and broken water around Angus Rock, both on the flood and ebb tide. See the tidal stream atlas for details. On spring tides, from the 1st to 3rd hour of the ebb, an interesting grade 2 rapid occurs on the north side of the Angus Rock. This can get up to about a grade 3 with a diagonal stopper during very big equinoctial springs. There is a drop in sea level across the rocks of about 3 feet and it is possible to get good surfing on the stopper wave.

On the last hour of the ebb, an enjoyable set of waves often form, again on the north side of the Angus Rock, where you can join the seals for some surfing. On the flood tide, again just north of the Rock, another small set of overfalls is formed. There is an obvious drop in the sea level followed by small boils and whirlpools.

The Narrows

Sheet 21

Strangford Lough covers 150km2 of sea and contains 1650 million m3 of sea water at high tide. HW at Portaferry is at least 2 hours later than at the mouth of the Narrows. It takes approximately 350 million m3 (or tonnes) of water to fill the lough from LW to HW. All this water can only get into the lough by passing through the Narrows which is 9km long and at its narrowest point, only 600m wide. Hence a vast river of water rushes through at speeds of up to 7.5kn.

Embarkation Points

Where to put in and out depends entirely on the tidal flow at the time, and the main attraction of the expedition.  For the deep water surfing at the mouth, there are a number of choices along the west side from Ballyhornan as far up as Kilclief, to taste.  For the Routen Wheel approach so as to go home downstream, and for small groups that means just about anywhere, as the roads each side are favourable.


The tide begins almost simultaneously throughout the Narrows at the following times.

Strangford Narrows
Direction Time Speed
In 3:30 before Belfast HW 7.5kn
Out 2:30 after Belfast HW 7.5kn

Passage is straightforward and fairly safe on the flood. However, during the ebb, a heavy breaking sea can be encountered. This is particularly dangerous with any form of wind from the south/southeast/east creating a swell. Huge breaking seas are generated. For the more experienced and confident only, excellent deep-water surf waves are formed at the entrance, where it is advisable to play only on the last hour or two of the ebb.

Routen Wheel

The next point of interest is the Routen Wheel, just SW of Rue Point. The Wheel is on the east side of the channel. It is quite easy to avoid by closely hugging the coast along the east side. A good viewing point is from the wee island called Isle O’Valla at J593-488.

The Wheel is characterised by short-lived but heavy and violent boils, whirlpools and stoppers. It is caused by an underwater ridge of rock only 4.6m below the surface, rising suddenly either side from 18m below, sticking diagonally out from the shallower east side of the main channel into the main flow. The NE/SW ridge that creates the Wheel is situated along a line 200m SW of Rue Point at J597-487 to J599-489. This is no ordinary rapid. A boil forms, then another beside it swivelling the other way, and soon a whirlpool forms on the boundary. Admire it as pretty, but then you are in it, sinking ever lower, pointing upstream, to the side, down again, then the whirlpool stops and away you go again. Paddling back up through the Wheel is an experience too as you try to read the water, the way boils are pushing and so on. A good eddy exists south of Rue Point on the east side, as far as Gowland Rock at J603-485, so that a number of runs of the Wheel can be enjoyed.

The Wheel occurs during both the flood and ebb tide although it tends to be more violent during the ebb. The turbulence lasts for about 400m and any capsises can easily be dealt with beyond the turbulence. Rescues need to be swift as the speed of the current reaches 7.5kn. It is safer to play during the flood.

Tidal Electricity

A first for Ireland and the biggest by far in Europe, just 1km NNW of the Routen Wheel lies SeaGen at J595-494, the world’s only commercially viable underwater electricity generator.  SeaGen is a prototype wind farm for tidal races.  With twin huge blades of 16m either side of a central pillar, the propellers catch a massive 400m.sq of passing water.  300m.sq is required for profitability, and most other designs are well short of the mark.  The blades about turn every slack water so as not to lose a minutes effort, and they can be raised for easy maintenance.   Boats including kayaks may pass by with impunity as the blades are well below the surface, and no seals are as yet known to have suffered any trauma.  The pillar supporting the generator is round, which is a bad shape for downstream turbulence and consequent environmental worries, but the whole project including the impact of its water turbulence is being closely monitored, and the whole project will be reviewed after a few years.

There is a rapid beside a beacon to one side, Gowland Rock at J603-485, where a surf wave forms, just like on a river. The area around here is used a lot by seals to haul out on the rocks. Care should be taken not to disturb them from their haul outs as it can cause injury.

One of the greatest dangers on the Narrows is the potential for being run down by the ferry which runs between Strangford and Portaferry. This ferry has to contend with a 6kn tide and does a remarkably efficient ‘ferry glide’ across the flow. The Captain does not appreciate having to contend with dodging canoeists as well. The ferry departs Strangford on the hour and half hour and departs Portaferry every quarter past and quarter to the hour. The crossing time is about 5 minutes.

‘Exploris’, an excellent aquarium, is situated within a minute’s walk from the main slip at Portaferry and is well worth a visit as it has displays of the marine wildlife of the lough and the Irish Sea.

Another place well worth a visit is the Barn at Castleward, owned by the National Trust, in Castleward Bay at J575-497. Access from the water is best gained during HW as there are extensive mud flats in the bay. The Barn has excellent audio visual displays of the marine wildlife, particularly the bird and mammal life found in the lough. They also have a number of very good videos on the wildlife of the lough. Entry is free.

Audley’s Castle, built in the 16th Century, lies on the west side of the Narrows about 1km north of Strangford and is worth a visit. It is possible to land at the little beach and jetty beside it at J589-501 and climb to the top where there is an excellent view of the Narrows and the towns of Portaferry and Strangford.

Inner Strangford Lough

Sheet 21

Embarkation Points

For such a large area, embarkation points are few enough.  There are few on the east side the main ones being a public Kircubbin J596-630 and in the Narrows at Portaferry itself at J594-507 – the slip north of the marina with reasonably good car parking the main towns in the Narrows. The options include :

  • Portaferry J593-507 – the slip north of the marina with reasonably good car parking,
  • Strangford J590-496 – the slip at to the south of the ferry terminal with good car parking,
  • Killyleagh J528-519 – the slip at the sailing club, in small discreet numbers. If access difficulties, there are other places along the shore, closer to town.
  • Ringhaddy J525-586 – limited parking.
  • Ballydorn Lightship J527-622 – a little quay on the south side of Hen Island, to one side of the ship, and which apparently belongs to the yacht club.  The use of this should be discreet and in small numbers.  The yacht club may also be a possibility at J524-627.  There is also a splendid off-season campsite in a parking lot with toilets at J521-623, but beware extensive drying mudflats out front.


Inside the lough, the tidal strength decreases from 6kn between Strangford and Portaferry to 4kn at Ballyhenry Island at J575-520, 2km northwest, as the water disperses into the lough. It further reduces to about 1.5kn at Dunnyneill Islands at J548-539, a further 3km northwest.

The east coast of the lough has a lot less of interest to the canoeist than the west due to the lack of islands etc. However, at ‘The Dorn’ at J593-568, there is a reasonable tidal flow from an enclosed bay of up to 2.5kn, especially on the ebb and a spectacular marine waterfall about an hour to two after high water.

Chapel Island at J562-513 and Jackdaw Island at J557-510 are the first to be reached when paddling west out of the Narrows. In the spring, Jackdaw is an important nesting site for terns and should be avoided. Many of the islands have large colonies of Irish Hares which can often be seen running along the beach.

In the SW corner, Salt Island at J531-501 lies within the Quoile Estuary, and is one of the many islands owned by the National Trust. The Trust has redeveloped a bothy on the SE side of Salt which is an absolutely superb facility for the canoeist looking for a bit more comfort than a tent. The Bothy sleeeps 12, has a woodburning stove, running water and a couple of WCs. Book through the NT.  Camping is also permitted on Salt Island, both at the bothy and at the bay on the west side of the island.

To the SW of Salt Island lies the Slaney River where St. Patrick landed in 432 A.D. He must have landed here during HW or he would have had to slog through the stinking mud to reach the shore. He went to Salt and was confronted by the local Chieftain who became Patrick’s first convert to Christianity in Ireland.

Heading north from the barrage which protects Downpatrick from tidal flooding, lies Gibbs Island at J509-496 which is one of the few islands within the lough to have trees. There are some mature Scots Pines on Gibbs. Further north, the first major island outside the Quoile estuary is Island Taggart at J533-545. This is one of the largest islands in the lough and used to support two small farms. These belong to the National Trust and are well worth a visit as they show what life on the island was like. Look out for the coffin in the barn! They were also used for the film ‘December Bride’, a story of life in the area in the early 1900s, written by Sam Hanna Bell and there was even a film starring Ciaran Hinds. Foxes, badgers and otters are all resident on Taggart, meriting an overnight camp and exploration. Camping is permitted and most suitable on the northeast corner at J536-554.

The west side of the lough is a fascinating maze of submerged drumlin hills forming over 100 islands and rock pladdies.  Between Taggart and Mahee Island at J530-636, almost 10km north, lie the ‘basket of eggs’ – dozens of little islands which are excellent for night navigation as they are sheltered and safe. Tides can run at about 1-2kn during springs in a north/south direction between some of the islands and particularly through Ringhaddy Sound at J537-582.


Tides can run at about 1-2kn during springs in a north/south direction between some of the islands and particularly through Ringhaddy Sound at J537-582.

Pawle Island at J544-575 is a lovely spot for lunch.  There is an old house in the SW tip with the remains of a slip built through the rocks on the beach. From the top of the hill behind the house there is a lovely panoramic view of the south half of Strangford.

Islandmore is now inhabited all the year round.  The ‘Blue Cabin’ on the west side of Islandmore at J541-584 is owned and lived in by Michael Faulkner (son of the last prime minister of Northern Ireland – Brian Faulkner) and his wife, the artist, Lynn McGreggor.  The house was always in the Faulkner family but got sold.  Then in the last years of his life, Brian met its then owner when on holidays in the west of Ireland, and bought it back.  It became the family holiday home.  Michael and Lynn moved there after their business went bust, and they fancied starting over in “the good life”.  The house is a former prisoner of war hut from the Isle of Man, that housed German soldiers in the Great War.  It was shipped to Northern Ireland in 1921 after all the huts were auctioned off.  The Blue Cabin is thought to be the only one still intact, no water, no electricity, “period”.  Their remote house and its owners are the subject of books, television programs, and endless internet activity.  Nothing is reliably known about their tolerance for visitors, if any.

Between Islandmore and Ringhaddy lies the interesting wreck of the “Alastor” in 10 – 15m maximum depth.  She went down in 1946 as a result of an accidental fire on board, but is still good for diving.  She was at the time wrongly identified as the “Alisdair” and forgotten.  Then in April 2004 QUBSAC adopted her as the subject of an experiment to test the efficiency of a new underwater measuring tape.  The results were all over the place, to the extent they had to conclude there was some mistake.  The Alastor was eventually correctly identified.  Until commandeered in WW2 by the Royal Navy for active service, it had been the pleasure yacht of Sir Thomas Sopwith who designed the Sopwith Camel bi-plane of the Great War and the Hawker Hurricane of WW2 (that actually won the Battle of Briton, and not its iconic cousin the Spitfire – the Hurricane being faster than the Mescherschmitt 109, speed then as now being everything).  Later the Alastor belonged to the Shelley family (as in Percy Bysshe, composer of Ozymandias, and Mary Shelley inventor of Frankenstein).  Now the wreck belongs to the Faulkeners of Islandmore.

Green Island Rock at J544-602 is a haul out for Common Seal and is very accessible to allow a group of novices to experience the observation of seals in their habitat. Care should be however be taken to avoid any disturbance.

To the west and north of Rainey Island at J527-630, there are two channels where the tide runs either side of the island at up to 5kn in its rush to fill or empty Reagh Bay to the NW. Again, this is an excellent area for introducing novices to moving water. HW in the area is at approximately HW Dover +0220.

Mahee Island has an early Celtic Monastery on the west side, and the island is definitely worth a visit to walk round the monastic ruins. The monks are believed to have occupied the area from the 5th to the 10th Centuries. There is a great view from the top of the monastery hill.  Recently there was a discovery of early Celtic fish traps in the north facing cove on the west side J525-637 (where easiest to land), but these are only visible at LW.

The area NW of Mahee Island holds little of interest to the canoeist, unless you’re into mud wrestling in a big way, as large expanses of mudflats cover the area. The NW mudflats do support vast numbers of waders. During the winter, the statistics of birds using the lough demonstrates the international importance of Strangford as a wildlife sanctuary:

Swans 290+

Geese 13,500+ (including 1,300 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, more than 75% of the world population)

Ducks 9,000+

Waders      50,000+

Chapel Island – J554-675.  There are ruins of an old church in this island and it is a bird sanctuary.  It is accessible at all tides and has a remote feel although close to the east shore.  It is owned by the NT and shouldn’t be visited in the breeding season.

The lough has areas renowned for their beauty or scientific importance and legislation protects this valuable and unique area. Access is unrestricted in the lough and conservationists rely heavily on the goodwill of recreational users. The National Trust has produced ‘The Castaways Code’ and map for those using the lough for recreational boating. This should be consulted before paddling in the lough during the nesting season (April-June) and the islands marked ‘Birds Welcome’ should be avoided.

Guns Island

J5976-412        Sheet 21

Guns Island lies 2km south of the entrance to Strangford Lough. At extreme LW springs, it is possible to walk or wade across to the island from the beach at Ballyhornan. What looks suspiciously like an active sewage outlet pours into the sea just south of the village.

Most of the time, a reasonably strong tide runs between Guns Island and the mainland – up to 2kn. Landing is always possible on one side or the other of the sandy spit stretching NW of the island. At LW, or in search of shelter, landings may be had elsewhere in small coves, particularly halfway down the west side.

There is a lovely old stone navigation marker painted white on the SE tip. Beside it lies the remains of an old ruined church. Thick grass covers the island. Very attractive spot.


The SE side of Guns Island is a mass of nesting Kittiwake, Guillemot and Cormorant on the cliff ledges and paddlers should keep a reasonable distance offshore to avoid disturbance during the nesting season (April-June). The north side is favoured by a large colony of gulls that nest on the tussock grass just above the shore.

Strangford Lough to Carlingford Lough

Sheet 21/Sheet 29

Killard Point at J612-435, a National Nature Reserve, is well worth a visit, especially in June to see the abundance of butterflies and wild flowers growing on the sand dunes. Among these can be found the beautiful Bee Orchid, Spotted Orchid, Wild Thyme and Yellow Rattle. Butterflies include the Common Blue, Small Heath and Meadow Brown.

The 14km from the entrance of Strangford Lough to St.John’s Point is a lovely paddle along small cliffs and a rocky shore of siltstones and shales believed to be formed during the Silurian period, 435 million years ago. This area is known as the Lecale and shortly after the last ice age would have been a large island with the sea connecting Dundrum inner bay with Strangford Lough.

Banderg Bay at J605-432 followed by Ballyhornan Bay at J594-420, are pleasant sandy beaches with clay cliffs behind, where there are nesting Fulmar. Never disturb these birds at their nest as they have the ability to douse you with an extremely evil smelling mucus from their nostrils which sticks better than any glue known to man! Portnacoo at J589-406, 200m SW of the southern tip of Guns Island, has a 2m wide gap in the rocks which opens out into a cove with a 15m wide pebbly peach, an ideal lunch stop.

At Legnaboe, on the mainland about 600m south of the southern tip of Guns Island, there is a narrow sea cave which appears safe to enter at all states of the tide, provided there is little swell.

Along this piece of coast lie the villages of Ardglass at J561-375 and Killough at J540-363. Although Killough was an important fishing port, the harbour is now derelict, whilst Ardglass has taken over as a principal fishing port, famous for its herrings, pronounced locally as ‘hearns’. A new marina has been built at Ardglass and there is easy access to the sea from both Killough and Ardglass with a good slip and carparking on the harbour at Ardglass.


Brent Goose (Killough Harbour)

From St. John’s Point at J526-333 to Newcastle (a distance of 15km as the crow flies or as the canoeist paddles), the scenery is dominated by the beach and sand dune systems of Murlough National Nature Reserve (NNR).

Within the inner bay at Dundrum, there is a causeway and bridge at J401-355. This connects the farms and houses within Murlough NNR to the main Dundrum to Newcastle road. The tide flows through this bridge at up to 6kn on springs in its rush to fill or empty the southern half of the inner bay. Good eddies are created by the bridge stanchion and this is used almost constantly at HW by local paddlers to teach and practise moving water techniques. HW at the bridge is +0030 HW Dover. The best fun is to be had during springs. This occurs every second weekend when the tide is usable from approx. 1000hrs until 1500hrs, HW being around midday.

During the ebb from Dundrum inner bay, tremendous deep water surfing waves can be formed at the entrance if there is even a little swell from the south or east. However, once the tide has finished ebbing, the only practical course of action is to paddle to Newcastle 5km away as the inner bay will be dry.

For 2km to the south and 3km to the north of the entrance to Dundrum inner bay, care must be taken due to the rifle range at the army camp at Ballykinler. There are 3 yellow marker buoys marked DZ and the paddler should keep to the seaward side of these when the red flag (day) or red lights (night) are visible over the base just north of the entrance to the inner bay. However, tracers have been sighted by local canoeists doing a night paddle from St.John’s Point to Newcastle that would indicate that they could travel more than 2km beyond these buoys. The Coastguard should be contacted before paddling this section of coast.

The tides along this section of coast to St.John’s Point are weak. A trip from St.John’s Point to Newcastle is a very popular paddle on a good moonlit night as you have the lighthouse flashing behind you, the twinkling lights of Newcastle to aim for and the foreboding outline of the Mournes dominating the paddle.

Newcastle is very much the seaside holiday tourist town and is usually thronged between Easter and September, especially at weekends. However, good access to the beach exists from various car parks in the town. Access is also available from the harbour where there is very limited parking. It should be noted that this dries out at low water. Access may still be gained over the wall to the stony beach to the south of the harbour at J380-296.

A sewage outfall pipe lies about 1 cable offshore to the south of the harbour and, although Newcastle’s sewage works are meant to be one of the most sophisticated in the UK, the area surrounding the pipe should be well avoided! During south or east winds, good surfing can be had at the beach and a good break exists at the mouth of the harbour at lower water. During particularly strong winds, i.e. above Force 6, the surf is very broken and you can find yourself 500m offshore still looking for a way out through the soup. Having said that, this must be one of the most picturesque places to surf – ‘Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea’.

The scenery of the Mourne Mountains dominates the 25km from Newcastle to Cranfield Point at J270-099 on the northern side of the entrance of Carlingford Lough. It is made up of rocky beaches and small cliffs, a relic from the ice age that shaped the panorama of the Mourne scenery more than 10,000 years ago.

From Newcastle to Bloody Bridge at J389-270, the coastline is interesting. The small cliff scenery provides enjoyable rock dodging, particularly at high water, when many of the caves and channels become more accessible. The National Trust owns the section of coast between Bloody Bridge and the mouth of the Crock Horn Stream below Ballagh Bridge, 2km south at J388-250. After that, there is good access to the sea at Glassdrumman Port at J380-221, famous with geographers for the obvious series of easily identified raised beaches and a very pleasant little sandy beach from which to launch or enjoy your lunch.

There are a number of small but enjoyable caves in the area, one of which has a blowhole at the top. There are also two bigger caves, one of which involves a 50m squeeze, where hands are needed to get through. This cave is not obvious from the sea but it can be found with careful exploring and it’s worth going through, especially in a plastic boat! The other large cave has a small rocky beach at the back and if there isn’t much swell, it’s good fun landing and exploring on up the cave. A short trip from Newcastle to Bloody Bridge and back is ideal for introducing novices to spectacular sea canoeing.

The next principal port is Annalong which has a small harbour at J377-197, used mainly by small craft engaged in creeling (laying lobster pots). Further along the coast is a small rock called Selk Island at J359-176, which appropriately enough has a small colony of Common Seal.

Then, passing Lee Stone Point at J332-144, the large granite boulder (another relic of the ice age known as an erratic) is an obvious feature. The fishing port of Kilkeel lies 6km short of Cranfield Point. This is one of Northern Ireland’s busiest fishing ports with up to 70 boats using the harbour at J317-140.

County Louth

Carlingford Lough

Carlingford Lough is the most dramatic sea lough on the east coast of Ireland, almost a fiord, with the Mourne Mountains to the north and the craggy Carlingford Mountains to the south. It has great variation, from pleasant, sheltered paddling within the lough to big races and overfalls at its mouth.

The south side of the lough is in the Republic of Ireland while the north side is in Northern Ireland. Up until (reputedly) the 1950’s, a lucrative smuggling trade ran between Greencastle and Carlingford harbours.

The tidal streams within the lough are weak and a pleasant and undemanding crossing can be made from Killowen or Rostrevor Quays to Carlingford village. However, during strong WNW winds, squalls funnel down from the hills around Rostrevor and cause little cyclones and mini tornadoes on the surface. These are known locally as ‘Kettles’ as the water appears to boil and steam to rise.

The Newry Canal can be accessed on the south side of the lough beyond Warrenpoint at J108-208. This is really only practicable during HW as the area surrounding the access to the canal dries to extensive mudflats. There are reports that the canal is going to be reopened. The canal goes to Lough Neagh but a passage, even by canoe, is exceptionally difficult, as it is heavily overgrown and silted.


Common and Sandwich Tern, Brent Goose

Green Island

J240-110          Sheet 29

Green Island is located c 800m southwest of the village of Greencastle Co Down. The island is long and elongated in shape and consists mainly of raised banks of shingle lying on a bedrock of limestone.  There are some rocky outcrops visible on the island’s southern edge.  The island is owned by the National Trust and the birdlife is managed by the RSPB.

The island is an important breeding site for Sandwich Terns and is a colony of international significance for that species. Other tern species occasionally breed amongst the Sandwich Terns including, occasionally, the rare Roseate Tern. In winter, the island is frequented by both Common and Grey Seals and by roosting waders from the surrounding Carlingford Lough shorelines.

Tides run strongly especially in springs off all points of the island. Kayakers should only consider landing outside of the bird breeding season. No water and strictly no camping. The island is an important waypoint in any tour of Carlingford Lough by sea kayakers.

Blockhouse Island

J255-096          Sheet 29

Blockhouse Island (a guano pile in springtime) lies between Sheep Rock J246-098 and Haulbowline Lighthouse J259-095, is bigger than either but is not named on the OS map. The Island is the southern-most offshore part of Northern Ireland This small rocky islet guards the entrance to Carlingford Lough. A military building was erected here in 1602, now entirely ruined, and was known as Carlingford Fort. It was gifted in 1968 to the National Trust). Blockhouse and its companion islands became a sanctuary for bird life, but this is less true today than it was 40 years ago, with bird populations having largely moved off the island due to the progressive and ongoing impacts of erosion.  The island is small and worthwhile mainly as a waypoint on tour, as landing may always be had onto stormbeaches on the west or slabby limestone on the east side.

The lighthouse just to the east at J259-095 is 20m high with a white light flashing three times every ten seconds and an ancillary red light lower down continuously flashing. Landing at the lighthouse is not permitted and anyway can only be achieved in calm conditions. The main channel into the lough passes to the north of the island, where one must avoid commercial shipping. Navigation in the lough is very buoyage orientated so consider using Chart 2800.

Embark on the south side of the lough from Greenore or from the pretty Carlingford Harbour J194-118. The best launching in Greenore is from behind the pier at J225-110, and in Carlingford launch just outside the east pier at J194-118, as the silted harbour exposes black mud at the bottom of the tide.

On the Northern Ireland side, launch from Greencastle Point at J242-117, or a small car park and beach at J263-107, between Soldiers Point and Cranfield Point.


Tides run strongly in the lough entrance near the island, where the ebb and flow start with local HW and LW, which are much the same as Dublin, especially in the dredged channels east & north of the island, where 5kn can be experienced.  On the other hand, on-shore winds on the ebb throw up a fearsome sea state. The ebb tide runs at 3.5kn in springs in the dredged channels. The flow follows the main dredged channels except for an eddy on the flood on the east side of Blockhouse Island.

Good overfalls and races occur during both the flood and the ebb around the Haulbowline Lighthouse. The most pleasant and relatively safe playing in these overfalls is on the flood tide. The area is regularly used by local clubs and centres for rough water training.

The East Coast

Greenore Point to Carnsore Point

County Dublin

Islands off Skerries

A group of three low-lying islands lie just off the coast at Skerries, with ‘The Rock’ further off. Taken together they form an interesting day trip with good wildlife interest. They are listed as areas of Scientific Interest by Duchás with SPA status. Camping is possible, but no water is available. The presence of a healthy population of rats on the inner islands may discourage an overnight. Rugged Rockabill further out is a lighthouse island rock.


Short-eared Owl (up to 7 in winter), Golden Plover, and Common, Sandwich and Roseate Tern.


The most convenient embarkation place is at the slipway beside the RNLI building at the pier in Skerries, where parking is generally convenient at O255-612, but not for larger groups especially in summer. Otherwise its Pay&Display or search.  Do not, under any circumstances, block the access to or interfere with the operation of the lifeboat station, or of the working pier. Launching may also be had less conveniently from the east facing South Strand, but only at HW to avoid a long carry.

The main catch at Skerries is prawn and shrimp. Accordingly, the local fishermen are benignly disposed to seals, which do not catch either. Seals are plentiful hereabouts.


The flows flood generally north and ebb south. Tides flow strongly in the sounds.

Among Inner Islands
Direction Time Speed
North 4:30 after Dublin HW 2kn
South 1:30 before Dublin HW 2kn

The cycle starts and finishes about 10 minutes later at neaps at -1:20 and +4:40.

The speed does not take into account local anomalies. Certainly the speed of the ebb tide on the northeastern side of St. Patrick’s Island are greater than stated due to some of the ebb flow being deflected eastwards from the inner bay. The speed and sea state are also increased by a rock shelf of the northeastern corner.

The speed over Dithaun spit which runs west from St. Patrick’s Island is similarly higher but only for 1-1:30 hours after HW.

Between St. Patrick’s & Rockabill
Direction Time Speed
North 5:30 after Dublin HW 2kn
South 0:30 before Dublin HW 2kn

The cycle starts and finishes about 10 minutes later at neaps at 0:20 before and 5:40 after Dublin HW.

Shallow areas to the east of St. Patrick’s and Shenick can speed up the flow locally.

Local HW/LW is 20 minutes before Dublin.

Colt Island

O265-610         Sheet 43

A small, low-lying island lying just off the point at Skerries. Land easily on sand/shingle on SW side. The east side has reefs and breakers that should be avoided in strong NE – SE winds in spring ebb tides.

Saint Patrick’s Island

O274-611         Sheet 43

A small island, outside Colt, known locally as Church Island. The accuracy as to whether St. Patrick ever landed here is a source of some debate. This is the jumping off point for Rockabill. Land easily at a sheltered storm beach, just west of the south tip, in almost any conditions. Landing is also possible at higher tides at a shingle cove just further east. There is a further landing place on the north facing shore near a ruined house and marked by two metal poles – a small beachlet among the rocks, for when southerlies prevail.

There is the ruin of an Early Christian Church and a small monastery, which dates back to Viking times. It was important enough to merit a synod being held in 1148 in which fifteen bishops, two hundred priests, and several other clergy assisted. The church towards the east tip is still very much worth the visit.

St Patrick’s Island has an internationally important breeding population of Cormorants (2001 Census) of 550 pairs. There are breeding gulls, Shags and Fulmars in summer, while geese, ducks and waders provide winter interest. There is a colony of 70-80 Grey Seals, especially during winter.

The NE and eastern sides of the island catch the full ebb tide over a rocky underwater reef. Overfalls can develop, especially in south/SE winds against a spring ebb tide. In the sound between St. Patrick’s and Colt Islands, a lesser overfall can develop over a small bar that extends westwards off the corner of St. Patrick’s.

Shenick Island

O268-599         Sheet 43

Shenick is the most southerly of the inshore group and is dominated by a Martello tower at its northern end. This is a Birdwatch Ireland reserve since May 1987. Kayakers landing should be sensitive to the effects of disturbance in the breeding season (April / June). The island has both a geological and natural history interest. There are breeding Fulmar, gulls, Oystercatcher and Shelduck, while in winter the numbers of Brent Goose, Curlew, Purple Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Short-eared Owl make the island a nationally important site.

Land easily at the NW side onto a beach under the Martello tower. This beach is on the north side of a spit reaching out west towards the mainland, and is usually sheltered. The passage between Shenick Island and the mainland virtually dries out at LW.


O323-626         Sheet 43

Rockabill is the larger of two granite rocky islets, strictly called Lighthouse Island. The smaller islet is the Bill and they are connected at LWS. They have a total area of 0.9ha above the high water mark. The lighthouse was first constructed in 1860, and was rebuilt in 1900. It was automated in April 1989. The island was designated as a Special Protection Area in 1988 and as a Statutory Refuge for Fauna under the Wildlife Act 1976. The Roseate Tern Conservation Project began in May 1989 and prevents landing in spring and early summer (April to August). Ask Birdwatch Ireland at (01) 2819878 if in doubt. Resident wardens enforce the restrictions.

Roseate Terns have almost all black beaks, Arctic Terns almost all red, and Common Terns, in between.  Rockabill also boasts huge numbers of breeding Black Guillemot and Kittiwake, who very much flock together in a small area called Kitty City.

Roseate Tern were known in huge numbers on sandbanks in Wexford Harbour and may have turned in desperation to Rockabill about 40 years ago.  Roseate Tern is an endangered species so do respect the rules. Ireland takes seriously its duty to Roseate Tern and Brent Goose, its two biggest contributions to international conservation. This conservation programme is one of the huge successes for Birdwatch Ireland. 90% of Ireland’s Roseates breed here, which represents 35% of Europe’s population, so it really is off limits in season.


Landing on Lighthouse Island is in the sound between the two islands onto a small pier with steps or onto rocks to the side, depending on circumstances. There is another pier with steps just further east, but which is usually more exposed. A narrow cut immediately right of this pier opens to give a convenient pool at low to half tide for landings. Beware of all landings at HWS when considerable lift can occur.

The Bill

O323-628         Sheet 43

Landing is possible on the Bill at low water in calm conditions onto rock shelves on the western corner. At LWS, it is possible to clamber across kelp-covered rocks between the two islands. The Bill is quite an enjoyable rock scramble, and holds breeding Arctic Tern, Common Tern and a small Kittiwake colony in season.

Lambay Island

O316-500         Sheet 43

Lambay is the largest privately owned island in North-West Europe, and is currently managed by Alex Baring 7th Baron Revelstoke on behalf of the wider family.


The closest approach is from Donabate Martello Tower at O263-505 but this would only be suitable if travelling out and back on the flood.  Rush Harbour at O274-542 is almost as near, and in calm conditions is handiest on the ebbing tide. Parking though is tight at the pier but there is a convenient carpark and a cary down steps under an arch at the west end of the beac.  In NE winds or a strong ebb tide, launch in Loughshinny Harbour at O272-569.  Loughshinny is always dependable, sheltered, has good parking, and is the best choice with bigger groups. The best plan for a day trip is a slingshot from Loughshinny (excellent parking), lunching at the island during the LW slack.


The island is privately owned by the Revelstoke family and no landing should take place. This is particularly true of the west side of the island where the main harbour and housing is situated. The owners value their privacy, the welfare of the nesting wild bird population, and the health of their most unusual domesticated animal population, marsupials included. If in distress, at least stay below the HW line and out of sight. There are also some useful waystops on the circumnavigation of Lambay.

There are two satisfactory beaches on the north side, just east of the NW point, one tucked into the point itself facing east at O310-515, and the other is just further east, below an unsightly rubbish dump, facing north at O312-514. The next option is Carrickdorrish O329-514, an islet 200m WNW of the Nose, being the extreme NE point of the island, barely offlying the main island.

There are no beaches or landing sites anywhere on the east side of the island, but there are three excellent, small, sandy or stony beaches on the south side, in sheltered coves. One is in the middle in Bishops Bay at O315-500, one west of the middle O312-503 somewhat out of harm’s way, and one tucked into the SW corner O307-505.


Tidal races run strongly on all four corners. Local HW is the same as Dublin HW.

Between Lambay & the mainland
Direction Time Speed
North 4:30 after Dublin HW 2kn
South 1:30 before Dublin HW 2kn

There is a north-going eddy up the eastern side of the island on the spring ebb from Sunk Island in the south to the Nose.

Flora & fauna

The island is a significant wild bird habitat and holds internationally important numbers of breeding Cormorant, Shag, Razorbill and Guillemot. 59,000 breeding pairs of Guillemot were counted in 1995/1999, which makes it the second most important colony in Ireland after Rathlin Island (c.96,000 pairs). It is the most important colony for Herring Gull and Shag in the country. The 675 pairs (1999 census) of Cormorant qualify this as the largest colony in Ireland. The new Gannet colony started only 2008 is thriving summer 2010 at Harp Ear, the most northerly point of the island O321-517.  In winter, there are up to 1,000 Greylag, and several other species of geese.  The Sunfish on display in the Natural History Museum was found in a rockpool at LW on Lambay.  Lambay is home to the largest breeding colony of Grey Seals on the east coast of Ireland.

In the 1980s a herd of Red Necked Wallabies were donated by Dublin zoo, and began breeding in 1995.  They thrive to this day.  The colony is now 100+ strong, and hangs out at or near the summit, more or less fenced off from the cattle.

The last surviving substantial elm tree forest in Ireland is on Lambay.


Barnacle Goose, Peregrine


Porphyry flint tools of such a high quality as were probably ornamental were manufactured here from about 5,000 BC to 500 BC. The Romans never got to the Irish mainland that we know of for certain, but they did get to Lambay, traded with it, and called it Limnios. In 795, the first ever raid by the Vikings on Ireland happened here. Lambay is a Viking word, the ay meaning island. After the Battle of Aughrim in 1691, a 15th Century castle was used as a concentration camp for the defeated Jacobite troops.

Cecil Baring (of banking fame / wealth) the 3rd Baron Revelstoke acquired the island in 1904 for £5,250 and the castle was then converted / extended into a fine mansion  under the guidance of the renowned Lutyens who became godfather to the 4th Baron Revelstoke, who was born Rupert Baring in 1911.  So well is the development designed and carried out, only a trained eye can tell the new from the old.  Apparently the extensions were constructed without a single right angle, horizontal or vertical.  The gardens were designed and laid out by Gertrude Jekyll, who was even more renowned in her own field.  All gates were constructed from timber carved to resemble salvaged shipwreck detritus.

The sea area to the north and NE were for centuries an important anchorage for shipping awaiting entering or leaving Dublin port.  A harbour was constructed in the 1820s designed by Nimmo, larger than the island surely needs, proof of its then importance in the scheme of things.

Seabirds eggs have been harvested here on the grand scale in times of crisis, most recently during WW2 or The Emergency as that débacle was known locally at the time, even being exported to England.  Apparently the birds all feed on municipal dumps across on the mainland and the eggs do no taste fishy at all at all.

Lambay boasts one of Ireland’s only two Real Tennis or Royal Tennis courts, built in 1922/23 during the Civil War.  The court is the size and shape of a large tennis court but surrounded by low buildings with inward sloping roofs, where the ball may be whacked and retrieved.  The rules do not easily suggest themselves.  The other court survives in the grounds of the National Concert Hall in Dublin City.


In 1905/6 Robert Lloyd Praeger, Ireland’s greatest ever naturalist, led a team of 20 professional naturalists to examine this isolated 2.5km2 island, with the intensity of a forensic police “finger tip” search. It was in part a post Darwinian experiment, in testing an offshore island as a focus point for development in the nature of species caused by lengthy estrangement from the mass. They didn’t find any, but they did find 5 species new to science (3 worms, 1 mite and 1 bristletail), 17 species new to the British Isles, and 90 new to Ireland.  They reported 60+ hectares of heath at the summit, now sadly reduced to two plants widely separated.  One pyramid orchid is conserved inside a wire cage against lawnmowers.


The White Star Line lost the largest merchantman ever built in Britain, its biggest, best, and most modern passenger ship, on its maiden voyage, in a major tragedy with huge loss of life, trying to set a new record for the shortest ever sea passage to the new world for the British and Irish emigrants aboard. Sounds familiar ? Sounds like the Titanic? Wrong.

Long before the Titanic in 1912, it had all happened before.

The ‘Tayleur’ left Liverpool in January 1854. It was about the first ever ironclad clipper, huge at 1979 tons, with masts 45m high, and at least 650 passengers, maybe a lot more. There were five different classifications of passengers, yet there was no mention of vegetables or fruit on any of its menus. Scurvy was just about then becoming understood. Clippers were square-riggers, built for forward speed, not for manoeuvring. It had little in the way of sea trials.

The ship was undermanned. The crew was inexperienced. No one on board had yet worked out how to use a compass aboard a metal craft. “Magnetic deviation” was less understood at the time than magnetic variation. In thick weather, land was sighted ahead. It was misidentified, at terrible cost.

Too late, remedial action failed. The passengers, knowing disaster was at hand, crowded the decks and got in the way of the crew.  Worse, communication among the crew became impossible in the bedlam on deck.  The ship struck the east point of Lambay. In shallow water, the ship died slowly against the rocks. Escape from the ship at this critical point favoured the able bodied, requiring climbing across a mesh of ropes to the shore.  While 200 of the 300 adult men made it, only 3 of the 200 others on board, women and children, survived. Many of the mainly Lascar and Chinese crew saved themselves and disappeared.  Bodies littered the shore for weeks after. More than half of all aboard drowned. A lot of the figures are estimates. 100 are buried on Lambay. It is guessed that 345 survived and did eventually make Australia. Three Chinese among the survivors gave the tribunal of enquiry the best accounts of the disaster, in which the captain was praised for his crisis management in all the circumstances.


Sheet 43           O329-514

Barely offlying the main island, Carrickdorrish is a small low lying rocky islet, 300m NW of the NE corner (“the Nose”) of Lambay Island. The islet is an important roost site for many of Lambay Island’s gulls, waders, cormorants and shags. Grey Seals are regularly found hauled out on the numerous rocks and reefs. The narrow channel that separates Carrickdorrish from Lambay is shallow through which tides run strongly as well as outside south to the Nose of Lambay O332-512.

Landing is possible from many points but probably easiest onto a sloping rock ledge in a nook on the SW side. The island is ideally positioned for a way stop / lunch point for anyone circumnavigating Lambay. No water.

Sunk Island

O321-499         Sheet 50

A small rocky island located on the SE corner of Lambay Island. The island marks the NE corner of a small attractive bay called Sunk Island Bay. The bay’s cliff edges hold good numbers of breeding seabirds, and the island has 40-50 pairs of Guillemots and Razorbills and c.10 pairs of Shags.

Landing at times of HW is onto a very convenient flat rock platform at SW corner. No water. No camping. Climb to small grass covered top overlooking narrow cut on its west side. This very narrow cut with steep walls on both sides separates the island from Lambay Island. The cut is just about navigable by kayak in good conditions at HW. The passage is atmospheric but is committing as there is no room for paddle strokes so good judgement is necessary.

Dublin North – Camping

For camping kayakers on passage, getting past Dublin is a challenge. On the north side, possibilities are few. Skerries town is perfectly possible and particularly along the beach south of the town, but it is a quite public promenade. The inner islands off Skerries offer an alternative choice, but all harbour rat populations for company, as does Ireland’s Eye further south. There are two possibilities that are well secluded, or at least unobtrusive.

O198-660 – Balbriggan

2km NNW of the town. Known locally as Bell’s Field, Bremore this headland area has some good sandy beaches located along its northern side with grassy areas for camping. No water available. The area is of archaeological interest and several burial mounds are present.

O270-584 – Shenick’s Point

Midway Skerries / Loughshinny, camping is available on grassland above an east-facing storm beach. It is best approached at local HW as landings at the lower waters leave a difficult carry. The site is attractive and relatively quiet and secluded. No water available.

O270-545 – Rush North Beach

Camping and caravan park, tel. 01-8437131. A short carry from HW mark. Land onto a safe sandy beach. Pub grub at 400m walk. Coming from Dublin by car, turn left in Rush along R128 for Skerries, then right after 150m, down to the beach and campsite.

Malahide Arches

O224-463         Sheet 50

The Dublin to Belfast railway line runs across the middle of the Malahide Estuary supported on a 12 arch bridge built on top of a man-made weir.  Malahide at 180m is the longest tidal railway viaduct in Ireland.  Built in 1844 in timber, that didn’t work.  Re-built in 1860 in stone with a wrought iron superstructure, it needed to be strengthened in 1932, for diesel locomotives.  The stone sub-works were always under pressure and despite re-pointing, the lot was replaced with pre-stressed concrete in 1966-1968.  Then in 1998 the timber sleepers in use all over Ireland for 150 years on railway lines were replaced with concrete, to allow continuous welding (impacting on garden design countrywide).

The Malahide Sea Scouts knew for generations that good conditions existed for surfing on an incoming tide of HW 4.0m upwards, and sometimes even at lower levels. This information hit the general canoeing community in the early 1990s and the spot became very popular.  It was these local scouts that spotted an impending disaster in August 2009.  They reported severe scouring, but no-one listened, at least not attentively enough.

A single pier collapsed, slightly on the south side of the middle, so that two spans then collapsed.  This was minutes after the passing of the inter-city express.  Minutes later, thankfully in daylight, the next train driver saw what needed to be seen, and no lives were lost. It happened at a big 4.5m (local average 4.1m) spring tide, just before LW.

The tide floods inwards over most of the weir for a couple of hours coming up to HW, and outwards for the rest.  Because most of the face of the weir is studded with anti-scouring boulders, the weir is often mostly impassable, even to kayaks.

However, when the weir was being re-built in 2010, the railway company incorporated a very special feature. The canoeing community credits the Malahide scouts with Ireland’s only purpose built leisure facility exploiting tidal energy, designed by humans for humans to play in.   Under the 5th arch from the north, a slide 4m wide, 0.3m deep and 28m long has been constructed on the east sea-facing side, its head at the lip of the weir and its foot at LW.  This is known as “Macker’s Slide”, after Paul McEvoy, the scout master who made it possible.  Scout leader Ivan Barrett was the first to shoot the slide, and the McKernan sisters the first females.


Before 2009 the play conditions had existed on the west landward face of the weir, allowing play for about 3 hours of the 12, on immaculate standing waves and stoppers.  The post 2010 arrangement does not allow that, but instead the incoming tide creates the neatest flows and eddies imaginable, on fast flat water, the finest teaching environment possible, particularly ideal for progressing intermediates. The slide has walls either side 0.3m deep.  This allows preferential flow at the slide, incoming as well as outgoing, permitting such conditions on quite small tides at this particular arch.

Post 2010 also allows playtime at the foot of the slide on the east seaward face, for maybe 10 hours of the cycle, pretty much the whole time except when the weir is covered, say from +0030 HW Dublin until -0130, varying a bit between neaps and springs.  The slide works above a tide height of about 3.8m.  The higher it gets the more powerful the hydraulics, but it never “grips” unsafely,nor does it ever “wash out”, there being something in it always for someone.

The wave is certainly more powerful on larger tides, is progressively more retentive as the water level outside drops, and at all times the side walls need care exiting the stopper wave.  LW on regular tides is a very suitable time for teaching beginners because an instructor can stand on the flat foundations just beyond the wave and extract a learner caught in the wave.  Throw ropes are very useful for all parties at all times on the wave.


The put in point O227-463 is about 1km SE at a slipway just SE of the Marina Village.  Follow the one-way road system around clockwise from the village centre and park where you can.  The slip is on the left just before the road heads right and inland again.  Keep the marina on your left paddling out. The railway is not at first in sight.


Bar-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover, Little Egret, Ruff, Kingfisher.

Ireland’s Eye

O288-412         Sheet 50

Ireland’s Eye is an interesting, small, uninhabited island off Howth Harbour. Circumnavigation is recommended as the cliff scenery is excellent. The island is most attractive and most popular in early summer. There is a regular ferry in season, from Howth East Pier.

Rock Climbing

The island is noted for its rock climbing on the tor at the NE corner, on the sea stack just off it North Stack, and also on the big cliff centred on the north side. The climbs, typically, are steep but with good holds. It was one of the earliest crags tackled by Irish climbers and it was definitely visited before 1914 by Conor O’Brien and friends from the Arts Club. They probably climbed the “Inner Stack” (the eye catching tor in the northeast corner) by “North Chimney”, and it is possible that they climbed “South-east Ridge” (the eye catching right hand side of Inner Stack as seen from Howth). The majority of the routes date from 1942-44 when the Old IMC was very active there, including on “Outer Stack” by which they know North Stack, just off the northeast corner. There was renewed interest after the founding of the IMC in 1948 and some more in 1978. It is a great venue for a relaxed and different climbing day out. Do please though exercise caution as regards bird life, and climb later in the season, October onwards.

The church dates back to 700 AD, and is called Cill MacNessan. A manuscript similar to the more famous Book of Kells was penned here by three monks, and it is also preserved in Trinity College Dublin.


Peregrine. The island is a breeding ground for various auks, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Shag, Cormorant, gulls, and others. In particular, a Gannet colony started to breed here in 1989, and is now the only significant such colony between the Saltees to the south and Ailsa Craig in Scotland.

Embarkation and Landing

There is convenient access at a public slipway beside the Lifeboat Station at O285-395 in Howth Harbour. Landings can be had at various points, the best of which is at the sandy beach just SE of the Martello Tower, but larger boats may prefer the steps near the Martello tower at O284-415. No water. The lusher parts of the island are rat infested, making camping unattractive.

North Stack

O291-415           Sheet 50

The North Stack combined with the tors on Ireland’s Eye itself form is an impressive sight from all approaches.  Known to climbers as Outer Stack, appearing from the southwest as a square block of rock with a slender pinnacle on top at the “landward” end, the North Stack lies just off the NE corner of Ireland’s Eye, and is accessible from it on foot by stepping across boulders in the channel for a couple of hours either side of low water.  The narrow channel is accessible to kayaks save at low water springs.

The Stack is an important breeding site for Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake and Gannet. The Gannet colony only became established in 1989 and was the first ever east coast breeding site. Since that date a further colony has developed on nearby Lambay Island.

Landing is onto sloping rock shelves on the southern side, from which the handful of climbs start. However, this is only possible from October to February, in the non-breeding season.

As with Ireland’s Eye itself, the climbing here began at least as early as WW”, 1942 – 1944, but is now regarded by climbers as permanently inaccessible because of the density of the gannet population.

There is a tide race off the N and NE side of the Stack which can be challenging in conditions of spring ebb and adverse strong winds.

The Steer

O284-416           Sheet 50

The Steer is a small rocky islet located off the north western corner of Ireland’s Eye. It is separated from Ireland’s Eye at the Martello tower by a narrow channel. The channel does dry, especially at low water springs.  Landing is easiest onto rocky slabs in the channel on the southern side

The Steer has breeding colonies of Herring Gull and occasional Great black backed Gull and is a favourite roosting site for Shags especially post the breeding season.

The tidal stream runs in an easterly direction from the Steer towards the North Stack, and also through the channel under the Martello Tower, especially on spring ebbs.


O291-406           Sheet 50

Thulla is located off the south eastern corner of Ireland’s Eye and is connected to it by a 250m rocky reef that covers and uncovers with the tides.

Landing is easiest onto a small sandy beach on the NW corner. The island is larger than one expects, with a grassy area on its western end and a series of undulating rocky hollows on the eastern side.

The island is an important breeding site for Cormorant, Herring and Greater black backed Gulls. Landing is not advised during the breeding season.

The rocky reef and channels are a favourite resting area for Grey Seal, and is also important as a roosting and feeding location for terns, gulls and waders, especially in the late summer/early autumn.

The Round of Howth Head

The round of Howth Head is a popular trip for Dublin sea paddlers. Ireland’s Eye is also attractive to take in as part of the excursion. Attractive for its scenery, and its handy shuttle, the only downside to this trip used always be a sewerage outlet operating just off the Nose of Howth at O301389 on the NE corner of the Head. However, the situation is much improved in 2010 as most of the sewage now goes to the modern treatment works in Sutton and Ringsend.

The put-in point to the north is at the public slipway at the RNLI station in Howth Harbour. There is plentiful parking. To the south of the Head, the launching point is the sandy beach at Sutton Dinghy Club at O264-379, just NW of the Martello Tower. The Club is welcoming to small competent and considerate parties and in fact regularly facilitate kayaks and kayakers in launching and changing. Parking is limited so it is not suitable for large groups. Also, at LW, the tide goes a long way out. A shingle beach at O295-368, 1km north of the Bailey Lighthouse O297-363 offers a welcome break, and there is even a track upwards to the commonage above. Stopping is also possible in several places on the south-facing side of the head.

The round of Howth is usually done anti-clockwise, on a rising tide, best in calm or gentle southerlies. An ‘out and back’ trip from Howth Harbour is also quite feasible and avoids the shuttle.


Fulmar, Cormorant, Shag, Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot.


The main east coast streams run north and south off the Bailey and the Nose and on both sides of Ireland’s Eye, where 2kn can be achieved. There can be very bumpy water anywhere on the seaward side, especially with wind over tide. It can be quite nasty in particular at the Bailey where the tidal stream coming out of Dublin Bay meets the main stream. The Nose at the northeastern side of the head is often very bumpy, easing as one approaches Howth Harbour.

Howth Sound
Direction Time Speed
NW 4:45 after Dublin HW 2kn
SE 1:45 before Dublin HW 2kn


Eastern side of Howth Head
Direction Time Speed
North 4:30 after Dublin HW 2kn
South 1:30 before Dublin HW 2kn

The main east coast flood enters the south side of Dublin Bay heading northeast and circles around the inner bay to exit east along the southern side of Howth Head. The main east coast ebb, except when flowing at its strongest, which means the middle three hours, eddies behind the Bailey around the northern part of the bay. Therefore, an outgoing stream runs east along the southern shore of the Head for 9.5 hours out of the cycle.

Southern side of Howth Head
Direction Time Speed
East 3:00 after Dublin HW weak
West 00:30 after the following Dublin HW weak

Paddlers have found that the east-going stream exiting Dublin Bay at the Bailey can be stronger than the north-going main coastal flood from about 6 hours before Dublin HW to 4 hours before. Thus the stream at the Bailey is a nasty east going race and then a huge circular eddy for about 2km to the north.

Dublin Bay

Outside part

All up along the south part of the east coast of Ireland lies an offshore bank, on average less than 15km off, called by different names as it progresses north.  Off Arklow it is called – the Arklow Bank, off  Greystones – the Codling Bank, off Bray – the Bray Bank, off Dublin South – the Kish Bank, and then off Dublin North – the Bennet Bank.  Tides flow differently inside and outside this offshore feature.

From the Dublin perspective, inside the Kish Bank off Dublin South lies the smaller Burford Bank, a shallow area across almost the whole of the entrance to the bay.  Then, further east and dominating the outside of the bay, a major lighthouse lies at the north end of the outer Kish Bank (known locally and simply as “the Kish”), and prominent lights flash at the north and south ends of the Burford Bank.

Outside the Kish the waters are deep, say 25m, at the Kish they are, say 15m, then inside the Kish they are relatively shallow, say 25m.  Waters are then deep to the west (with the exception of the Burford Bank outside the bay itself, which goes down to 5m.), to a line between Howth Head and Dalkey, when the bay gets shallow and stays shallow.

The Kish

O390-311        No Sheet (50)

The Kish is located 12km east of Bullock Harbour. The Kish sits on a man-made base. The height of the tower is 29m.  Kish flashes twice every 30 seconds, as does its horn, its range is 28nm.  Kish has a 10 metre helicopter landing platform. There are strong currents off the Beaufort Bank and the Kish.


Plan to reach the Kish at slack. HW slack is best so as to avoid the encrusted bottoms of the two ladders, one on the eastern side and one on the western side, which are then the more handily accessed and easily climbed.

Off the Kish lighthouse
Direction Time Speed
North 5:00 after Dublin HW 3kn
South 1:00 before Dublin HW 3kn


One should depart in order to reach the Kish at slack, better HW slack. There are two ladders, one on the east side and one on the west side. These are easily climbed and can be easily accessed at slack water. If the lighthouse keeper is there, normally when maintenance is being carried out, he will more than likely come out to greet you.  If work permits, he will give you a tour of the light house. Don’t forget to sign the visitors book as there are very few kayakers in it.

In fog keep an eye out for the South Burford mark.

Ferries and fishing vessels pose a danger, so know the times of the ferries before departing. Remember that the ferry must go north of the Kish bank and south of the Burford bank

Special interest: Storm petrels and porpoises.


A light ship was first used in 1811. In foggy weather a gong was sounded but when the Holyhead Packet ship was expected an 18 pounder gun was fired. In 1954 the first of the all electric light vessels – Gannet – was placed on the station. In November 1965 the Kish Light-vessel was withdrawn and replaced by the Kish lighthouse.


Round Trip for a kayak – 3.5 to 4 hours

Inner part

The inner part of the bay, with its city and industrial surrounds, holds little interest for sea kayakers, and is dealt with briefly. All the practical embarkation points are considered. The outer parts of the inner part of the bay, from Dun Laoghaire to Dalkey Island on the south side, and from Sutton to Howth on the north side, are justifiably popular.


Tidal Overview

The tide floods north and ebbs south off the entrance to the bay. Inside the bay, the situation is more complex. Tides in the middle of the bay are almost stationary. The streams circulate around the edges. The effect of this is to constantly renew the waters of the bay which dissipates the worst polluting effects of the nearby population. Timings and strengths are very different on the two sides of the bay.

The flood enters the Bay through Muglins and Dalkey Sounds, past Dun Laoghaire Harbour, around the bay and out past the Bailey. The ebb flows past the Bailey towards Dun Laoghaire Harbour and out southeast along the shore to Dalkey Island and it also eddies around the northern part of the bay.

Tides in the north

In the northern part of Dublin Bay, the tides are as per the southern side of Howth Head.

Tides in Dublin Harbour

The streams inside the harbour, under ordinary conditions, go with the rising and falling tide. Beware however heavy rainfall causing the river to flood. The overlying fresh water conditions favour short weak floods and long strong ebbs and the outgoing stream can thus be very strong at the mouth, reaching 3.5kn. This is typical of heavily freshwater-fed enclosed places.

Tides in the south

See Dalkey Island below.


North Bull Island forms the entire inner, north side of the Bay, involving a substantial LW carry. Landing, but without road access, is occasionally possible along the south shore of Howth Head.

Landing is possible all the way from the mouth of the Liffey to Sandycove, except for regulated areas inside the busy ferry port of Dun Laoghaire Harbour where some parts must be totally avoided. In particular, keep well away from the SE of the harbour. The closer to Dublin though, the less conducive it becomes to land. From Dun Laoghaire Harbour inwards, the shore is mostly sandy beach, with the tide receding long distances at LW. In addition, the railway runs all the way along here making road access only occasionally available.

From Sandycove at O257-281 as far as Killiney Beach at O264-257beyond Sorrento Point at the south end of Dalkey Sound, the ground is almost entirely small granite cliffs fronting impressive private property. Pretty, but landing is practical only at the three public harbours, Sandycove, Bullock and Coliemore.

Dublin Bay Embarkation Points

Sutton Sailing Club

O263-379         Sheet 50

This is an embarkation point for the round of Howth Head. Even here at LW, there is something of a carry, and the parking is very tight. So, if doing a shuttle, leave vehicles at Howth Harbour, irrespective of the direction of the kayak journey. The Club is welcoming, but realistically, the parking is inadequate. The Sailing Club is easily found by car, being well signposted. From Sutton Cross take the road to the Hill of Howth and, after 1km, turn right into Strand Road. Follow the signposts along the shoreline to the club.

Bull Island

O232-371         Sheet 50

north of Dublin Port is the North Bull Island, in the NW corner of the bay. It is connected to the shore by an ancient wooden bridge at O212-359 at its SW end, and a road/causeway at O225-374, midway along the island, built 1962. Much silting of the inner stretch of water has occurred since then, especially close to the causeway, which is now recognised to have been an environmental nightmare, and studies are underway to find a solution. The North Bull Wall which bounds the island on the south also delimits the north side of Dublin Port, and was built in 1825 on the advice of the famous cartographer and harbour builder, Captain Bligh, of Bounty fame.


Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Northern Diver, Little Egret, Peregrine, Merlin, Short-eared Owl.

The significance of the Bull for bird watchers is in the huge numbers and the variety of species. It is popular because the birds may be easily watched. Living close to buses, cars, golfers, joggers and even dogs, the birds do not startle easily. In the channels, the rising tide concentrates the birds as it pushes them up the shore, and they can be watched from very close range. The Bull features prominently in the early stages of the education of all Dublin birders. It holds its interest for even the very advanced, because it is always throwing up surprises – rare migrants, and the odd mega-vagrant.

The Bull has internationally important numbers of Brent Goose,kn, and many other winter species. Most of the centre of the island is taken up with two golf courses, which are fenced off from the outer rim. Birders are found mostly on the mainland side, and swimmers favour the open beach on the outer side. Hares abound on the golf courses and are tolerated with equanimity by the golfers. There is an Interpretive Centre near the causeway. It probably owes its existence to its timing, as it was built shortly before planning permission became necessary.


Dollymount Strand

O222-352         Sheet 50

Dollymount Strand runs the entire length of the outside of North Bull Island. The embarkation point is at the SW end of the beach O222-352. By car, cross the wooden bridge at O212-359 at Clontarf onto the island, and continue past the golf clubhouse into the dunes. There can be a modest carry.

Not a logical embarkation point for anywhere in particular, this putin point is nonetheless popular for the surf. As well as getting small play-surf, in gentle westerlies in particular, this is where surfers embark to surf the wake of the incoming car ferries. If the ferry is late and hasn’t slowed down to enter harbour (a regular occurrence), especially on lower tide levels, the second or third bow wave of the ferry can be large enough to run you all the way to the beach 1km away. Catch it just outside the North Bull Lighthouse. Not for novices.


O214-336         Sheet 50

Should there be a reason to do so, embarkation is possible, with convenient parking, from the very end of the road leading to the South Pier wall of Dublin Harbour, known as Poolbeg.

This 5km harbour wall was originally constructed 1764 – 1795 but re-built as it now is 1820.  The Poolbeg lighthouse at its end is thought to be one of the most recognised lighthouses anywhere on the planet.

Launch east of the two red and white towers. It is recommended to launch at HW on the seaward side of the road. The tide recedes a considerable distance here. Circumstances may not allow this, as surf builds up in a sustained SE blow. The harbour side is available at all tide levels, but a sewerage plant discharges at this point and it’s very close to the shipping.

Merrion Gates

O197-310         Sheet 50

One would have to be desperate. Launching and landing is only possible at HW. If so, this is the most convenient spot in terms of parking and launching on the entire south city area. Park and access where the Strand Road meets the Merrion Road and the railway, hence the name, Merrion Gates.


O226-291         Sheet 50

A popular swimming spot and parking is under extreme pressure. Go down a little cul-de-sac called Brighton Vale, off Seapoint Avenue. This spot is convenient for both Seapoint and Salthill Dart stations. From here inwards to Dublin, the LW ‘carry’ becomes increasingly prohibitive. Launch from the beach out of season. Lifeguards will probably ask you to use the NNW slipway during the summer, to protect swimmers.


O233-289         Sheet 50

There is a pleasant beach giving access directly to the open water. It is situated just outside the West Pier of Dun Laoghaire Harbour, reachable by road via the harbour. By car, cross the railway bridge closest to the West Pier at O239-289. Turn immediately left, leaving the railway to the left and the water to the right. Follow the twisting road to its end, 200m further along, under a barrier, at a spacious car park.

This sheltered beach never inflicts too long a carry. Windsurfers and beginner boaters of all kinds use it. Swimmers prefer Seapoint, 600m further east. For kayakers, it is favoured as the embarkation point for starting and ending longer journeys, as parking here never comes under pressure and the length of absence is of no matter. Furthermore, it is just outside the Salthill/Monkstown Dart station.

Coal Harbour

O239-290         Sheet 50

Tucked into the SW corner of Dun Laoghaire Harbour are two inner harbours, collectively known as the Coal Harbour. There are public slipways in both, suitable for those windy days when straying outside would not be sensible. By car, cross the railway bridge as described above. The public car park and slipway are immediately obvious, and signposted.


O236-289         Sheet 50

Alternatively, also inside the Coal Harbour, but avoiding late night hours, the slipway of the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club is generally available to visiting boat people. The parking is safer, and the club is welcoming to small competent groups. The club is located at the base of the West Pier close by the railway footbridge.

Forty Foot  Front Harbour

O257-281         Sheet 50

At Scotsman’s Bay, this WNW facing little harbour was once much used for the launching of rubber boats by scuba divers, but they ran into trouble with the authorities for their excessive enthusiasm. Now all speed craft are banned from using the slipway there, to the benefit of swimmers and others using the little cove. Kayakers should not attract attention to themselves as the rule may well be applied to all small boats. Be respectful of other water users, don’t do a lot of shouting, and don’t strap a big knife to your ankle.

Otherwise, this is a splendid, sheltered little harbour, mostly sand filled, with no boat carry at any stage of the tide. Parking is feasible except in heat waves or holiday times. The Forty Foot is at hand for a swim afterwards. Divers are barred there too, even on foot. This cove needs sustained north or NW winds before the sea gets lumpy.

Bullock Harbour

O263-277         Sheet 50

Bullock has ample parking and easy launching at all stages of the tide, although it is mucky on lower waters. It is the favoured put-in spot on all Dublin’s south side. Bullock is a crowded harbour, with boat hiring facilities for the mackerel in season. Of interest is Western Marine, a chandlery that is as well appointed as any in Dublin. The sea just south of the harbour is often lumpy, due to tidal movement and cliffs. In a north-easterly, this can be the most challenging part of the outing. Bullock is the best embarkation place for Dalkey Island.

Maiden Rock

O273-270         Sheet 50

An important Roseate Tern colony has been established on the rock, 500m NW of Dalkey Island. Please give a wide berth during the breeding season from April to July.  If in doubt ring Birdwatch Ireland 2819878.

Coliemore Harbour

O272-266         Sheet 50

Parking is very restricted at this attractive little harbour on the Coliemore Road. Small pedestrian ferries ply to Dalkey Island on day trips. Much coarse bottom fishing goes on from the harbour walls. The harbour is very congested, and in swell, launching from the rather steep unsheltered slip can be tricky. It is best on the bottom third of the tide when sand is exposed. Water and toilet are available. A pretty place.

Dalkey Island

O278-263         Sheet 50

An interesting small grassy island, it has a Martello Tower, a fort, black rabbits, goats and other furry creatures. No reliable water has been found but a well west of the church, just above the shore, is kept whitewashed. The views of Dublin Bay from both the Martello Tower and the ruined fort are well worth the trouble. Until a generation ago, the King of Dalkey Island was elected locally and crowned on the island, but the practice died out in the 1980s.


Roman coinage was found here dated to 352AD, so the Romans may have traded from a base here.  Vikings named it Dalk Eyja (“Thorn Island”) and the Irish name means the same “Deilg Inis“. Archaeological excavations have revealed Mesolithic Bann flakes, Neolithic hollow scrapers and Bronze Age arrowheads on the island. In the early medieval period, the island was a base for sea-going traders, importing goods from the Mediterranean and western France.

The medieval church is dedicated to St.Begnet. The lintelled doorway is a feature of the period prior to the 12th Century. The bellcote high on the gable above is likely to have been added later, possibly in the 15th Century. The high side walls might also have been raised about then. The fireplace at the east end was added when the church was used as a residence by soldiers and masons in the early 19th Century.

The Martello Tower and the gun battery were built in response to the threat of invasion from French forces around 1804 and 1805. The tower is exceptionally large. The original entrance is high up and was reached by a ladder. The present entrance (recently closed, unfortunately) is an insertion and leads directly into the magazine. The gun platform on the roof mounted two 24-pounder guns.

The gun battery is built into the granite cliffs on the southern tip of the island. While it is unimposing from the mainland, ships sailing into Dublin Bay would have had three large guns trained on them.


Embark from Bullock Harbour at O262-277, 3km NW, rather than the nearer Coliemore Harbour. Launching and parking is easier.


Landing is best at a little beach on the landward side of the NW corner, west of the church O277-264. There is also a little cove just inside the nearby pier. The beach here is usable except on the bottom third of the tide. A regular ferry runs from Coliemore Harbour opposite to the pier.


The tide runs strongly on both sides of Dalkey Island.

Dalkey Sound
Direction Time Speed
NNW 4:00 after Dublin HW 2.5kn
SSE 2:00 before Dublin HW 2.5kn

The tide changes half an hour later in neaps, the flood starting at 4:30 after Dublin HW and the ebb at 1:30 before Dublin HW.

One stream of the flood tide swings around Killiney Bay and divides, one part moving NNW through Dalkey Sound, the other sweeping east out to sea past the southern tip of Dalkey Island and on past Muglins.

Expect overfalls on the flood at the southern tip of the island. These are particularly big with a south or southeasterly swell. If in doubt about the conditions, have a look from a safe distance at Sorrento Point. Otherwise, following the coast of the island will ensure you are in the full flow before you see the overfalls. A decision to turn back at this stage will mean paddling against a 2-3kn flow.

The Muglins

O284-267         Sheet 50

Often visited in tandem with Dalkey Island, Muglins is a rock with a light beacon, 500m NE of Dalkey Island. Tides are the same as for the outside of Dalkey Island, i.e. the flow changes with Dublin HW and LW. Landing is forbidden, and the tide flows strongly. Beloved of divers and anglers.

Killiney Bay

O260-246         Sheet 50

Between Dublin and Bray is a green belt which professional planners are determined to keep that way, and we wish their efforts well. Killiney Bay is where this green belt enters the sea. One of the prettiest bays around Dublin, road and place names fancifully reflect supposed Italian counterparts south of Rome. White Rock at O264-2567 is 600m past Sorrento Point and has rocky outcrops with popular bathing places. A gravel beach runs the next 6.5km to Bray. The railway runs just inland of the northern part, the station being where the footbridge is visible at O260-244.

2km offshore at this north end of the bay is the shallow Frazer Bank, which has an enormous effect upon the flood tide. One branch of the tide flows in a curve close along inshore and veers eastwards to meet the main tide flooding northwards in the direction of Dalkey Island and the Muglins. The two streams collide just SE of Dalkey Island. A severe dose of bumpy water is thus set up. The spot is infamous, with wild but somewhat controlled conditions.

County Wicklow


O275-180         Sheet 56

Bray is a large town and was once a satellite of Dublin from where people came on holidays. Now it is virtually a suburb of the metropolis. As a legacy, a wide promenade runs the entire 1.5km length of the town front, from Bray Harbour at O270-193 in the north to Bray Head at O276-179 in the south. The entire promenade is given over to tourism, amusement arcades in the south with pubs and B&Bs at the other end.

The River Dargle enters the sea through the harbour. It dries out at LW when it is not a particularly attractive embarkation point, being very silted. There is a slipway and beach in the harbour, which is usable on the top two-thirds of the tide. There is another slipway on the outside of the north pier. A Martello Tower stands at the base of the south pier.

Bray Head

O286-170         Sheet 56

Bray Head is a mountain with twin peaks. The more northerly, 206m high peak has a prominent cross on top. The higher, 240m peak is to the south. At shore level, there are two roughly equivalent headlands, Bray Head at O286-170 and Cable Rock at O289-156. Cable Rock is a pronounced headland with a prominent off-lying rock also called Cable Rock. There are large seabird colonies on the head in the breeding season.

Swell develops if there are sustained or strong winds from north, east or south, and gives difficult conditions all along the headland from the promenade in Bray to Cable Rock. The sea frequently breaks over Cable Rock, 80m off the headland. The tide flows strongly through the gap. Beware of a deeper rock, about 50m off the shore, which breaks the lower half of the tide in bad conditions. The sea state off Bray Head is almost always more severe than on the adjoining coast. Rogue waves are not unusual. This is not a place to go swimming, as the escape routes are tricky, the few storm beaches having dumping surf.

This whole 3km section is a fine paddle, very scenic, the slopes of Bray Head rising above, and the cliffs at the water’s edge a modest rock-climbing haven. Look for the climbing cliffs just north of the Cable Rock headland. They are identified by the metal spikes in the steep ground in the first 20m above HW where the railway tunnel opens.

There are three landable storm beaches on the head, but they are exposed and steep, or even missing, at HW. Above them runs the railway line, which was engineered out of the cliff with great difficulty in the mid 19th Century. The most convenient embarkation point in Bray is at the extreme south end of the promenade at O275-180, closest to the head.


Dalkey Island to Wicklow Head
Direction Time Speed
North 5:15 after Dublin HW 3.5kn
South 0:45 before Dublin HW 3kn

North of Greystones, it is mostly possible to keep inshore, out of the way of an unfavourable tide. South of Greystones, one is unsheltered from ebb or flood and this stretch is a sustained hard battle if against the tide.


O295-129         Sheet 56

Greystones Harbour lies almost 3km south of Cable Rock. Greystones North Beach is mostly shingle, backed by quickly eroding mud cliffs.

The beach inside the harbour is the easiest embarkation point for kayaks, at any point of the tide. Close nearby is a chip shop, ice cream, pub, and all small modern town facilities. The walk on the shore above the cliffs along here up Bray Head is lovely, as is the walking southwards along the shore.

The harbour environment has been the subject of massive development since about 2006.  It is not clear whether the apartment complex / marina that were to accompany the harbour walls reconstruction will ever be finished.  It is a work in progress, or as the case may be.

Greystones to Wicklow

O295-129T317-942    Sheet 56

For 20km south of Greystones, all the way to Wicklow town, the immediate coastline is uniformly flat and boring when seen from the sea. The backdrop however is the Wicklow Hills, known as the Garden of Ireland, always lovely. Landing can be achieved at any point but the shingle beach is mostly steep with dumping surf. On land, the going is anything but boring. The railway runs the entire length of the stretch, right on top of the beach, with pleasant perambulating pathways beside it. Four roads come down to the sea from the coastal highway, so the section may be broken into smaller bits for more leisurely-minded strollers. The more determined can walk from Bray or Greystones to Wicklow and get the train back.


Bewick and Whooper Swan, Little Tern, Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit.

1km of rocky coastline south from the harbour, the town ends and the long beach begins at O299-121. The hinterland along the entire stretch attracts rare bird species, especially waders, and particularly in winter. 6km south along the sandy beach, the Kilcoole wetland system flows under a bridge at O315-061, called locally “The Breaches”, and into the sea. This wetland system is unique in being so low-lying that it has been scantily mapped by the OS.

More to the naturalist’s taste, there are two eco-systems in one, fresh water and salt water, side by side. The two are wonderfully different, barely separated, and the subject of much study as to their comparable flora and fauna. Barry O’Flynn of nearby Kilcoole carried out the first study in 1973.  The more northerly is fresh water and includes a Birdwatch Ireland reserve, 1.5km north of the Breaches.

In summer, there is a colony of Little Tern maybe 200m north of the Breaches, the largest in Ireland, also a Birdwatch Ireland reserve, between the bridge and a major stand of Sea Buckthorn.  The terns nest in the gravel of the beach, and are so splendidly camouflaged that it is truly inconsiderate to walk on the beach hereabouts at all in season. The colony area is well marked from landward. Please therefore be careful if landing.

Birdwatch Ireland are rumoured to have had a major crisis of conscience some years back about this colony.  It was preyed upon by a Kestrel, who could scope the area wonderfully from a perch on the electricity wires where they crossed the bridge.  The kestrel was so successful that it became necessary to employ wardens on a permanent 24/7 rota. Even the permanent wardening wasn’t enough and there were rumblings of a strategic alliance with a local gun club. The kestrel became famous under the stage name “Kevin the Killer Kestrel from Kilcoole”. It is said the Irish Minister for the Environment somehow persuaded his governmental colleague the Minister for Energy to put all electricity wires in the area underground, even at the bridge, and apparently it worked.  Kevin lost his easy number, got bored, and went away, as bored kestrels do.

About 3km further south is Six Mile Point at O318-038, the most easterly point on the route.  The km south of Six mile Point is the most intensive of all Irish bird reserves, managed by Birdwatch from their nearby HQ.


Pleasantly camp just about anywhere south of Greystones. Indeed this is probably the first grassy camping south of Dublin.


From Dalkey Island to Wicklow Head, the north going flood runs from Dublin HW +0515 to -0045, achieving 3.5kn in places, in springs. The south going ebb achieves 3kn. This stretch is unsheltered from ebb or flood, and is a sustained hard battle if against the tide.

Wicklow Town

T317-942          Sheet 56

Wicklow is a major town, where just about everything may be acquired.


Wicklow Harbour is by far the easiest access hereabouts for day trips to Wicklow Head, or journeys north.  Use a sheltered gravel beach just inside the west pier where there is plenty of parking, reached by crossing the bridge in the town. Alternatively, use a slipway beside the Lifeboat Station just inside the East Pier T321-940, where parking is more restricted, reached by turning hard right before the bridge.

Broad Lough

The Leitrim River, only 1km long, connects the Broad Lough to Wicklow Harbour. The Broad Lough is an expanse of fresh water, running north for 4 to 5km, just inside the shoreline. The Lough is bounded on its east by a thin spit of low-lying land down which runs the main Dublin to Rosslare railway line. On the west is Tinakilly House, and some of the finest reed beds a thatcher ever saw. This is a summer breeding place of Reed Warbler. It is a wild place, home to Greylag Geese and myriad other wintering species in the cold months. It can be shallow and muddy at anything except HW, which is sometime later than at Wicklow town itself. The Leitrim River is tidal with a significant flow on the narrower stretches when the water level in the harbour is lower than that in the lough. Broad Lough is good to paddle when conditions are bad elsewhere.


Little Egret, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin, Ruff, Bar-tailed Godwit, Kingfisher.

Wicklow Head

T245-924          Sheet 56

Wicklow Head is a serious attraction to east coast paddlers in search of truly powerful sea forces in a full-blooded open water environment, yet with sanctuary nearby. On the head is a huge lighthouse, amongst the most powerful on the east coast. There are cliffs and caves on both sides. There is a pronounced eddy system either side of the head itself, and guaranteed playtime except for the shortest of slacks. On passage, err with caution to get past efficiently, as this is undoubtedly one of the most significant headlands of the south part of the east coast.


At Wicklow Head, the north-going flood starts earlier than on the Dublin/North Wicklow coast further north.

Wicklow Head
Direction Time Speed
North 3:45 after Dublin HW 5kn
South 2:15 before Dublin HW 6kn

Off Wicklow Head where big boats go, the flood is up to 4kn and the ebb 3kn, but close by the rocks where kayaks go, the current gets seriously fast. Local paddlers say 6kn.

On the flood, the tide race is 600m to the south of the lighthouse.

On the ebb, there is a small race at Bride’s Head between Wicklow Harbour and Wicklow Head. The main race is under the lighthouse.

It is always possible to rest in eddies except when the wind is from the eastern quadrant.

From Wicklow Harbour to Wicklow Head, the tide close inshore always runs southeast. On the ebb, it runs strongly at up to 3kn. On the flood, a major eddy system operates. Local paddlers report considerable struggles close inshore in springs. Going north, keep in the bumpy main flow for 1km at least and then keep at least 1km offshore until Wicklow Harbour.

Going south, on the other side of Wicklow Head, keep in the main flow as long as you can. A weaker eddy system operates, almost as far as Long Rock at Silver Strand at T338-910.

Inshore tides all along the Wicklow and Wexford coasts generally follow the direction of the coast and information on timing is unreliable. From Wicklow Head to Arklow, the flood is thought to run up to 3kn in springs and the ebb at 1kn and the best estimate for times is the same as Wicklow Head.


Access to the Head is usually from Wicklow town as described above, but if a launching from south is preferred, there are several awkward choices. Public access is always available from Brittas Bay, but this is 10km to the south. Closer access points involve an awkward carry down steep steps to a beach. Magheramore beach at T330-884 is loved by surfers, especially on a low tide with a sustained wind from the south/SSE. Surfers leave their cars out on the road at T324-886 and carry their equipment to the beach, on foot. The access at Silver Strand at T337-910 is the most reliable, at least in summer, and closest. The road access at T336-914 is through the more north of two paying caravan parks above the beach. It involves a cruelly steep carry down long steps and a (seemingly) much longer carry back up later. Camping is possible and the surroundings are pleasant. This is a famous fishing spot, and there is friendly surf on the beach for playing in. It may be closed in wintertime.


Peregrine, Merlin.

Arklow to Wexford


The tides between Arklow and Wexford Harbour follow the line of the coast and begin and end as follows:

Arklow – Wexford Harbour
Direction Time Speed
North 4:00 after Dublin HW 2kn
South 2:30 before Dublin HW 2kn

The amphidromic point near Cahore reduces the tidal range and ensures the times change rapidly over a relatively short distance.

County Wexford

Wexford Harbour

The entrance to Wexford Harbour is a real archipelago of sand spits, sand bars and sand islands that grow, shrink and disappear with the ebb and flow of the tide.” Jasper Winn (a most entertaining “round Ireland kayaker”) has it absolutely right.  Things can and do change by the minute, but more slowly, more profoundly too.  The larger picture is that the harbour was a much larger sea area until the 1850s and the entrance much narrower until the 1920s.

Wexford Slobs – Reclaimed Polder Land

On both sides of the harbour, north and south, the Wexford Sloblands lie below sea level on flat polder land, covering in each case about 1,000 hectares, 10km2 behind retaining sea walls – dykes, Dutch style – built in 1847.  The north Slob is the lowest geographical point on the island of Ireland.

Early maps of Wexford Harbour show that there were a number of islands in existence in what is now the north slob, six in total with the largest being Begerin, Big Island, Korrugh (or Cora Island), and Breast Island. The first attempt at land reclamation was made in 1814 / 1816 when the Thomas brothers succeeded in building a bank that kept the sea out on the north side, but a high tide caused the bank to crash, halting the reclamation works.  In 1840 a second, more ambitious plan, was put into action, the aim now being to complete reclamation of both the north and south wings of the harbour, including making use of the remains of the Thomas brothers embankment on the north side  The land reclaimed on the south side was to be half as large again.  However local interests objected, citing fears of silting, and technical legal issues (for which read “who owns the mudflats?”).

Then John Edward Redmond, a young local man with great wealth, took up the idea again.  He was not to be put off by the same opposition from the usual suspects, and despite all, operations began in 1847, the worst year of the great potato famine, when providing employment for labourers was seen to be of the utmost importance. The artificial bank on the North Slob was built as a continuation from the natural bank, eight feet (2.5m) wide at the top, and enclosed more than 2,400 acres. By 1849 the North Slob project had been completed, conquering what had appeared to be insurmountable natural impediments along the way.  The land was ploughed and prepared for cultivation. The area was drained by canals and drains and pumps were also built to pump out the water.


The Wexford Slobs are internationally famous for wild geese that spend the winter months here. The first geese after the reclamation came to the north Slobs in 1898. These were Greylags from Iceland – the common winter goose in Ireland at that time. However, White-fronted Geese from Greenland began first appearing on the Slobs about 1910 building up to several thousand in the mid-1930s replacing the Greylags. Currently about 10,000 Greenland White-fronted Geese, one-third of the world population, spend the winter on the Wexford Slobs.

The North Slob has been a major BirdWatch Ireland Reserve since about 1950.  The south Slob is private, with no public access.

Guinness World Records, until recently The Guinness Book of Records, has its origins in Wexford Harbour North Slob. On 4 May 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, then the CEO of Guinness Breweries, was on a shooting party locally (it wouldn’t happen now !) when a debate arose as to which was the fastest game bird in Europe, the golden plover or the grouse. It seemed impossible to confirm one way or the other, and he felt that there must be numerous other such questions debated all the time, but there was no easy way to settle arguments. He thus invented a book supplying the answers to this sort of question. He thought it might prove popular.

Wexford Harbour Entrance

The larger picture is that huge changes occurred throughout the 20th century. Raven Point on the north side stayed put, where it always has been, but whereas historically Rosslare Point always used to be about 1km SSW of Raven Point, it moved about 3km further SSW to where nowadays it lies at T099-188, the harbour entrance now being 4km wide. What happened was that storms broke through the narrow Rosslare strand penninsula in the winter of 1924/1925, making an island out of the tip, leaving its mediaeval fort and 47 coastguard houses stranded.  The sea then did what the sea does, and the village has since then just about disappeared, as the whole island sank into the sand.  Tern Island, inside the newly widened mouth, was sold by a local to Birdwatch Ireland in the early 1970s but it disappeared in a storm shortly after.  What Oileáin now terms Horseshoe Island (SE of the current entrance) was once part of the burrow of Rosslare, reachable by Honda 50 until the late 1970s.

Because of the shallows, beware almost constant rough water the width of the harbour entrance and for a ways outside.  The safest passage inwards or outwards these days in very small boats seems to be hard by Raven Point on the north side of Rosslare Fort Island, but the channel is poorly marked (if at all) and somewhat dries.  Larger boats will prefer a channel through the middle, well marked, the markers being constantly monitored and having to be relocated, dodging and weaving through the ever shifting sandbanks, and where rough water occurs both on rising and falling tides.  On passage past the entrance, best perhaps keep somewhat off, and eyes wide open

Rosslare Fort Island

T110-217          Sheet 77

Historically part of the county Wexford mainland, this was Rosslare Point from time immemorial until 1925 or so.  Storms broke through the Rosslare Point penninsular sandbank to its south in the winter of 1924 / 1925, Rosslare Fort became an island, and was deserted by 1926.  Then the whole process we see now of reclamation by the sea began, and Rosslare point now stands almost 3km southwards T099-188.

The island is nowadays in many ways just anotherr, or very occasionally two others (one in October 2011, two in January 2015) of the many sandbanks hereabouts, except that firstly, it is very extensive, and secondly it is also “tall” enough that it even pokes its head above HW sufficiently consistently that it has marram grass on its “summit” at T111-221 on the NE part.  It only divides in two at the tip top of a big HWS.  The NE part of the island, having marram grass, may be “growing” again?  Secondly, to say the island is redolent of history is an extraordinary understatement.  The remains of the “fort” on the SW part is on the “other” SW half of the “island”, underwater most of the time. To experience this island fully, timing is everything.

The island(s) is/are huge.  It probably covers 2km2+ at LWS.  It runs SW/NE, normally, but is almost square occasionally.  The fort, normally, is off the SE facing strand, at about halfway.  The summit is far to the NE, across the channel dividing the two parts of the island, as can happen at HWS.  The actual NE tip is somewhere way further NE again, out of sight of the summit, appearing to stretch away and away maybe almost towards Curracloe, but actually short of Raven Point and even the channel in between.  Some folks say this NE stretch is separate and called the Dogger Bank (no relation to the huge British model in the North Sea), which reportedly hosts a major breeding colony of Little Tern, so the least said the better.

The linked overhead photo for T113-214 is taken under ordinary tidal conditions, but the position and extent of what remains of the buildings and pier can clearly be located relative to the the rest of the island, off the SE beach (halfway along), and identified / examined to some extent under the water, probably the only sub-aqua feature thus picked out by Oileáin?


The channel north of the island was historically the main channel into Wexford Harbour, between Rosslare Point Island and Ravens Point, but not any more.  The main channel now enters the harbour immediately south of the fort ruins, by a channel now about halfway between Ravens Point and modern day Rosslare Point, that twists and turns and changes position and keeps everyone on their toes.

Tides run strong.  Trawlers can be seen on the ebb, with their engines growling, barely making progress up the main channel south of the island.  The tides pour out of the harbour 9 / 12, supposedly weakly, and inwards 3 / 12, supposedly strongly.  HW at the quayside in Wexford town is Dublin -0430.  The tidal streams inside the harbour turn with HW and LW at the Wexford quayside.  Further out, HW/LW at our island / the harbour mouth, is about 75 miutes earlier.


Embarkation isn’t easy.  The launching spot can be hard to decide, and depends on conditions.

    • Simplest is Ardcavan beach at T065-238, where there is an acceptable carry, and good parking. The problem here is the return, which inevitably involves very low water, given that the visit to the island will be for its low LW appeal, which is an hour before Ardcavan’s LW.  Much of the return journey is in 20cm of water, and hard on the system.
    • Do not make the mistake of trying to get closer, up by the bird reserve, 1km east. Anyone getting up on the tidal restraining wall will cause 10,000 geese to put to wing, and a tribunal of enquiry will follow locally, immediately, with a public flogging a likely outcome, at the very least.  Birders are highly motivated folk and are not to be underestimated.
    • Other possibilities apparent on the OS, further east, are dead ends. Unless perhaps one works for Coillte.
    • Curracloe to the north T115-266 in west wind might be on.
    • Confident paddlers might consider the roadhead just inside Rosslare Point T099-188, but be sure to have made your will before departing. See what Jasper Wynne has to say about the matter.  I have seen the tides thereabouts with wind over and would not wish them on ordinary folks.


The fort for which the island is named was constructed in 1642 as part of the great struggle then overwhelming Ireland as part of a greater UK conflict.  “Royalists” stuck by their king, while “Parliamentarians” wanted democracy.  The Irish ”Confederates” just wanted to be left out of it.  Problem was that after Irish Ireland was so badly beaten at Kinsale in 1601, a lot of UK commercial interests followed, and then expanded, as such things do, mostly agricultural on this particular occasion, the land grab at the time being termed “planting”.  The 1600s was a cruel century and the 1640s a cruellest of decades (it had competition, later).  In 1641 all hell broke loose when the Confederates saw their opportunity, and in due course, one Oliver Cromwell was despatched by the Parliamentarians in the UK to subdue and punish the Irish pretenders.  He was a man in a hurry.  Custom of the time gave mercy to towns surrendering without the attackers having to waste bullets and even lives in an attack, and surrender was well rewarded, as it were. Dublin did, Drogheda didn’t, and each was treated accordingly.  The Wexford defenders agreed to surrender, then broke the deal, tried to renegotiate. This really irritated the great man and Wexford paid the price.

The defence of Wexford included our Rosslare Fort.  Cromwell’s navy, commanded by his son-in-law Henry Ireton, arrived off Wexford Harbour and the small garrison fought heroically until their supply of ammunition was exhausted.  They did escape, except perhaps they didn’t understand all the nuances of all the rules and they left their wives and children behind, 89 of them. Cromwell rounded-up the civilians and forced them to trudge along to what is now just outside the Centra foodstore at Rosslare Strand village. Despite their pleas and their heart-rending shrieks they were all massacred without mercy.  One by one.  Wexford eventually got the message and surrendered.

Locals say the remains of the fort and houses appear and disappear at times, but in late 2011 there was only a remnant breakwater to remind anyone where the fort once stood, nowadays marked by a north mark on a pole (in 2011 it should have been an east mark, in 2015 it should have been an south mark).

Post Cromwell History

The fort was reinstated 1654.  A whole village prospered around it. A culture involving distinctive song and clothing (involving a Chaucer style language deriving from footsoldiers among the original Norman invaders of 1169) thrived for centuries.  The village was hard hit by a drowning tragedy in 1835 where 11 died) and by the 1845 famine which drove people townwards, but its popularity peaked in 1870 when there were 50 houses and 30 wider families.

Ned Wickham and the Blue Whale

In the late 19th century one prospered at Rosslare Fort as a ship’s pilot for Wexford town, or as a customs official, or as maybe a coastguard officer, fisherman, or lifeboat man.  Ned Wickham was a lifeboatman, “the” lifeboatman.  Based in Rosslare Fort he got his first bravery award for rescuing the “Puffin” in 1906, and he is remembered still for his medals from the GAA and from the King of Norway for the rescue of the schooner “Mexico” in 1914 off Fethard.  There was great loss of life among the first rescuers to arrive, Fethard lifeboat, 11 men drowned.  But Ned with brother James and Bill Duggan got the Norwegian crew and surviving Fethard men safely off the Keeragh Islands.  It took three days of huge effort and some resourcefulness, a loaf of bread wrapped in an oilskin effecting a legendary if strictly temporary essential repair.  All this resulted in a permanent phone on the island for distressed mariners.  Oileáin wonders has it ever been used, and certainly was most puzzled on various visits as to what it was.  But Ned will probably always be remembered for an 1891 encounter with a Blue Whale.

Ned found a huge Blue Whale grounded off our Rosslare Fort Island, and after several days of its suffering, despatched it humanely.  He then sold it to a merchant for animal feed for a princely one hundred guineas, a fortune at the time.  By 2018 DNA tests, it appears she was a young fecund female, maybe 15 – 20 years old, who might have lived 80 years, and measured 82 feet or 25 metres.  In a weakened post-partem condition she made a navigation error and paid full price.  The merchant flensed and later sold the bones to the Natural History Museum in London, who conserved them and then much later, in very recent years, displayed them as the centrepiece, the showpiece, of the entire magnificent museum, replacing the dinosaur that was there in that role for many years beforehand.

Horseshoe Island

T092-201          Sheet 77

The island is long, narrow and flat, lying north/south, about 1.5km x 0.5km maximum width at its higher north end.  It is located about 1km NW of Rosslare Point T099-188, off the area known locally as the Burrow or Rosslare Back Strand.  Launch from the roadhead T099-186.  Its LW footprint is huge, and has only in recent years become completely detached from the mainland. Wexford Harbour is a complex area of shifting and drying sandbanks, and considerable areas dry out at LW.  Mussel farming is very big in the area.

Access.  This island may just be accessible on foot at LWS.

The island has been formed since the early 1980s when neighbouring Tern Island was washed away in winter storms.  The neighbour, Tern Island, was known to hold some 2000+ breeding Irish Roseate Terns. The species’ last refuge was Rockabill, Co. Dublin, where a dedicated wardening and conservation scheme began in 1989, which has been successful in restoring the breeding numbers.

Horseshoe Island is larger than one would expect when viewed from the mainland and is a pleasant combination of sandy beaches mixed with dune complex and intertidal salt marsh areas. The island’s central ridge is covered in Phragmites reeds and the sheltered north end has huge quantities of Glasswort.  Camping is attractive but no water found.

The island is a very important roosting and feeding area for terns and waders on migration, while Ringed Plover and Little Tern breed in significant numbers.

Tuskar Rock

T226-072          Sheet 77

Ireland’s most SE island, this austere, 5m high rock is 9km off the coast across strong currents. The passage is 11km from the beach, and deserves respect. There is a very remote and exposed feel to this place, which is famous for its lighthouse.


The steps at the small quay on the ENE side are probably the best landing. There is a narrow channel behind the quay but it surges. There are steps on the WNW side, should sea conditions allow. There are possible exposed landings at the south, and some shelving slabs on the north side, either of which might work.


The island has an impressive list of recorded bird species, largely documented by R. M. Barrington (1900). Successive light keepers assembled the records from detailed recording in the 1800s. The island is a magnet for migrant birds due to its strategic position as the main entry and exit point from Ireland to mainland Europe. Barrington records several occasions when over 3,000 birds were killed at the light in one night during poor weather conditions. Seal, Common Porpoise and Dolphin are frequently reported.

Tides and Trip Planning

The trip planning requires thought. The tides run at over 3kn in the main channel on springs. A straight out-and-back ferry glide is impractical for slow boats – a slingshot approach is recommended from the northwest.  There is no suitable launching place to the southwest and worse, the tide sets over a dangerous shallow area halfway out called The Bailies at T177-060. This long, thin, north/south strip should be avoided.

The option of coming from the north avoids The Bailies and means catching the last of the south-going ebb.

Between Tuskar and the mainland
Direction Time Speed
North 4:30 after Dublin HW 2.5kn
South 2:30 before Dublin HW 3kn

Aim to be on the rock at slack water. Launch 90 minutes beforehand at 3 hours after Dublin HW from the beach at T140-123 at the back (i.e. southeast) of Rosslare Harbour pier. The entrance is just off the roundabout at the entrance to the ferry terminal. Here there is room for large groups with a manageable carry to the water, but beware of a 2m height barrier.

The harbour is the major ferry terminal of the southeast of Ireland. Make no mistake – on the way out, get well out from the land and come down onto the rock. The return journey is simpler but more energetic.  Make for the mainland and then creep round Greenore Point. Be careful not to be swept past the harbour and into the shipping lane. Contrary ENE flood streams speed up and overfalls occur at The Bailies and off Greenore Point.  Paddle hard.

An alternative embarkation point or emergency landing spot is St. Helens Pier at T146-099.  Sheltered from east/south except in heavy swell, when it may close out, a slipway inside a pier gives much less fussy and plentiful parking, no height barriers, rough camping and even a picnic table with a street light.  The tides need closer watching though.  On the way out creep up to Greenore to provide a more manageable ferry angle and on the return be that touch more motivated.


(a) Local paddlers report that the tide running past Greenore Point (as the tired paddler returns to land from the sea) can be the strongest encountered in the area. There is a report of a party seeing a lobster pot in this area, in mist, 1 or 2km out. Having decided to check the direction and speed of the current, they could not make it upstream to the pot! Consider that any slippage here shovels the paddler into the busiest part of the main shipping channel, and the need for care cannot be exaggerated.

(b) It is important to note that the shipping channel to France approaches Rosslare west of (i.e. inside) the Tuskar. The shipping channel to Wales, which includes the Lynx fast ferry, as well as all merchant shipping, lies outside to its north, and therefore should not concern this excursion. An enquiry as to French ferry times might be sensible.


Shipping Channels Shipping Company Route
North of Tuskar Rock Stena Line Rosslare Fishguard
Irish Ferries Rosslare – Pembroke
West of Tuskar Rock Irish Ferries Rosslare – Cherbourg
Rosslare – Roscoff
Celtic Link Ferries Rosslare – Cherbourg
LD Lines Rosslare – St Nazaire/Gijon
Contact with Port Authority. Call ROSSLARE HARBOUR on VHF Channel 12
T +353 (0)53 9157929
M +353 (0)87 2320251




The lighthouse was constructed in 1815 with 11 men losing their lives during construction. 10 were drowned when an October storm swept them away, leaving a further 14 hanging onto the rock for 3 days, one of whom died of his injuries later. It was also a dangerous place to be during World War 2, a light-keeper lost his life and a second was injured when a drifting mine exploded against the rock.

The South Coast

Carnsore Point to Baltimore

The Saltees

Sheet 77


Mainland launching is from the convenient, sheltered, pebbly beach immediately behind the west pier at Kilmore Quay. The beach is tucked in between the pier and Crossfarnoge (or Forlorn) Point at S965-031. Free parking is plentiful, but there is a height barrier at the more convenient end, and the carry is across boulders.  Toilets and water.

Parking is more limited at or near the harbour itself. Launching is possible off the slipway, but there is a per boat charge, rigorously policed.

The beach on the east side of the harbour extends out a long way, so is inadvisable at LW.  At HW the parking is free and the carry is easy.  This beach is also sheltered in west winds.


The main local trouble spot is an underwater bridge, very shallow, called Saint Patrick’s Bridge. It starts 500m east of Kilmore Quay pier, and reaches out, in a crescent shape, all the way to Little Saltee. It is particularly troublesome on the east going tide. Boats not travelling fast enough, or not laying off enough, will be pulled down onto the bridge, where rough and accelerated water is hard to escape. This happens almost immediately after leaving the harbour. If caught, it is best to ferry glide in behind Little Saltee. 3.5kn is achieved in springs.

Saltee Sound, between the two islands, is another trouble spot. Sebber Bridge at X956-978 is a shallow reef, which extends northwards from the NE tip of Great Saltee. The tide sets more or less east/west through the Sound, over the shallows. On the west making tide, especially with a wind from the west, the water becomes very rough indeed north of Great Saltee.


Peregrine, Chough.


Trip planning requires care for the strong tidal streams, the timings of which do tend to catch out the unwary. Local kayakers strongly disagree with officially published timings, saying they are up to 2 hours out. It may well be that timings vary considerably with wind conditions, and whether there are springs or neaps occurring. One thing all local kayakers agree on is that on leaving the harbour area, you always look at a lobster pot buoy to check your calculations are right.

Local HW is 20 minutes after Cobh.

Saltees – St. Patrick’s Bridge
Direction Time Speed
East 2:50 before Cobh HW 4.5kn
West 3:30 after Cobh HW 4.5kn

The official published information is that the east making flood tide in the two sounds flows for 6 hours, beginning at about Cobh HW –0035 and ebbs west in reverse for 6 hours from Cobh +0535. This is the same as saying the east flood about an hour before local HW and the west ebb begins about an hour before local LW.

Local paddlers insist this cycle begins an hour or even two hours ahead of that. If so, the east making flood tide begins at Cobh HW -0230 or so and the west ebb begins at Cobh +0330. They say that slacks occur when the tide is halfway up or down the harbour wall. If it is halfway up and rising, the east making flood is about to start. If it is half way down and falling, the west making ebb is underway.

Be cautious of making the crossing on the strongest of the east making tide (local HW or thereabouts), especially if there are any slow-boats in the party, for fear of Saint Patrick’s Bridge. Avoid also the strongest of the west making tide (local LW or thereabouts) to avoid the run off over Sebber Bridge. If needs must, cross either  race as high as possible, as the water really kicks up downstream of the gaps.

Little Saltee Island

X968-994          Sheet 77

This island is less frequented than its better-known and more interesting neighbour. Historically, 3 people or so lived on Little Saltee until the mid-19th Century, when rumour insists it was connected to the mainland. Little Saltee was farmed until World War 2. The farm speciality was early-season new potatoes, but corn and other vegetables were also grown. 12 people were needed at harvest time. A thresher was brought over, in parts, in small boats. The island was abandoned and overgrown until recently.

Since 1999, the owners now farm pedigree Kerry cows, fallow deer,  and since 2003 Soay sheep, from the Scottish island of same name, just south of Skye, well known to climbers.

The main house and some of its outbuildings have been made habitable. The courtyard has been tidied. There is a fine ruin of a two-storey barn and interesting remains of corn stands in the yard immediately west of the main building. There are the remains of an old well within the courtyard but it did not hold water in April 2003 and appeared long disused.


A flagpole above the main landing on the NW side at X967-997 presumably indicates when the family is in residence. Landing is possible among boulders below the house, normally reasonably sheltered by offshore boulders and rocks. One may also land elsewhere less dependably. Try the SW side on any of three storm beaches facing the Great Saltee. These are very much easier on lower tide levels.


The most suitable level ground for camping is in the area just west of the main house. Bracken and bluebells dominate the island and there are few grassy areas along the flatter western side. The vegetation is broken, lumpy and heavily grazed. The most pleasant areas are on the southern edge overlooking the storm beaches and the sound to Great Saltee. Do ask permission if the owners are in residence.

Great Saltee Island

X951-974          Sheet 77

This is a beautiful island. Grazed and easily walked or camped on, this island is lovely and deservedly popular with Irish paddlers.

The island is a famed bird-watching spot, and is often inhabited by birding visitors in season, mainly spring and autumn. Once inhabited by 20 people, the island became uninhabited relatively early by Irish island standards. There are monuments and references to Prince Michael of Saltee on the island. He bought the island in 1943, crowned himself Prince in 1972, and died in 1998.

Renewed interest in the island by his extended family has resulted in some of the scrub being removed around the remains of the old rick yard and the corn stands are more clearly visible.


Land at X951-974 on the north side, east of the middle. The main landing area has recently been improved with a channel having been cleared through the boulder beach, which in June 2003 gave a welcome sandy strip even at the lower stages of the tide. There are steps above to a house in trees. This landing is sheltered in most conditions.


Predictably, members of the family are almost certainly in residence in August, long weekends, or periods of settled good weather. The tradition of flying the Prince of Saltee flag from the flagpole above the landing when the family are in residence has been renewed. During such periods, day-trippers must arrive later than 1100 and vacate the island by 1630.  Camping is not permitted.


Circumnavigation gives good fun in tidal races off the appropriate points, but beware that there is much eddying. There is excellent cliff scenery, and a particularly pretty channel just east of the south tip. Sea conditions at the southern tip become fearsome in strong winds or with wind against tide.

Keeragh Islands

S865-059          Sheet 77

These two islets lie in Ballyteige Bay, 12km west of the Saltees, relatively close inshore. They are small low-lying Birdwatch Ireland bird reserves. There are two distinct islands, but they are always regarded as the one.

Landing is awkwardly practical at the north tip of each island, on either side of a projecting spit. On the bigger, northern island, there is an easy beachlet in a cut at the SW, facing the smaller island. Approach from the beach at Cullenstown at S869-077, 2km to the NNE.

Stay away in spring and early summer, as nests are too numerous to avoid. The ruin on the larger island was built in 1800 for survivors of shipwrecks, but is now dilapidated. There is still a sealed box inside with what looks like electricity going into it, suggesting a phone?


Arctic Tern.

Hook Penninsula

X733-973          Sheet 76

Hook Head is a popular kayaking and scuba diving area based on the main town Fethard.  A very attractive area, there is almost always sheltered sea-going hereabouts, almost regardless of wind direction.  Beloved of divers, there is always calm water somewhere for the training of beginners. Out at the Head there are arches and blowholes, caves and wrecks, and clear shallow water mostly.  The extensive sand beaches at Duncannon and Fethard contrast with the rocky cliffs by the Head itself.  Across Waterford Harbour lies the beautiful fishing and tourist village of Dunmore East, to which excursions may be made, landing at the pier, which was the first ever built by Nimmo.

Early History

The early history of the Hook mirrors the early history of Ireland generally.  The rocks locally are all sedimentary, limestones from 510,000,000 BP at the tip, then sandstones mudstones and siltstones progressively northwards.  Below Wood Village one can see the four post-ice age strata, a wave cut platform of former shoreline cut in folded siltstones, fossil raised beach, overlying mass of earth called “head”, and on top material called “till”, debris deposited by melting ice sheets 10,000 BP.  Ptolemy’s map of Ireland 100+AD recognised the Barrow River (called “Birgos”) and appears to recognise Baginbun Head as a promontory fort known to the locals as Dún Domhnaill.  There were 45 ring forts once, built 600 – 900 AD, with 13 surviving.  These are now accepted as “one off” farmsteads and not specifically military.  Almost all placenames are Viking.  Bannow Island is where the Normans landed in 1169, invited in by Dermot McMurrough, the ultimate traitor.  In quick time they captured Wexford town.  In 1170 Richard leGros with +100 men landed at Baginbun Head, on its sheltered beach, with its defendable promontory, which he then defended successfully in battle against the men of Waterford.  Shortly after, Richard deClare (Strongbow) landed at Passage East and together they beat the depleted Waterford defences and took the town.  All this is considered good news by modern interpretation, but then the English followed in 1172 (not so good).  The lighthouse on the Head itself was the first ever in Ireland, possibly in these islands, and it is the only Irish secular mediaeval building still serving its original function.  Guided tours are available all summer.  In 1,400+ Slade Castle was constructed.

Modern History

The story of Duncannon Fort reflects more recent Irish history.  When Irish Ireland was soundly defeated at Kinsale in 1603, the island of Ireland was severely under-populated at about 750,000.  The “settlement” of Ireland then began, and the island became subject to immigration from England and Scotland.  Protestant / Catholic tensions across Europe were thus imported onto the island of Ireland.  In 1641 there was civil war in England between Parliament and King, and revolution and slaughter was everywhere, including in Ireland, including the Hook.  Scots and Northern Irish Protestants (“Royalists”) backed the king, while the indigenous Irish, as well as those Normans and ye olde Englishe who had gone native over the centuries they had been here (“Confederates”) saw the chance for independence.  Duncannon Fort played a huge role locally, and its Royalists were besieged time and again.  In 1644 it even changed sides – in English terms – to Parliamentarian, but this meant nothing from the local perspective.  In 1645 it was forced to surrender to the Confederates.  But then Cromwell arrived in Ireland in 1649 and put manners on them all.  The “Plantation of Ireland”, as Irish history terms the settlement of its land by these outsiders, then began in earnest.  The Planters were received with the affection and enthusiasm with which aboriginals worldwide traditionally always have and always will greet similar expansionary ambitions.  After the battle of the Boyne in1691, both combatant kings departed Ireland from Duncannon.  James skulked, but William went in style.  The Hook wasn’t centrally involved in 1798, but nevertheless the worst anti-Protestant atrocity of the entire affair was perpetrated at Scullabulogue near Tintern Abbey when 100 elderly prisoners were burned in a barn.  Fethard Dock was the scene of the only naval action of that rebellion, suffering the sinking of its ships and the destruction of its one warehouse.  Duncannon Fort became less relevant by the century, and became finally and formally non-military in 1986.  It is now a museum, art gallery, and restaurant, all well repaying a visit.

Tides locally are complicated

Local HW / LW at Dunmore East and Slade and the outer parts of the estuary are at Cobh +0015, though obviously this is progressively later the further up.  In fact HW is Cobh +0100 at Waterford itself, is Cobh +0040 at New Ross, and Cobh +0110 at St. Mullins S728-378, which is about as far up as the salt water goes and the limit of navigability in the river Barrow for sea-going craft.

The east side of the immediate Hook area has no significant tidal movement, though there seems always to be clapotis off Baginbun Head S803-029.

In the wide south parts of the estuary of Waterford Harbour on the west side of the Hook:

  • The flood in the main channel of the wide part of the Harbour runs from Cobh -0425 to +0045 and ebbs from Cobh +0045 to -0425. It generally achieves 0.75 on the ingoing flood and 1.5kn on the outgoing ebb.  The ebb in southerlies therefore gives highly sporting deep water surfing, particularly from Credaun Head S718-036 up to Duncannon, but mind the shipping.  These are busy waters.
  • The ingoing flood, as far as Credaun Head, is strong along the west side, during which there may be slack or even a weak outgoing flow on the east side.
  • Squeezing past Credaun Head itself, the flood reaches 2.5kn or 3.0kn.
  • The outgoing ebb, between Duncannon and Hook Head, sets mainly along the east side, and gets very strong along the west shore of the Hook.
  • The tail end of the outgoing ebb eddies at Credaun Head, as far as Portally Head 6km SW.

Further up the rivers, the flood and ebb start a little later.  At St. Mullins the ebb starts at Cobh +0200.  For trip planning it is important to gain every last advantage of the tidal flow, especially in wintertime when daylight is limited.

Outside, beyond the mouth of the estuary, the main east going stream floods from Cobh -0120 to +0450.  Close inshore the east going flood and west going ebb start an hour or so earlier at about HW Cobh -0200 and +0400.

At Hook Head itself, the “Tower Race” sets up on the ebb.  It starts at the point of the headland and extends seaward for 2 / 3km.  Its workings are very complicated, perhaps especially when the estuary is emptying into an oncoming ebb, with wind over.  The combined tides set up a rotary eddy system, so the resulting direction of the run off at the Head varies enormously.  These very powerful hydraulics should be avoided by small boats in adverse conditions.

Oileáin 2013 sets it out in tabular format :

Waterford Harbour

Off Waterford Harbour entrance
Direction Time Speed
East 1:20 before Cobh HW 1kn
West 4:50 after Cobh HW 1kn

At the Head itself, the west-going stream starts an hour earlier at 3:50 after Cobh HW.

The Tower Race

The Tower Race starts just south of the headland and extends westward for 2 / 3km on the ebb.  Its workings are very complicated, perhaps especially when the estuary is emptying into an oncoming ebb, with wind over.  The combined tides set up a rotary eddy system, so the resulting direction of the run off at the Head varies enormously.  These very powerful hydraulics should be avoided by small boats in adverse conditions.

Tower Race (probable times)
Start 4:20 after Cobh HW
Finish 4:55 before next Cobh HW

In the wide southern parts of the estuary of Waterford Harbour on the western side of the Hook:


Off Creadan Head
Direction Time Speed
In 4:25 before Cobh HW 0.75kn
Out 0:45 after Cobh HW 1.5kn



There is an official legal campsite at Ocean Island Caravan & Camping S788-061, about 400m north of Fethard village.  It welcomes visitors, but is primarily family based.  Campervanning is popular down by the Hook itself, and camping sauvage is possible on the east and west sides of the Head, discreetly.  There are also quiet but exposed spots above Baginbun Beach S801-033 and above Petit’s Bay S795-032.

Hook Embarkation Points

Grange Beach

S801-058          Sheet 76

A popular extensive beach 1km off the main street of Fethard, the local beach.  Exposed to easterlies.  Parking is on the roadside above the beach and is at a premium on hot days.  Especially at LW the carry down the steep path and beach to the water can be gruelling.  There are houses all along the roadway so do park considerately.

Fethard Quay

S805-052          Sheet 76

Sheltered by Ingard Point, this slipway is the logical local put in point for any group of kayakers heading to sea.  The parking is tight here but manageable and with care the locals will not be inconvenienced.   Sheltered from all wind directions save the north.

Baginbun Beach

S801-033          Sheet 76

The Normans chose wisely.  This very sheltered sandy beach just NNW under Baginbun Head supports half a dozen cars and imposes only a short but steep carry to the water.  Exposed only to the NE, unheard of hereabouts. Launch in almost all conditions.

Petit’s Bay

S796-032          Sheet 76

Called Carnivan Bay locally, just west of and sheltered by Baginbun Head, this beach requires a long steep carry down a short path.  The parking above the beach is plentiful. Beware though the beach surfs in southerlies.

Sandeel Bay

S765-015          Sheet 76

Halfway between Baginbun Head and Slade village, an obvious rest spot but  somewhat difficult for embarkation.  Boulders between the slipway and the beach present different challenges at varying tide heights.  Parking is tolerable.  The beach surfs in SE winds.

Slade Harbour

X747-985          Sheet 76

This pretty village is the start or finish of surely one of the best one hour loop walks in Ireland, the round of the Hook.  Low cliffs on the east side, fields in between, the lighthouse with all its touristic attractions halfway, then the road back.  Mackerel are sold in season on the quayside.

The parking is easy and launching is from the slipway, but the inner harbour dries at LW.  Toilets adjacent to the harbour through hole in the wall on the South Side.

Doornogue Point

X733-981          Sheet 76

1km north of Hook Head the parking is easy.  Launch from a small gravel beach, but swell may dictate otherwise.  Spectacular blowholes hereabouts at HW.

Loftus Hall

X738-994          Sheet 76

2km NNE of Hook Head on the west (estuary) side, a sandy beach, locally called “Boyces Bay”, well sheltered, with no public access, under the impressive Loftus Hall, once a nunnery, one huge square old building dominating the view as one drives the Hook.

Lumsdins Bay

S753-010          Sheet 76

4km NNE of Hook Head, a sandy beach.  It has a large seawall protecting the farm / houses above and a rough track with public access from the main Hook Road.  Parking is limited along the track with turning possible in the farm entrance. Well sheltered in almost all conditions including Southerlies, although rocky reefs at either end to be avoided.  Lugworm are in abundance here at LW for those keen on some fishing.

Templetown Beach

S754-030          Sheet 76

Just west of the popular Templetown Inn, a pub-grub establishment, there is no access from the roadside but there is a good sandy beach.

Dollar / Booley Bays

S750-055          Sheet 76

Actually both beaches are one beach at LW.

The passing of Broomhill Point S744-049 is a pleasure.  The cliffs to southward are high and cut with fissures worthy of the west coast.  This is probably the most impressive part of the entire round of the Hook.

There is limited parking at either beach.  Dollar is a bit the easier.  Both are beautiful.

There can be excellent and very regular mid-sized surf waves when conditions are right – Southerly F6 or above in preceeding days, according to locals.

Duncannon Beach

S729-081          Sheet 76

This magnificent beach is over 1km long, and flat, a favourite for kite surfing and such activities.  Park above the beach, or for the lazy, drive onto the beach and unload.  In guaranteed daylight, going and coming, this is by far the better option.  Nevertheless, no matter how lazy, do not leave a car here.  The tide does return.  Launching / landing at LW is best on the north end of the beach for the shortest carry.

Beware also that the shipping lanes in the estuary hereabouts are tight into this side.  They run strongest immediately off the headland just NW the beach, on which is perched Duncannon Fort.  This means the really big boats pass very close by, and the flow is strongest just offshore.  With wind over, it can fairly kick up.

Duncannon Harbour

S728-084          Sheet 76

Launch from the public boat slip.  Parking is convenient, but please do not block access to the pier.  If finishing a trip late in the day, there is better lighting and landing than at the beach.

Arthurstown Quay

S715-104          Sheet 76

Not recommended.  Small harbour that dries out to leave a barrier of glutinous river mud.

Ballyhack Quay

S705-109          Sheet 76

Beware the ferry, and also the other large ships.  This is this narrowest part of the estuary.  Launch from the shingle beach south of the pier for better shelter.  The parking is better too.

County Waterford

Hook / Waterford Harbour Embarkation Points

Cheek Point

S689-138          Sheet 76

A rocky landing at the best of times, conveniently placed for a pitstop on a trip up or down the Barrow, the Nore, or the Suir.  Situated river right at the tight bend where the Suir almost becomes the sea.  At LW keep away from the little harbour, the whole area round which is very silted.  There is a rocky section 200m east right on the bend itself.

Passage East

S704-102          Sheet 76

Passage is a beautiful village, well worth a waystop any time one passes.  Admire the architecture and the surroundings, and the peace, between arriving ferries.  A severe one way system governs the town traffic in that context.  The pubs and restaurants are absolutely lovely.  Kayaks will land on the south side of the harbour on a sheltered gravel beach.  Recommended stop for any visitor to the area.

Across Waterford Harbour lies the beautiful fishing and tourist village of Dunmore Credaun Head

S718-036          Sheet 76

A prominent high headland jutting out into Waterford Harbour, thereby dividing the south wide part of Waterford Harbour into the inner north side and the outer south side.  Small craft may land on the shentered north side.  Excellent waystop.

Dunmore East

S691-000          Sheet 76

Dunmore East is now a major town centred around the first ever fishing pier built by Nimmo, in the late 1810s, as a nixer.  It is now the prettiest of Irish villages, made famous by the best known work of Irish novelist Maeve Binchy – “Echoes”.  The seafood is excellent in all the restaurants, and all facilities are available in this modern town, but which becomes busy in the holiday season.

The working pier is always on the go, and is mostly to be avoided by passing boats.  The only reliable landing spot for leisure craft is at the leisure slipway deep in the inner harbour beside the yacht club and outdoor centre.  Good parking.

River Barrow

S728-379          Sheets 68 / 76

Put in at St. Mullins (gridref) about Cobh +0100 which is maybe 60 minutes before the beginning of the ebbing tide, which is Cobh +0200.  That way you get ther entire of the ebb all the way, and the upper parts of the river are in deepwater mode, which is way more attractive to the average passing small boatman.  If the river is in flood there is always an ebb flow in an estuary, so start even earlier to gain even more tidal advantage.  A trip of this kind requires a shuttle, so maybe plan to leave even more time, say 90 minutes, against human weakness.

The river changes subtly as you move along  – starting in a forested river valley with steep sides.  It is necessary to keep up at least 10km over the ground, and the get out spots are few and far between (mud, ooze, goo), so the party needs to be of unified purpose. The river begins to flatten out into a meandering flow around where the Nore joins in, about 4km above New Ross. The first obvious stop is at New Ross Boat Club S717-278, just NNW of the bridge, on river right, where normally the gate is locked, but for access for genuine club trips, e-mail in advance Marina Manager, New Ross Town Council. Lunch. Then inspect the MV Dunbrody on river left, still in New Ross, a replica “famine ship” built in the 1990s to commemorate the ships of the 1840s in which so many Irish travelled to the new world when things collapsed locally.

The Suir joins in a further 17km downriver and the bigger commercial shipping picks up, necessitating greater concentration.  Something may appear at speed from in front or behind, or from the side at Passage East, but then Duncannon lies ahead.

Finish.  43km overall.

Tramore Bay

S583-011          Sheet 76

Tramore is a lovely tourist town and Tramore Bay is a “beach break” surfing paradise.  Parking is at the beach.  The beach surfs well in SWs, which makes it one of gthe more dependable locations in the country.  The “trá mór” itself is the long beach east of the town under the high sandhills of the Burrow, beautiful to walk, and very popular.

Reminiscent of a machaire system, which it isn’t, technically, Tramore inner bay has all the attractions of such inner bays everywhere, strictly for the purist.  Parking for the inner bay is at S628-005 on its east side, many miles east by road from Tramore itself.

Tramore to Dungarvan

S583-011 to X264-931               Sheet 76/82

Tramore town, beach and dune system is rightly known widely for many reasons.  The dune system with its back strand is a wonderful natural area, the beach is a surfer’s paradise, and the town has every amusement known to the holiday maker.  Use the pier in Tramore S576-005 for exploring the islands and coast west of Tramore. There is parking for a few cars on the pier and a good slipway. More parking is available a bit up the road. West of Tramore to at least Stradbally lies a particularly interesting stretch of coast that is very varied and interesting, comprising sea cliffs, groups of stacks, caves, arches and storm beaches that provide much visual interest. There is much to explore, and the geology is notable.  The rock is mostly red sandstone or conglomerate, and the coast has a history of mining for copper in the 1800’s, the “Copper Coast”. Some of the ventilation shafts are visible from the sea. The islands for the most part are steep and precipitous sea stacks with landings only onto rock shelves. The challenge is to summit and many require a party with some rock climbing experience.  The shore as far as Dungarvan is dealt with here cove by cove and island by island, always heading westwards.  The term “sheltered” may not always include for southerlies straight onshore, and common sense should be employed.

Caher Beach     X545-984          Sheet 76

A truly stunning place with magnificent views, particularly westwards to Sheep Island.  The beach is stony, there is good parking and sheltered enough launching.

The Beach here is more commonly known locally as Garrarus. Access to the beach has been blocked recently due to subsidence and is unlikely to be re-opened in the short term.

Sheep Island

X536-979          Sheet 76

A magnificent twin peaked island reminiscent of North Mayo at its best..  It is detached from the mainland only at HW.  Both halves of Sheep bear more arches and through caves per square metre than any other Irish island.  The view of any of its offlying stacks through one of its arches is second to none.  The island is prominent for long distances east and west.  Summiting is probably very difficult everywhere and very dangerous, the more so the inner half.

Several soft landings.

Kilfarassy Beach           X526-983          Sheet 76

Fine stony beach with reasonable shelter and good parking.

Burke’s Island

X525-977          Sheet 76

A beautiful steep island among many reefs and offlyers.  It is climbable with care on the NW or SE sides.  A lovely slot / cave twists through the SW corner.  Cormorant and gulls roost and breed on the flat summit.

Annestown     X499-988        Sheet82

Lovely sheltered part sandy beach just inside Brown’s Island, the beach is below and east of the town.  A height barrier at the road, preventing driving into the carpark for vehicles with roof loads, will cause a 150m carry, offputting for some.

Boat Strand Pier       X477-986        Sheet 82

A busy working pier with a delightful beach and leisure area combined.  Very sheltered.  The parking deficit suggests small parties only.

Killmurrin Cove       X466-987        Sheet 82

A sheltered sandy beach with plenty of parking and a reasonable carry.

Bunmahon     X431-986        Sheet 82

A fine sheltered pebble beach.  Parking for a dozen cars with concrete slip at west end of town, just as the main street turns sharply up and north.

Gull Island

X429-980          Sheet 82

Land in a small cut in the NE corner.  Imposing “Buachal” type steep, rocky sea stack with narrow grassy ridge to attractive summit.  Best climbed from seaward side by contouring around from landing or direct from seaward side if conditions allow. Not climbed in April 2005 but may have been previously. This is one of a number of stacks in close proximity separated by narrow channels. Attractive storm beaches and cliff scenery close by.

Breeding Cormorant, Herring and Great Black backed Gull in April 2005.


X420-975          Sheet 82

Another fine imposing unsummitable stack, the largest hereabouts, with landing pro forma only, midway to Ballydowane, at the most prominent part of this cliff.

Ballydowane Beach

St John’s Island

X412-975          Sheet 82

Another imposing steep rocky sea-stack amongst a network of the like.  A lovely sea-arch cuts through its centre, passable by sea kayak at most stages of the tide. A landing is possible on the landward north side of a reef jutting east from the NE corner.  Its summit awaits rock climbers of merit.  It dominates the view east from Ballydowane.

Ballydowane West Beach     X407-979        Sheet 82

A lovely pebble beach with ample parking and good shelter, surrounded by steep cliffs.  One part looks like good (but very hard) rock climbing on clean sandstone.  The views left and right of needles, stacks and islands are lovely.  Local enquiry suggests

Ballyvoony     X383-974        Sheet 82

The coast road swings right past this sheltered stormbeach with its orderly picnic tables and fine views.  The steamship “Cirilo Amores” foundered here on 15th February 1925 with no loss of life.  All aboard were taken ashore by Breeches Buoy.

Gull Island

X380-967          Sheet 82

Noticeably different to the other such islands along this coast, this Gull has a nearly flat-topped or at least more rounded appearance. The sides are steep but not of any serious gradient. Landing is in a small cut on the NE corner onto slippery kelp covered rocks at LW.  Progress to the summit lies along an obvious fault line. Grassy on top with lots of evidence of breeding Gulls.  A Cormorant colony of c.40 pairs on SW and west sides. The south / SW / west are steep and rocky.  Several            Sheet 82 smaller sea stacks and rocky outliers lieing off the south side allow for playful passage through the channels. Purely a way-stop for the curious as the beaches hereabouts are much easier of landing. No water. Good panorama of the coast from the summit.

Stradbally Cove X370-969   Sheet 82

Lying below the town, there is good parking and very sheltered launching, though a long carry at LW.  Local paddlers suggest this is only an escape option in the event of big surf.

Ballyvoyle Head X347-947   Sheet 82

Has a “very” small rocky island at the tip of the headland. Of particular interest is the multiple arches and caves under the headland itself.

Ballinacourty     X294-926          Sheet 82

The pier and slip (water and good parking) at Ballinacourty Gold Coast Bar and Hotel is the local launch spot of choice of Waterford sea kayakers. Two rocky islands off Ballinacourty Point / Lighthouse – Carricknamoan X316-920 Carrig na mBan and the lesser Carricknagaddy X313-920 Carrig na Gadaí covers at HW.  Carrickapane X319-907 An Carraig Dubh way out in the middle of the bay is by far the most important and is valued as a pitstop on touring the bay.  At lower water a sheltered lagoon is formed at the east end where there is a dependable landing onto slabs.  A WW2 mine exploded near Carrickapane after the war.

Helvick Head – Ceann Heilbhic

Helvick Head is a lovely spot, a noted holiday area. There is the ‘new’ pier at Helvick at X312-893Cé Heilbhic, just inside the head. Parking and launching is easy beside the RNLI station. Toilets and water are available. Camping id possible.  This is a busy working trawler harbour. The ‘old’ pier at Ballynagaul at X298-889Baile na nGall, is now somewhat silted. This is a noted small Gaeltacht area. The Clancy Brothers are very much associated with this area. This Carrick-on-Suir ballad singing family group emerged in the early 1960s with their báinín jersies in the USA to inject pride in English speaking Irish Ireland. As was then popular in south Tipperary they holidayed in Helvick.  Later, they settled here. The area as a whole is called Ring or An Rinn. The name probably derives from the mighty dune system guarding the inner bay called locally the Cunnigar – An Coinigéar.

Rock climbing

Helvick is a noted rock climbing spot. The cliff is about 1.5km SW of the gap between Helvick Head and Goat Island. The crag is immediately underneath and is accessed from the noted viewpoint and car park at X308-882. The rock is an isolated pocket of purple mudstone with some sandstone. This is said to be much better than pure red sandstone. It is solid, and takes good gear. The rock nearer to the head looks good from below, but is awkward to access from above, and may not be as good, being sandstone. Enquiries to Gerry Moss


Peregrine, Chough.

Helvick Island

X319-892          Sheet 82

Shown on the OS as “The Gainers” which is actually an offshore underwater feature to WNW, this unpretentious group of fragmented rocks is really an extension of Helvick Head itself. It is known locally as “The Island” or even to some as “Goat Island”. The grass-topped inner island is the largest and is reachable on foot at LW springs. The outer rocks are pleasant to explore for their gaps, passages and small cliffs. The inner gap is a welcome escape route on passage and is usually navigable. Land in or about the gap itself onto sheltered rocks.

Landing and Embarkation

Land in or about the gap itself onto sheltered rocks.

Embark from the ‘new’ pier at Helvick at X312-893Cé Heilbhic where there is easy parking and launching beside the RNLI station inside the harbour. Toilets and water are available.

Round of Mine Head

Helvick is also the popular launching or landing spot at the east end of the round of Mine Head – Mionn Árd. Launch at the west end of this trip at a sheltered beach, either at Ardmore itself or nearer at X204-799. The journey may be broken at any of the many sandy beaches and coves, subject to conditions on the day.

Inside a small rock Carrignanean X290-834, there is an interesting expedition for anyone who wants to land on the rocks on the south facing side of the small headland. You can scramble up a small gulley and grass slope and visit an important megalithic court cairn tomb. The scrambling takes a bit of effort but is worth the effort.

The tomb at Ballynamona is a court cairn and is the only example of its kind in the SE. This type is usually found north of a line between Clew Bay in the west and Dundalk in the east. It would have been constructed by a tribal group and an immense amount of social organisation was required in its building. There would have been many burials in the grave. The bodies were burnt and the cremated bones were placed in the burial chambers, sometimes with pottery, beads, stone, bone, and tools for use in the next life.

Ballynamona was excavated in May 1938 by a team lead by T.G.east. Powell, as part of relief of unemployment programme of excavations administered by the OPW in collaboration with the National Museum. Because it had been plundered for fencing material it proved impossible for the excavators to estimate its original size. The chamber deposits had been destroyed by treasure seekers. However, some small fragments of highly decorated pottery were found, as were numerous natural flint flakes, some of which showed traces of human working. A small stone disc was also found. It is made of a fine-grained piece of Old Red sandstone. Similar larger discs are known from gallery graves in Brittany, Scotland, Wales and Co. Wicklow. We do not know the beliefs of the builders of the tomb but there is evidence that they were sun worshippers, at least in some parts of Ireland. But whatever their beliefs they were compelling, as similar structures are found all over Europe and in part of Africa and Asia.

Although the Ballynamona Court Cairn is neither spectacular nor large its importance cannot be overlooked. It is known to date from 2000 B.C. during the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age. It is clear evidence of the early settlement of Old Parish by a developed, agricultural society. Other evidence of settlement in Co. Waterford from this period are the nearest known megalithic tombs at Gaulstown, Mattewstown and Ballynageeragh in or around the Tramore area, and an important find of an uncommonly fine, polished stone implement at Aglish, Co. Waterford, presently in the National Museum.

While this grave was still in use the Late Stone Age was drawing to a close. The Early Bronze Age, in which implements of bronze and copper were manufactured, saw the arrival in Ireland of prospectors and metal workers, who found Co. Waterford rich in the necessary metal deposits. At Bonmahon, copper was mined and there is some evidence that a foundry or factory of bronze implements existed on the edge of Knockmon bog, west of Dungarvan.

Mine Head is the highest lighthouse in Ireland, but the kayak on passage will not see it from immediately below because it is set back from the cliff edge. The only escape on the 15km passage is at Ballymacart Cove at X253-810, perhaps too close to the Ardmore end to be practical. Too close maybe to the other end is a beautiful beach known locally as Faill na Staicín at X298-876.

County Cork

Tidal Overview – Cork SE

Tides are generally weak between Cork Harbour in the west and Knockadoon Head, 30km to the ENE. However, there are significant races off the headlands and in the sounds between the islands (Ballycotton Sound and Capel Sound), where 2kn is achieved. Slack water is thought by local paddlers to be at much the same time as LW/HW Cork. In Youghal Bay, southerly winds raise a heavy sea, and the tidal streams are rotary and very complex, running strongly over the bar, which is in midbay directly south of the river entrance, so caution should be exercised.

River Blackwater

X098-988X104-807    Sheet 81

23km of the river from Cappoquin to Youghal is navigable to small boats. HW Cappoquin is about +0100 Youghal, which is +0000 Cork. Start or finish to suit wind and tide on the day.  At Cappoquin the put in is at a small car park (height restrictions) with a small slip X098-988, about 1km SSW of the town (river right). Landing in Youghal is at the County Council stone depot on the main N25 road (river left) X104-807. Interesting scenery, including some castles.

Capel Island

X101-700          Sheet 81

This attractive, 37m high island is just off Knockadoon Head, which separates Ballycotton Bay from Youghal Bay. It is privately owned but became (mostly) a Birdwatch Ireland nature reserve in 1994. The stub of an unfinished lighthouse on its highest point dominates the island. Stone walls surround the building, and a small, square out-house is worth investigating to see the dramatic drop from the hole in its floor. The seaward side of the island is most attractive and there is a colony of breeding Cormorant (60 pairs in 1995) at the SW corner. Otter are also present. There is no water, and a possible deterrent to camping is a herd of goats. There were 30 or so in 1995, only 12 in 2002.

In 2010, the lighthouse now has a locked gate.


There is a pier and slipway at X091-703 for embarkation at Knockadoon Head where there are two well-sheltered beaches. The only water hereabouts is at houses and the local Dominican summer school camp, and the nearest shops and facilities are at Ballymacoda, 5km to the west.

Given the proximity of the island to Knockadoon Head local kayakers usually paddle across from Youghal. There is excellent parking and short carry at Ferrypoint X111-781 on the Waterford side of the Blackwater River opposite Youghal. It makes for a nice paddle to Capel Island. About 8km each way.


A low headland projects NW from mid-NW side of the island. There are beaches at either side of the base of this headland. The beach to the SW side (on a direct line between Knockadoon Pier and the tower on the island) does not exist at HW and is more exposed, but access to the interior is easier. The beach to the NE side does not exist at HW and access to the interior is scramblier. At HW, a deep-water landing may be had onto rocks on the sheltered cove east of this headland.


Local HW/LW are as Cork. So is slack, according to local paddlers. A fierce tide runs through Capel Island Sound. In Youghal Bay, southerly winds raise a heavy sea.

The coastline westward to the beach at Ballymakeagh at X050-688 is very pleasant, and there are great views eastwards to Ardmore and Helvick.

Knockadoon Head was the fastest developing rock climbing crag in Ireland in 2003.  It remains a popular low season target of opportunity for its sunny south facing aspect.

Ballycotton Islands

There are two contrasting islands lying just off the coast from Ballycotton village in east Cork.


Embarkation is best from a small slipway at the village where there is a small field in which to park, and a very easy gradient yielding a short carry of 50-100m maximum. This is about 1km WNW of the harbour, opposite the Garda barracks. It is reached by a laneway beside a shop at W989-643. There is water available here and also at the harbour from public taps. Ballycotton has good facilities, B&Bs, pubs and restaurants. The harbour itself is slightly further east at W999-638. Launching is difficult, but is possible from either of two slipways reached by narrow, steep alleyways. Descent to the beach is also possible behind the toilets on the main pier. In addition, there are steep, narrow steps halfway down the outside (east) of the pier which gives awkward access to a small beach. The west pier of the harbour is little more than a breakwater.


In Ballycotton Sound and between the inner island and the coast, 2kn is achieved,. Slack water is thought by local paddlers to be much as for LW/HW Cork.

Guided Tours

The tours depart daily from 1000 onwards. tours take approximately 90 minutes round trip. Meeting point is at the Ballycotton Island Lighthouse Tours Information and booking kiosk at Ballycotton Pier between 10am-5pm. Visitors are advised to arrive 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure. Enquiries +353 21 2375371

Small Island

X004-637          Sheet 81

Known locally (quite logically) as the Inner Island, it is low and grassy, with extensive reefs and rocky shorelines at low water. It is just accessible on foot at LW, though not easily, and it involves getting your feet wet. Landing is best on the eastern side, facing the outer island, where there is a small beach, just where the island is waisted. There is no water. In 2002, three full-blooded male goats proved quite a deterrent to wouldbe landers or campers. Blowholes.

Ballycotton Island

X011-637          Sheet 81

Known locally as the Outer Island, and also as the Lighthouse Island, it is 50m high, steep and rocky. The lighthouse and associated buildings dominate the high part of the island. There are two landings, each difficult, each consisting of a flight of steps to a pier, located on the north and west flanks respectively, that on the west usually being a shade more friendly. There is a small sea-arch on the SE tip. There are breeding Shag, Great Black-backed Gulls, and Herring Gulls.

Cork Harbour


(Parts only) Bewick & Whooper Swan, Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Tern.

Cobh is a standard port for tidal information for most of the south/southwest of Ireland.

Mouth of Cork Harbour
Direction Time Speed
In 5:40 before Cobh HW 1.5kn
Out Cobh HW 1.5kn

The West Passage of Great Island, particularly where narrowest at Verolme Dockyards, can achieve 3kn.

The tidal streams in the harbour generally flood north and west, following the channels, strongest in the middle, circling islands both sides, notably Great Island. They generally ebb in reverse.

There are exceptions:

  • The current is always weak at about the Spit Bank just 1km off Cobh itself,
  • At the harbour mouth, the ebb runs SE from Ram’s Head W811-619 towards Roches Point W824-601 and then SW, so that even the largest vessels are swept towards White Bay W826-616 and then crabbed across the mouth of the harbour towards Ringabella Bay W795-580,
  • In reverse, much the same, the stream sets into White Bay then NW,
  • The strength of the tide is raised by south wind and especially SE wind (for a longer stronger flood). An increase of up to 1m has been known in Cork in gales.
  • The strength of the tide is cut by north winds (for a weaker shorter flood), and by fresh water in the rivers in quantity (for a longer stronger ebb).

At or about LW and the beginning of the flood

  • At the harbour mouth, the main flood stream makes into the harbour at first on the west side past Camden Fort at Ram’s Head W811-619, -0020 before mid-channel.
  • The stream in White Bay is weak.
  • If there is fresh water flowing in the Owenboy River from the direction of Carrigaline, the stream there sets on its south side and around Ram’s Head W811-619 for some time after the flood has otherwise begun.
  • From Ram’s Head W811-619 the ingoing salt water stream branches – part goes up the Owenboy River in the direction of Carrigaline W740-625, – and the main stream goes north, almost immediately dividing into two streams, one west of Cobh towards Cork and the other towards the east channel of Great Island.
  • Because at this stage fresh water is still flowing outwards from the east channel of Great Island, when the two streams meet, a remarkable eddy forms around the area of the Spit Lighthouse W812-659. An inshore current is forced across Cuskinny Bay W820-670 and along the shore as far as Morloag Point W853-672.
  • The flood is felt at Paddy’s Point W795-648 fully -0030 anywhere else in the harbour. For a considerable time before any change in midstream, the flood sets close inshore past this point, past Ringaskiddy W777-652 and as far as Monkstown W771-661 and sometimes further.  This is apparently because in mid-channel, an undercurrent sets before the surface current makes.
  • The ingoing west flood stream does not make at Cobh until a full hour at least after it has begun at the harbour mouth.
  • The length and strength of the tide from Cobh up to Cork depends a lot on the amount of fresh water in the river.

At or about HW at the beginning of the ebb

  • The outgoing stream east of Great Island begins -0100, and continues along the east side of the harbour past Corkbeg Island W826-641
  • The stream out of the Owenboy river begins -0100
  • If there is much freshwater in the river Lee, there is a strong east ebb close inshore past Cobh. The ebb stream past White Point W786-657 strikes Haulbowline Island and then runs towards Deepwater Quay at Cobh.

Great Island

W798-665         Sheet 87 / Sheet 81

This island is unique amongst Irish islands in having a large town, Cobh. The island is located in the centre of Cork Harbour and is dominated on its southern flank by the town of Cobh. It is joined to Fota Island in the NE by a short bridge at Belvelly at W791-708. Access has improved in recent years with the introduction of a passenger and vehicle ferry between Carrigaloe and Passage West at W772-675, thereby shortening road travel time to Cork City.

The island has a long history of human settlement dating back to the Phoenicians, but owes much of its development to its fine natural harbour. Its naval importance and its use as a port for transatlantic liners has left the town with a long nautical association. Much of the town’s fine architecture dates from the early 1800’s.

Historic attractions include a fine cathedral, Cobh Heritage Centre and Old Church Graveyard, where many of the victims of the Lusitania are buried. The town’s long association with the White Star Line’s Titanic and Mauritania has been re-kindled recently with the opening of the Titanic Rooms bar and restaurant in what was the old White Star Line Shipping Offices.

Great Island is 7km long by 4km wide. The geology is Old Red Sandstone overlaid with Limestone in the valleys. The northern shorelines are estuarine, and the island is separated from the mainland at its western and eastern flanks by two river gorges. A full circumnavigation is an interesting day’s paddling, bringing the kayaker through urban, industrial, estuarine, agricultural and scenic landscapes.


Embarkation for a circumnavigation is recommended from White Point at W786-658 or alternatively at any of several slipways in Cobh, perhaps the best of which is under the town clock directly opposite Eddie English’s Sail Training Centre at W805-665. It is recommended to follow a clockwise route around. The entire distance is about 27km, or 5 hours paddling, but allow for stops.


Tidal flows in the river gorges (west and east sides) run to 3kn in springs but these can be utilised to advantage in the timing of one’s passage. The critical factors in a circumnavigation are (a) to pass close enough to HW where the tides meet, which is under Belvelly Bridge W791-707, and (b) to clear Rosslague Point at W799-706 just to its east before the ebb exposes the mudflats.

A trip in spring/autumn/winter is best from a natural history point of view as both Lough Mahon to the NW and the North Channel have large numbers of ducks and waders to provide interest.

The western river passage is a busy shipping lane to Ringaskiddy Port and Cork City. Care is required passing the old dockyard at Rushbrooke and IFI fertiliser jetties at Marino Point at W771-694. The Ro/Ro ferry service at Carrigaloe-Passage West also moves surprisingly quickly.


Camping is possible and quite pleasant from Ashgrove at W860-696 at the NE point, to East Ferry, to Morlogue Point at W852-672 at the SE point. Water is not available but the area is pleasantly wooded and there are several grassy fields that are quite remote.

The eastern river passage down to East Ferry is quite scenic and one has a choice of two hostelries for lunch. The Morlogue Inn at W853-683 is situated on the Great Island side about halfway down and Murphy’s Bar is on the mainland opposite.

Once around Morlogue Point at W852-672, passage is westward towards Cobh. A Birdwatch Ireland nature reserve is located at Cuskinny Bay at W820-670. The Spit Bank Lighthouse at W812-659 marks the edge of the Spit Bank and is worth a detour. The tidal flow is weaker on the Spit Bank and gives better views of Cobh than the main channel, being that bit out and thereby gaining perspective. Spike Island at W805-645 and Haulbowline Island at W789-655 dominate the views to the south.

Haulbowline Island

W789-655         Sheet 87

A small island located just south of Cobh town in Cork Harbour. As the name suggests the island has naval associations.  The island is divided into three halves.  The western side is totally dominated by buildings of the Naval Service, the National Maritime College and University College Cork Marine Research Centre. The middle section is partly the naval harbour, the rest being the detritus of the former Irish Steel workings, and the eastern side is nowadays a lovely parkland, developed at great expanse from the mess left behind from the steel working.  Irish Steel was a major steel manufacturing company which for many years ran its operation here, but became bankrupt late in the last century, and operations ceased 2001. The parkland at the east side is reclaimed polder reclaimed from the slag and spoil dumped from the industrial site, including radio-active waste Chromium 6. Many of the naval buildings date from the 1700-1800’s when Cork Harbour was a significant port of the British Navy. The oldest buildings face Great Island and a Martello Tower at W789-655 dominates the island’s highest point. Kayakers can enter the naval basin to view the ships of the Irish Naval Service.


Landing is not encouraged but is possible at several slipways on the southern side and in the Naval Basin. Ferries run from Cobh to piers on the northern side for Naval personnel. Small boats should be wary of these when passing along the northern edge. The NW corner of the island juts out into the main shipping channel between Cork city docks and the ferry port at Ringaskiddy, so kayakers rounding this point should be careful at all times.


The main river channel from Cork City and the ferry port at Ringaskiddy flows through a narrow passage between Haulbowline and White Point on Great Island just NW. The tidal flow achieves 2kn at this point. The main tidal flow splits at Haulbowline with the much lesser flow running along the southern side of the island.

Rocky Island

W793-650         Sheet 87

Haulbowline Island is joined to the mainland near Ringaskiddy on its south side by a road bridge. The bridge spans to and from Rocky Island.  The road bisects the island.  Rocky received planning permission for use as a crematorium in late 2006.  The crematorium will be west of the road and parking east.

High rocky and fortified, the summit is a big tent shaped rock in the middle.  Its triple ramparts and central citadel were a gunpowder store from 1808.  The outer trenches were lit by candles recessed into hollows in the wall for safety.  Unoccupied 1920s to 1964, Irish Steel built the bridge when it took over, and it was storage until 2001.

Rocky is always landable because the bridge supports give shelter, especially on the landward Ringaskiddy side where the rocks are shelving.

Spike Island

W805-645         Sheet 87 / Sheet 81

This island is located very close to the centre of Cork Harbour and the distinctive flat-topped fort dominating the island was until recently a civilian prison. The island is a good rest/lunch area for kayakers touring the harbour area. Most of the rest of the island apart from the extensive fort is grassland with some copses of Scots Pine along the north and west sides. The east and south sides are steeper with scrub and furze dominating the vegetation. Landings are possible at most points of the island but probably best at the NE corner at W807-649 near a very large limestone warehouse. A ferry service for Military and Prison staff runs from Cobh to the island pier at the NW corner at W800-649.

The island’s history is largely military because of its strategic position and the importance of Cork Harbour in British Naval history. The island commands the approaches to the outer and inner harbour and formed a triangle of defence with the twin forts of Camden at W809-618 and Carlisle at W820-625, located on either side of the narrowest part of the entrance to the harbour. Spike Island has a distinctive flat-topped appearance due to the presence of its large sunken fort. The fort has witnessed various uses by both the British and Irish governments ranging from Internment Centres to Military Prisons and Military Training Areas. The island was also used occasionally as a Quarantine Zone for imported livestock.  Current plans for the intensified use of the island include a prison, but with a land bridge, as the ferry cost was a major factor shutting the prison in the past.

On the north side facing Cobh, there are many old military style houses and storage areas. Most of these buildings are now in an advanced state of disrepair. The foreshore is predominantly shingle and stony beaches and the area between Paddy’s Point at W795-648 on the Ringaskiddy side and the western shore of Spike dries out to expose large areas of muddy estuary. However, the route is navigable by kayak at all stages of the tide.


The Spit Bank lies off the island’s northern shore and is marked at its NE edge by the Spit Bank lighthouse at W812-659. Tidal flow on the bank is less than in the main harbour channels and may be useful to kayakers travelling up or down river against the flow.


Traditionally, landings have not been encouraged. The military had sentries posted at all points to deny access. However, this practice has been relaxed in recent years and kayakers remaining away from the main fort area have not been challenged.

Cork SW

Tidal Overview

Off the coast from Cork Harbour to the Fastnet, the tidal streams achieve 1.0 – 1.5kn in springs and eddy strongly at the headlands.

Cork to Fastnet
Direction Time Speed
East 4:20 before Cobh HW 1-1.5kn
West 1:50 after Cobh HW 1-1.5kn

Be aware that the tide inshore, particularly at headlands is often seen to change an hour or more earlier than the times above.


Heading west from Cork Harbour the coastline is dominated by cliffs of sediments with the only real shelter provided by the river mouths of The Slick at Oysterhaven, the Bandon at Kinsale and the Argideen at Coolmain Bay.  Otherwise landings are few enough and road access to a landing a rarity.  As a result of this limited access to the coast, there is inevitably a small settlement at each of these coves. Islands too are few, so coves and bays and islands are presented here in the order in which they appear to the westbound traveller.

Robert’s Cove W785-547 is a very sheltered cove approx 350m long and orientated NNW/ SSE. It is backed by a sandy beach with car access almost to the beach. There is limited parking on the “street” near the pub, but 200m north of the beach there is further parking in a rough grassy car park (height barrier). Discrete camping may be possible in this car park at off peak times, but in summer this is a very popular destination with Corkonians.

Carrigadda Bay W772-536, 1.5km SW, is signposted locally as Rocky Cove. Landing is possible on a sandy beach at the NW side of the bay. At HW the beach is all but covered. Best landing is at the west end of the beach. A chart is a lot more suitable than an OS map to delineate the approach reefs and skerries. Carrigadda means “long rock”.  Long Rock W771-529 is very prominent, with good breakers. There is parking just above the beach.

Nohoval Cove W734-513, 4km WSW provides some interesting paddling and rock hopping. There is a rudimentary slip at the back of the bay with a surge across it at HW, though usually well sheltered by off lying rocks. There are some caves and stacks with spectacular cliffs. There are no camping signs on the ruins to the west side of the slip, though camping may be possible in the cliffs high up on the east side of the landing. Parking is along the side of the access road.

Oyster Haven – Ballinclashnet Creek W697-501.  4.5km WSW, embark from a sheltered beach W697-501 beside Oyster Haven Adventure Centre. Alternatively launch from a beach and pier W694-490 at the end of the road on the east side of the east branch of Oyster Haven, outside the coastguard station.  Both spots are inside obvious mooring buoys. There is adequate parking at both spots. Further north, the road runs parallel to Ballinclashnet Creek and landing is possible on some of the shingle bars that stretch out perpendicular to the road. It is possible to navigate to within 300m of Ballinclashnet village at HW. There are no landings or access to the shore from the west side of Ballinclashnet Creek.

Oyster Haven – Murray’s Creek.  It is possible to navigate Murray’s Creek, the west branch of Oyster Haven, to Belgooley, though there is no easy access until you are north of the road bridge at W663-522. The best worst access may be had opposite Belgooley GAA pitch. The east bank will provide the most direct and quickest access, but there is some vegetation.

Sovereign Islands

W689-470         Sheet 87

Basically, these are two green topped rocky outcrops of islands only accessible during the most benign of weather and have “interesting” scrambling potential.  There is the remains of a structure on top the lower half, and in 2012 a fixed rope to aid in descent. The two parts are separated by a fine creek, in width about the length of a small boat.  In places the ascent requires pure rock climbing up attractive corner features.  Lovely when accessible, definitely a place to tarry a while.

The landings on both islands are onto rocky platforms and on the larger and more precipitous west islet are best at either the SE or SW corner if wanting to gain direct access to the summit. Other areas are easier, such as a small inlet on the NE, but require very good rock climbing skills to progress further. The east islet is best landed on its NE corner in a small cove. The shelving rocks are slippery and covered in green algae so care required especially on the descent.

Breeding colonies of Cormorants, Herring and Greater-black backed Gulls.

Sovereign Island (East)

W698-478    Sheet 87

The island is located 1.0km NE of the Sovereign Islands but shares the same name. It is not quite as high or precipitous as its bigger neighbours, nor is it green on top.  In fact the summit is a large area of smooth rock shaped like a buckled deck of an aircraft carrier, every square inch painted white. Landings are possible on most sides of the island but the easiest may be in a baylet on the north side.  Access to the summit is via the SE corner. Good views all round especially towards the Old Head of Kinsale.

No breeding bird species in April 2012.  Huge roosting spot September 2012.

Bullaun Rock

W708-489       Sheet 87

The island is located just off the Big Doon and separated from it by a narrow channel. The island is low and rocky but bigger in area than one would suspect. The best landing place is onto rock platforms on the SW corner, for vertical progress. Land elsewhere depending on conditions.  No water, no camping, but a good place to stop if on passage to view the very attractive coastline in Newfoundland Bay.

Kinsale Harbour – Lower Cove W661-481, 4.5km WSW is the most seaward publicly accessible launching place in Kinsale Harbour. This is easily recognised from the sea by the cluster of houses and off lying moorings. Parking is roadside, on a hill, and camping is not an option here. This is where the Pilots for Kinsale Harbour traditionally lived, so the locals here always enjoyed “procurement for the exemption from impressments” into the Royal Navy, conscription by any other name. Sally Port 0.5km north W660-486 is possible but is privately owned by Kinsale Yachts. There is no difficulty recognising this harbour with its forest of masts. Summer Cove W655-498, 1.5km NNW, is a rather exclusive neighbourhood.  There is a slipway, but parking is extremely limited in the village.

Sandy Cove Island

W642-472         Sheet 87

Sandy Cove Island is an unremarkable lump that shelters the entrance to Sandy Cove, a small deep inlet just west of the mouth of Kinsale Harbour. The island is grassy and almost lush. Surprisingly perhaps it is grazed only by goats. There are many large holiday homes opposite on the mainland. Therefore, camping would most likely be discouraged. No water was found. Embark from a slip 200m to the NW of the island W638-473. Landing is directly opposite at the west end of the island onto sand or shingle W640-472.

Herring Gull breed here. There is a suspicion that rodents do too.

Sandy Cove W638-473.  A slip 200m to the NW of Sandy Cove Island. Good parking. Landing is directly opposite at the west end of the island onto sand or shingle. The sound will always be sheltered but may have nice clean surf waves as the swells from one side meet the tide from the other.

Old Head of Kinsale

W630-392         Sheet 87

This mighty headland extends 7km out to sea, west of Cork Harbour. Magnificent and rocky, it boasts a golf course over almost the entirety of its outer parts. This is said to be among the finest golf courses in the world.  Public access through the golf course and the lighthouse at the tip was disputed. It was claimed, unsuccessfully, that a traditional right of way existed historically. There was a rock-climbing crag at the head itself, now therefore disused.

The head itself is joined to the mainland by a narrow neck halfway out, to the east and west of which are Holeopen Bay, east W625-406 and west W627-406 respectively. Through this narrow section, south of which lies the golf course, run three caves. One (narrow but deep) is kayak friendly and should in most conditions allow passing kayaks to avoid the rounding of the headland itself. One (broad but bouldery) might also do so at HW. A third allowed researchers a glimpse of light and might require cool nerves. The caves are immediately inside a prominent sea stack on the west side, and under the golf course flagpoles on the east side.

Cliffy and gorgeous, do not readily pass by without a visit.


Put in on the east side at either the muddy beach at W619-434 just NW of a pier close to the Speckled Door pub, or, which may offer a quieter alternative, at a small beach W620-438 just to the north, about 400m west of Blackrock point. The beach is well protected by offlying skerries and has a shallow slope. On the west side, Whitestrand may offer a slightly calmer launching  / landing place than Garretstown beach. It is a sandy beach W608-432 backed by an hotel. From any such option, the shuttle is only about 2km, easily walkable.


Expect clapotis on the windward/uptide side. Major eddies set up at the head – the flow is always to the south on both sides close in. These collide with the mainstream at the head, so expect a race off the head itself and up to 2km downstream. It is reported that when winds are calm enough or from other than the southern quadrant, the mainstream race stays off the tip itself, somewhat out to sea, so that kayaks may scrape past on the inside.

Old Head of Kinsale
Direction Time Speed
East 4:20 before Cobh HW 2.5kn
West 2:05 after Cobh HW 2.5kn

The flows may change earlier.

There is a strong rip close to the rocks at the western side of Garrettstown beach. Garrettstown Surf School and is a good source of local information.


Peregrine, Chough.

Glandore Harbour

Tides are very weak inside this south Cork inlet. There are two islands inside the harbour itself.

Adam’s Island

W237-326         Sheet 89

This 28m high island lies in the mouth of Glandore Harbour. The high profiled island has very steep cliffs on the SW and east sides. Landing is possible with difficulty on the reef on the rocky north side, where it is possible to paddle through the reef. Also on the SE should conditions allow.  Summitting is safe from either landing spot.  Never inhabited. No water. Tides are weak inside the harbour.

“Avoid Adam, hug Eve” has always been the saying for craft entering Glandore Harbour in deference to the shallows hereabouts.  Trawler Tit Bonhomme collided with Adam entering the harbour and home on 15th January 2012 with the loss of 5 of the part Irish and part Egyption 6 man crew.  The two communities were drawn together in grief for the 26 days it took hundreds of volunteer and professional searchers to locate all the bodies.

Eve’s Island

W230-335         Sheet 89

An 8m high, waterless, grassy rock inside Glandore Harbour, with landing easiest on the north side.

Stack of Beans

W228-316         Sheet 89

1km WSW of the headland on the west side of Glandore Harbour, and 1km east of Squince Harbour lies a group of islands the smallest of which is this stack.  Named for its parabolic appearance viewed from the north, it looks like y=x2 inverted.  Landing is usually easy on the north side and climbing to the top is safe and handy.  The views west take the breath away.

Rabbit Island East

W227-315         Sheet 89

Really a pair of giant stacks detached from Rabbit Island.  It is possible to get through the channels except at LW.  The stach nearer Rabbit is climbable on the east side with care.  The larger taller steeper stack farther from Rabbit will be too dangerous a grassy scramble for most tastes.

Rabbit Island

W221-314         Sheet 89

This pleasant, formerly inhabited island is the mainstay of this group and very much worthy of a camping stopover. The best landing place is halfway along the north coast, on a sheltered pebble beach under a ruined house. There is sheltered camping beside the house, but no water was found.

The island is waisted north/south at this point, and camping may also be had on the other, south side of the waist, also from a pebble beach, for that ‘oceanic feel’. Land also at any number of other pebble beaches on this much-fragmented, attractive island, which is well worth pottering around, on foot or afloat.

This island is privately owned (1997) by an owner who would prefer exclusive use of the south facing beach referred to above at W222-314 for picnics and boat, but otherwise would allow well behaved visitors to use the rest of the island in passing.

There are wild horses, burrows, Chough and Linnet on the island. Otter were seen on the west side and at the Stack of Beans on the east side.

Lamb Islands

W217-310         Sheet 89

Fragmented group of islets off the headland 0.5km SE of Squince Harbour.  Lovely architecture includes several arches and caves.  Reputedly and authoritively there is here a stunning cave the author could not find.  The summit of the largest islet is gorse and ling covered to test the hardiest bare legs.  Land easiest perhaps in the east facing cut below the only apparent ascent onto sloping shelves.  The climb is then possible, trust me.

High Island

W220-297         Sheet 89

2.5km SSW of the headland on the west side of Glandore Harbour, this splendid steep, craggy, rugged, grass topped island is not for the faint-hearted. Any landing is from deep water onto rock, but there are two very sheltered coves on the north side, one facing east and the other west towards Low Island. The easier scramble to the summit is from the east cove, in proof of which I point to the blood on the rocks at the foot of the west cove, which is mine. The main nesting birds are Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and Shag. The main interest for the kayaker is the varied host of creeks and rocky passages on the Low Island side, and the sporting, surfing reefs and bumpy water generally on the outside, especially with a tide running.

Low Island

W217-298         Sheet 89

Low Island lies close by to the NW of, and is dominated by, High Island, its impressive neighbour. Landings may be had on the SE side facing High Island, or also on the NW side. In each case, land easily onto a sheltered pebble beach. The big goat reported in earlier editions seems to be gone and no longer makes camping insecure. However, camping is insecure in that the ground is very sandy, reluctant to hold tent pegs, and this type of topsoil is thought to be rodent friendly, and there are lots of them! The island is not dramatic.

Skiddy Island

W188-297         Sheet 89

Ungrazed low lying grassy roost for gulls and Oystercather 350m SE of Reen Point W185-299 at the east side of the entrance to deep inlet Castle Haven W181-303.  Launch from Castletownshend quay W187-313, or on the east side at a spit of land projecting into the bay at W190-317 called locally “The League”.  Provides a good view of famous urban architecture “Cow in a Tree” now residing very non-urbanely and enjoying this very remote locatiob.

Castle Haven

W181-303         Sheet 89

Castle Haven is a beautiful deep inlet, heavily wooded both sides, accessed from various possible launching spots :

    • On the west side, at a slipway W187-313 in the village of Castletownshend, with good parking,
    • on the east side, with even better parking, at a spit of land projecting into the bay, called locally “The League” W190-317, the area generally being known locally as Reen.  This is the base for Ireland’s premier professional sea kayaking services supplier, sea guide Jim Kennedy of Atlantic Sea Kayaking.  A sheltered anchorage, The League is a natural gravel spit, formed by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake tsunami, and as fine a campervan spot as will be found anywhere.  Not signposted as such but follow signs for Reen / Reen Pier.
    • Reen Pier on the east side has limited parking W191-313.

Inside the bay itself there are small islets available, all on the west side, all intertidal, listed from the outside inwards :

    • Flea Island W177-293 just inside Horse Island,
    • Cat Island W189-314 just off Castletownshend, that shelters Castletownshend slipway when the north wind blows, is locally called China Island, in memory of a ship that foundered there long ago carrying a cargo of china, bits of which may still be picked up when low water scavenging,
    • Rodger’s Island W189-325 outside The Narrows, and
    • Illauncreavagh W187-336 inside The Narrows at the very head of the bay.

Horse Island

W179-290         Sheet 89

Located south of Castle Haven and Castletownshend and tucked in against the shore, the island is nowadays ungrazed. Camping would therefore be very difficult as it has become very overgrown.  It has a tower, and splendid views. The landing is in Flea Sound on the north side of the island, where Basking Shark have been spotted.

The arch / cave on the south side is dangerous, having access issues at each entrance, trapping the unwary in bad conditions.

Black Rock W182-287 boasts an “almost” tunnel on its south side, open to the sky but not to the kayak at its closed west end.

The Stags of Toe Head

W150-246         Sheet 89

These rocks are 1.5km or so directly off Toe Head. They present one amorphous blob from the north, but from the east or west side they present their true character, which is three tall parallel reefs separated by creeks. The centre creek dries at low tides, giving the better chance of a landing as there are baylets on either side, to be chosen according to wind direction. There is no water; this is just a very exposed waystop. Nesting auks and gulls. Note especially the flag marker SW of the rocks, marking the ‘other end’ of the wreck of the ‘Kowloon Bridge’, reputedly the largest shipwreck in the world. Marvel at its size as the distance to the flag is considerable.


Tides run strongly in Stag Sound, between the Stags and Toe Head. A sustained westerly wind will extend the flood and weaken the ebb. Expect confused seas with wind over tide.

Stag Sound
Direction Time Speed
East 4:35 before Cobh HW 2.5kn
West 1:50 after Cobh HW 2.5kn

Local HW/LW are about half an hour before Cork.

Lough Hyne

Lough Hyne, almost an inland salt-water lake, is Ireland’s first Marine Reserve. The lough is a pretty place, surrounded by hills covered by deciduous forests. Launch at a slipway on the northern shore. Commercial kayak businesses need a permit to operate on it. The Heritage centre in Skibbereen has a great video and touch tank to do with the lough and well worth a visit to learn about it.

Good car parking.  No camping allowed.

The interest of the lough to scientists lies in its deep, tidal, salt water in a controlled environment. Academics from universities all over Europe come to research the marine life to be found in the lough and its rapids. For instance, the lough boasts the biggest scallops found anywhere.

It is much loved by divers, as depths of 45m can be had with good visibility close to the shore in a sheltered environment, although any disturbance of the silty bottom soon puts an end to the visibility. The necessary authorisation/permit may be had locally.

The lough is famous for its night paddles, as there is excellent phosphorescence in the sheltered water.


The narrow entrance is known as The Rapids. The Lough fills for 4 hours and empties for the remaining 8 hours.  Typical of such a formation, the outgoing stream continues long after the tide outside has started to rise; the same happens in reverse although it is less pronounced.

Lough Hyne Rapids  
Direction Time Speed
In 3:20 before Cobh HW 6kn
Out 1:15 after Cobh HW 6kn

Local HW is about 20 minutes before Cobh.

The inward flow is deeper and over a longer area than the outgoing.  Therefore though the speed is similar the outgoing is much the more turbulent. Beware playing on the outgoing flow because the bottom and walls are covered in mussels which are very sharp and downright dangerous. Standing waves worthy of the interest of surfers form on outgoing spring tides near LW.  The ingoing stream also makes for a good (deeper, safer) rush of water, also worthy of play.

Castle Island

W097-284         Sheet 89

Castle Island is in the middle of the lough. On the island stand the ruins of O’Driscoll’s Castle, from which the name comes.

Bullock Island

W104-276         Sheet 89

Just downstream and east of the rapids of the famous Lough Hyne, this steep wooded island is joined to the mainland to the north by a spit, which is only covered at the highest tides, and on either side of which one may land. There is no camping and a steep track leads up into the dense woods where marine scientists have a shack for their observations of the special marine world locally. There are caves in the SW of the island.

Kedge Island

W067-242         Sheet 88

A rugged island lying about 3km east of the southern entrance to Baltimore Harbour, there is no easy landing, but there is a sheltered (from westerlies) inlet in the NW with reported rich flora and fauna (seals).  The arch at the SE doesn’t go.  Roost for many seagulls and seabirds.  Mighty cliffs all round.

The arch in the mainland headland immediately north does go for the brave in good conditions.  The narrow sound between island and mainland has a couple of rocks mid-channel and the flow speeds up through the gaps, cutting rough with wind over, so is is worth watching.

Launch from nearest point Trafraska W054-255, a sheltered inlet east of Baltimore and 1.5km NW.

West Cork

Roaringwater Bay to the Beara Peninsula

County Cork

Roaringwater Bay

Roaringwater Bay, in the extreme SW of Ireland, is excessively named. In fact, its many islands guarantee sheltered water in almost all conditions. Its userfriendly aspect makes it a most popular area for watersports and boating. The area generally tends to be very popular in summer, because there is always somewhere to hide in Roaringwater Bay.

From Sherkin and Cape Clear Islands in the south to Mizen Head in the west, it is more accurately called Long Island Bay. Roaringwater Bay proper is tucked into the sheltered NE corner.

A feature of virtually all the islands, caused by their sandstone geology, is ‘waisting’. Waists are narrow points where the islands are almost cut in two, and sometimes three, by the sea. Indeed, they may soon be. These waists are heavily relied on in the text for locational descriptions. -Beaches or landing points, and other places, are often located by reference to the waist. This waisting is not always obvious from a casual glance at the halfinch OS map, but the modern OS 1:50,000, sheet 88 does much better.


The many islands of the bay are reached from the pretty towns of Baltimore to the SE or Schull to the NW. Each town boasts every possible convenience to the holidaymaker. Here, as elsewhere in the region, the standard of pub and restaurant food is superb. Hostels and accommodation of all kind abound. Vehicles may conveniently be left in either location. Both towns are famous for their sailing schools, Baltimore having the edge perhaps. Baltimore has a regular year-round ferry to Sherkin and Cape Clear Islands. There is a ferry to Cape Clear Island in summer from Schull.  Technically the nearest launch for Cape Clear is Colla Pier V917-293, a pleasant spot, a refuge in campervannable terms from Schull.


The big picture is that the flood flows east from Mizen Head through the islands of the bay, and outside Cape Clear Island. Among the islands of the bay, the flood generally turns south and then east where circumstances suggest. In this way, the flood runs east along both the north and south sides of the islands, and generally south through sounds that run north/south. The reverse is also true, the ebb flowing generally west and north through the sounds.

This is particularly true of Gascanane Sound, between Sherkin and Cape Clear.

Important and predictable exceptions occur. The flood streams north through the sound between Long Island and Castle Island and ebbs south. This allows the large enclosed water area of Schull Harbour to the north to be filled and emptied. In the same way, the large enclosed water area of Baltimore Harbour fills from both sides, north and south. In the sound between Sherkin and the mainland, the flood is north and the ebb is south.

Piratical Baltimore

W028-257         Sheet 88

The ancient native Irish were comprehensively crushed in the military sense in 1601 with the battle of Kinsale.  The pacification of the countryside meant the land was ripe for exploitation / settlement by the victors. Farming would follow the fighting, in a common pattern, here as elsewhere. Pretty seaside Baltimore was among the earliest of villages ‘planted’ with residents of English, Irish and Danish origins. Mostly they fished. On 20th June 1631, the village had 26 huts in concentric circles, stone fireplaces, but the rest was made of straw. The village centre the was at the spot now locally called “The Cove”.  In a pirate raid unequalled before or after in Ireland, Baltimore had 235***** less residents at sundown than at dawn. The 235 were taken by Barbary corsairs out of Algiers in a mid-night raid. The raiders had a local pilot and a fair skinned Dutch commander, who had converted to Islam, and had “form”, having raided Iceleland for 400 slaves previously.  These oriental pillagers came ashore, burnt out the entire village, and took away the villagers.

There were two ships and 280 fighting men among the corsairs, of whom 230 went ashore. They set the roofs afire with tar torches and created lots of noise to confuse – 17th century ‘shock & awe’. They took everyone, from the elderly to the youngest babies, who would become maids and then ‘whatever’. Two male adults that resisted were hacked down.  Two elderly and therefore uneconomic adults were sent back from the ships before they sailed.

The main town where Baltimore now stands was essentially saved by a resident beating loudly and continuously on a drum, that put off most of the raiders from penetrating further inland.

Mostly, women and children were taken. Fair skinned Celtic women were then as now greatly prized in North Africa (as they are in Ireland) and commanded high prices (in Africa !). The slaves were treated well on the whole and only the wealthy were abused so that their entreaties home for ransom might be the more urgent. Such piracy was then commonplace, even commonly carried out by the British and other European states, under licence. One William Gunther ran a populist campaign that managed to shock Westminster with the scale of the Baltimore raid and keep the candle burning. Only one captive ever made it home, Joan Broadbrook, not entirely a happy occurrence.  Male “liberated” captives in such circumstances have typically fared well enough, while “returned” females have always been shunned, throughout history, worldwide.  Statistically, 10% of all Algerians are fair skinned.

15 years afterwards a strong Royal Navy presence in Algiers demanded the return of the Baltimore captives but only two wanted to go home.  Most had married, or converted to Islam, or just plain preferred the local weather, and politely declined.

***** Until a few years ago the statistic was actually 108 captives because the archivists only counted settlers, not the native Irish, who “only” transited from being servants to slavery.

Sherkin Island

W046-265         Sheet 88

Population 110 in winter, 150 in summer.  Named in English from Inis Arcáin in Irish, once spelt Inis Orcáin.

Embarkation and Landing

The pier in Baltimore Harbour is the embarkation place for the island. During busy periods the strand 0.5km southwest on the edge of town W043-260 can be less fussy, and the parking is better.  The main pier on Sherkin is on the east side of the island just below the abbey, all clearly visible from Baltimore. Here docks the regular ferry the Yoker Swan.  There is a water tap on the pier. The strand on the south side of the pier is a very sheltered, stony beach.


Prominent, ivy-clad O’Driscoll Castle stands 300m north of the pier. Below the castle is a very steep slipway, and above the castle is the hotel. The best camping is above the slipway, but hardly very private, and anyway best to ask in the hotel – temporarily closed in 2023, home to 57 Ukrainian refugees. There is a water tap just outside the hotel and another below ‘The Jolly Roger’ pub just up the road.


Sherkin welcomes day trippers and other tourists.  There are self catering options as well as guest houses and the one pub.  Bicycles are a good way of getting round, and the there is a hire shop above the pier at the crossroads.


The Globe Rocks, awash at LW, are just north of the pier. The sound at the NW of the island between it and Spanish Island is called ‘The Sound’.

Dock Pier is just west of the north entrance to The Sound, in a safe, well-sheltered ENE-facing cove at W023-273. Along the whole north side of the island, beware of the Cape Clear Island ferry, as the depth is shallow and the boats are very frequent in summer. Many yachts will also be encountered, many of which are being driven by beginners, and further care is needed in that regard.

The very sheltered Kinish Harbour on the NW side, which mostly dries, has a mighty current, perhaps 2kn, at the entrance at W017-259. Beware of Carrogoona Rocks just east of the entrance. It is only a 150m carry to Cow Strand at W014-253 from the quay at the SW side of the harbour.

West of the entrance to Kinish Harbour lay the Sherkin Island Marine Station until it closed 2015 with the retirement of Matt Murphy. The landing point at W011-260 involves a lot of weaving in between offshore rocks but the landing itself is quite sheltered. The Marine Station, in addition to its research activities, privately published works on bird life and natural sciences, particularly aquatic flora and fauna.  Especially recommended is their ‘Ireland’s Marine Life, A World of Beauty’, a stunning collection of underwater pictures taken locally in Roaringwater Bay.

Silver Strand at W011-255 is the more northerly and larger of two strands in the large curved bay on the west part of the north side of the island. Cow Strand W013-253 is the more southerly and smaller. each is a bit public in summer but a great spot nonetheless. Silver Strand is probably the best beach on the island and camping is to be had in the cliffs at the south end. Above both these beaches, an islander collects modest camping fees. Both beaches slope gently and attract big swells, getting dangerous when the wind is SW to NW.

300m-400m south of Cow Strand is Priest’s Bay at W011-248, which is very secluded. SW of Priest’s Bay is the nice, crescent-shaped, north-facing and very sheltered Trabaun Strand at W010-246. Another possibility on circumnavigation may be Tracrua at W003-241, a narrow inlet just south of Sherkin Point. Also sheltered is a little stoney beach at W003-238 inside Tranaurank Point about halfway down the SW tip of the island.  Crab Rock and Illaunbrock shelter it from much of the swell.  There is a house right on the waters edge there known as the Watchhouse. It was built in 1745 and what is now the front sitting room used to be a boathouse, and on occasion, it is said “the sea comes in” during big storms.


On an anticlockwise trip around, the coast from here to the well-named Horseshoe Harbour at W028-253 is more or less inaccessible all the way. Horseshoe Harbour lies just west of the sound to the east of the island, very near everything and very secluded. The rocky landing is in at the back.


Baltimore Harbour fills from both the northwest and from the south. These flood streams meet near Lousy Rocks in the middle of the harbour. The tidal stream floods east on both the northern and southern sides of Sherkin Island. After that, the combined stream heads east and then northeast into Church Strand Bay, northeast of the town. The ebb is the reverse.

Entrances to Baltimore Harbour
Direction Time
In 5:45 after Cobh HW
Out 0:25 before Cobh HW


Gascanane Sound
Direction Time Speed
SE 5:20 after Cobh HW 3kn
NW 0:55 before Cobh HW 3kn

The stretch of water around Cape Clear and Sherkin is not to be underestimated. In many places, especially Gascanane Sound, the tide runs fiercely, causing dangerous eddies and overfalls, especially near Carrigmore Rocks in the middle. The steep-to rock on the Sherkin side of the sound is Illaunbrock.


V998-232          Sheet 88

Illaunbrock is located in the Gascanane Sound south west of Sherkin Island. The island and its associated reefs are substantial in extent and the south west extremities of the island are dramatic. There is an attractive almost rectangular shaped bay along the island’s western edge. The walls rise steeply but landing is possible onto a boulder strewn storm beach of Atlantic dimensions in good conditions.  However access to the summit is only possible for those with good rock climbing skills. The narrow channels between the main island and its outliers merit exploration. Landings are also possible along the northern and north eastern edges onto slanting rock shelves. From here the walk to the summit is worth the effort as the views back to Sherkin and westwards to Cape Clear are cracking. Breeding Shags, Herring and Greater-black backed Gulls. Tiny Crab Isdland is nearby to the north at V999-237.

Cape Clear Island – Oileán Cléire

V954-218          Sheet 88

This Gaeltacht island is truly the Land’s End of SW Ireland. Cape Clear is actually the most SW point of Cape Clear Island, called Pointabullaun at V943-198. Mountainous, steep, and imposing, the island is home in winter to about 135 people or 110 voters and many more in summer. A ferry runs all year from Baltimore – twice daily in winter, more often in summer. In summer, there is also a ferry from Schull. The island has pubs, B&Bs, restaurants, two hostels, a well-appointed campsite at V954-212, windmills, very basic shops and provisions, and the most famous bird observatory in the country at V954-220.

The island is extremely waisted, the waist being known as ‘The Waist’, with the North Harbour to landward, and South Harbour on the seaward side. The waist itself is high and narrow, and the roads in the vicinity of the waist are extremely steep, that giving access to the east end of the island being called the A1 and having a gradient of about 1:4.

The co-operative club serves excellent meals and drink on the harbour, and Cotter’s Bar is also located here. There is a third wee pub up at the waist. A fourth, modern pub, Danny Mike’s, has been built just south of the waist, and excellent food may be had from breakfast to dinner time.

Dún an Óir” (Gold Fort) is the mediaeval castle on the projecting headland just WSW of the North Harbour. On private land, it was once an influential affair under the O’Driscolls, who ruled locally. The Spanish came in 1601 under Don Juan del Aquila. After the defeat of Gaelic Ireland in Kinsale that year, the castle, and Ireland generally, not to mention the Spanish, fell into decline.

There is the ruin of a lighthouse on the middle summit, which was the main landfall light for ships arriving from America during most of the 19th Century. Its light was too high up, and therefore too often obscured by fog. It was decided, after 100 lives were lost in a shipwreck in 1847, to build a lighthouse on the Fastnet Rock.

Incoming liners long ago passed by the island, and the passengers would toss messages overboard in sealed containers.  These were forwarded from the signal station and arrived in London hours before the ship.  The islanders were first in Europe to hear of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

The island would repay a fortnight’s visit, and the walking repays fitness.


The main landing is at the beach in the well-sheltered pier in North Harbour, where the ferry comes in. For a fleeting visit, land on the sandy beach, dead ahead of the harbour entrance. For longer visits, consider the remoter mud/shingle beach under the bird observatory in the inner harbour, hard right just inside the harbour entrance.

Should conditions allow, landing is also very sheltered in South Harbour. Land here easiest at the stony beach on the east side, inside the lovely old quay and under the youth hostel at V958-211.


A circumnavigation is a committing 15km and requires good conditions and planning. Note particularly that the tidal timings vary at each end of the island. The crux of the trip will always be off Cape Clear itself, west of South Harbour, but Gascanane Sound may provide technical interest also.

Begin and end at North or South Harbour. Landings, as waystops only, may be had on the north side V969-230 and V974-232, where roads are shown going down to the sea, inside the little rocky island Illauneana (V970-235). Both are stony landings, that to the east being steep also. The landing apparent on the map at V983-230 on the east side is very difficult. It is an exposed, steep slipway, impossible without good conditions and best avoided. There are no landings on the SE side, nor west of South Harbour round to North Harbour.

There is a mighty sea arch at Pointanbullig V959-203 on the east side of the South Harbour entrance.


The main camping is a well-appointed campsite at V954-212. For kayakers, this is inconvenient from the North Harbour, involving a long carry past the waist. Better by far is to land in South Harbour, on the west side, under the campsite.

The only possible camping ‘sauvage’ may be had inconveniently, on the north side where roads are shown going down to the sea V969-230 and V974-232, near the little rocky island Illauneana (V970-235). Nothing is known as to availability of water.


B&B and a hostel may be had at Cotter’s Bar, just above the main pier.

There is an ‘An Oige’ youth hostel at the South Harbour at V958-211. Those landing here will be well rewarded for their extra effort in terms of the welcome, as an outdoor pursuits centre runs from the hostel called ‘Cleire Lasmuigh’ or in the English, ‘Cape Clear Island Outdoors Activity’. Calm conditions are needed to paddle around to this spot.


At the pier in North Harbour is the Bird Observatory building, like a youth hostel. This (in season) is strictly for birders. The birding season locally is the autumn months of August through to November, so paddlers may be welcome at other times. Even in season, especially for those possessing binoculars and who know a covert from a supercilium, it may be worth asking.

When a new “first” (such as Yellow Bellied Sapsucker or Red Eyed Vireo, to name recent samples) gets reported on the bird grapevine, the island becomes suddenly thronged with highly motivated, intensely competitive individuals. They have all abandoned faraway families and jobs with zero notice, here to see, “tick” and “twitch” on the avian wonder that has dropped in. These people are not dangerous when approached, even when they occur in numbers. However, as they have no interest in those outside their own kind, they will mostly ignore you, so there is little point, and anyway they speak a language all their own.

Because of its extreme SW position, Cape Clear Island is directly in the path of long distance birds and cetaceans gaining and regaining the North Atlantic from all points east and south. Accordingly, Cape Clear is internationally famous for its migrants and vagrants, and virtually nowhere else in the country has as many rarities, and mega-rarities.

Most bird observation is done near the waist and on the west end of the island. Dawn and dusk sea-watching of both birds and cetaceans is done mostly from Blananarragaun at V948-197, which juts out at the extreme south tip of the island. Get there by following a path along the top of the cliffs on the west side of South Harbour. When approaching, it appears inaccessible, but keep your nerve, it is easy enough to scramble out. Morning or evening, this is one spot you will never have to yourself.

The area just behind the Youth Hostel is also a renowned birding spot, especially for the smaller passerines, and much ringing and counting takes place hereabouts. Good birds are seen further east on the island as well, especially on the north side, among the sheltered wooded spots.


There is excellent rock climbing on the Bill of Clear, thin, well-protected slabs, and some steeper work, with plenty of scope remaining V939-205. These are reported in the ‘New Climbs’ bulletins of the late ‘80s.


The flood tide arrives at the western end of Cape Clear and runs along the northern and south coasts at the following times:

North & south coast of Cape Clear
Direction Time
NE 4:20 before Cobh HW
SW 1:50 after Cobh HW

The situation is more complex on the eastern and western sides.

In the east in Gascanane Sound, the times are as follows:

Gascanane Sound
Direction Time Speed
SE 5:20 after Cobh HW 3kn
NW 0:55 before Cobh HW 3kn

In the west, the flood separates off the Bill of Clear (V937-204), which juts out from the northern tip of the western side. The northern branch is uncomplicated. The southern branch sets up heavy confused seas as it continues to Blananarragaun, the point 1.5km to the southeast, which juts out from the southern tip. After Blananarragaun, it makes a big eddy anticlockwise around the outer part of South Harbour.

On the ebb, there is a big eddy set up by Blananarragaun, clockwise to the Bill of Clear and back along the cliffs under Cape Clear. Thus, there is always a race off Blananarragaun when the tide is running and usually a heavy, confused sea state between Blananarragaun and the Bill of Clear.  It is all very confused and uncertain.

Offshore to the mighty Fastnet, the tides run east/west.

Fastnet Rock – Carraig Aonair

V885-163          Sheet 88

Fastnet is remote. It lies about 20km from Baltimore or Schull. It is easiest reached from Cape Clear Island at about half that distance. The rock itself is 24m high and the lighthouse projects way beyond. It is a bleak, desolate place, its buildings all shuttered, its stairs and pathways steep and narrow and unprotected by maintained railings for the most part.

A first attempt to build the lighthouse was in cast iron, completed in 1853. It wasn’t a success. In 1899, they began a granite replacement. This was first constructed in Cornwall of numbered blocks, 2,074 of them, weighing 3 – 5 tons each, and then dismantled.  The blocks were taken first to Rock Island, off Crookhaven, and reassembled, in small parcels. Not one rock was found faulty, so that no adjustment at all was needed.  Then everything was again dismantled, and eventually the whole thing reassembled again on the Fastnet. This was achieved without fatality, unusually in the Irish experience. The design and overseeing engineer was William Douglas, the chief stonemason Kames Kavanagh.  The whole task was completed in 1904.

The blocks are special.  Each block is cut so as to interlink or knit in with the rock alongside, below, and above, like a cross between Lego and a three dimension jigsaw.  Stonemasons term this the “dovetail toggle“. Under such a system, partial failure is not an option. – the whole thing comes down or the whole thing stands firm, a stern test even for the North Atlantic.


Founded in 1925, the Fastnet Race is a biennial offshore yacht race organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club of the United Kingdom with the assistance of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes and the city of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin in France.  The race starts in Cowes, is named after the Fastnet Rock, which the race course rounds, and finishes in Cherbourg. The race is considered one of the classic big offshore races, the ‘Fastnet’ is testing both inshore and offshore skills, boat and crew preparation and speed potential.

In 1979 it all turned disastrous.  The race resulted in the deaths of 18 people, 15 competing yachtsmen, and three rescuers. A total of 86 yachts finished. There were 194 retirements and 24 abandoned yachts, including five that sank.  The winning yacht was named “Tenacious”.  That was all before routine harnesses / lifejackets, screwgate krabs, a lot of things taken for granted these days.


Schull and Baltimore are each the bones of 20km. If possible, maybe break the journey in or out or both in Cape Clear Island, in the main North Harbour or, out of Baltimore, more directly in line onto hard rock inside the mighty sea arch at Pointanbullig V959-203 on the east side of the South Harbour.  Nearest mainland launch as the crow flies is 13km at Galley Cove V789-246 at Crookhaven, or 14km from Colla Pier V917-293 outside Schull.  Trip planning is a tension between getting the tidal flow right and not arriving at LW, if wanting to go ashore.


This is one of the more exposed lighthouse island landings, always subject to surge and scend. Certainly, few enough kayakers get here, because it is remote, but far fewer still go ashore, because to do so is so difficult. Fastnet is on a shallow shelf, always kicking up in the 200m or so around the rock. The landing platform is at the SE corner. Consider sending half the party ashore at a time, for safety. The steps for landing are approximately 01m proud of the water at LW. This has not been accurately measured, but a substantial height differential has been absolutely verified, so it complicates a slingshot approach to trip planning, where one would leave Cape Clear on the ebb, arrive at the Fastnet at LW and return on the start of the flood.


In prevailing westerlies, local kayakers agree it is perhaps best to do the whole thing on the flood. This allows one to arrive in plenty of time to land, take photos and rest before coming ‘home’ on the last of the flood.

Between Fastnet and Cape Clear
Direction Time Speed
East 4:20 before Cobh HW 2.5kn
West 1:50 after Cobh HW 2.5kn

However, near the rock itself, it swerves more north / south as follows:

Within 2km of the Fastnet
Direction Time Speed
SSE 4:05 before Cobh HW 2.25kn
NNW 2:00 after Cobh HW 2.25kn

With westerly winds, the flood starts earlier and runs harder and the ebb starts earlier and runs harder in easterlies.

Beware also of the shallow areas northeast and southwest of the Rock which can throw up confused seas.

Spanish Island

W030-274         Sheet 88

The island is overgrown with difficult vegetation. The main landing spot is on the east side, under the ruined house W036-276. This island was obviously once a valued asset, but has now gone to ruin.

On the east side, there is a mangrove swamp type of environment, Aghillaun Pool. It dries out at springs, is isolated, and possesses a primitive feeling. It might be a campsite for refuge in bad westerly weather. There is a sheltered landing in a shallow bay on the east side of the north entrance to Baltimore Harbour W030-274.


W037-282         Sheet 88

A small, interesting satellite of Spanish Island to its NE. Its 3 tors make interesting scrambling. No water or camping.

Sandy Island

W023-277         Sheet 88

Off the north side of Sherkin Island, this 5ha island has no sand. There is an old effort at a slipway on the east side near the old 1960’s style holiday home. The house collects its own rainwater, but has mains electricity. Goat, heather, gorse. Would benefit from more grazing.

The Catalogues

W018-275         Sheet 88

Smaller offshoot of Sandy Island, to its west. Heather and gorse mainly. Many goats.

Land on a small sandy beach on the east side.

Hare Island

V997-279          Sheet 88

This inhabited low-lying island is the biggest in central Roaringwater Bay. It is ‘T’ shaped, with waists both west and south of the junction. The main residential area and fishing port, noted for its quaint bridge, is on the north side of the west waist. The ferry comes in at the extreme east point W012-284 from Cunnamore Pier at W011-289 on the mainland opposite to the north. Note the steps cut into the solid rock long before the modern pier was constructed.

There is a famous restaurant on the island, the waiting list for which is legendary. Noted for its food being exclusively obtained on the island, the restaurant is known as ‘Island Cottage’, phone 028 38102.

Locals say ”Heir Island”, Inis Uí Drisceoil and Inishodriscol, and O’Driscoll’s Island is also used, after a powerful local clan.


There are landing points at either side of each waist, the best being on either side of the south waist. Of these, the east side probably just wins out, as the island is generally more attractive at its east end. Generally, the west end is more rugged where landings to camp may perhaps be forced for privacy.

The west side of the south waist is a good waystop, as there is fine shelter for picnicking behind a stone wall.

There are two islets on the north side, but the sounds are narrow, and the more easterly dries at springs.


Tides run strongly around both sides of the island, flooding southeast and ebbing northwest, and achieving 2kn in springs off the western side, downstream of Anima Rock, halfway across to Calf Island. There are two islets on the northern side, but the sounds are narrow and the more easterly dries at springs.

Skeam East

V997-291          Sheet 88

A most attractive, tall, conifer-topped island. Goats and cows graze, and there are ruined stone farmhouses. The island is interesting, varied, and attractive. There is a seaarch in the SW. Generally a lovely island.

Landing and camping

There are landing places either side of the central eastwest waist, on sheltered beaches, (sandy west and pebbly east). There are idyllic campsites just above both. There is a small, remote pebble beach on the SW with good camping. No water found, anywhere.

Tides flood generally east and south around the island, the ebb reversing the process.

Skeam West

V986-287          Sheet 88

This eastwest lying island, NW of Hare, is also waisted eastwest. Coming from the NW (Schull) direction, there is a prominent wall, a slab, and some deep cuts, seen along the north side. The west end of the waist is not at all obvious, but is to be found at about the position of the wall. Here a sheltered pebble beach leads onto a rough longgrass campsite.

A landing may be had also at the slab, in a deep cut, typical of this island.

On the east side of the waist, opposite Skeam East, is another sheltered pebble beach, below refurbished, stone holiday houses. Here water perhaps may be had in summer.

The island is ungrazed and so is unattractive to most passing campers.

Tides flood generally east and south around the island, the ebb reversing the process. There is the ruin of a church.

Calf Island (East)

V967-266          Sheet 88

The low-lying Calf Islands occupy the most central position in the whole bay. Hares are said to roam free on all three islands. Calf Island East is the most attractive of the three Calf islands.

There is a holiday house by the deep cut into the south side. Residents may therefore appear, but unlikely perhaps. Behind the cut is a brackish lake, where grazing cows congregate. Camp at the cut.

Camp elsewhere, particularly on the east side where there are many attractive little beaches backed by dunes. The most attractive of these is in the north. There is also a splendid, similar campsite on the west end of the north side.

Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Calf Island (Middle)

V955-262          Sheet 88

The central Calf Island is grazed by cows, and is a most attractive island with abandoned houses in the middle. There are pebble beaches for landing in the middle/west sound. A noted feature of the island is the wall building between the fields, very toothy, very dramatic. Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Calf Island (West)

V947-257          Sheet 88

The west island is overgrown. It has no real beach, and perhaps there is a connection with Calf Island Middle. There are abandoned houses in the middle. Landing is in the sheltered part of the sound. Local paddlers prefer this of the three Calf islands for single overnight trips.

Carthy’s Islands

V954-280          Sheet 88

A scattered group of little islands. Only the largest, westerly island has easy, all-weather landing, onto stony beaches in cuts on the east side. These should be chosen according to tide height. These islands make a pretty group. They also make a strategically placed waystop for any tour of Roaringwater Bay, particularly one based out of Schull.

Both Common and Grey Seal are present. Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Mannin Beg

W019-328         Sheet 88

The smallest of the four small islands tucked into the far NE corner of Roaringwater Bay proper, Mannin Beg is nevertheless known worldwide for its Norman keep restored for modern living at great expense by actors Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack.  Such buildings were always built of stone, which is not necessarily an entirely weathertight arrangement and require maintenance.  The owners plastered the external walls top to bottom.  Whatever interaction took place between the old stone and the modern plaster, and there are many theories to be had on the subject, it is really not known how it all ended up the colour it did.  Iron sulphate, a common weedkiller, in the plaster mix is a popular theory.  Certainly it is unlikely to have been intentional.  At first a violent pinkish red, it has now faded to a rusty orange.  The good news is that everyone locally is settled in with what is agreed by all to be an excellent and very visible landmark.

The parts of the island not covered by the castle and its ramparts have been planted with mixed forestry, and the conifers are faring better.

There is road access to the island on the NE side, but kayakers will manage passage under it at all stages of the tide.  There is a pontoon arrangement by the bridge, on the island side.

There is no obvious access point to this corner of the bay and certainly a quay up towards Ballydehob at W006-341 is awkward even for one car and not recommended.

Mannin Island

W016-325         Sheet 88

Largest and most central of this group, Mannin is given over to the wild.  Grass, heather, furze and gorse make progress difficult.A small herd of goat in 2006 may make a difference.  Beachlet landings in SW and SE.


W014-324         Sheet 88

Illaunahnee is also given over to the wild, again with grass, heather, furze and gorse, but also briars.  Unattractive.  Land south side.


W013-323         Sheet 88

As small as Mannin Beg, yet the most attractive island of the group.  Grass and heather.  Sausage shaped and flat on top.  Land at east tip in tiny cove.Wonder at the mussel fisheries all around and admire the open and beautiful views.

Horse Island

V977-302          Sheet 88

This east – west lying island, just east of Castle Island, is waisted north/south near its west end. A landing may be had north (by a pier) or south (on a beach) of the waist. The island is not grazed by domestic animals of any description. Accordingly, the grass is universally long and unsuitable for camping. Experimental forestation is being conducted, with both deciduous and coniferous trees, even on the highest ground. There are magnificent refurbished stone – built houses, one very substantial. They have generated electricity, and their own water supply.

Privately owned and not welcoming to passing recreational users.

Castle Island

V959-297          Sheet 88

A most attractive island, reached easily from Schull. Sheep graze so the camping and walking is easy. The island is very attractive to explore, being formerly sparsely populated. The boreens are nicely laid out, and the views are excellent. Good value all round. Chough nest, and Peregrine hunt.


Long Island, Castle Island Channel
Direction Time Speed
East Cobh LW 1.5kn
West Cobh HW 1.5kn

Landing and Camping

The obvious landing point is at the beach at the pier under the castle at V959-298. In settled weather, more private and attractive camping may be had at a landing place on the south side of the waist on a beach at V959-296. Best camping of all perhaps, sheltered and with short grass, is by a group of abandoned houses at the extreme NE tip at V965-300. Here a landing may be had either side of a pebble spit. This site may be best for a stay of any duration, being remote from the normal access at the pier. No water found – anywhere, but a plentiful supply has been reported.

Long Island

V920-285          Sheet 88

The island is best known for its lighthouse (white tower) V934-290 at its east end, marking the entrance to Schull Harbour and known locally as Copper Point Lighthouse, with landing steps, a place to stop and picnic and poother. As the name suggests, this attractive island is long, 5kmx500m. Cattle are towed out to the island.  One boat tows another, and the towed boat has the cow attached to its stern, held fast. In more leisurely days, the cows swam the channel. Two persons live permanently on the island.

Landing and camping

The main landing on this inhabited island is midway along its north (sheltered, landward) side opposite the mainland, on a beach inside the pier.

The main habitation is in this area. There is more holiday habitation further west. Further west again, the island is waisted north/south. On both sides of the waist, there are beaches and attractive camping sites. That on the south is less obvious as it is in a hidden and sheltered cove. Just further west of the waist, on the sheltered north side, is the wildest camping site in a cove near the west tip of the island V901-277 and which may provide a handy launchpad for Fastnet. Water is in the houses, and may be elsewhere.

Coney Island

V908-287          Sheet 88

On the east side of the mouth of Croagh Bay, a small, ungrazed, privately owned island with a refurbished holiday home. Beaches on NE and SE tips and on the west side.

Goat Island (Beg)

V887-269          Sheet 88

The smaller Goat Island is extremely difficult to land on. It has a white conical marker on its seaward, southerly tip. A deep-water landing may be had in the channel with a most exposed scramble up a ramp on a slab of rock. Alternatively, perhaps on a very good day, landing may be made elsewhere.

Beware the West side of the channel between the two Goats in any sort of bounce.

Goat Island (Mór)

V888-273          Sheet 88

The main Goat Island is ‘L’ shaped and has a ruined cottage and lazy beds on the eastern leg. Fences suggest recent grazing. Certainly, despite the lack of obvious grazing, in the summer of 95 the island was not overgrown. It was really quite inviting, a most attractive island. A deep-water landing may be had onto a natural but steep-sloping ramp at the east tip, just south of a prominent sea arch.

At the join of the ‘L’, there is a sea arch where, except at the highest tides, there is a sand bank in the middle, but no reasonable access to the interior.  For a couple of hours either side of HW this makes for a lovely passage, highly recommended.


Crookhaven / Galley Cove

Galley Cove V789-245 is laid out as a picnic spot, but however it is mostly used as a wild camping site, and locals advise there is no problem with camping there. There are four individual slightly raised hardstand BBQ sites which are thereby dryer for tent pitching, and beside them is plenty of grass in good conditions. The site is between Galley Cove and (by its local name – Cockleshell Beach) or White Strand (per the OS) V788-248 just across the road. Have a look at where the area is clearly visible from a few of the photos. It is a good mile walk along the road to Crookhaven, which has no footpath for most of it, and with a few blind corners, so it is nearly as easy to paddle down for provisions and a pint. Call into O’Sullivans on the pier in Crookhaven for local information. There is a small shop attached to O’Sullivans bar for basic provisions.

Galley Cove is just about the closest accessible departure point to the Fastnet, and very suitable for aiming to get to Fastnet at HW (which would solve the LW “steps out of the water” issue).

There are some lovely deep caves a short paddle around the corner West from Galley Cove, to the inside of Reen Point V787-242, the caves facing West.

A nice short trip is a lap of Crookhaven starting and finishing on Cockleshell beach. The cars can be parked at Galley Cove and only require a short carry. Be sure to do it clockwise as there is a fantastic tunnel V818-255 through the waisting immediately inside Streek Head V819-255.  The entry is spectacular, and the exit is relatively sheltered, however if in any doubt, first go around the point to check it out.


Mizen Head

A place of strong tides, big seas and a real feeling of exposure.

There is a super cave just below Mizen Head, on the South side, below the car park for the visitors centre at V742-236.  The cave faces West so can only be entered on very calm days. Very deep (150m perhaps) with loads of colours throughout, there is a beach at the very back which can have many seals resting on it.  Voted by locals to be a truly most spectacular cave.

Day Tripping

Launch nearest from Barley Cove on the East side, but the put in spot will vary with conditions.  More dependable is Galley Cove V789-245.  On the North side the position is far more uncertain.  The nearest haul out is at the infamous Dunlough Bay V739-266, which is exposed.  This was the scene of Ireland’s and Europe’s largest ever illegal drug smuggling seizure in 2012 when a RIB foundered in the bay, the petrol engine having been filled with diesel.  The slip is steep, there is an old windlass, a pier with steps, and seemingly always a surge. Quite exposed and a good distance in from a straight line crossing from Mizen to Three Castle Head, this only of use in exceptionally calm days, and not worth investigating in passing speculatively.

From the carpark above the slip there is a lovely walk (20 odd minutes each way) to Three Caste Head.  The three castles are in a spectacular setting, well worth the trip. Access is across private lands, with a donation box for the upkeep.

Toor Pier V749-283 is 3km beyond Three Castle Head and is only slightly the better option.  It too needs very gentle conditions, as otherwise the slip is very steep and overgrown.  It has a reputation as a boat eater, but seal launching plastic boats is quite possible.  Steps nearby are also smothered in weed, and it isn’t easy.  The pier is popular with divers, who can manage better.  Vehicular approach is a bit tedious.  There is no other convenient safe option short of Dunmanus Harbour V848-333 at fully 10km ENE save for equally awkward to drive to Dooneen / Gurtduff Cuas V800-317.

Beware of a race between Mizen and Three Castle Head, especially with wind against tide.


Mizen Head
Direction Time Speed
SSE 5:05 before Cobh HW 4kn
NNW 1:20 after Cobh HW 4kn


Dunmanus Bay

Toor Island

V747-284          Sheet 88

The island is located in a superb area for sea kayakers and any approach is a committing sea journey. The nearest embarkation point on the north side of the Mizen Peninsula is from Dooneen / Gurtduff Cuas V800-317.  The 6.5 kms from Dooneen to Toor Point is an impressive section of the Irish coastline and Toor Island combined with Bird Island and the coastal scenery en route makes for a quality sea kayaking day.

A more difficult launch from an old pier located at the lovely named Puntamacaunta V748-285 may be possible but the feasibility and access and parking has yet to be assessed. (January 2017).

Toor Island is smaller in size than nearby Bird Island but has similar characteristics in having much the same geological alignment and rock structures. The south facing sides are steep while the north west and north facing are a gentler gradient. Landing is possible in good weather onto rocky slabs along the north western side.

The climb to the summit is relatively straightforward following some ramps and cuts and the views are worth the effort. The island is rocky and steep and   has little vegetation and camping is not possible.

There are attractive sea arches lying inshore of the island and a small beach close to Toor Point is a useful lunch way stop but only at the lower stages of the tide. Grey Seal and Black Guillemot were seen in January 2017.

Bird Island

V770-305          Sheet 88


The closest possible launching site is from the pier and steep slipway at Dooneen Cuas at V800-317 also known locally as Gurthdove Cuas. Kayakers using this pier should be aware that parking is very limited and park with due respect for local fishermen/users.

Bird Island is a large and imposing island located on the northern side of the Mizen Peninsula. The island is impressive in scale as one approaches from east or west. There are fine steep cliffs on its southern side and the passage between the islands southern flank and the mainland is memorable. There is a real challenge for future rock climbers to scale some of the south facing rock faces.

Surprisingly, the island’s northern rock ledges are much less steep and landing in calm conditions onto rock ledges is quite feasible.  Landings are probably best timed around local low tide. The scramble to the summit is worth the effort as the views are superb. The island was formerly grazed by sheep but not in recent years. There is a good sward of marine grasses and sea beet on the summit ridges. Cormorant, Shag, Greater Black backed Gull, Herring Gull and Black Guillemot present in January 2017.

The book North side of the Mizen (Mizen Press 1999) by McCarthy & Hawkes contains some references to Bird Island and the surrounding foreshore areas.

Carbery Island

V845-357          Sheet 88

The largest of the group of islands nestling in against the south shore of the bay, about halfway down. This island is the only one of the group with a dwelling. It was privately owned by an Englishman in 2001, who reputedly used it for a fortnight or so in August each year. The house is beautiful, built to a very high specification, in local stone and aged pitch pine. It has its own generator, deep well, and septic tank. The island suffers for being ungrazed and is thus given over universally to long grass, gorse, and heather. Otter and Grey Seal.


Land at a beach below the house midway on the east side. Here a pontoon has been thoughtfully provided. No water is available to casual passers-by. Camping is not easy because of long grass. Respect the privacy of the owner at all times.

In January 2017 the house unfortunately had signs of forced entry with both damage to the glass on the front door and a rear window being broken but a temporary repair had been carried out in both cases, thankfully there seemed to be little internal damage to the house.

The pontoon of 2001 is no longer present.

Furze Island

V853-354          Sheet 88

An inappropriately named island in the middle of the group, this pleasant grassy island had not in (2012) been recently grazed, however walking was still good for much of the island. The island is perhaps named for an area of gorse found along the NE side,  that makes for tough going. Almost as large as Carbery, one may camp almost anywhere. The craggy and indented southern coast is attractive kayaking. Landing is best at the NE tip onto shingle and boulder. No water found.

In 2012 there was a small colony of Shags along the southern crags, 1 pair Chough, Otter, Grey Seals.

Horse Island

V856-352          Sheet 88

A small member of the group closest to the mainland on the Mizen side, it boasts a large Sally tree (Salix Caprea), most unexpectedly, in the NE corner. Landing is possible  just below the tree onto a gravel spit that, at LW, separates the island from an off-lying rock. Alternatively, land at the head of a deep inlet at the same point. Ungrazed. No water. No camping. Otter holt under Sally tree in April 2012.

Cold Island

V851-359          Sheet 88

Cold Island is the smallest of the group, and lies to the ENE of Carbery, an ungrazed  low lying island  of maritime grasses and rocky outcrops and shoals. Known locally for its seal population, there is also a strong roosting colony of Sandwich Tern. No water. Camping difficult and there are  more attractive options available within the greater group.  . Landing is best  at a sandy beachlet at the east end of a cut, which almost severs the island from an area of rock to its north. Otter and Grey Seal.

In December 2016, 45 Purple Sandpiper were observed roosting at high tide on the island. This is an unusually high number for this species in Cork. Turnstone and Oystercatcher were also recorded in good numbers.

Scurvygrass Island

V859-360        Sheet 88

This grassy topped rocky islet lies just west of Lusk Island V860-361. The passage between it and Lusk Island and between it and the mainland remain open at all stages of the tide for kayakers.  It and Lusk Island provide a good alternative days kayaking for a group on passage to the main Dunmanus Bay southern group of islands. Otter present in December 2016. Otter like Scurvygrass.  Scurvygrass (Spoonwort) is the predominant plant on the island along with Sea Thrift and Furze.  Before the importance of vitamin C was understood, Scurvygrass was an important cure / preventative measure against scurvy on long sea voyages.

Lusk Island

V860-361          Sheet 88

The island is bigger than one would expect and is an attractive mixture of rock, heather and grasses. The views are worth the effort of landing especially those looking westwards towards Carbery and Furze Islands and along the north side of the Mizen Peninsula.  Camping possibilities are quite good but no water found. Otters seen in the area and lots of evidence of their presence found in December 2016.

Lusk Island is located east of the dominant Dunmanus Bay islands group of Carbery, Horse, Furze and Cold Islands and lies closer inshore.

The island lies close inshore to the mainland and has extensive drying out areas at low tide. This inside passage is not navigable at the lower points of the tide. The island is low lying with attractive stony beach located on its eastern side.

Embarkation:  The closest access point is from a small unmarked pier located a kilometre east of the island at V867364 where there is enough parking for a small group. There is a convenient small beach for launching. Otherwise the only other option is at Dunmanus Pier. V849334.

Mannion’s Island (Large)

V923-407        Sheet 88

Mannion’s Island (Large) is located in the sheltered NE corner of Dunmanus Bay. It is quite a big island and dominates the approaches to Durrus at the head of the bay. Extensive mussel and possibly oyster farms are located SE of the island. The island is thickly vegetated at its east end but walking is possible along the coastal edges and much easier on its west end. There was an attractive display of early spring flowers in April 2012 and much evidence of Otters. The views all round are good and merit a landing.

Landing is onto small rocky beach on the east end. Camping is possible but not very attractive. No water found.

Mannion’s Island (Small)

V924-409        Sheet 88

Mannion’s Island (small) is a tiny islet that trebles in extent at times of LW allowing landings on all sides. There is little of interest to attract a passing kayaker although the present of Otter may allow for a rare encounter. No camping and no water.

Owen’s Island

V870-391        Sheet 88

Owen’s Island is located about 1km SW of the pier at Ahakista. The island’s main interest is a small arch on the north side and good numbers of seabirds. There is a colony of Cormorants.  Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Greater Black-backed Gulls all breed.

Landing is on to rock shelves along the more sheltered north / east sides. Camping possible but is not very attractive. No water found.

Pointabulloge Island

V849-377        Sheet 88

Pointabulloge Island is a pleasant long narrow island that is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel. Passage through the channel is only possible at times close to HW as the area dries quickly. The island is grazed and walking is attractive.

Camping is good, although water was not found. Landing is best at east end of the channel onto a small stony beach at times of HW, otherwise onto rocky foreshore.

Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and Otter present.

Illaunglass (East)

V824-369          Sheet 88

A small elongated shaped island separated from the mainland by narrow channel. The channel is navigable at most stages of the tide but suspicion that it may be problematic at times of LWS.

The island is ungrazed but is still quite a pleasant way stop for kayakers as the views both east and west are attractive. Camping is possible but no water found. Landing is onto rock ledges at the eastern end of the narrow channel. Launch from the nearby quay and slipway at Kilcrohane V824-371

Otter present.

Illaunglass (West)

V802-359          Sheet 88

Small craggy island located just off beautiful newly refurbished Dooneen Pier. There is no slipway at the pier but launching is possible off either of two sets of steps. An easier launching site is at the nearby quay and slipway at Kilcrohane V825-371.

The island is best accessed at the NW corner onto steep rocky foreshore. The island is heavily vegetated and quite sheer on all sides and holds little interest for kayakers. A narrow passage separates the island from the mainland. The coastal scenery is quite attractive in the locality.

No camping and no water.

Bantry Bay

It is a feature of many of the smaller inner-Bantry Bay islands that surround Whiddy is that landing often isn’t difficult, but further progress inland can be very much so, mostly because of wraparound raised mud cliffs, but also for sheer overgrowth, and often for both.


The handiest put in point for Whiddy and its satellites is undoubtedly at the slipway V983-482, on the road west out of Bantry town, just by the graveyard.  There is good parking and easy launching at a slipway and gravel beach.  Note in particular that the ferry pier in Bantry 1km east can be very busy, though it does have toilets and water.

History of the area

A major pilchard fishery flourished until late in the 1700s. It is estimated that over 3,000 were engaged in that industry at its height. Just as when the Donegal herring fishery collapsed suddenly at much the same time, the devastation to the local economy was horrendous.  Unlike pilchards, most other fishing is seasonal, and relatively small time.

The major modern historical event in the history of Bantry was the arrival in the bay in 1798 of a French invasion fleet of 15,000 men organised by Wolfe Tone.  However, like a previous French effort a century earlier, this invasion took place in December, which was bad timing. The weather turned into a full blown storm from the NE. Some of the French vessels managed to enter the bay and anchor but the weather deteriorated further. The French cut their anchor cables and headed to sea. Had their invasion succeeded, maybe Corkmen might be speaking French to this day?

The redoubt at Reenavanny on Whiddy Island was built 1806/1807 for 100 – 150 men and 8 – 12 guns, to oppose a Napoleonic threat.  That Napoleon’s naval capabilities had been utterly destroyed at Traflgar in 1805 didn’t stop the work.  No gun was ever fired in anger from any Irish Martello tower or battery of this kind built at that time for that purpose.

From then on Bantry Bay was the main western base for the British Royal Navy, never more so than during the years leading up to the First World War. During the war it was not unusual to see up to forty British warships at anchor in the Bay. No wonder there are fifty two pubs in Bantry.

In September 1918 the US Navy Air Wing established a seaplane base here, at the WSW end of Whiddy Island and it patrolled the area around Fastnet. Five planes were based in Whiddy. The first sinking of a German submarine by an aircraft happened off the mouth of Bantry Bay. With the end of the war the station closed in January 1919.

In 1938 the ports of Ireland including Swilly, Cobh, Berehaven and Bantry Bay were handed back to the State. The sight of dozens of warships in the bay ceased and the economy of the towns and villages around the bay spiralled downwards.

The Whiddy Island Disaster

Whiddy is the site of a large oil terminal constructed in the WSW in 1967 by Gulf Oil.  On Monday, January 8, 1979 a French oil tanker, the Betelgeuse, was unloading a cargo of crude oil at the oil terminal when it exploded. The blast and subsequent fire killed 50 people. The facility was subsequently transferred to the Irish government in 1986 after which it has since been used to hold the Irish strategic oil reserve.

During the 1960s, developments in the pattern of oil transportation indicated that it would soon become most economic to move oil between the Middle East and Europe using ultra large crude carrier vessels (ULCCVs). These vessels were so large that they would not be able to enter most of the older ports on the Atlantic Ocean, North Sea or English Channel coasts.  Accordingly, it was judged appropriate to build a new oil terminal in Europe capable of handling the largest vessels that were planned.

The intention was that oil coming from the Middle East would be off-loaded at this terminal and then stored for transshipment to European refineries using smaller vessels. The closure of the Suez Canal in 1967 as a result of the Six-Day War reinforced the economic viability of this scheme. Oil shipments had to come round the Cape of Good Hope, thus making redundant the vessel size constraints previously imposed by the canal.

In 1966, Gulf Oil identified Whiddy Island as being the most suitable site in Europe for the new terminal, because it offered a long, sheltered deep-water anchorage, well away from any major population centres and shipping lanes. The terminal was operational by 1969.

The offshore facility was comprised of an island type berth (known colloquially as “the jetty”) 488m in length, approximately 396m from the shore of the island. The jetty was capable of accommodating vessels of up to 500,000 metric tons of deadweight (DWT), although no such vessels existed at that time.

The terminal was very successful for the first five years of operation, but then events began to move against it. The Suez Canal reopened and the economics of ULCCVs began to appear less satisfactory. The late 1970s saw a levelling-off in demand for oil as the result of both economic recession and a rise in the price of oil. All these circumstances caused a fall in the utilisation of the terminal to a level below that which had been planned for. Thus, by the late 1970s, Gulf Oil was struggling to maintain the viability of the terminal. The company had been forced to undertake a number of cost saving measures.

Late on 6 January 1979, the Betelgeuse commenced discharging its 114,000 tonnes of crude oil, which was expected to take about 36 hours. Early on Monday, 8 January, a rumbling or cracking noise was heard from the vessel, followed shortly by a huge explosion within its hull. The force of the explosion was seen to blow men from the jetty into the sea. Local residents reported seeing the Betelgeuse engulfed in a ball of fire a few moments later. A series of further explosions followed, breaking the vessel in half. Much of the oil cargo still on board ignited and this generated temperatures estimated to exceed 1,000 °C. The concrete jetty crumbled and firefighters were unable to get near the vessel. The firefighters concentrated their efforts on preventing the fire from spreading to the tanks of the storage farm and on containing the oil spillage. Local families living on the island fled for their lives.

The Betelgeuse sank at her moorings in 30m of water, which largely extinguished the main body of the fire. In spite of this, rescue workers were not able to approach the wreck (some of which was still above water) for two weeks due to clouds of toxic and inflammable gas surrounding it. After two weeks, it was possible to start recovering bodies from the wreck and pumping off the remains of the oil cargo that was still on board.

The Irish government appointed a tribunal to investigate the incident, which took a year to hear evidence and prepare a 480 page report. That seemed extravagant at the time, but more recent Irish legal experiences make it seem a model of efficiency.  The report indicated three main factors that had contributed to the incident:

  • The poor condition of the Betelgeuse which had been worked hard and was at the end of its service life,
  • Incorrect unloading sequences and ballasting, and
  • Inadequate and poorly maintained fire fighting and rescue systems both on the vessel and on the jetty.

All the crew on board the ship at the time of the incident (41 in total) are believed to have died, although not all the bodies were found. In addition, one visitor to the ship (an officer’s wife) and eight terminal workers were killed. During the salvage operation, the life of a diver was lost.

In 1986, Gulf surrendered its lease on the site to the Irish government.  The government used the terminal to hold its strategic oil reserve. Initially, oil movement to and from the terminal was carried out by road. In 1990, at the time of the first Gulf War, an improvised repair was carried out to the jetty to allow an oil tanker to offload at the terminal on a one-off basis. In 1996 an unloading buoy was installed and this has been used since that time.

A memorial sculpture, incorporating the ship’s bell which was recovered from the wreck, has been erected in the hillside graveyard close by the embarkation point, overlooking the harbour. The bodies of two unidentified casualties from the incident are interred nearby.

Whiddy Island

V970-495          Sheet 85

Step back in time when you land.  Whiddy exists in 1920s style, except for the oil storage facility in the WSW end.  With the otherwise exception of a lovely pub (with tennis court) the Bank House at the ferry quayside, the roads and fields are straight from a period film.  There is only one really nice swimming place, on a beach to the NE at V969-507, but no road goes there.  The scale of the mussel fishing on the east side has to be seen to be believed.  There seems to be a couple of batteries and forts, redoubts even, also up the NE, but any access seems private.  Even the public roads have occasional gates, presumably for convenience driving cattle.  There is the impression that if one got to know its ways, Whiddy would open up to the tourist, but all in all the day-tripper isn’t accommodated the way he might be used to on similar sized islands elsewhere.

A bicycle is a worthwhile asset exploring the island on a day-trip.  All the roads are cul-de-sacs so walking would be wearisome eventually.  The oil storage is a “must see” with more than a dozen big containers housing the nation’s strategic oil reserves, that constantly vent and groan.  The big ships don’t come ashore anymore, so the jetty 300m off the WSW point is redundant and looks like a scene from a post apocalypse movie.  The south shore is prettiest, especially around the Kilmore Lakes.  Goats.

The island is about 6km long and 2.5km wide. As late as 1880 it had a resident population of around 450, mainly engaged in fishing and small-scale farming. It currently has a permanent resident population of around 20 people, although there are many visitors in the tourist season.

The island is linked to the mainland by the Ocean Star ferry, which runs return trips several times a day, and in summer, cruises around the island are also available.


The main landing spot is at the ferry quayside at Trawnahaha V969-495, on beaches either side.  In 2008 there was an artificial beach on the east side, courtesy of Conoco Oil, where a new slipway was put in to take the car ferry that services the oil storage facility.  Chance the mussels or chowder at the Bank House, splendid each.


Tides flow strongly between the island and Bantry.  Going clockwaise probably utilises the prevailing conditions best.  Much of the exploring en-route will be on the off shore satellites.  Going ashore is possible pretty much at will except for some parts of the long NW facing side.  Cusroe V966-485 is a nice sheltered spit at the SE point.  There is a slip at V945-488 opposite the industrial scale pier V943-487, below a quick launch building similar to an RNLI station, only bigger, that probably houses an emergency fire fighting ship.  The jetty at V941-494 is to be looked at but kept away from, for fear it would fall on you.  The oil demesne extends over a third the way up the outward shore, and the first realistic stop might be at the stony cove V957-499 or V962-504.  However these coves, like any west facing cove hereabouts, catch the oil spillages, and are dirty underfoot.  Much nicer is the clean NE facing gravel beach at V969-507.  Rounding the corner brings the mariner into surely the greatest raft of mussel farms in the country.  These appear at first to be an obstacle but it is heartening to see the local yachts sail at breakneck speed through the gaps and channels between them.  Altogether the expedition is about 14km.

Rabbit Island

V969-491          Sheet 85

Small agricultural island 500m south for Trawnahaha quay, divided into two fields, each with cattle.  There are alder and hawthorn trees sparsely on the NW side.  Land on a stony beach at the SW point where a roadway has been broken into the interior, or onto a more benign gravel beach at the west point.  Except for this roadway, access to the interior is otherwise entirely and even remarkably impossible.

Lousy Castle Island

V955-485          Sheet 85

Tiny islet, midway along south side of Whiddy, home to Tree Mallow, and breeding Cormorant and Herring Gull.  A stone wall on the south and north sides intrigue, but it seems unlikely there was ever a castle here, unless the builders really were pretty awful.  Land on the east side onto sloping shelves.

Gerane East

V935-486          Sheet 85

The highest and largest of three rocks 500+m off the aptly named Whiddy Point West.  Geranes West and Middle also boast Grey Seal, but given their heights above HW, all breeding is probably done on Gerane East.  In July 2008 there were several pups, so care is needed not to distress or disrupt.  Shag also breed.  Pleasant.  Great viewpoint for “the jetty” to the NE.  Land easily onto shelves on the SE side.

The man-built now-redundant concrete offshore oil-landing facility (known colloquially as “the jetty”) 488m in length, looks like a scene from a post-Holocaust movie, having been destroyed by fire and expolsion in 1979. In the 1960s it was built to very future-proof specifications, being capable of accommodating vessels of up to 500,000 metric tons of deadweight (DWT), although no such vessels existed anywhere in the world when it was built.

Horse Island

V985-508          Sheet 85

Small grassless islet among the mussel farms, 1km ESE of Whiddy Point East.  The summit is of round boulders that must be awash at times. Land almost anywhere onto rocks, to choice.

Hog Island

V979-502          Sheet 85

1km south of Whiddy Point East.  The interior is entirely inaccessible to ordinary mortals, being one hundred percent surrounded by unscaleable cliffs composed of rubble and sub-soil.  Land at SE or anywhere.  A candidate for Ireland’s least inviting island ?

Chapel Island

V981-497          Sheet 85

1.5km north of the embarkation point.  A large twin island, the interior of the smaller west half is accessible.  There are the remains of a cottage in the dip between the two halves, on the west side.  There are that many rabbits about the west end that tripping in a burrow is a potential danger.  The whole west half is overrun with ragweeds.  There is also slight evidence of ancient lazybeds.  Two horses grazed in 2008.  Very pleasant.

The bigger east half  is inaccessible.  A pedestrian access was forced at one time at the narrow prow leading from the dip, but it has eroded so much that it is now dangerous.  Consequently, the interior has gone back to the wild, and holds no apparent interest for the recreational user.

Land easily either side of the dip onto gravely beaches.  No water found.

Glengarriff Harbour

A pleasant, sheltered spot for an excursion on a short or windy day. It is interesting to dodge in and out among the smaller rocks and islands of the bay, trying not to disturb seals and other wildlife, admiring the posh houses and boats, goats, and generally luxuriant landscape. Some of the islets are individually mentioned. Note the warnings on visiting Garinish. Do not disturb the seals. Local boats bring tourists to view the seals so any messing about is less than appreciated. The local boats can phut-phut up to within a few feet of the seals and be ignored. Familiarity breeds contempt. Kayaks, being unfamiliar, are held in high esteem by the seals, who panic on sight. Otter are reported, and terns. Camping is neither appropriate nor welcomed, nor was it found.


Probably easiest from a sheltered pier and slip about 1km south of Glengarriff where the Castletown Bearhaven road meets the sea at a spot called locally ‘Ellen’s Rock’ at V927-552. Smaller ferries than those from Glengarriff ply from here, and the landing spot on Garinish can be seen 1km to the east.

Garinish Island – Ilnacullin

V933-549          Sheet 85

The island is much visited for its Italian, Japanese and Robinsonian gardens, developed by the family Bryce in the early days of the 1900s, especially perhaps Violet Bryce.  Her son Roland continued the work and bequeathed the island to the Irish people, so that it is State since about 1950. The gardens are open in summer from about 11.00 to 5.30. There is a Martello Tower on the summit almost obscured by the trees of the plantation, a leftover from an earlier era. Unusually, its sides are vertical. It boasts of being the first such tower on the Irish coast, which, if so, was by a whisker. Superb to visit by kayak or ferry. Expect a race at the SW tip, where the sea is shallow.


To avoid serious upset, land only at the official landing point, midway on the north side V933-549, in a shallow cove. There is a stony beach at LW, and otherwise a slip. There is also a pier, a cafe, and a turnstile through which pay to enter. There is a boathouse in a cut in the NE side and a slip nearby at V936-550, servicing the restricted (private residence) part of the island. There are shingle beaches either side of the Yellow Rocks off the south side.

Bark Island

V937-560          Sheet 85

Rhododendron and fern saturated, a small, humpy island, ESE of Glengarriff town. Land either side of prominent waist. The island has nothing to recommend it to kayakers though it is a significant navigational marker for visiting yachts.

Murphy’s Island – Garranboy Island

V943-557          Sheet 85

Fern and Scots Pine covered rocky lump, hard in by the NE shore, inside a prominent mussel farm. Otherwise inconspicuous up against the shore. Of little interest other than it was owned by Maureen O’Hara. Land by the south tip onto rocks.


V939-551          Sheet 85

Prominent if small island, off the NE side of Garinish, fern and pine covered. It is best not to land at the cut halfway along NW side, as seals inhabit the island. Even more are on its sister rock, Ship Island, just SE. They are a tourist attraction, so please, do not disturb.

Garinish West

V899-504          Sheet 85

Privately owned, small, attractive and well wooded island, lying 200 m off the coast, midway between Glengarriff and Adrigole. It has two formal landings in the SW and NW corners. Both have small pier and steps, but there is also a small stony beach just south of the NW pier, for which kayaks might make. The SW landing is closer to the mainland and would appear to be the more frequently used. Notices are placed at both landings that landing should only be made with permission, so ask locally. The island has a holiday home on its east side which is well screened from view by well planned and maintained gardens and groves of pines. The island has been tastefully planned and laid out with walkways, shrubs, trees and heathers. There is even an irrigation system, fed by gravity tanks centred on the highest part of the island. It appears that the system is linked into the mainland mains-water scheme.

The island and the small quay on the adjacent mainland at V896-504 give good shelter for those on passage, or a useful lunch spot for touring inner Bantry Bay.  The quay itself is recently upgraded and a well known beauty spot to which many make of a sunny afternoon, signposted Zetland Pier, a lovely place.  Parking is plentiful.  Steps but no slipway.  No water.

Sheelane Island

V900-498          Sheet 85

Small rocky island 1km south of Garinish West. Grass, nettles, gorse and a stand of Tree Mallow dominate the vegetation. Its summit has an interesting old stone built navigation mark, one of several on prominent points to be seen on the approaches to Glengarriff Harbour. Landing is onto rocky shelves which are difficult in any swell.

Orthan’s Island

V810-490          Sheet 84

Central to the beautiful and well sheltered Adrigole Harbour and lying under Hungry Hill, this is a small grass and ferns covered rock, ideal for picnicking of a summer’s afternoon.  On rocks all about may be found seals.  Access is easiest from the West Cork Sailing Centre based at the small slip and pier just east at V813-491.  The centre welcomes smaller parties as the parking is limited.  “Sit on Top” kayaks and Canadian style canoes may be hired, suitable for exploring the bay –


V791-459          Sheet 84

This is a low-lying lighthouse island, located 2km east of Lonehort Point on Bear Island, dominated by its large and impressive lighthouse buildings complex.  Views all round are superb because of the island’s position. It is well worth the visit.


Set out from a very private little pier with a gravel beach beside, 2km to the north at V793-479.  The pier is itself a lovely place.  It is poorly signposted off the main road and care is needed, to avoid frustrating to-ing and fro-ing.  The road from the north is a cul-de-sac, despite Sheet 84.


The traditional landing is onto a pier with steps on its north flank, which can be difficult for kayakers in that the steps are narrow and very prone to Atlantic swell. In calm conditions a landing is also possible onto rock shelves either side of the main pier, but at about HW, it is probably best into a narrow cut just NE. Here a narrow gap allows access into a small pool and a relatively easy landing.

Lighthouse Complex

The exposure of the lighthouse compound to the elements becomes apparent almost immediately as one takes in the height of the protective wall running along the south and SW flank. Within the SW orientated enclosure, there is the feel of a walled garden, there are stands of Tree Mallow and other marine plants, and remnants of some old gardens can be seen.   A walkway leads to the helipad and beyond that the SW wall.


The island has a good breeding population of gulls, while small numbers of Curlew, Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Common Seal can be found during the winter months.


Camping is possible in the main enclosure, although perhaps not in the breeding season – March through July, as this is the main area.  No water found.


Roancarrig More and Beg are included in the film set for the Neal Jordan’s latest  spectacular film “Ondine”, about a mermaid who falls in love with Colin Farrell, filmed in late summer 2008.


V788-465          Sheet 84

This small low-lying rocky islet is surrounded by outlying reefs, shoals and nowadays – commercial fish cages.  It lies 0.5km NNW of Roancarrigmore and, for 30 years from 1990 until 2020 was dominated by the remains of a wreck, which, when viewed from a distance, gave this otherwise flat rock an interesting perspective.

Ghost Ship

Stranger than any Neal Jordan film about any mermaid on a rock is the true story of the 27 year old Spanish fishing vessel Nuestra Senora de Gardotza, the wreck that deteriorated year by year on this rock.  Having died in heavy seas on 30th January 1990, the wreck was at first nothing more than an eyesore, until it became famous 10 years later in December 2000.

Another Spanish fishing vessel, called the Zorro Zaurre, got into difficulties after the vessel sprang a leak with 13 crew on board, 140 miles south of Mizen Head on November 30th 2000. All the crew were airlifted by the RAF to Cornwall. The crew described the ship as being swamped and said they believed it was within an hour of going under. The vessel was abandoned to sink. It didn’t, at least not immediately.

Over a week later, on December 8th 2000 the Irish naval ship L.east. Orla was tasked to follow up a report that a slight diesel slick and fish boxes had been seen in Bantry Bay, to the east of Castletownbere. A Naval Service diving team identified the sunken wreck as the Zorro Zaurre, which had ended up underwater, a mere 400 metres from the Nuestra Senora de Gardotza.

Imagine the shock when it transpired the two were sister ships, same owner, same manufacturer, same hometown in Spain a thousand miles away.  The Zorro Zaurre had travelled 160 unguided and unplanned miles, barely floating and in her death throes, to lie forever in a foreign land immediately beside her sister the Nuestra Senora de Gardotza.

Neal Jordan – follow that !


Land fairly dependably in the NE onto a sheltered stony beach in a lagoon. This is accessed through an obvious break in the shoals but this may not be possible if swell is running high. Timing of a landing into this lagoon is probably best at or about HW. The lagoon is a pleasant surprise, and on a good day, a great place for a swim.

Loughure Island

V789-474          Sheet 84

This medium sized island is located just off the mainland. Landing is onto a stony beach in a well protected and attractive little bay at the NE end of the island. The bay has a hideaway setting, and at HW makes a good picnic/swimming spot for those on passage.  Camping is possible just above the beach.  However the rest of the island is rough, ungrazed, and quite difficult to explore. The terrain and vegetation cover is not welcoming and the walker is forced to explore the edges only. No water found and no evidence of any previous habitation.

Bear Island – An tOileán Mór

V686-446          Sheet 84

17.2 Bear Haven, a natural harbour of naval importance for centuries, separates this massive island from the mainland. The permanent population is about 200. The distinctly mountainous west end of the island, opposite Castletown Bearhaven, is the most convenient to reach. There are many ‘Private’ signs about the west end, but the Beara Way gives access to the interior. Walking on the high ground is lovely, along little-used waymarked trails and the scenery is wonderful. Ardnakinna Lighthouse at V672-423, marking the west entrance to Bear Haven, is very recent, lit in 1965. The only village is towards the east end at Rerrin, where the island is narrowest.

The many guns and fortifications on the island were mostly built as recently as 1910, and some held IRA prisoners during the War of Independence. There are two Martello Towers where there were once four, two having being knocked down for later military building works. The island and its fortifications were held by the British, even after Irish independence, until 1938. They were handed over to the Irish , with other so called ‘Treaty Ports’, Swilly, Cobh and Bantry Bay, after a trade war. This was soon much regretted, when Britain went to immediate and terrible war with Germany. Two 6 inch guns can still be seen at Lonehort Fort, the biggest fort on the island.

Two ferries ply between the mainland and the island. The western ferry is from downtown Castletown Bearhaven. The eastern ferry is from Beal Lough at V717-463, 3km east of the town.

Embarkation and Landing

The harbour of the major fishing town of Castletown Bearhaven is the intuitive and has always been the embarkation place for the island, from the slipway at V680-461, but by 2021 the town had become quite a busy metropolis, and the western ferry sets out from here. The slip is just opposite the SuperValu supermarket, which is seriously well stocked. The pier is one of Nimmo’s.  Plenty of good parking but it is hard to get close to the slip. The grid reference V686-446 marks the nearest ferry landing point in a small sheltered bay inside the west end, where kayaks may also land.

Consider instead a much handier launching from Traillaun Harbour 2km SW of the town at V668-448, described below under Colt Rocks.


Bear Haven is a natural harbour varying from narrow and mountainous at its western entrance, to low and shallow at its eastern end. Tides flow in and out at both ends simultaneously, meeting in the middle. The stronger tides flow at 2kn through the western entrance and turbulence may be expected. Tides are not strong otherwise in the sound. At the eastern entrance, they reach 0.5kn.

Entrances to Bere Haven
Direction Time Speed
In 5:50 after Cobh HW 2kn (west)
Out 0:25 before Cobh HW 2kn (west)

Tides enter and leave much as with local HW and LW.


There are many interesting spots in the 21km around the island, some of which are listed here, clockwise from V686-446 the big ferry landing point in a small sheltered bay inside the west end opposite Castletown Bearhaven.

V696-447        There are a number of choices for more private camping away from ferries, but for those constrained to use the inside channel, perhaps the nicest would be about 1km east of the western ferry arrival point. Keep away from either ferry as the water is churned up and the swimming unattractive.

V741-443        There is a handy stony beach at a slip just inside Rerrin Bay, on the east side. Rerrin is in the east and the only village on the island. Hereabouts the island is waisted which is most convenient to inspect the conditions outside. The village has restaurants, pubs and other facilities. The eastern ferry leaves from Beal Lough at V717-463 about 3km east of Castletown Bearhaven. The eastern end of the island is by far the prettier, welcoming, and more civilised.

V749-448        east of the eastern ferry is low lying, but there is a super campsite in the shallow bay near two houses, and also elsewhere east of there towards Lonehort Point.

V755-440        Lonehort Harbour lies SW of Lonehort Point. Though there are a choice of storm beaches between the two, the harbour is the more dependable resting point on a circumnavigation. A bump may be expected at several points along the outside, including Leahern’s Point.

V754-436        Leahern’s Point, sheltering Lonehort harbour.

V739-433        Storm beach at Coosavaud (means ‘Boat Harbour’), east facing, by a slipway.

V721-427        Splendid little cove with a very narrow, south facing entrance, just NE of prominent Greenane Rock, gives great respite. It is better than the nearby and more obvious SW facing cove below houses at V725-428.

V672-423        There is no respite from the above cove until the lighthouse at Ardnakinna Point, but watch for the waterfall at about V711-424, and there are others.

V671-425        Illaundoonagaul, almost an island, has sea arches of the finest variety, which, being inside the entrance, are very inspectable.

V673-431        Just inside the narrowest point of the western entrance to Bear Haven, it is reachable by backpacking or paddling. The landing is onto sheltered steps, easily identified inside a large yellow buoy and below a zigzag track. A seriously idyllic camping spot, midge free. Shore fishing. Water nearby.

V680-440        Gun forts (private) at Fort Point, and also just south at V681-438.

Dinish Island

V684-456          Sheet 84

In Bear Haven, sheltering the town, this island is now connected to the mainland by a bridge, and consists entirely of an industrial park, mainly of the heavy marine variety. It is worth the walk around to see the big boats and big machinery. Land anywhere except in the NW sector (facing Castletown Bearhaven) where the main quay is. Sea kayakers might want to camp by the boathouse in the NE corner so as to walk into town, but otherwise of zero interest to small boats.

Minane Island

V695-456          Sheet 84

In Bear Haven, 1km east of Dinish. Small, flat little island, the coniferous plantation reported at the turn of the century has been in 2023 clear felled, and the hidden old ruins are now on view. Land most anywhere that is sheltered.  Camping looks possible.

Colt Rocks

V670-444          Sheet 84

Castletown Bearhaven town itself is nowadays a bustling tourism and fishing centre and launching from the slip there will often be quite inconvenient all round.  Just a couple of km SW lies the beautiful Tráillaun Harbour, which is a far handier launching spot for Bear Island or points further west, with plenty of parking and an easy carry.  There is even a slipway and a pier V668-448.  Colt Rocks shelter the entrance to the bay.  The rocks are scattered and would provide a bit of solitude on a hot swimming / snorkelling day in summer.  The largest even boasts a couple of Hawthorns, and one other is a grassy topped roost for large gulls.

Turk Island

V742-445          Sheet 84

Located at the eastern entrance to Laurence’s Cove on Bere Island, this is a small, low lying, narrow island. A navigable channel along its SSE flank divides it from Bere Island. Landing is on to a small stony beach in an obvious west-facing cut on the north side, or less well at WSW tip. The vegetation is ungrazed and is a mixture of rough grasses, furze, heather and bramble. Camping is possible at SW corner on a cushion of deep maritime grasses, but beware plain evidence of small furry creatures. No water. Good periwinkle density.


V583-407            Sheet 84

Small islet that serves as a busy roost for Oystercatcher and Cormorant and also as shelter for a small and quiet quay in what might be called White Ball Harbour but isn’t (White Ball Head V577-398 is the headland to the southwest guarding the bay).  The little quay lies just off the main Ring of Beara road, and south of it lie two sheltered stony beaches in between which camping is very manageable.  No water.  This makes for the easier option for kayakers on passage than the harbour immediately south that should be and actually is called Black Ball Harbour.

Black Ball Harbour

The approach / entrance to Black Ball Harbour has a reputation for being quite challenging with swell running.  Black Ball Head is the headland guarding the bay, on its south side, the one with the signal tower, and has a modern quay at V586-401, 200m east of which is good camping, but no water, though water is available on request at the houses, especially maybe the outside tap at the last house, coloured yellow in 2022.  Black Ball Harbour is an old Viking hangout.

The signal tower V588-394 atop Black Ball Head is the most prominent feature of the entire area and guides the sea going navigator for big distances in all directions.

Dursey Island

V506-414          Sheet 84

Huge but sparsely populated island (permanent population of 9) of Great Blasket proportions. It is connected to the mainland by cable car at Dursey Sound. This is the only cable car in Ireland and the only cable car in Europe that crosses salt water. The Beara Way runs the length of the island – along the main roadway outwards and over the hilltops back. It goes past the signal tower on the summit, and makes for a splendid day’s walk. The main area of habitation is about one third along the island but there is no village as such. There is no beach.


In calm conditions, launching is practical (if a bit awkward) at Dursey Sound, from the pier at V508-418. Certainly, no exploration of the outer parts of the island or the mighty off-lying island rocks would be sensible if conditions made launching impossible here. More dependably, there is a magnificent, sheltered strand at the pier and slip at White Strand Quay, in the extreme SW of Allihies Bay, at V523-428.

Landing and Camping

The pier and steep slip at V506-414 are well sheltered, just outside the south entrance to the sound. No water was found nearby but there must be. Camping is possible just SW of the slipway towards an old churchyard. There is no easy landing other than at the slipway. Rock pools just south of the slipway, which form and un-form with the tide, may provide a landing.


O’Sullivan Bere ruled here until 1601. When gaelic Ireland and its Spanish allies were defeated in the Battle of Kinsale 1601, he famously marched with 1,000 soldiers to Leitrim, to join the remnants of the rebellion, rather than give in. They set out on New Year’s Eve 1601. The hardship endured over 20 days and the courage of the men, live on in folklore to this day. Only a few dozen made it all the way to join O’Rourke of Breffni and Red Hugh O’Donnell of Donegal. It was all in vain, and the rebellion fizzled out in 1607, with the Flight of the Earls. The English destroyed his Dursey castle in 1602 in his absence. He might never have been so well known to posterity but that the great scholar and historian Don Philip O’Sullivan, his nephew and great admirer, was a Dursey man, born in 1590. Don Philip recorded the great feats of his defeated uncle, in Latin. His best known work was Ireland under Elizabeth published in Lisbon 1621.


The 14km circumnavigation is a challenging experience and races may be expected off the twin outermost points and elsewhere as tides and wind dictate. Tides flow up to 4kn in Dursey Sound and constantly boil, especially over a rock in mid-channel, under the cable-car wires. There is usually clapotis at the northeastern corner of the sound, which kayakers have found to extend 1.5km to Garinish Point to the northeast. Beware flukey winds at the northern entrance. The flood eddies on both sides of the southern entrance.

Off the outer tip of Dursey lie the Calf, the Heifer, the Cow and the Bull, mighty, remote and challenging rocks. Until recently, no kayaks had landed. The Bull has a huge lighthouse complex. The Cow has nothing. The Calf has an abandoned stump of a lighthouse.

Off these, the main tidal streams around Ireland split. One stream heads south through Dursey Sound and on to Cork, Wexford and Dublin. The other heads north to Kerry, Mayo, Donegal and Antrim. The two streams meet again at Carlingford, the Isle of Man and the England/Scotland border.

Dursey Island Dursey Sound Time
Direction Direction Speed
East (flood) South 4kn 5:00 before Cobh HW
West (ebb) North 4kn 1:30 after Cobh HW

On the flood, there is extensive eddying in the bay between the southern entrance to Dursey Sound and Crow Head to the south.


V504-410          Sheet 84

A small, sheep-grazed island just SSW of the slipway on Dursey, attached to Dursey except at higher waters and deeply cut from the east, west and south. Despite casual appearances, there are no easy landings possible at any stage of the tide.

The Bull Rock

V406-402          Sheet 84

The Bull lies 4km WNW of Dursey Head, the headland at the outer tip of Dursey Island, itself 6km in length. This remote rock appears from Dursey direction as a mighty pyramid with a lighthouse complex on top. A landing on it by kayak is one of the top dozen or so obvious Irish challenges.

A huge tunnel running east/west splits the Bull. The sides of the tunnel are even and smooth as glass. Navigation of the tunnel is undemanding.  A landing may be forced on the south side of the west entrance, though it leads nowhere. A number of offlying rocks, Gull Rock being the main one 100m west, form pleasant channels outside the west entrance, with wonderful scenery all round.

The Bull is a significant breeding Gannetry, bigger than Saltee, second only to Little Skellig.


Landing is difficult. There is the standard platform with steps on the south side, at the foot of prominent steps leading vertically up to the lighthouse. However, at LW, the bottom step is a bit high off the water, and rock ledges on either side are subject to much movement of surge and scend. Unless very calm, the platform is wet, and boats should be tethered higher up, where there is generous space. Worst of all though, the spot is vulnerable to a strong sideways current, being entirely exposed. Any mistake will be severely punished. The SE corner of the rock is but a few seconds away, after which a swimmer will be in a full-blooded tide race.

There is a severe landing spot on the south side of the east entrance to the tunnel, just tucked inside the SE corner. This is a gloomy spot, and there is nowhere easy to park a boat once off the water. Conditions on the day may demand this landing be used, if subject less water movement. The vertical band of 18 or so brass rungs up the sheer wall looks very off-putting, but in fact, there is a platform at the top with a path leading up to the lighthouse complex. Another set of vertical brass rungs set into the NE face, formerly reported as leading to a set of steps where one could continue towards the buildings, have in 2011 been cut away. Access can be gained to the area by shimmying up a grass ramp and climbing up the retaining wall on which the buildings are built. The manoeuvre is for people with climbing experience and a steady head, as one is forced out close to the drop over the tunnel. The only paddler known to have managed this move made it a tad safer by carrying a towrope by which she protected herself.  Kayakers landing on these “big rocks” are mostly cross-pollinated climbers, know they are taking risks, and most will consider taking a few slings and a bit of rope with them.


Tides flow strongly past Dursey Head. On the ebb, a distinct line of smooth/rough water stretches unbroken all the way to the Calf, with the run off extending well out towards the Cow. Lea Rock lies just a cable or so off Dursey Head and considerable turbulence may be expected here. The ebb seems to run from the Head towards the Cow, or a bit north. The flood is the reverse. The flows are very strong off the corners of the outer islands.

Between Dursey Head and The Bull
Direction Time Speed
South 3:50 before Cobh HW 3kn
North 2:35 after Cobh HW 3kn


Launch from Dursey Sound or White Strand Quay, as described previously in the Dursey Island section.


Storm Petrel.

The Cow

V425-397        Sheet 84

The 66m high Cow, lying halfway between Dursey Head and the Bull, is an inhospitable place. Sheer walls surround it. Landing by kayak has always seemed impossible for all practical purposes and was never attempted, though some did look, until achieved in 2011.  Lesser Black-backed Gull abound. A mighty sea arch lies off its SE side, and the passage through is challenging. All along the south side lies a thin offshore rock called Gull Rock, which provides shelter for a rest on passage.

A difficult landing was forced on the north side of the NE tip.  Securing the boats was awkward.  The climb above is manageable.  Remember to mark your route up and in particular the point where cliff meets flat top, as getting this wrong on the way back down could make things tricky.

Irish Seak Kayaking in the 1980s

Canoeing in general and sea kayaking in particular was in existence in the 1970s and even before that. On 4th January 1977 the ICU acknowledged sea kayaking as a distinct discipline within the sport of canoeing, and they hosted the first ever dedicated sea kayaking weekend course that May, led by Colin Mortlock of Nordkapp fame.  The Irish Sea was crossed that July by Joe Halpin, Pat Blount and Aidan Kelly.  Ireland was “rounded” the following summer by Franco Ferrero et al, then “solo” in 1979 by Tom Daly.

Nevertheless it was only with the new decade that the first semblance of a sport emerged with sufficient numbers that people started getting together to do their thing, however informally.  The Nordkapp was “the” boat, and hard times generated many locally constructed clones. The legends are endless but they weren’t all hard as nails, poorly equipped or untrained, but it is true that they couldn’t read the rulebook until after they had first written it, and the gear was nowhere near as posh as it is today.

North Mon and UCC in Cork fed the first viable stream of paddlers into the system.  Tiglin first, but later other outdoor centres, led the way.  “Fleets” of kayaks started appearing. Formal instruction for the masses accelerated at the end of the decade with Stephen Hannon and Humphrey Murphy.  A glance at “First Known Kayak Landings” shows they were getting out to and landing many remote rocky places like Tuskar, Fastnet and the Hull.  Some of them are still at it.  Timmy Flavin et all landed and summited the Cow in 2012, a First Known Kayak Landing.

Jamie Young et al rounded Cape Horn in 1989.  Karen Weekes and Suzanne Kennedy rounded Ireland in 1990, unsupported.  1989 saw Ireland’s first symposium, camping on Clare Island, organised by word of mouth.  Everyone was amazed when so many turned up because noone knew there were 17 boats in the country.  Symposiums became regular annual events after that and Ursula McPherson kickstarted the Irish Sea Kayaking Association at one in Gartan in 1991.  The rest is history.

The Calf

V442-377        Sheet 84

The Calf, 21m high, lies 1.5km SW of Dursey Head, with its off-lying rock, the Heifer, about half its size and height. This prime piece of property was once owned by Her Majesty Queen Victoria. There is a red iron pillar on the Calf, the stub of a lighthouse destroyed in 1881.

A very difficult landing has been forced on the north side. Securing the boats is awkward.  The effort is justified.  Marvel at the many sets of steps cut into the rock.  Enter and climb (with difficulty) the stub of the lighthouse.  Note the sheds/workshops fully roofed and set into natural breaks in the rock ridges. This must be the finest example of using natural contours













and gaps to avoid exposure to wave action and blending in to the point of having the structures almost invisible.  Spending an overnight here will stay in the memory for all the right reasons.

The Heifer has also been landed on. Two paddlers swam ashore (with difficulty) while a third stood-by with the boats.

Allihies Bay

A truly beautiful place. Stony mountains of remote and rugged appearance back the bay. The village has little more than basic facilities. The main strand and pier at V574-443 below the town is backed by grass, and has a paying campsite. There is a magnificent, sheltered strand at the pier and slip at White Strand Quay in the extreme SW of the bay, at V523-428, where campervans are discouraged.

Long Island

V524-429          Sheet 84

Small grassy sheep-grazed island immediately opposite the popular quay at White Strand Quay in Garinish Bay, in the SW of Allihies Bay. There is a quay opposite the mainland quay and matching sheltered strands. Shore angling is popular off its outer rocks. No water. Nice camping. Obvious put in point for Dursey Island.

Garinish Island

V523-431          Sheet 84

Almost split in two at HW, this island is separated from the mainland except at LW and lies just NW of Long Island, which together form absolute shelter for White Strand Quay. Grazed by sheep. Cliffy on its north side. Earlier reports of possible rock climbing here and on the mainland on Garinish Point at V521-430 to the west proved illusory on mature reflection, whe after careful scouting by an active rock climber it was determined that the reports were greatly exaggerated.  Rock climbing has been effected further round Garinish Point at about V514-427 and well reported elsewhere, big senior hurling cliffs, hard of descent as well as ascent,

Blue Islands

V572-462          Sheet 84

The first of four island stops on a beautiful passage around Cod’s Head V544-477 from Allihies V574-443 to at least Travaud to the NE at V605-485, but larger parties will prefer to finish at Travara Strand and quay V617-490 where there is more parking, easier launching and public facilities provided, including water, toilets and even showers.

A group of (at least) two very low lying rocky islands, with outlying reefs and islets, about 3km ESE of Cod’s Head.  Despite their attractive name, the islands barely manage to get their heads above water. They are not nearly as attractive as the Black Rock Islands further WNW, although they do enjoy a similar beautiful location and scenic backdrop.  Landing is onto rocky shelves at their NE ends. There are fine rock pools to explore on a good day.

Note also that for access / escape there is a handy sheltered slipway V577-465 below a small awkward parking spot on the road above, with just to its south, a lovely waterfall the land based tourists don’t get to see at V577-464.  Take the time as well to investigate the natural arch opening from west eastwards into a lengthy channel that doesn’t quite make it through the headland V567-464.

No camping and no water. Turnstone are present, and Oystercatcher may also breed.

Black Rock Islands

V558-470          Sheet 84

An attractive chain of 12-13 rocky islands in a beautiful setting under 2km ESE of Cod’s Head. The islands are small, some little more than islets but taken together merit exploration. All the islands are separated by channels or cuts and provide good kayaking interest. All landings are onto rock shelves. Four of the larger islands are further offshore than the more numerous inshore clusters. The central rocky spines of all four offshore islands run NE/SW, and all support dense colonies of lichens. The most west island, from which the group gets their name, has a large rock pool midway down the island, into which one can kayak at HW. The narrow cut which divides the two central islands of this outer group, is just about navigable, but probably only so at HW.  It is barely the width of a kayak, and one can easily access both islands by stepping across the gap.


Camping is just about possible on the most SE island of the larger offshore group. Two of the larger inshore group also have limited camping.  Lovely setting, no water.  The scenery, backdrop and geology of the area combine to make the area most interesting.

Reenmore Island

V569-488          Sheet 84

A small un-named island located in a cove tucked inside Reenmore Point. The island is narrow, grassy topped, and is in a lovely location, with good views along a beautiful stretch of coast.  The deep water landing is onto easy rock shelves. The south side rock architecture is attractive.

Gulls do not breed, despite that the habitat is very suitable, but the island is certainly an occasional roost.  A possible holt for a four footed creature the puzzle.  Certainly there is enough brackish water for the like.

No drinking water was found, but camping is available, attractive even.

Those paddling between Allihies and Eyeries Bays will notice that there is a hidden valley between the two, between Cod’s Head and Reenmore Point.  Unnamed, it is accessible from eastwards by green road, the more remote sections of which may be private.  This valley is famous as the set for the film “Falling for a Dancer”, chosen by Neal Jordan not only for its splendid scenery, but its complete lack of electricity or telephone poles.  The film gave the actor Colin Farrell his first great exposure.


At V564-486 there is a lovely little holiday cottage at shore level, located in a picturesque sheltered little cove, a must-see pitstop on passage.  Landing is easy onto shingle / stone, and camping most attractive, but only when the cottage is unattended.


V591-490          Sheet 84

A small rocky island over 5km ENE of Cod’s Head, separated from the mainland by a narrow but attractive channel that closes at the east end at LW. The south side is a series of slanted rock slabs.

Landing at the base of these slabs is from deep water. Easy access to the summit is available via a ramp from the SW corner, but landing at this point is very subject to surge and scend. It is far easier to force a landing, perhaps by swimming, further east, but from this point it is far more challenging to summit.  Certainly, a pair of rock boots, a rope and a few karabiners would be useful. The slabs hereabouts may not be technically difficult, but they are not safe in wet kayaking gear.

There is a Herring Gull breeding colony c.35 pairs on the top and along the north side.

Coulagh (Eyeries) Bay

A beautiful bay of superb scenery that is all the better for being somewhat off the tourism track. Sheltered from all but strong NW winds. There are only basics available in Eyeries village. There is a choice of embarkation points. The most central is the pier 1km NW of the village off a sheltered storm beach at V642-514. Alternatively, there is better parking at a number of sheltered piers, the beautiful Travera Strand V617-490, Travaud V605-485, or the main pier, tucked into the NE of the bay at V654-530, one of Nimmo’s, recently modernised and in 2021 quite busy with tourists and commercially, crowded really.


V646-528          Sheet 84

Small, ungrazed island, hard in against the north shore of the bay. Many seals. A navigation marker on the We tip is powered by mains electricity delivered above ground. Locally called “Bird Island”. Land on the east side. Nice.

Interestingly, it seems to be a maritime horticultural experimental area. There are many different types of young trees planted.

Eyeries Island

V635-519          Sheet 84

Small, flat, sheep-grazed island with spots of sand on the SE side for landing. Camping maybe, water no. Unattractive.


V605-529          Sheet 84

Splendid big lump of a formerly inhabited island, with a fish farm off its SE side. The whole island is attractive to visit, with a distinct ridge, sheep, and abandoned houses and fields. There are many nice cliffs on the north side.

The cave/arch in the small bay at V600-526 is worth a visit especially in good evening light, as sunshine lights up the WNW orientated entrance. The entrance arch at HW is a lovely feature, but a committing passage, being very prone to swell. It leads into a long narrow cavern, which then opens into a blow hole.  There is just about enough room to turn a kayak at HW.  This feature when viewed from above seems nearly to bisect the SW facing tip of Inishfarnard from the main body of the island, – “Inishfarnard Beg” in the making ?

Landing and Camping

  • The main landing for boats is not so convenient for kayaks, as it is a deep-water landing. It is in a cove inside the fish farm on the SE side, at V609-529.
  • Better altogether for kayaks is onto a choice of storm beaches, the best of which is at V601-528, in a WSW facing cut on the north side, looking onto Bridaun. There is splendid camping 100m from the beach. Good fishing hereabouts also.
  • Landing is possible at various tide levels on the ENE facing side of the waist at V602-529. This is however less convenient, as large blocks make life awkward, though not at HW.
  • Another recommended spot for landing is near the east end of the north side in a NW facing cut, onto a storm beach at V606-531, where excellent camping is available after a small scramble.


There must have been a good supply of water at one time. The population was once 24. A search for water on Inishfarnard found quite a bit of seepage water accumulating at the cliff edge directly south of the second most west ruined house. Certainly there is enough for determined campers prepared to dig out a pool.

A newly constructed altar, at least that is what its purpose seems, is now in place amongst the houses in the west village. It is small and discrete. It may be Islamic.   It may be linked to a ceremonial plaque outlining the family history of some of the previous islanders and their links to faraway Butte, Montana. The plaque is fixed to large boulder close to most east houses on way up from main landing.

Shags, Raven, Chough and Snipe all breed.

Bridaun Beg

V597-525          Sheet 84

Bridaun Beg is the inner and smaller of two islets off the west tip of Inishfarnard. A smaller version of and separated from Bridaun and Inishfarnard by narrow cuts which are attractive and interesting. Landing is onto rock shelves easiest on south side, from where an easy accent to the summit. Marvellous views from this and other islands in this group.

Camping is quite possible although a bit of a scramble with gear, and there are better sites available on Inishfarnard. No water found.

In March 2008 there were 60 Turnstone, 45 Oystercatcher, 5 Curlew, and 2 Red Throated Diver. Shags breed in some of the cuts/caves on both islands.  A heavy suspicion of rodent on both islands.


V595-524          Sheet 84

Bridaun is the outer and larger of two islets off the west tip of Inishfarnard, separated from Inishfarnard by Bridaun Beg, which is separated from both by narrow cuts on each side. Grass covered but ungrazed.

Bridaun and Bridaun Beg are of interest for their rock scenery, narrow channels and slots. The best feature is located at the southern end of the cut which separates it from Bridaun Beg. Here another cut leads away west under at least three rock arches. The cut is narrow and prone to swell, but is well worth the look. It has not been yet established if one can complete this challenging and committing passage.

Coosmore Area

The area from Cleanderry Harbour eastwards towards Ardgroom Harbour on the NW side of the Beara is interesting and access is best from lovely Cuas Quay at V686-572 named for the beautiful cave system Coosmore cave 200m NW at V687-573.  Road access to Cleanderry Harbour is awesomely steep and there is little or no parking at the rugged working area below, and a mussel fishery dominates Cleanderry.  Cuas on the other hand is much more easy of road access, the working quay is much less stressed by use, and parking / camping is fine.  Coosmore cave itself may be visited on foot, while for the kayaker there are some nice caves further east towards Ardgroom Harbour, one in particular, south of Kindney Rock at V693-579, is an estimated 100m long through cave, parallel to the cliff.


V664-563          Sheet 84

Meaning “Little Yellow Island”, 2.5km WSW of Cuas this is the outermost and largest and most pleasant of three long thin offerings in remote Cleanderry Harbour.  The seaward north half is a strip of pleasant grass, grazed by sheep, perfectly suitable for camping.  The landward south side is covered in ferns for the most part, but maybe the sheep will make a difference.  No soft landings were found but shelves on the landward side are perfectly adequate.  The inner two islets are not so inviting and are un-named on the OS.


V674-568          Sheet 84

1.5km WSW of Cuas.  Land softly onto a stony beach on either side of a spit jutting out south from the east tip towards an offlying rock.  Detached at all stages of the tide.  Long and thin, and grassy, yet uninspiring.  Access from Cuas Quay ENE.


Kenmare River to the Dingle Peninsula

County Kerry

Ardgoom Harbour

This pretty and well sheltered harbour, wooded all along its inner parts, straddles the Cork / Kerry border, about halfway down the north side of the Beara.  It is somewhat divided into an inner and outer section by a long spit of land jutting out from its west side called “Cus”.  Cus shelters the main embarkation point for the whole bay at the busy working Pallas Pier V702-575.  Here there is ample parking for larger groups.  The inner bay is much given to mussel fishery.  More convenient to the main road is a small slip at V704-562 in the inner SW reaches of the bay, but parking is very limited.  Very small parties may prefer Dog’s Point on the outside bay on the west side V701-581, but even a second car would be a challenge.  Ardgroom village has most facilities including a wonderful restaurant.  There are no put in points on the east or Kerry side at all.

Pig Island

V718-573          Sheet 84

Close by the land at the SE (inner) bay.  A raised clump of heather of zero merit.  Land at a spit projecting east.

Bird Island

V721-576          Sheet 84

Close by the land at the SE (inner) bay.  Heather, grass, gorse, briars, sally trees, reedbeds.  Unmeritorious.  Land perhaps on landward south side in middle, under the unly clear grassy patch.


V717-585          Sheet 84

Unnamed on the OS but named Illauneeragh on the chart, this is a most pleasant island.  Sheep grazed, the grass is short, and there is room for half a dozen tents in a sheltered wee hollow in the centre.  Reefs jut out westwards in a manner that is highly efficient in catching driftwood.  Land at a beach / cove on the south side.  Attached on the east side to the mainland at LW via another unnamed islet.

Spanish Island

V744-592          Sheet 84

Spanish Island, consisting of large boulders, is little more than a crescent shaped grass topped stormbeach. It is used as a roosting spot for local bird life and apart from its beautiful backdrop of Caha Mountains has little to attract passers-by. It is surrounded by extensive rafts of Mussel farms, which dominate much of the SE inner area of Kilmakilloge Harbour.

Access from Bunaw Pier at V754-601 at which there is an attractive pub / restaurant, ample parkin, and water for those on passage in the Kenmare River.  Also perhaps from a beauty spot 1km WNW from a pretty beach at V742ee-605

Ormond’s Island

V795-652          Sheet 84

Very pleasant waisted drumlin like island, lying close to the shore.  Launch at Coornagillagh Quay V801-649 or at LW by a causeway at SE corner.  The island consists of two small hills with large meadows edged with furze. Rocky foreshore on north/west sides, but less so on south edge. Small boulder clay cliffs at NW and SW corners add interest for the walker.   The more west meadow is much wetter underfoot and contains a mixture of wild semi-natural areas of marsh, blackthorn and gorse. Landings are possible around much of the island but probably the most attractive area is at mid south side under the ruined farmhouse, where also camping is best. Two ruins exist.  One is in the waisted area in the middle, and is shown on 0S map.  It is set in an attractive copse of silver birch, and was once a fine two storied farmhouse. The second marks a landing spot at the east end.  The island is grazed and although no spring was found, a piped water supply exists at gate at SE corner.

Dinish Island

V860-675            Sheet 85

Large attractive holiday home island 6km WSW of Kenmare Bridge, on the south side of the River, directly opposite the Dunkerron Islands.  Two huge residences grace the island which is a hobby farm with horses and donkies, trees, pastures and walkways, altogether most attractive.  Inhabited by local caretakers most of the year and by American owners for periods in summer.  Please respect its privacy.

There are two main slipways on the south side facing its own dedicated mainland launching spot, and another on the east side under the houses.

Launching for civilians is from a brand spanking new facility immediately opposite with large areas of parking, slipway, and pontoon for a commercial cruising boat for paying passengers to view the area from seaward.  Opposite the new harbour across the main Ring of Beara road is a commercial facility with kayak hire, seafood restaurant (highly recommended), toilets, playground, crazy golf, splatoon and holiday entertainments of all kinds.

Local HW is about 45 minutes before Cork Harbour.

Kenmare River Islands

The Dunkerron Islands and the Greenane Islands are a double group situated about 6km west of the lovely Kenmare, on the north side of the main navigational channel up the bay, called the Kenmare River.

Both sets of islands are overgrown, almost to the point of impenetrability, and certainly they are largley ungrazed and unmanaged.  That said, the Greenanes are much the more attractive to the passing recreational user for three reasons,

  • that the interiors have at least some grass or open spaces, for camping or anything else,
  • the foreshores are stonier and definitely the less muddy, and especially at HW,
  • the Greenanes have nice narrow creeks and inlets to explore by boat.

In combination, arriving and loitering on the Dunkerrons can cause a heavy penalty escaping again through the extensive glutinous mudflats that appear.

Further, the more SW of the Greenanes are the more open and attractive.

Local HW is about 45 minutes before Cork Harbour.


The whole area is best accessed from a lovely stone built pier just off the main Kenmare Sneem road at V858-698, called locally Templenoe Pier, shown on the OS as Assroe or “Eas Rua” in Irish.  This translates as “red waterfall”, the name being apt.  The water in the stream flowing in here is very rusty, flowing down from red sandstone hills.  Oddly, the rock hereabouts is limestone, but the hills above are sandstone  This is a popular pier, always on the go with swimmers, holiday makers, anglers and dinghy sailors.  There are other piers locally, but public access is less viable.  Both island groups are described here anti-clockwise from Templenoe pier.

Fox Island

V865-692          Sheet 85

A small outlier on the NW of the largest island of all locally, Dunkerron West, fully but barely separated, and unremarkable.

Illaunreanageah at V861-696, passed on the way out, is much the more interesting, small, flat, and salt marsh to its tip.  Camping should only occur at neaps, as seaweed litters even the highest point.

Dunkerron Island West

V867-690          Sheet 85

Wooded and mostly impenetrable, grazed by horses that are mainly found around the east facing bay on the NW corner at V866-690.  Camping is possible where the horses graze, and also at the most attractive part of the whole island, the west end of the narrow isthmus that joins the east/west islands.


V874-690          Sheet 85

A small outlier on the SW of Dunkerron East, fully but barely separated, and unremarkable.

Dunkerron Island East

V876-692          Sheet 85

Land at the east point where goats graze and camping is possible if the goats are agreeable.  Sheep graze in the SE but the approaches are glutinously as unappealing as is found hereabouts.  Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Beech.


V853-692          Sheet 85

Most north of the main Greenanes, there is no easily found sign of the house that once was here on the west side.  Land in channel on south side.


V854-690          Sheet 85

Largest of the group, slightly SE of centre, very wooded and overgrown.  Brave would be the man that would go looking to find the house marked on the OS map.  The SW end is somewhat open, grassy, and certainly attractive.  Land either side of west tip.


V851-690          Sheet 85

Most central of the group, un-named on OS, very wooded and overgrown, but inhabited by goats.  The garden around the house in the south has a retaining wall to keep out the tide.  Land at house.


V855-687          Sheet 85

Most south of the Greenane group, and with the most open feeling.  Land just NE of WSW tip.

Sneem Harbour Islands

V693-639          Sheet 84

For most of this cluster of islands, launch from a slip at the mouth of the Sneem River. The entire bay between the Iveragh and Beara Peninsulas is called the Kenmare River. The slip is accessed down a 1.5km cul-de-sac off the main Ring of Kerry road. The turn off is about halfway between Sneem and the Parknasilla Hotel. The islands are described in a clockwise tour from the slipway.

The islands listed here and westwards are sandstone.


V699-638          Sheet 84

Illaunslea dominates the view immediately to the SE of the slipway. A wooded, coniferous, inhabited, somewhat tamed and private island with rhododendrons and seals. Of no apparent interest to the passer-by.

Rossdohan Island

V713-629          Sheet 84

All 1.5km of Rossdohan is a private, very wooded island, joined to the mainland by a beautiful stonework bridge at V716-634 in the NE.  Launch from nearby Rossdohan Pier V718-637, which is the nearest to which most mortals will approach this haven.  Although in multiple ownership, these are powerful and private persons.  One might land and camp at the lovely sandy spit V716-636 opposite the pier, with great views, but for the need for permission.

Under the access bridge runs a beautifull tidal creek, accessible by kayak at even very LW.  The area to the south is the more remote, with seals galore.  There is a boathouse at V715-630, and a ruined mansion at V714-628.

Brown Island

V717-630          Sheet 84

A small islet on the NE side of Rossdohan, Brown is distinguished for its sandy beach on its north side that is available for bathing above mid-tide, where land.  Wooded entirely, it has been planted for effect with fuschia, whitebeam, palm and beech.  A narrow channel on the east side separates it from a large area of drying rocks where seals are a-plenty.

Rossmore Island

V759-653          Sheet 84

Joined to the mainland by road, the bridge is passble on the top half the tide.  Approaching from the East it looks impassable but there’s a dug out channel on the South side.  This is a very private island in the sense that, notwithstanding the OS, the road never accesses the seashore anywhere around the island, and the landowners do not encourage visitors.  Those who drive onto the island must drive back off.  Do not easily stir off the public road.

Those who wish to explore its shoreline can embark from a beautiful quay just off the Ring of Kerry road at V744-655 in the middle of Coongar Harbour.


V696-623          Sheet 84

The most NE and most attractive of the three outer islands. Storm beaches, almost joined up, run most of the SE side. There are multiple single tent places. A group could camp on the west side very nicely, which would mean a 100m walk.


V694-619          Sheet 84

Middle and least attractive of the three outer islands. Land on NE side. There are places for small tents.

Sherky Island

V689-615          Sheet 84

This is the second largest of all this group, and specifically is the most SW and largest of the group of three outermost islands, Sherky, Illaunanadan and Inishkeragh. Some decrepit houses are being overrun by sheep. No roads. Land at the NE under a prominent house inside the remains of a pier, which was clearly built by Ozymandias, and not by Nimmo.  “I am Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.”  Percy Bysshe Shelley

There are storm beaches midway along the NE side and at the NE end of the SE side.

In 2006 there had been recent planting of native trees around the ruined houses. The island is worth a walk especially down to SW end where rocky cliffs and geos are attractive. The island is not grazed and is tough going without good footwear.


V685-623          Sheet 84

Grass-covered rock, but nice. Deep-water landing onto rocks in a vaguely defined cove towards the west end of the north side. There is an oceanic feel to the island, more than with any of the others in the group. There is a miniature rock climber’s cliff on the south side.

Inishkeelaghbeg at V687-625 is really just a grass-covered rock off its north side.


V661-621          Sheet 84

About 500m off the shore. Land onto boulders in the NE-facing cove on the north side. Long grass and even longer ferns mar this once-grazed island. Camping just about possible, but no water. Panoramic. The most westerly of the group. Nice enough.

Carrigavunig at V676-625 is a useful waymark en route to the island. Just a rock.

Garinish Island

V690-631          Sheet 84

Lovely wooded, coniferous island with rhododendrons, huge ferns, seals and mussels. It is inhabited, somewhat tamed, and private. The channel to the north is impassable at LW. Many boats anchor in its quiet NE harbour. There are paths winding all over the island, ending at lovely little seating spots, where perhaps to sit and read? The only remote place to land is at an east-facing stone beach on the SE side, midway along the island.

Einaun Island

V690-636          Sheet 84

Wooded, coniferous, rhododendrons, mussels, uninhabited, wild, impassable either side at LW.

Lamb’s Head Group

V525-567          Sheet 84

This group of islands on the SW tip of the Iveragh Peninsula extends over a wide area. It ranges from sheltered islands close inshore in the SE, to Ballinskelligs Bay to the NW. Lamb’s Head itself is central, and is usually visible. The islands may be accessed from a range of points.

The central islands include the biggest and remotest of the whole area, and perhaps may be most easily reached from a working harbour V525-567 at the end of the road to Lamb’s Head. For campers, this spot is the business – panoramic, sheltered, calm water for swimming, fishing, and a noted rock climbing spot.

Islets off/near Castle Cove

Most of this group of islets off the east side of Castle Cove Bay is reached most easily from the beautiful White Strand at V606-598, 50m off the main Ring of Kerry road, though it could be argued that the easternmost two might be accessed more easily more easterly at V626-610, but which is awkward to drive to, park at, and launch from (the mouth of the little harbour dries), besides the welcome being uncertain.


V630-607          Sheet 84

1km long and surprisingle chunky island lying less than 300m off the coast.

Landing is best at several small shingle beaches along north side. Grazed by cattle in 2008 and several wet flashes midway along north edge near an old ruined building suggested water available although not confirmed, and similarly a small lake in the SW. Attractive island of heather, furze and bracken, whose hidden hollows and little valleys provide interest for the walker. Camping at any of the landings. Otters and Common Seals are present on all the islands hereabouts. The channel separating Carrigdrane from Illaundrane at the latter’s NE corner narrows to kayak-width at times of spring LW.


V626-603          Sheet 84

Small outlying minature version of its bigger neighbour Illaundrane. Leahcarrig is primarily a waystop island of mixed vegetation principally of heathers and furze, quite pretty in season. Landing on rock shelves at NE end. Camping possible but better available on neighbouring Illaundrane.  Ungrazed and no water found. Roosting spot for Great Black backed Gull.


V620-599          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

Almost a double island, being more or less cut in the middle, and certainly cut at HW. The cut provides a shingle beach on its landward-facing, north side. Long grass and gorse, ungrazed, uninhabited. Very close in by the Iveragh shore, the channel is very narrow and seals and mullet play tag in the shallow lagoon. Its merit is in its privacy so close to so much.

No water, no camping.


V609-593          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

This is the largest of the group, and centre of its universe. Land at a small beachlet at the NE corner, closest to the mainland. Long grass and gorse. No water. No camping. Few redeeming features.


V611-594          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

Satellite to the ENE of Illaunacummig.  Heather and gorse. Land in a cut to the NE.

Daniels Island

V611-592          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

Satellite to the SE of Illaunacummig.  Heather and gorse.  Land in a cut to the NE.  Impenetrable interior.


V606-592          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

Satellite to the WSW of Illaunacummig.  By far the nicest of all the White Strand islands.  Only partially given to brambles and gorse.  Although the rest is long grass, the camping would definitely attract.  There is the distinct feel of island and of remoteness.  Angling would be attractive off the south side.  Purple Loose Strife abound, as well as sallies.  Land in a cut at NE.


V605-594          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

Outermost of a fragmented group of islets immediately off the launching place at White Strand.  Land at cut in NE.  Ring Plover and Turnstone.

The inner fragments of the group may be accessed on foot at most stages of the tide. Paradoxically, these are among the nicest of the islets hereabouts, for a few hours quiet sunbathing, if nothing else. No water, no camping.

Burnt Island

V597-597          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

Barely detached from the mainland at the very middle point of Castle Cove, this is a lovely chunky island.  It bears the signs of pedestrian traffic accessing al LWs.  The summit is at the south end.  A navigation marker at the NW side that lines up with another to the NE to clear offshore reef Carriganglee.  Attractive.  Sallies.


V585-597          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

This island is located in the sheltered NE corner of west Cove Harbour. At HW the island forms an attractive backwater with a sheltered bay on its landward side. The island is probably accessible at LWN and certainly so at LWS from the mainland close to its north side. Landings are easiest along the north shoreline onto gently sloping seaweed and shingle foreshore. The vegetation is composed of rough grasses, bracken and gorse. The island can be explored easily enough in winter but would probably be heavy going during the summer months.  There are a number of old stone walls surrounding a cut at the west end the purpose of which is now long lost as the island has not been grazed in many years.

Water was not found and camping is not attractive. The inner bay area held Mallard, Curlew, Greenshank and Redshank in January 2012. Common Seals frequent the outer harbour area and evidence of Otter was found.

2m Island

V578-592          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

This island is located SW of the quay at west Cove Harbour (V582-595)

Curiously, although the OS Map Sheet 83/84 gives a spot height of 2m in a drying area, no island is marked. This island only becomes obvious to kayakers intent on exploring the inner/west harbour area.  The footprint of the island is however substantial enough. The island is long and narrow and has a wild and unkempt nature. The main island has several small satellite islets lying west of the main island that dry out at LW and complicate the geography for those curious enough to explore. All have typical inshore muddy and seaweed rich landings areas

The main island is heavily vegetated with banks of furze, marshes, bramble and bracken.  Landings are possible at many points. Camping is not attractive and water was not found.

The whole area is quite good for birdlife especially for wading species like Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone and Little Egret. Evidence of Otter also found.


V584-587          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

Lovely but ungrazed and overgrown islet just off a beautiful strand in west Castle Cove.  The channel on the west side is deep at all stages of the tide.  Rabbits.  Land at the beach on the NW side, directly off the beach.  Launch from the beach in front of the Derrynane Rowing Club.


V577-581          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

A large rock frequented by Herring Gull, the views to the west to Caherdaniel are stunning.  Deep water landing in the channel on the NE side.


V577-583          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

A large rock barely off the mainland but circumnavigible at all stages.  Some grass on top gives it something of an island feel.  Great Black backed Gulls roost.


V549-570          Sheet 84

An unexpected wee jewel of a grass and heather covered, ungrazed hump. It is separated from Lamb’s Head to its north by a 50m wide sound, and then by Burned Island at V549-570. Burned Island is barely detached from the land, and is meritless. There will always be a sheltered landing point somewhere along the length of the sound, almost regardless of conditions, onto sloping rocks.

The rock architecture along the south side will, some day, provide magnificent rock climbing. This will be of high calibre on good red sandstone, ‘clean as a whistle’, and of all grades. The hardest and best route would be under the summit itself at 27m. This is the best ‘secret crag’ this writer has seen in many years.

Launch from Rath Strand to its north at V549-578, or more dependably from the huge Wavecrest Caravan Park at V554-581.

Lamb’s Island

V532-561          Sheet 84

This very steep, conical islet is detached from Lamb’s Head to its north by a 50m wide sound. A deep-water landing is possible on the east side of the sound. Here it is just possible, with great care, to scramble to the summit. Perhaps only a frustrated ex-climber would bother. There are lovely views from the top.

Two Headed Island

V514-561          Sheet 84

Grass-covered lump of rock, almost cut in half at a midway waist. On the NW-facing side of the waist is a deep sheltered pool, where a deep-water landing is possible. Beware – the entrance to the pool is narrow and beset by turbulence during big sets. Get your timing right entering and leaving. No water, and no camping. Marvel at the raised storm beach in the middle.

Moylaun Island

V500-562          Sheet 84

Grass covered lump of rock. Sheep were reportedly landed on the eastern side of the NE point, at a ramp inside an almost broken away rock. All of this is uninviting to kayakers. Much commitment would be required. Kayakers might prefer a deep-water landing in the cove on the west side. No water and no camping.

Deenish Island

V469-561          Sheet 84

Lovely 144m high island, well out to sea. There is a fish farm in the bay on the NE side. 17 Chough were counted in one flock on 28th August 1995. Overall, superb.


There is an easy landing in a cove in the south extremity of the east-facing Deenish Harbour. This is under the prominent house onto a sandy beach. At HW however, the beach is stony. The strand can be hard to see behind boulders at LW.


Tides run in the sound inside Deenish, reaching 1kn in springs. The flood reunites off the north tip of Deenish causing turbulence locally. They run north with the flood and south with the ebb, to and from HW Cobh -0100.


Good camping abounds. Water was found in a good well up behind the house.

Scariff Island

V454-560          Sheet 84

This is a huge, 252m high, exposed, mountainous lump of a truly offshore island; it was once inhabited by monks. There is an old oratory, very high up, roughly in the middle. There are the remains of a more recent inhabitation lower down, all on the SE side. Local lore says that the children of the settlement got measles and died, ending the human colonisation of the island.

The undergrowth is mostly quite long, and despite there being no obvious grazing, gorse has not conquered all. Wellingtons are suitable for general exploration of the long grass and ferns of the island, even on the finest days. Reports of good spring water could not be confirmed even though old wells were found.

There is the appearance of a path down along sloping ground to a cove midway along the south side of the island, called Lamb’s Cove. There is a wall down to the head of the cove. This may perhaps have been to facilitate fishing. The Farbregagh (literally – imitation man) at the north tip is a huge sea arch.


Access is by a relatively sheltered, deep-water landing in a small cove in the NE corner, called Coosaneeve. Here, the monks cut a stairs of splendid steps in the solid rock (as monks did). These are wondrous to behold. They go all the way down to LW, and are hard to see until very close in, so perseverance is recommended. Local information suggests that the water in the cove is calmer on a dropping tide, but the logic for this is obscure.


Tides run more strongly in the sound between Scariff and Deenish than they do inside Deenish. On the flood, the tides reunite off the northern tip of Deenish causing turbulence locally. They run north with the flood and south with the ebb into and out of Kenmare Bay.

Between Scariff and Deenish
Direction Time Speed
North 5:05 after Cobh HW 1.5kn
South 1:20 before Cobh HW 1.5kn

Abbey Island

V520-582          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

Abbey Island (8ha) is named for the early Christian abbey – Derrynane Abbey – in the NE corner, said to have been founded by Finan. The current ruins though date from the 13th century. This overgrown island is attached to the mainland to the NE by a spit of sand, except at the highest of spring tides or the wickedest of storms. The graveyard attached to the abbey is still in use. Where the island abuts the mainland, there are sandy beaches on each side. To the NW lies the sheltered Derrynane Harbour. To the NE lies Derrynane Bay, with its famous surf beach reaching towards the beautiful Lamb’s Head peninsula. ENE lies the popular holidaymaking village of Caherdaniel. The south and west coasts of Abbey Island are cliffy and give a good bounce most of the time. The west side is indented and interesting.

No water and no camping.

Lamb’s Island

V516-586          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

Lamb’s Island lies NNW of Abbey Island and is separated from it by the narrowest of deep channels. The channel may dry at the lowest of spring tides. This island combines with Abbey Island to shelter Derrynane Harbour at V515-291. The harbour is used equally by working and pleasure boats, including in summer, a sailing and canoeing school at V521-586. There is a working pier at V515-591 and an abandoned fish processing plant at V508-589.  Choose your launching spot beforehand with care, as all the approach roads are twisty and narrow.

Camping is possible at the outside end of the narrow channel at V516-585, with some privacy despite so many holidaymakers. The beaches are gravel and therefore uninteresting to most tourists. There is a decrepit fish-holding tank at the north end. The SW side is indented and interesting.


V511-589          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

Triple headed grassy knoll in WNW Derrynane Harbour, an important roost as the only local isolated island grass.  All other depicted islets locally are rocks.   Attractive views of a splendid beauty spot.  Land on shelves NE side or to taste.  Launch from lovely beach at abandoned processing plant immediately to its west.

Hog’s Head

V465-612          Sheet 83 / Sheet 84

Fine handsome lump of a big rugged chunky 37m high island, barely separated from the mainland to its east by a narrow channel which is boulder choked, and thereby impassable to boats of all descriptions.  Reports exist of individuals having scrambled across the gap, but by far the easier option is to float up to the sheltered NE corner where a landing is very feasible onto shelves / boulders.  Scramble up to where stakes are embedded in the turf, suggesting occasional grazing use.  Lovely grass throughout.  Highly identifying boulder on summit looks erratic but is actually sandstone.  Stunning views of awesome climbing cliffs nearby, and islands big and small further off, to south & west.  Offlying Pig’s Rocks V461-615 would be a challenging landing?  Seals.  Definitely a place to while away some time.

Launch from a slipway 2.5km east at V493-616.  Note the boatshed en route at Coosawaud  V475-610 which is nearer but doesn’t appear so easy a launch at all at all, and anyway the approach “road” to it would be frighteningly tricky, even judged by the standards of the local metalled thoroughfares, which are hair raising enough for most folks.

Horse Island

V439-643          Sheet 83

A most attractive, formerly-inhabited island just east of Ballinaskelligs Pier (one of Nimmo’s) at V433-645. There are two former dwellings, the lower of which was being restored at about the turn of the century. The island is high to its SW where the final ridge is an experience. Tower.  The west and south sides of the island are cliffy and give a bouncy circumnavigation under most circumstances. The east side has some intertidal beaches in coves. At least one of these is so obscured as to give a smuggler or piratical feeling. Sea urchins.

Landing and Camping

Land at a mud beach on north side. Behind the upper dwelling, there is a well with good water beside a wall. Camping at beach.

Valencia (or Valentia) Group

V372-730          Sheet 83

Portmagee Bridge is the epicentre of this varied group of islands, ranging from the Skelligs in the SW, to Beginish in the NE and including the mother of the group, Valencia Island itself. Also included is a guide to the coastline from Puffin Island in the SW to Rossbeigh in the NE.


The embarkation place for the south-westerly islands of the group is at Portmagee. Launching is difficult enough, being over weedy flats. This is achieved from the car park at the bridge, from the pier, or further down Portmagee village. The village is a cul-de-sac, which incorporates pubs, restaurants, and a simple grocery shop. The ‘Skellig Experience Interpretive Centre’ (reputedly well worth the visit) is on the island side of the bridge.

Ferries go from Portmagee to Skellig.

Great Skellig

V250-608          Sheet 83

Nothing that the visitor has read or been told about this island, nor even the sight of it from near or far, at dawn or dusk, will prepare one for the reality when one lands.


The visitor will be left incredulous at the system of roads and pathways accessing the different parts of the island. Those who conceived and built what is to be seen here wouldn’t remove their caps in the presence of those who built the pyramids.

Marvel at the pathways and walls, the stone staircases, the dwellings, the churches, the sheer drops everywhere. Some parts of the Skellig are very dangerous, and for the avoidance of doubt, there are no shops, facilities of any kind, or toilets. There is definitively no drinking water, despite some literature saying otherwise. The many wells are disused and unclean.

Keep clear of the actual summit of the island, South Peak, even though it has more oratories, terraces and “leachts” on its south side which most people never see.  South Peak requires climbing. An unwary some have climbed up and been unable to climb back down.  Climbing down is always harder than climbing up. Some such areas are closed off to public access.


For the kayaker, the Skelligs are a major challenge. They are further out from a landing than any other island dealt with in this guide. Further, there is a serious risk that on arrival, conditions will not be suitable to land. Therefore, the trip should only be undertaken in settled weather. Ideally, choose dead calm conditions. In any event, do not choose wind from the east/NE. Alternatively, those fit enough to turn round and go home again without breaking their journey could try. The journey out is about 20km from Portmagee, or about 3 hours for an average, competent group. Therefore, the level of fitness required across the party should not be underestimated. The Skelligs are thought to be, from certain perspectives, the single most committing paddle in Ireland.

Three launching options present themselves:

1.Portmagee pier/slipway V372-730 is the normal departure point. The journey is a bit longer, but the put-in or take-out is always dependable. Launching is a bit awkward, being over weedy flats, but manageable.

2.A return journey in only 5 hours is possible from a small beach called Keel in Saint Finan’s Bay at V391-685. This though, is less dependable, as it surfs. It saves half an hour’s paddle, each way, not inconsiderable if the journey is being done both ways.

3.Also in Saint Finan’s Bay, and 2km closer again, is Boat Cove at V377-687, reached from the road by a 500m track down to a pier and slipway in a small harbour, known locally as Glen Pier. Ferries go from Glen Pier to Skellig.

The problem with launching from anywhere but Portmagee is that, in anything but calm conditions, Saint Finan’s Bay is an inherently hazardous place. There are cliffs for many kilometres either side of the beach and harbour, and the beach is liable to surf. Portmagee offers a calm put-in or take-out at all times, on a main road. Saint Finan’s Bay must therefore be of interest only to those on passage, on holiday in the immediate area, or in exceptionally calm weather. The difference in the journey length for those fit enough for the task does not outweigh the logistics involved in finding the right conditions. This applies to going and, particularly, coming back hours later.

Breaking the journey

There is the possibility of reducing the overall commitment level in terms of non-stop kilometres to be travelled. Consider landing on Puffin Island V345-680, leaving ‘only’a 2 hour / 13km journey. Puffin may be reached from Portmagee at about 7/8km to the NE, or at 4.5km from Keel to the east. Routing via Puffin has the further advantage that it, then Lemon Rocks, then Little Skellig, then Great Skellig, all form one long straight line. Beware, the line is not dead straight, but is very usable. Also, this route crosses the tidal flow at right angles making navigation simpler.

Puffin is a fine destination in its own right.


Between Skellig and the coast
Direction Time Speed
North 5:00 after Cobh HW 1.5kn
South 1:10 before Cobh HW 1.5kn

Local HW is an hour before Cobh HW.


The landing is on the NE tip of the island in Blind Man’s Cove V250-608, looking across to the Little Skellig. It is a small pier with narrow, steep steps, up which the kayak must awkwardly be carried. These steps are extremely steep and narrow, but nowadays they do at least have a handrail. Rope work and teamwork may be necessary, especially at LW. The bottom step gets just covered at LWN. So, landing is the more difficult or even impossible around LWS.

Arriving while the tour boats are present (1030 to 1500 hrs. approximately) may greatly increase these problems.  They block access to the landing steps when they’re alongside the quay. They are though in and out fairly quickly – collecting/delivering, but even so one might have to wait 20 mins or more to land

Three other landings may be possible should conditions dictate, though the universal opinion is that the main quay at the NE is really the only practical landing, except in emergency.

    • To the SE, there is reportedly a shallow inlet or cleft in the rocks between Cross Cove V249-606 (halfway between Blind Man’s Cove and the lighthouse) and Blue Man’s Rock at V248-604 (halfway between Cross Cove and the lighthouse), with a path leading steeply up to the lighthouse road.  If it works it would solve some of the problems experienced when the main landing is busy.
    • To the SW there is a sheltered bay, Seal Cove, where a landing may be forced under the new lighthouse at V246-604 in calm conditions, onto a steeply shelving ramp, but which goes nowhere.
    • To the NW there is a much more possible landing onto disused steps at V247-607 in a deep bay called Blue Cove. It is unclear whether these steps may be usable only at HW, so some planning is required. This may though also entail a carry with full kayaks up steep and uneven ground to find anywhere to leave them.  There are carved steps and a disused pathway up onto the main parts of the island. The present condition of the path is unknown. It is reported that Dúchas intend to improve this path to provide some flexibility. In any event, a waystop is fairly dependable here at HW (HW Cobh -0100).


Parties day-tripping should leave the mainland early to maximise their day. Overnighting is strongly discouraged in the high season, April – October. The island is under the joint control of Dúchas and the Commissioners of Irish Lights, from whom permission may be sought to overnight. Apply well in advance. Dúchas are refurbishing the Skellig environment generally, as well as excavating archaeologically.

There is nowhere for a tent, and no question of a bivouac anywhere but on the NE pier (the landing spot) itself. The whole question of access policy with regard to the island is very fluid, and nothing should be taken for granted. Arrive well equipped and well victualled, just in case. The reaction of the authorities to your arrival may be influenced by how you, your gear, your attitude and your competence come across.  The island is “open” only between about 1000 and 1600. Outside of these hours you won’t be allowed off the quay, even if you’re tolerated there.

Monks Generally

Monks inhabited the island from at least the 6th Century.  A monastic settlement, founded by Saint Fionán and dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel, thrived here through Europe’s Dark Ages. Typically there were 12 or more monks at any given time.  Inhabitation may be much older, as monks were most practical individuals, well capable of adopting, adapting and improving on the practices of those who went before them. Vikings raided here in 824 but got poor return for their efforts. These monks were true ascetics, and there was nothing to rob. They carried off the abbot Étgal and starved him to death.  The settlement consists of beehive-type huts, built on the very summit. Actually, they are built on the secondary of two such summits, but only a pedant would say so.

Coptic Influence

Traditionally, Christians never did marry during Lent.  The Coptic Church based in Egypt follows the Julian calendar, observes a Lenten period 9 days longer than the Roman version, and Easter is calculated somewhat differently, resulting in sometimes widely different start and finish dates for Lent.  For instance in 2024, Coptic Lent starts 26 days after Catholic Lent begins, and finishes, i.e. Easter, 35 days later.  The “split” was gradual, beginning in 482 A.D., effective by 867 and formal by 1054.  The reasons for the split were much the same as with Protestantism some centuries later – “bottom up” versus “top down” management styles, and of course there were theological considerations in the mix as well.  Monks, globally, have always tended to see themselves as independent of geographically local governance structures involving bishops and the like.  Christianity in Ireland initially followed the more eastern practices and our Skellig monks are reputed to have continued to follow Coptic regulations all the while they were on the rock until they left about 1250. Irish monks of that time were a hardy independent lot, answerable only to their God, unsuited to taking external direction, including anything like “Rome rule”.  Lent starting later on Skellig than elsewhere in Ireland, and especially the belief that it did, became, and remained, widespread, with the most remarkable consequences.  Local lore includes many wonderful tales of impatient (for whatever reason) young couples travelling to the rock to marry before its later Lent kicked in.  In this way it seems Skellig began to be seen as a “go to” marriage venue for early springtime.

The practice didn’t die out with the monks.  If anything it accelerated with larger boats becoming quite common in later centuries, making the journey really quite practical.  First, pilgramages to the rock evolved from holiness and prayer for all into love and romance for the young and hopeful, boys and girls alike.  Couples who missed the boat, so to speak, mightn’t have to exercise the legendary patience for which young love is forever associated. But next, the flip side of the coin developed, as coming up to Lent each year, anyone of marriageable status throughout Cork and Kerry began to be “encouraged” to make the trip.  Then the character of the encouragement took a really quite nasty turn, in the form of a lively industry in the lurid defamation, on “penny broadsheets”, of any men and women in a locality who supposedly did or should or might want to go to Skellig to marry, pairing together the most likely and unlikely candidates, sparing few.  These were known as “Skellig Lists”, consisting of caustic and hurtful doggerel verse, widely printed and published on cheaply produced pamphlets, “outing” the supposed young lovers.  Because they were anonymously produced there were no holds barred.  The detail was “juicy”.  The publications were dreaded yet eagerly awaited and read by absolutely everyone, in the public interest. All very reminiscent of the www and modern day cyber-bullying.

This all happened in the run up to, and peaked on the night before, mainstream Lent, Shrove Tuesday, when things got so out of hand the evening was renamed “Skelliking Night”.  Young men felt they were at liberty to ambush and capture nubile young things, tie them up, and douse them in water, all in the name of encouraging them towards matromony.  Single men and women of a certain age were openly jeered and sneered at and thoroughly abused.  Boisterous malarkey mostly, but incidents of alcohol fuelled sexuality were not unheard of.  The practice peaked in the 19th century, public order legislation had to be introduced, and though it all then wained, remnants of the carry on survived well into the 20th and even into the 21st century, when until very recently, for instance, girls’ schools in towns such as Cobh and Blarney reportedly would close an hour early on Shrove Tuesday so the pupils could get home safely before the town’s corresponding boys were released.


The lighthouse was commissioned in 1826 and automated in 1987. The light character is 3 white flashes every 10 seconds.


Puffin.  To say there are Puffin on the Great Skellig is an understatement. Nowhere else may the tourist see these crazy birds in Halloween masks in such numbers, and by day, when the visitor is up and about. 6,000 individual birds were censussed in 2022.  Their special appeal is that they can be seen at close quarters and are easily photographed. Much effort is wasted until the visitor slowly realises how actually close one may get to these wee creatures.  Puffin typically live 25 years.

Storm Petrel.  Actually the most common breeding species on Great Skellig is the Storm Petrel, at 10,000 pairs, but they only come in at night, to their young on their nests very high up, in burrows or in cracks in the walls of the monastery and even in the beehive huts.  So most people miss them.  They live for about 10 years typically.

Manx Shearwater.  In the darkest hours of night, down low near enough the water, the Kittiwake finally go quiet in time for the Manx Shearwater to set up their incomparable cacophony, their hysterical shrieking, their blood curdling

Aag     aah      mem    non
Aag     aah      mem    non
Aag     aah      mem    non
Aag     aah      mem    non

The birds come ashore only for a couple of hours each night during the breeding season. They even spend their winter out in midocean. They call (to use the most neutral term possible) so that their young can identify them and answer back. Where they breed, they breed in huge colonies.  “Only” 1,000 pairs, but for those on the island at night, they make their presence felt.  They live for 40 years or more.

There are also large numbers of Kittiwake, Fulmar, and Guillemot.

Great Skellig is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and for some, even more important, it featured in the film “Star Wars”.

Washer Woman Rock

V243-600          Sheet 83

Actually a chain of 4 large rocks located about 0.5km SW of Great Skellig, the most west rocks in the Skelligs chain.  The “summit” measures about the area of the feet of two average adults.  Landing may be forced only in very benign conditions, as the name probably suggests only to older kayakers.  Landing here is about as meaningful or as pointless as such landings get.  One either gets the point or one doesn’t.  This rock is nothing and nowhere on the way to nothing and nowhere, and it is miles from anywhere.  Landing surely typifies a certain spirit.

Little Skellig

V270-618          Sheet 83

Very much the support act for its famous neighbour, Little Skellig nevertheless has a character all its own. It is home to seriously vast numbers of Gannet, which inhabit every nonvertical inch of its mighty whitewashed cliffs. Gannets live for 40 / 50 years and the visible nests there were counted in 2022 at 35,000.  Best wear a wide brimmed hat and don’t look up! The island has its own awe-inspiring shape that may have inspired Disney. It is possible, though difficult, and certainly pointless, to effect a landing there. Nobody is going anywhere in this vertical world. There are sea arches also, most of which go nowhere.

Lemon Rocks

V309-637          Sheet 83

Truly an excellent waystop when going to or from the Skelligs, if conditions are really calm. Tides run strongly in the shallows so otherwise keep away.

Puffin Island

V343-678          Sheet 83

A big, high, chunky island at the NW tip of Saint Finan’s Bay, about 5km south of the entrance to Portmagee Channel. The cliffs on all sides are huge, except on the east, but where it is difficult to find a flat grassy bit to camp on. The island is almost split north/south midway along. Deep inlets north&south appear to cut the island, at least from some angles, but actually it is possible to descend easily enough to where a wide but steep grassy ramp gives a connection between the two.  The summit portions of the west end require scrambling and a cool head.  Puffin, rabbits and sea-pink abound. This is a lovely, wild, pleasant, ‘must’ of an island.


Deep-water landings may be had in a number of places but nowhere better than in a sheltered, SE-facing, bouldery cove just south of the narrowest part of Puffin Sound, tucked inside Oats Island V345-680, called locally Boat Cove. Tether to ropes left there by local scuba divers and fishermen for lunch stops. There is also an iron ring or similar evidence of other larger vessels having landed in the same spot at some time in the past. There is good clear water at all times in a well-filtered pool to one side, under a waterfall. An easy ramp gives access to the interior.


Peregrine, Chough, Storm Petrel.

Oats Island

V346-680          Sheet 83

This is a small rocky islet lying very close to Puffin Island just south of its NE corner. Landing is onto sloping rock platforms on the west side. Scramble to top over large boulders onto grass and sea pinks covered ridge on steep east side. The summit had a single pair of breeding Oystercatcher and Great Black-backed Gulls in June 2008. Good views all round and especially of the boulder strewn landing area on Puffin Island.  No water or camping. The narrow cut that separates Oats Island from Puffin Island is not navigable at lower waters.

Flax Island

V346-676          Sheet 83

This is a small rugged island lying just off the SE point of Puffin Island. Landing is onto rock platforms on the east flank. At periods close to half tide a narrow “kayak width” cut leads into a pool that helps landing onto seaweed covered rocks. This pool has reasonable sized mussels in season. The gap that separates Flax Island from Puffin Island is navigable at all stages of the tide but is narrow and both it and the landing area are very prone to surge and swell. A large boomer exits off the east point of Flax Island and is impressive in SW or west seas.

No water or camping but the quick scramble to the summit is worth the views. There were breeding Oystercatcher, Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gulls present in June 2008.

Coastal Section –

Saint Finan’s Bay to Portmagee

V376-686 to V372-730, Sheet 83

This 9km coastal paddle can be twice that if pottering, especially if one includes a circuit of Puffin Island. Not to do so is to miss out on ‘a magnificent piece of savage marine architecture, with dizzy cliffs carved and eroded by the Atlantic breakers and set at crazy angles by the mighty forces of past geological movements’ – ‘In the Kingdom of Kerry’ by R.Hayward, 1945. Ideally, calm conditions should prevail, to allow paddlers inside the many rocks and islands dotting this stretch. Vertical cliffs in excess of 100m contribute to the sense of exposure and commitment.

Embark at the pier 3km inside Puffin Sound, known locally as Glen Pier at V376-686, where there are some fishing boats and scuba-diver traffic. This has two slipways and lots of parking space, but is exposed to the west. It is also the nearest access point for a paddle to the Skelligs. Before landing, look for a long narrow inlet almost opposite the slipway, which leads to a long low arch with a few openings to the sky – though this wee adventure needs HW.

From Puffin northwards, there is only the ‘savage grandeur of the rock-bound, storm besculptured coast’. The islands – Horse, Long, Short and Black Rocks, guard the entrance to the main Portmagee Channel. Opposite them are a number of deep inlets where landings can be made onto gravel or stones. Much easier landings are to be had onto gravel beaches just inside the headland delimiting the channel proper. Approaching the Portmagee Channel, avoid the fishing boats, and in summer, the numerous Skellig ferries. Land at Portmagee at V372-730.

Long Island

V346-724          Sheet 83

This much-fragmented island lies to the SE (mainland) of the western entrance to Portmagee Channel. The highest part of the island is rocky, and this is the only one of the group which is grazed. No water is evident. An earthen, circular mound is apparent, showing an early Christian site, and an associated killeen, or children’s graveyard. Prominent Bull Rock stands off the west tip. Long channels separate the various parts of the island.

Short Island is separated from Long Island by a cliff-lined, long, narrow channel, and Black Rock is the substantial rock just off Short Island.


Deep-water landings are easy. One is onto sheltered rocks facing the mainland. If there is no swell, another is possible onto a slab about one third the way down the adjoining narrow channel. This has the more difficult access to the top.

Horse Island

V349-728          Sheet 83

Grazed by sheep, this small grassy island lies just NE of Long Island. The easiest landings face the mainland and Long Island. For the passer-by, this island marks a convenient landing and camping beach on the mainland directly inside it.

Approaching the mainland, look for an obvious cave, which dries, with a small blowhole. After landing, note the warning signs, which restrict access to a major blowhole. The old maps show a tunnel linking the cave to the major blowhole, but which is no longer evident. Deaf Rocks are a string of substantial rocks running alongside and separated from Horse Island.

Valencia (or Valentia) Island

Oileán Dairbhre

V388-759          Sheet 83

Population 700. A large and varied island lying ENE to WSW on the NW tip of the Iveragh Peninsula. Valencia marks the southern tip of the entrance to Dingle Bay. Inside the island is the flat and sheltered Portmagee Channel, joining Knightstown in the NE to Portmagee in the SW.  The piers at Knightstown and nearby Cahirciveen are by Nimmo.

Knightstown is the only town on the island. A ferry runs from here to the mainland opposite at Reenard. Portmagee is a town on the mainland to which the island is connected by a bridge. The bridge opens to allow larger vessels through. The outer parts of the island are 9km or so of committing cliffs, by far the most dramatic of which are at the west end at Bray Head at V328-725. There is only one waystop on the outside section, about halfway along.


Footsteps in the rocks belonging to a tiny tetrapod dinosaur were found some years ago and date back to about 360 million years ago.  Overhead the NE entrance is Valentia Radio, one of the main coastal radio stations of Ireland. The first transatlantic cable was laid from here to Trinity Bay in Newfoundland, a process that began in 1855. In 1857, the ‘Agamemnon’ was nearly lost in a great storm when the cable snapped, at the edge of the continental shelf, 560km out to sea. Later, in 1859, the ‘Great Eastern’ completed the whole of the task solo. Adjacent to the radio station is an abandoned slate quarry.  The slate quarry opened in 1816 and its produce was used in the British House of Commons.


The tide flooding northeast past the island to fill Dingle Bay enters Portmagee Channel from both ends simultaneously, meeting 2km east of Portmagee.

Portmagee Channel
Direction Time Speed
In 4:50 after Cobh HW 2kn
Out 1:35 before Cobh HW 2kn

Local HW is about an hour before Cobh.

Streams reach 2kn at Portmagee itself and 1.5kn at Knightstown and Fort Point Lighthouse.


A circumnavigation is an obvious challenge, being logistics free, but is quite long at 25km or so. Many interesting stops might be made, and there are committing stretches on the outside.

To save effort, these tides should be carefully planned. A suggestion perhaps, presuming ever-present SW winds, is to embark from Portmagee on the last of the ebb. Utilise the slack/early flood up the exposed part of the coast. Then enjoy the full-blooded flood in, to, and past Knightstown, almost home.

Bray Head has a watchtower and huge overhanging cliffs, with fragmented rocks lying off the base with channels between them. NNE from here, reflected waves and strong tides, especially at the protruding points, make for an interesting passage.

The only waystop on the outside part of the island is onto a storm beach at V359-762, tucked inside Shrone Point in an east-facing cove. This is about halfway between Bray Head and Reenadrolaun Point, at the lowest part of this section of the island. It is reachable by boreen if necessary. There is good camping and water may be had in the nearby river. If the journey is broken on Horse or Long Island, just 8km of paddling will reach this point. Nevertheless, the steepest cliffs and strongest tides are in this section so expect to be challenged to some degree.

The cliffs on the east part of the outside are higher, but not as steep, and get a little shelter. Expect a bounce again at Reenadrolaun Point at V383-785, after which the going should ease considerably.

There is a good, sheltered beach just inside Fort Point lighthouse at V404-782, with camping in the grounds, for use in distress only. There is also a less convenient slip outside and west of the point, with better camping but a more awkward landing. Really, those looking to camp in isolation hereabouts would be better to go to nearby Beginish.

Knightstown is a pretty spot, worth visiting. All the island’s facilities are here – pubs, restaurants, dive schools, lifeboat, ferry, harbour, sailing. The channel back to Portmagee has fine views, but should be avoided at LW or with contrary tides.


V367-731          Sheet 83

Illaunloughan is a small, low-lying island, about 400m from Portmagee. Deep water separates the island from the nearby mainland near Portmagee on its south side at even the lowest spring tides.

This is an early church site, and the burial place of “children and adult strangers”. There have been comprehensive “digs” and some re-building by overseas research groups.  A church and other monuments have been lovingly restored and the whole is well kept and regularly maintained.

There is a stone-lined, spring-fed, holy well on the south side. A few steps lead down to it, and it has a large stone lintel for a roof. Water quality is questionable, due to lack of use.

Launch from a choice of spots.  There is a carpark at Portmagee bridge.  Parking is difficult at the west end of Portmagee and not recommended.  There are a choice of slipways on the Valencia side, the best option really if a group is involved.  Land at a shingle beach on the east side.  Seals.


V414-787          Sheet 83

Inappropriately named, (Beginish translates as ‘Small Island’), this quite large and lovely inhabited island sits in the middle of the ENE entrance to Portmagee Channel. There is a prominent watchtower on top. The residential section is entirely on the western side of the island. The views are idyllic, but are perhaps just a tad too near civilisation.

Archaeological excavations have revealed early field systems. Also revealed is a reasonably preserved semi-submerged dwelling. This has a ramp leading down to the doorway. The ramp is now sand covered. This construction is unique for its time and is accepted as a Viking settlement. It was probably used as a stopping place during sea voyages between Cork and Limerick. Further digs are planned to reveal an expected burial ground. It is thought-provoking to note that, at the end of the 19th Century, there was sand to a depth of seven feet on this side of the island. Erosion, and especially the introduction of rabbits, led to huge loss of sand in about 50 years. This led to the exposure of the Viking settlement. On the southern side, west of the waist, are the remains of an early Church site. Also nearby is a killeen, and a small standing stone with crosses inscribed on both sides.


The best camping is on the southern side of the east end. Here the island is waisted and the land is machair-like, backed by little hillocks. These have pleasant beaches both sides, sandy on the north and pebbled on the south.

Church Island

V430-786          Sheet 83

Church Island lies just east of Beginish. One may walk to it from Beginish at very LW. Otherwise, land at sheltered rocks on south side. Named for its rectangular church, of which two walls are in ruins. There is also a good circular dwelling. The two buildings are quite obvious. Dúchas attempts at preservation were not very successful. Look for the wall system around the island, which marked all ground inside as consecrated. Only ‘Holy Men’ could sleep inside. A small gap, still visible, on the east side, allowed ‘lay’ people day visits to the Church. There are the remains of a ‘special’ grave on the south side. There is also a water collection hole at the back of the circular building, of suspect quality.

Embark from the north end of a beautiful, sheltered, beach, White Strand at V436-793. Good car park at northern end.  This is the spot where the “Kerry Baby” named John was found on 14th April 1984, aged a few weeks, stabbed to death 28 times.  The police mishandling of the investigation was subsequently the subject of a major enquiry that rocked the state.

Lambs Island

V420-791          Sheet 83

An ungrazed, small, dull lump of an island, NE of Beginish. No water was found. No camping. Land at a spit in the SE, facing the north beach on Beginish.

Launch from White Strand.

Foughil Island

V454-793          Sheet 83

A small island is deceptive, appearing smaller than it actually is on first glance from the shoreline, located in the Valencia River estuary just 1km west of Cahersiveen, opposite Mannix Point (campsite) V457-792.  The island is low lying but contains an attractive mix of grazed fields and areas of gorse and bracken.  There is some salt marsh along its northern edge which together with the inter-tidal sand and mud flats provides good feeding zones for duck and wader species in winter. The island is a roosting site for the estuarine birds using the estuary.  Chough 2, Merlin 1 and Hare 5 were present in January 2015.

The island is accessible from the stony beaches which flank the campsite at Mannix Point or from a small narrow lane V452-786 that opens onto the estuary just west of the campsite boundary. The parking here however is limited to a single vehicle and groups should perhaps ask at the campsite if for additional parking.

Mannix Point is a good embarkation point for kayakers who may find themselves in the area in heavy weather when more offshore objectives are not achievable. The area allows access to the northern side of Valentia Harbour or Beginish and makes for a good day trip option.

Landings can be made along all sides of the island but care should be taken at times of low water as the northern and western sides dry out.  Camping is available along the western side. No water outside of that provided for cattle was found.

Coastal Section

Reenard Point to Rossbeigh

V434-776 to V645-910, Sheets 83 / 70 / 78

This trip describes the south side of Dingle Bay, from Reenard Point at V434-776, outside Cahersiveen, to Rossbeigh Beach at V645-910, a distance of about 32km. It is a trip of two distinct sections. The first is more remote, with a mountain ridge separating road from sea, with the mountain dropping to the sea in sheer cliff faces. There are two deep inlets on this part, both with sheltered piers.

The second section has numerous stopoff places, and where steep earth and rock banks rise to the main road which parallels the shore, high overhead.

Reenard Point at V434-776 is the easiest embarkation place for car access, being close to the main road. A summer ferry runs from here to Valencia. There is a superb seafood pub on the pier. Alternatively, the beach at White Strand (NE of Church Island) at V436-793 can be used. Admire, in passing, the extensive beach on NE Beginish.

Rounding Doulus Head at V405-804, next along are Cooncrome (pronounced Coosecrown) Harbour at V444-816 and Coonanna Harbour at V480-842. Both are wide, deep harbours with pier and beach but no other facilities.

The onward trip is just as committing with the next landing about 10km away at Kells Bay at V556-880. Kells Bay is a wide, deep inlet, with a sheltered pier – a noted beach and holiday spot. On the way, look for a stream falling clear to the water, where the cliffs form a bottleneck into which you must go to get under the waterfall. Also on the way, you come to Gull Rocks at V521-876, which are really little islands – sheer, high and close to the cliff-lined land. There is a sense of isolation around them.

Finish at Rossbeigh (or Rossbehy) beach and sand dunes. This is a noted family beach, in parts like a typical machair, with hotel and holiday village. There is even a small sweet shop and chip shop, open during summer. The council maintain public toilets, water, and rubbish collection. They charged €7 per tent per night in 2002. Pitch where you like, except in the football field or tennis courts. Rossbeigh can have decent surf, and the dunes have been mapped for orienteering events. This area has been and remains the meeting ground for all Irish paddlers and surfers for the Christmas/New Year break.

The long sand spit of Rossbeigh Point that extends north from Glenbeigh was breached at its north end by coastal erosion c.2009 leaving a substantial island lying offshore. The island consisted of extensive intertidal sandy beaches and sand dunes covered in Marram grass. Tides flowed strongly off both the north/south ends entering and leaving Glenbeigh and Cromane Harbours. The breach made between the point and the island was considerably eroded since Jan 2011 and the shape of the island was changing from year to year.  The breach is now more or less closed as of January 2013 and Rossbeigh Island as it was known for a few years has been once again subsumed into the mainland.

There is ample parking at the south end of Rossbeigh Beach. However, there is a height barrier restriction that will not allow access for vans or campers which will have to park on roadside or at the local pub across the road.  The carry at times of HW is reasonable. Rossbeigh beach surfs frequently so an approach from within Glenbeigh or Cromane Harbours may be considered.

The Dingle Peninsula

Corca Dhuibhne

Coastal Section

Dingle Town to Slea Head

Baile an Daingin go Ceann Sléibhe

Q445-010 to V318-968 Sheet 70

Dingle town is a major fishing and tourist town, at the head of a sheltered bay. Embark at the harbour (the pier is by Nimmo) Q441-009 where there is good parking.  Parking and launching are “paying”.  There is also a small car park at V452-997, halfway out the harbour on the east side, more suitable for small groups or dolphin watching.  ‘Fungie’, the local friendly dolphin, used to be an experience here for 25 years, now sorely missed. The tour boats miss him. Parking used to be very restricted, perhaps not now.  Camping may be possible here or near the old tower. There is a path into town along the shoreline.

Only the mouth of Dingle Harbour is narrow, and once inside the bay opens wide.  The beach SE of the mouth dumps, unfortunately.

The trip to Slea Head is 16km. Hug the cliff line, and in calm water explore the many arches, caves, coves, and stacks.  This stretch is without landings, unless a detour is made into Ventry Harbour – Cuan Fionntrá, halfway along.  There is good parking and easy access at the pier on the SW side, 1.5km in, at the south end of a sandy beach.  It may get congested in summer. Fish cages.


Entrance to Dingle Harbour
Direction Time
In 1:00 before Cobh LW (local LW)
Out 1:00 before Cobh HW (local HW)


Blasket Islands – Na Blascaodaí

Sheet 70

This group of islands, the most westerly, not only in Ireland but in continental Europe, is surely the finest in the country. There is a regular ferry to the Great Blasket only. There is little in the way of anchorages for bigger boats at the outliers, which are also rugged and exposed. Therefore, sea kayakers are privileged to have the finest way to explore the group as a whole. The Blaskets are a showpiece of Irish sea kayaking. That said, among the outliers, only Beginish and Inishvickillane have landings that are in any way dependable. Good conditions are needed elsewhere to avoid having to swim ashore, or worse. Expect to have to work for any landing. The commitment of the group should be consistent.

The islands are uninhabited. Great Blasket was abandoned in 1954. Earlier in the century, 176 people lived there. There was a community here in 1588 when the Armada was about the place.  Between 1800 and Irish political independence from Great Britain in 1921, there was always about 150, including on Inis Mhicileain into the 20th century.  Inis Tuaisceart, Beiginis and Inis Mhicileain (up to 8) were occupied from time to time, and even Inisnabro had 4 in 1851 after the famine.

The islands did not thrive with independence.  There was never the money for a pier.  The breakwater erected by charity money on the main island in earlier times never really gave enough shelter, so that except in very fair weather, only very small boats could land.  That meant that the island was cut off for long periods when other such islands would not have been.  Lack of access to mainland schools, hospitals, churches and shops wore the people down.  Then the turf ran out in the 1930s and even keeping warm in winter wasn’t guaranteed.

There was always a single house on Inishvickillane. The Great Blasket now only has summer homes and there is one on Inishvickillane. There is an interpretive centre for the islands on the mainland at Dún Chaoin.


There are several places from which to embark, none of which are easy.

V315-997        Dún Chaoin Pier, from which the ferry operates, is the logical embarkation place, being sheltered. It has good parking, less than private camping, no water, but the pier is reached by a most unpleasant, steep carry. Launching is off a very steep slipway, or to one side in calm conditions. Group co-operation is often necessary.

Q313-003        There is a small bouldery beach at the end of the laneway past the interpretive centre, which may be suitable for small groups in settled conditions.

Q316-033        Clogher beach has a car park above but can surf with any swell from the west.

V312-980        Coumeenoole or Slea Head beach lies almost 1.5km north of Slea Head itself, tucked inside Dunmore Head (V302-980). It gives a shorter trip. It often surfs, yet has merit for embarkation. With north winds, or when calm, it is very much the preferred option. The carry is better than the pier at Dún Chaoin, and the parking is excellent.


Tides in the Blasket Sound – An Bealach and elsewhere through the islands, flood north and ebb south, twisting with the channels. An exception is the channel between Inishnabro and Inishvickillane, in which the flow is always west. The tide races in the sounds, including Blasket Sound, have a fierce reputation.

Direction Time Speed
North 4:30 after Cobh HW 2-3kn
South 1:50 before Cobh HW 1-3kn

Local HW is about an hour before Cobh. The stream timings are affected by strong winds. In particular, in sustained southerlies the flood runs longer and stronger.

The speed of the tidal streams in the main channels varies, but is generally 1 – 3kn. In the narrower channels, in springs, the stream can reach up to 4kn, except between Inishnabro and Inishvickillane, where it is always weak.

In Blasket Sound, the north-making flood rushes past Dunmore Head – An Dún Mór and eddies clockwise around Dún Chaoin Bay. Outward bound, small boats could do worse than follow the example of the ferry, which follows the coast southwest almost to Dunmore Head before crossing. In wind, this may get your boat above the bumpier parts of the tidal race, for a much smoother passage. On the south-making ebb tide, try a more northerly route, taking shelter from Beginish.

Beware of reported local magnetic anomalies.


Recommended reading must start with ‘Twenty Years A-Growing’ by Maurice O’Sullivan, translated from the Irish (Fiche Blíain ag Fás),

For a more complete list, add the following:

‘The Islandman’ (An tOileánach) by Tomás O’Criomhtháin

‘Peig’ by Peig Sayers

‘An Old Woman’s Reflections’ by Peig Sayers

‘The Western Island – The Great Blasket’ by Robin Flower

‘ The Blaskets, People and Literature’ by Muiris Mac Conghail

‘Méini – The Blasket Nurse’ by Leslie Matson

‘Letters from the Great Blasket’ by Eibhlís ní Shúilleabháin

‘Island Cross Talk’ by Tomás Ó’Crohán

‘A Pity Youth does not Last’ by Micheál O’Guiheen

‘The Blasket Islands – Next Parish America’ by Joan Stagles

‘Island Home – The Blasket Heritage’ by George Thomson

‘Blasket Memories’ edited by Pádraig Tyers

‘Hungry for Home’ by Cole Morton

‘Blaskets – a Kerry Island Library’ by Muiris MacConghail


Peregrine, Chough, Storm Petrel, Leach’s Petrel, Barnacle Goose, Greenland White-fronted Goose, Common & Arctic Tern.

The ‘outer four’ Blaskets, Tearaght, Inishtooskert, Inishnabro and Inishvickillane, boast internationally important numbers of breeding Storm Petrel and Manx Shearwater.

The Spanish Armada

The long awaited Spanish Armada sailed through the English Channel in August 1588, but no really decisive battle was fought. The Spanish knew they couldn’t achieve their main aims, and decided to sail home anti-clockwise around Scotland and Ireland. The English left them to it. The weather and the Atlantic would surely do what they had failed to ? They turned left at Fair Isle and left again near Rockall. Sailing South from so far North very few of the sailors had ever experienced, the great fleet broke up and it was each ship for itself. Some ran for land out of hunger and thirst, some got home, and some tried and failed.

It is thought that 26 Spanish Armada ships were wrecked on the Irish coasts in 1588, from the Blaskets in the SW around to Dunluce Head in the NE. The Blaskets is a tale of good and bad fortune.

Vice Admiral Recalde knew the tiny gap between Great Blasket and the reefs / islands to the NE. He had seen this coast before in an expedition in 1580 to put Italian soldiers ashore in Smerwick. He went through first on 14.9.1588 in San Juan followed immediately behind by the frightened but trusting Captain Aramburu in the San Juan Bautista. This has long been regarded as an act of truly superb seamanship, proving the failure of the armada was related to many factors including maybe the quality of its ships, but distinctly not the men who sailed them. The two ships swapped anchors, sent men ashore for water, and then they waited.

On 21.9.1588, a big storm came up, in the middle of which appeared the Santa Maria de la Rosa from the NE. Her anchor held only as long as the tide was flooding north (the wind was from the north, and helped to hold her), but once the tide changed, the wind and tide had her, so she slipped away, and was lost with all hands in less than 2 hours.

Then yet another San Juan Bautista appeared and another small ship. Both were considered spent, were scuttled, and their crews taken aboard the two San Juans. All made it safely back to Spain.

A major contributory factor for the number of ships of the armada wrecked off the Irish coast was the loss to most of them of their main anchors off Calais the month before. The English drifted fire-ships down onto the fleet as it lay anchored, a tried and trusted attack offensive strategy of the day, devastating in the right circumstances. The Spanish were ready for this well known ploy, and slipped anchors to dodge them. Standard operating procedure intended they sail a km or so to one side, and then slip back to retrieve their previous anchorage. However, they all got in each other’s way, and the tides were strong. In their clumsy manoeuvring, a lot of them lost ground they couldn’t make back up. Very few made it back to their main anchor again. The English thought the (expensive) ploy had failed badly, but in fact, it accounted for dozens of Spanish ships, only it took time. Embayed off Scotland or Ireland with only reserve anchors, many ships were lost that would otherwise have made it, as with the Santa Maria de la Rosa.

There were other factors. The ships themselves were mostly too weak for the rigours they experienced. They just weren’t up to the North Atlantic in late Autumn. Battle damage added to the problem, as did the stress on their timbers from firing huge cannons they were never designed for. There was no easy way to calculate longitude in those days, only dead reckoning really, and sometimes going over a week without a sun fix, many were caught out. The maps of the day were inadequate and the sailors mostly just didn’t know Scotland or Ireland. The new Wagenhaer’s Chart was too small a scale, and the older Ortelius showed western Ireland as a straight line coast. Many a ship at dawn was delighted to spy land, but later found itself embayed. Unable to sail to windward, the end was nigh. Usually they anchored at that point but many were short on anchors.

In Scotland if they got ashore they were looked after. Many got safe passage home. Even if the ship returning them had to put into an English port for repairs or for any reason, the English gave them safe passage. The Armada threat was past, and the English were chivalrous. Things were different in Ireland. All of Recalde’s sailors who went ashore for various reasons were put to death. Worse, far worse, would happen elsewhere.

Irish peasants had never seen anything as wealthy as the miserable Spanish sailors they came across on beaches and headlands up and down the west coast. Their natural instincts guided their reactions. Typically they stripped the sailors naked and robbed them of everything. Then by all accounts, other peasants were quite hospitable to them, once they were equally miserable looking.

The English on the other hand had a game plan. Ireland had a new Governor, Lord Fitzwilliam, just three weeks into the job when the first Armada sailors swam ashore in September 1588. He feared that they would make alliances of convenience with local rebel clansmen. That never happened but he never stopped fearing it might. Typically the sailors were challenged and surrendered. Once in captivity they were rigorously interrogated. The wealthy few whose families might ransom them were saved but the rest were put to death, mostly by hanging.

The Great Blasket – An Blascaod Mór

V281-977          Sheet 70

Landing and Camping

Also known as An tOilean Tiar.  The main slip/pier is at V281-977 below the village, south of the beach, difficult to make out until close. The pier is somewhat sheltered, but some surge is always present. Water is from a tap high up at the SE end of the village, convenient to the pier, but a longer walk from the White Strand beach –An Trá Bán at V278-981.  The island is a National Park.  Camping is banned and landing even for day trips is barely tolerated.  Certainly it is unwise to land in high season at the main pier, and worse to camp in its vicinity. On a day trip, the An Trá Bán at V278-981 beach is much the easier, near a ramp, and small groups might chance camping above.

There is a splendid cafe for daytime snacking. Rock climbing has been opened up on the island, with a cliff just SW of Gurraun Point at V283-976 (the most east point of the island). Splendid walking tracks run high along both sides of the ridge of the island, like a necklace, giving an excellent circuit. On circumnavigation, tides run strongly at the three corners. The lee side of the island is often subject to fierce downblasts of kattabatic wind. Tides run strongly in Black Sound between Inishnabro and Great Blasket, where the wind can be funnelled and strengthened.


Great Blasket offers mice with long legs and big mouths. Local lore puts this down to the mice arriving with the Vikings 1,100 years ago, in bales of hay, and what with the sides of the island being steep. Others like to think of Darwinian adaptability, the island being relatively inaccessible to their predators. Either way, they do weigh more and have larger hind-feet.


Ireland’s second largest haul out of atlantic grey seal occurs here each autumn on An Trá Bán. Several hundred seal come here to pup between September and December. The only bigger colony is on Inishkea North in County Mayo.

Inishnabro – Inis na Bró

V212-925          Sheet 70


Landing is midway on the south-eastern side, in a tiny cove. The entrance to the cove is under a tall narrow arch, into a sheltered pool, open to the sky. The landing is onto boulders, and very much subject to surge and scend, especially in SW winds. The cove runs SW/NE and is unmissable when travelling from the SW, but is hard to see going the other way. The cove is distinctly the tallest along this side, opposite Inishvickillane – Inis Mhicileáin. It is situated just east of the only shallow bay along. Here there are the remains of a stone wall overhead, just visible when close. Scramble up the gully behind. The tall arched entrance is narrow but the pool is wider.

Kayakers with laden boats have found this landing very difficult with any swell running. Inishvickillane – Inis Mhicileáin, is more reliable altogether for those in the outer regions of the Blaskets.

The island looks like it is covered with heather, but this is actually solid Sea Pink on the south side. There are magnificent cliffs on the north. The island is distinctly saddled when seen from north or south. There is a fantastic array of buttresses on the east end. The cliffs of the north side are huge and impressive.

There was always a small community living here and four people are recorded as having lived here in 1851 after the great famine.  Certainly there are the remains of a promontory fort at the west end, a clochan, and evidence of cultivation.  One version is that the island was intensively cultivated with corn, which was even ground on the island.  Another is that Inishnabro was known for its booleying, the summer grazing of cattle from the Great Island.  Booleying certainly was a common practice at the time.


A tide race ebbs southeast at the northeastern corner. Tides run strongly in the sound between Inishnabro and Great Blasket and the wind can be funnelled. The flow in the sound between Inishnabro and Inishvickillane always flows weakly westwards, being an eddy of the main flow north/south in either direction. Therefore, there is often a lump in the narrow western end of the sound where tides collide.

Inishvickillane – Inis Mhicileáin

V208-916          Sheet 70

The most southerly of the group, this is a very attractive island. On a high plateau lie a holiday home, outhouses, a herd of purebred native Irish Red Deer, and a helipad. The island was owned until June 2006 by a colourful, cultured, popular yet controversial Dublin character. He merited police protection as a retired public figure and valued his privacy. It remains to be seen what access issues will arise in his wake.  The house is designed to fit discreetly into the hillside, and is built of local stone and timber. The whole is an example of how these things might be done right. When the owner is present, presumably mostly in August, kayakers should keep below the HW mark.

Below the house lies a cove at the NE corner of the island. Once there was a teleferique system here for uploading material. It is no longer operational, and has been left as an unsightly mess.


The landing is on the western end of the north side, opposite Inishnabro, just inside the narrows, onto a sheltered semicircular stony beach. This is the most dependable of all outlying landings. The always west-making current in the channel is weak, so the landing is only out of bounds in the severest of relatively rare easterlies. There is a retractable pontoon-landing device at steps on the point just north of the landing beach. The now disused path up from the beach is getting overgrown since the pontoon was installed at the nearby point, but is still manageable.

The island is much talked of in ‘Twenty Years A-Growing’ as a place inhabited by fairies. The outhouse is where O’Sullivan had his rabbits stolen in the dead of night in November 1914 by passing sailors, who left a tin of tobacco in payment. Paddlers may find ‘Mickey the Pillar’ at the western end of the south side at V207-908, and Mickey can also be seen below the ‘Hollow of the Eagles’, the flat stretch of the plateau to the SW. Mickey is a pillar of rock, the top of which looks like a man sitting wearing a wide brimmed hat. Moon Cave is nearby. Circumnavigation is recommended for the spectacular rock scenery.

There was a small community always throughout the 19th century, of up to eight persons.

Tearaght – An Tiaracht

V177-948          Sheet 70

Tearaght is the most westerly and remote of all the Blasket islands. Up to its prominent lighthouse are steps and a funicular railway that appears as a vertical band. From any distance, this looks like an escalator up the face of the conical rock. The island appears as a single pinnacle from east and west, but from north or south it seems to be almost divided into two. A mighty tunnel pierces the col between the two parts.


There are standard landing platforms, with steps up, in the coves north and south of the arch, both on the east-facing side. There is no current flowing at either steps because the arch is shallow and non-navigable, certainly at LW. Though the swell is continuous, be prepared for a quite manageable, if very wet landing.

The western side, with the lighthouse, is 116m high and the eastern end is 200m high. The eastern side consists of jumbled blocks, which mean that a trip to the summit might be very difficult. Rock fall has damaged some of the paths and great care should be exercised exploring. There are breeding Puffin and Manx -Shearwater.

The Tearaght is among the most committing paddles in Ireland.

Foze Rock Great – An Feo

V155-892        Sheet 70

Even more committing to get to are the Foze Rocks, 6km SSE of the Tearaght, and 5km SW of the gap between Inishvickillane and Inishnabro. It is anecdotally accepted that Kerry paddlers have been out at Great Foze Rock, but it is not known whether they landed. ISKA paddlers landed in 2006.  This is probably the most committing paddle in Ireland. It is the most westerly landfall in Europe.

Foze Rock Small

V164-904        Sheet 70

Even more committing to land on is Small Foze Rock, 1km NNE of the Great Foze Rock. A lone paddler landed in 2006 by swimming ashore while her companion minded her kayak nearby.  Reportedly, there is always surge and scend here and getting “ashore” conventionally is never an option.

Beginish – Beiginis

V282-989          Sheet 70

Beginish means ‘Small Island’. It is indeed, relatively, a small island, NE of the Great Blasket, with a ruined house.  This was last occupied by Richard O’Carroll, a cattle herdsman who tended cattle on the islands, where the grass was good.  The only problem was there was no water.  He shipped in the water in barrels every day, in fair weather or foul.  He only had to be unlucky once and eventually his luck ran out.

Viking longships used to hide out in the bay between the island and Oileán na nOg Young’s Island to the NNE, where newly weaned lambs were put to grass.

The landing place is onto a relatively sheltered, stony beach on the NW side, but also in shelter in bays on the NE and SE.

This is the “go to” campsite for kayakers visiting the area since the Great Blasket became off limits about the turn of the century.

Significant numbers of tern – Common, Arctic and a few Roseate.

Oileán Buí

V272-985           Sheet 70

A small island (“Yellow Island” in English) of just over 3 acres located off the NW corner of the Great Blasket.  A minor island in the context of the greater Blasket Islands group but a surprisingly attractive location because of its position.

The landing in the SE corner is like many of the landings on nearby Beginish in that the geology and landscape are similar.

The shingle beach is found through a passage of minor rock stacks. A small scramble over a few stepped terraces allows one to explore the vegetated eastern side. The island was not actively grazed in September 2022 which allowed a dense sward of maritime grasses and plants to thrive.

Spanish Armada

The narrow gap separating the island from the northern tip of the Great Blasket is subject to sudden unexpected surges or boomers as big sets pass. Through this gap go circumnavigators or venturers to the outlying islands.  In an autumn gale in 1588, two of the largest ships of the escaping Spanish Armada ran safely through this gap and entered Blasket Sound.   First through on 14.9.1588 was the fleet Admiralin in the flagship San Juan , followed immediately behind by the frightened but trusting Captain Aramburu in the San Juan Bautista. This has long been regarded as an act of truly superb seamanship, proving the failure of the armada was related to many factors including maybe the fitness for purpose of its ships, but distinctly not the men who sailed them.

The island has a rocky summit on its northern edge which gives super views in an almost 360 degree panorama of the bigger Blasket Islands chain and the west Kerry coastline.

Oileán Buí is nearly split in two by a narrow geo running north to south just west of the landing area which also divides the entirely rocky western side from the more vegetated eastern side.

Evidence of breeding gulls was found in September 2022 and also the island is a breeding site for Atlantic Grey Seals.

Camping is good above the landing areas on soft maritime grasses. No water found in September 2022.

The landing area may cover at times of local high water and especially spring tide periods.

Inishtooskert – Inis Tuaisceart  

Q236-002         Sheet 70

Inishtooskert means ‘Northern Island’. It is a dramatic island with major cliffs on the NW side and a distinct cockscomb shape at NE end.


Landing is not easy, being onto a severely sloping slab Q239-009, with little shelter, on the SE side. A handrail up from the top of the slab is visible when close in. There is a sheep pen on the grass above. From further out there is a large obvious dorsal-fin shaped slab, and the landing is just SW of this. Landings may be forced elsewhere in the lee of the island, but beware of steep scrambles. Unloaded, borrowed, plastic boats are an advantage.

The island features a minor monastic ruin at Q234-004, marked St. Brendan’s Oratory, on the only flat section of the island in the SW. In more recent times, it was used as a domestic dwelling. There are fields around it. It is a low-lying, drystone hovel with a smoke hole on top, and a very narrow, low entrance. There is the horrendous story of how Peig and Tomas O’Catahin became stormbound sometime after 1838.  Tomas died and Peig could remove his body, which putrified.  She resorted to hacking bits off it and throwing them out the smoke hole.  When islanders relieved her weeks later, she had become demented, but she later recovered.

The island well repays the effort of landing.

Coastal Section –

Sybil Point to Brandon Point

Ceann Sibéal go Srón Bhroin

Q309-060 to Q528-173  Sheet 70

28km of stunning cliffs, broken only by the 2km width of Smerwick Harbour, the waystop at Brandon Creek, and the 1km width of Sauce Creek. It is impossible and pointless to try to land elsewhere. Paddle close to the cliff line to appreciate the waterfalls, caves, arches, and many ‘islands’ of cliff, which merge with the background. The cliffs of the Three Sisters (Triúr Deirfiúir) and Sybil Point at the SW part of the section is a must.


Sybil Point to Brandon Point
Direction Time Speed
NE 4:50 after Galway HW 3kn
SW 1:30 before Galway HW 3kn

Smerwick Harbour

Cuan Árd na Caithne

Q363-078        Sheet 70

Smerwick has a 2km wide mouth with Dunacapple Island at Q372-102 on the east side. The harbour holds this width for almost 4 southerly km, and is open to the north. Shelter, depending on the wind, can be had by tucking inside either of the ‘arms’. This is very much a tourist area with villages and sandy beaches.

A landing can be forced onto boulders immediately at the west end of the Sisters (about 4km NE of Sybil Point), but cliffs bar any ideas of making it a land escape route.

Brandon Creek – Cuas Bhréanain

Q422-120         Sheet 70

Locally known as Cuas, Brandon Creek is the more westerly of two similar inlets when viewed from the sea. There is safe landing in all weather onto a double slipway. It is the anchorage for the small, local fishing boats. Camping on the pier, or on the small, green area nearby. A river runs alongside but is litter strewn. Limited car parking – be tidy as this is a working pier, and the fishermen load and unload. The pub is 1.5km to the south with phone, food, and shower.

Walking NE to the cliff edge brings spectacular views and eventually joins a recognised track to Brandon Mountain. This creek was the launching point for the leather boat ‘Brendan’, whose epic voyage was led by Tim Severin. They set out to show that, as with the legend, early Irish monks could have sailed to America via Scotland, the Faeroes, and Iceland. Their trip is detailed in the book ‘The Brendan Voyage’ by Tim Severin, an excellent read.

Sauce Creek

Q488-157         Sheet 70

Land onto gravel, or boulder at HW, and sometimes through dumping surf, the SW corner being best. No landward escape route, as there is a very steep scramble through loose, shale gullies onto the mountainside. A major major landslide took place here in the early 21st century.

Magharee Islands

Oileáin an Mhachaire

Q622-213         Sheet 71

Also known in English as the Seven Hogs – Na Seacht gCeanna, this is a scattered group of (actually about ten) small low islands. Nearby Lough Gill is well known as the stronghold in Ireland of the Natterjack Toad. Named for being a frog that “walks” and doesn’t hop, it comes out mostly at night and has a yellow line down its back.  The islands lie on the northern side of the Dingle Peninsula, off Rough Point at the end of the isthmus that divides Brandon Bay from Tralee Bay. The underlying rock is limestone.  Basking Shark and Blue Shark are reputed to be common in these waters in the summer months. The area teems with bird and other wildlife.

In Irish, the islands are called Oileáin an Mhachaire. Machair is a coastal feature inside an exposed sandy beach consisting of a raised dune system that has been flattened by grazing. Grazing and wind combine to create and maintain a flat grassy area. There are no raised dunes or the dunes are relatively insignificant to the overall feature. Machair is much loved by birds, (who call it a ‘roost’), by sheep (who call it a ‘meal’), by golfers (who call it a ‘links’), and by tourists (who call it a ‘campsite’). Certainly, its well-drained, short grass is excellent for camping. Once heavily grazed, nowadays its features are orientated more towards leisure pursuits, caravan parks and football pitches. Machairs are most common in the NW of Ireland between about Galway Bay and Malin Head.


Embarkation is from Scraggane Pier (by Nimmo) at Q614-195 just inside the west point of Scraggane Bay. There is a wide, gradually sloping slipway, with good parking, water, and toilets.  A new slipway to accommodate recreational use has been constructed nearby, and incerased parking has been provided between the two slips. There are also ample paying campsites generally in the area. A pub and shops can be found at Fahamore, 1km to the SW.  The whole Castlegregory peninsula is a thriving mix of varied holiday making.  There are endless campsites, houses, schools for diving, windsurfing and all forms of watersport.  The area has undergone massive development this millennium.  Wild camping is discouraged in high season.


The sound is not deep and can cut up rough, usually when a westerly wind or big swells are against the ebb tide.

Direction Time Speed
East 5:05 after Galway HW 2-3kn
West 1:20 before Galway HW 2-3kn

The tide also sweeps strongly through and to the north of the islands.


Common, Little & Arctic Tern, Chough, Barnacle Goose, and Great Northern Diver (Loon).


Q622-213         Sheet 71

Illauntannig is the largest and most hospitable of all these islands. It boasts a summer home with outhouses, just in from the beach. It has plastic windows, double glazing, and its own private water collection system. Landing is easy at the steep, sandy beach on the east side, or elsewhere for those who like to scratch and scrape. Camping is most convenient at the landing beach, where shelter can be had behind walls. It is possible to camp almost anywhere else that a landing is made. The west side is the most exposed.

The 6c monastic site reputedly founded by Senach just south of the beach has stone huts and oratories (note, no cement, just corballing at its best) surrounded by a protective stone wall. The complex includes a well-preserved souterrain about 10m in length, leading from a central hut to beyond the outside wall.

The most notable feature of the monastery is the sandstone cross which undoubtedly once stood upon the roof of the main oratory.  The bullaun or prayer stone at its foot is in very good condition.

The island is generally quite flat.

In April 2010 there were Purple Sandpiper 40, Oystercatcher 50, Curlew 60, Turnstone 60, Sanderling 50, Merlin 1.  At other times there were numerous Oyster Catcher and Tern (mostly Arctic) nest.  Ringed Plover.


Q625-217         Sheet 71

Nice grassy islet, just NE of Illauntannig, with landing possible on the sandy south shore opposite Illauntannig. The other sides are rocky. The island is connected to Illauntannig by a bar/reef, crossable on foot at LW.  Between tides there are breakers coming through the gap, so that underwater obstructions are a real danger. No water. There is a 3-sided, 1m high sheep shelter on top.  Also in 2009 there is some sort of nest-box experimentation, possibly for terns.  Ringed Plover and Dunlin.


Q619-218         Sheet 71

Illaunboe is joined to Illauntannig by a difficult but just about walkable reef at LW. Landing is possible on the east side of this reef into a storm beach in a shallow narrow cut.  Possible under all but HW / difficult conditions.  The other sides have a rocky foreshore. A stony, flattish grassy islet, uninviting.


Q628-212         Sheet 71

Rocky islet 0.5km east of the beach on Illauntannig.  Appearing unapproachable from afar, there are in fact numerous landing opportunities, the ease or difficulty of which varies hugely with tide height and conditions.  More difficult at higher water levels, landings are not impossible at HWS, but certainly very difficult with any swell and probably not worth the effort.  At LW the easiest by far of the landings in onto the beach just NW and under the summit, formed when the gap with the islet Minnaun closes out to make a NW facing horseshoe.  Even at HW when this whole configuration disappears, there is a little cut at the back of the beach onto a narrow stormbeach, just below the summit.  There are a thousand cuts or narrow slots yielding landings to north & south at almost any time onto this most fragmented islet.  The ground is very sharp and abrasive limestone rock, so the nearer to the summit the easier.  Shag and Great Black-backed Gull.


Q637-214         Sheet 71

A rocky knoll, 1.5km east of Illauntannig, with plenty of guano and birds. The technical difficulties would make landing ‘interesting’, even in calm weather.

Doonagaun Island

Q615-201         Sheet 71

A grassy knoll with a sandy SE side where a landing is possible, though even here a spring tide wave swell can set from both sides on the spring flood. The result is a challenging landing and launching as both wave sets collide and run hard across each other.  Landing elsewhere is rocky. Doonagaun is passed on the way out to Illauntannig. No water.

The combination of limestone geology  and the  plant life give an almost Mediterranean feel to the island in mid September.

A reef that stretches to the WSW, to Illaunoon and onwards to the shore, commends respect, a trap for the unwary kayaker just out from the pier and heading westwards, to explore the group or otherwise.  The shallow ground to the south near the mainland shore is actually walkable at LW.  Navigate with care.


Q605-198         Sheet 71

Just off the mainland coast, west of Scraggane Pier, this is a rocky outcrop with grass growing on top. A reef extends SW which is exposed at LW, and landing is possible on the south and SE sides. There is no water and this is not a place to go camping. There is interesting life in the exposed rock pools. Birds, grass, and rock.  The shallow ground to the south near the mainland shore is actually walkable at LW.  Navigate with care.


Q605-221         Sheet 71

Second largest member of the group, 1.5km WNW of Illauntannig. The island is large and quite attractive and has a number of interesting features to explore.  The island is flat and grassy on top and is grazed by sheep periodically.  There are cliffs all around. Arches to the north end and mid-East side are navigable at HW.  Both areas very prone to Atlantic swell so good judgement required in such conditions as both entrances are narrow.  A holding pen is located at the east end. There are great views all round both of the island group and the mountains of the Dingle peninsula.

There are two fine examples of caves with blow holes on the south side, whose exit points on the island top may catch the unwary walker. The cave foot is a long way down in both examples.  Landings onto their attendant storm beaches were not possible in April 2010 but would merit exploration when conditions allow.

There are two sea arches located at the east end of the island. The more north one, just on the sheltered (east facing) side of the NE tip, hosts a storm beach, at a cave, which is really a huge collapsed blowhole.  Many Rock Dove nest in the arch overhead.  A stake with tethered rope for landings (from larger boats) is located here. The more SE one leads into an inner lagoon and cave area that is not accessible at LWS, but may be so at other stages of the tide. It is very picturesque.


There is a good landing available on the north side of the SW corner of Illaunimmil where a small NE facing bay forms at times of LWS between the island and an outlying islet – Listooskert  Q602-221.  The landing is onto a storm beach.  The outying islet itself has an attractive layered geology.  The passage that separates the islet from Illaunimmil is not navigable at LWS but almost certainly so at other stages of the tide, and the landing is always somewhat protected given reasonable weather conditions. The island summit can be reached by a number of gullies or rock shelves that back the storm beach.

The island is grazed by Brent Geese and possibly Barnacle Geese over the winter months.  Peregrine, Raven, Rock Dove, Shag and Black Guillemot were present in April 2010.


Q601-225         Sheet 71

Inishtooskert  is the most northerly of the  islands in the Magharee group. Landing on the island is possible but difficult due to the very sharply eroded limestone geology.  On high water the best location is onto slaps on the island’s south eastern side. Access to the summit ridge is a relatively easy climb following some natural fault lines.

The summit ridge is dominated by soft marine grasses and an interesting rock formation at the eastern end. The views in all directions are well worth the effort.

The summit ridge would be a special camping location for the very determined given the difficulty of landing kayaks safely.

Just NW off Illaunimmil, the island is surrounded by cliffs and shallow water. The swell builds all round on even the calmest days, breaking on the exposed reefs. Assisted landings only, even then always very challenging.

No water found.

50 Black Guillemot April 2010.  Evidence of breeding Storm Petrel found in September 2016

Roger Casement

On Good Friday 1916 Roger Casement, the great human rights activist turned Irish patriot, arrived at this spot by submarine.  So did the Aud, the Easter Rebellion arms ship, loaded with rifles and ammunition, a gift from Germany.  The two boats did not manage to link up and it all went wrong.  The Aud was scuppered and Casement was captured, and executed.  Casement has remained a controversial figure ever since. Branded as homosexual to alienate American Irish public opinion at the time.  To the puzzlement of modern students of the subject, it appears actually that he was. The British were truthfully more upset by his exposition of third world abuses in the Congo and South America and elsewhere, but were happy to seize upon his treason in support of the Irish cause of the time.  His being Irish didn’t deter the conviction / execution for treason against Britain, puzzling even then, was even more infamously used as a precedent to execute William Joyce, otherwise “Lord Haw Haw” in 1946, even the more reprehensible, though much the more understandable.

Samphire Island

Q729-147         Sheet 71

Situated just off Fenit, a beautiful fishing village 12km west of Tralee.  Fenit lies outside the mouth of where the harbour at Blennerville gives way to Tralee Bay outside.  Launch from the town beach Q727-154 – Sheet 71, just at the beginning of the bridge to the island.  Parking, water and toilets are available at the beach, as is a lovely cafe.  All the usual small town facilities are available in Fenit.  A major local attraction is Fenit Island (local name) or Fenit Within (OSI name), a beautiful walk north of the town, very popular.  The underlying rock is limestone.

Samphire Island has been developed beyond all recognition.  Originally a small high rock, it is now joined to the mainland to the north at Fenit village by an 800m bridge.  A modern working fishing and manufacturing facility has been built on the island.  There is also a marina for pleasure yachts, the RNLI station which launches from the marina, the fishing club and much else.  The Sailing Club is on the mainland end of the bridge.


Beware paddling under the bridge.  Tides run strongly.  The worst bit though is that an integral part of the structure of the bridge is a horizontal spar running between all the uprights above LW but at less than HW.  No more dangerous a contraption may be imagined.  At two thirds tide height it works as a classic sieve, a concept feared by kayakers the world over.  Even at other stages of the tide, it is still dangerous, being festooned with nets, fishing hooks, and detritus of all kinds.  Keep away.

Approaching the island at road level on foot, one is struck by the statue on the top of the rock.  This is Saint Brendan the Navigator 484 – 578, who features at various points around the coast, but who was a native of Fenit.  He is best known for being the first European to go to and return from America.

His parents were in an early wave of newly converted Christians in Ireland and he was ordained as a priest in 512 at age 28.  He became a bishop and was hyperactive in setting up abbies and monasteries in Ireland and abroad.  His missioning was mainly but not exclusively to the north, such as St. Kilda and the Orkneys, but he also worked in Brittany and Normandy.  In his travels he also visited the Faroes, Iceland, and Newfoundland.  Fenit is still proud of its local boy made good.

The rock that is the original Samphire Island is a theme park on a small scale, with imitation wedge tombs and beehive huts.  Well worth the visit.  The modern working port area impresses for the scale of what is being manufactured.

Samphire Island Little

Q717-149         Sheet 71

Much the prettier but also much the smaller brother of the two islands, Samphire Island Little is surrounded by open water at all tides, and it has a lighthouse.  Very photogenic against the backdrop of the Dingle hills, but first get the right lighting conditions.

Launch from the town beach Q727-153 and pass the swimming club to the right on the way out.  Land easily onto seaweed covered slabs anywhere around the NE corner.

The island is sausage shaped and the lighthouse fills almost the entire, but it is possible to walk round the edge.  The agile may perhaps manage to trespass but the walls containing the lighthouse gardens are for the most part quite high.

The Mid-West

Shannon Estuary to Galway City -including the Aran Islands

County Kerry

Carrig Island

Q984-483         Sheet 63

The south/SW side of the island is joined to the mainland by a small bridge and a spit of marshy, grassy land, covered only by high spring tides. Carrig also has an inhabited farm and a Napoleonic battery at Q977-485 on the NW. The population is 13.

The major attraction is the well-preserved Carrigafoyle Castle on the mainland at the SE side Q987-475. The castle is more accessible from the water. Land at HW to avoid mud flats. The castle is a most interesting waystop, not to be missed by the passer-by. Thought to have been impregnable by 16th Century standards, but in 1580 Lord Pelham wasn’t convinced, and he was proved right. A flat wall, regardless of strength, will eventually give way to constant pounding from canons, especially if point blank, as here.  The lesson universally learnt, military design quickly moved towards curved walls as a result.

County Limerick

Foynes Island

R247-529          Sheet 64

Foynes is the Anglicisation of Oileán Fáinghe in Irish, meaning “circular island”. It is well named, the island being very round. The island is situated 100m off Foynes village on the main coast road Limerick to Listowel.


In the days of amphibious planes, Foynes was the centre of the aviation world hereabouts. Being just about as far west in Europe as it is possible to be, that was important in those days. Planes from all over Europe stopped here to begin or end the Atlantic jump. Shannon Airport just across the estuary now fills the role of international airport to the west of Ireland, but with modern aircraft able to fly much longer distances, its role isn’t quite as critical. Its very long runway will always deserve it a role as a hub for certain long-haul airflights.

Commercial foresters will find Foynes Island interesting, but others won’t be so turned on. It is a lumpy square kilometre of deciduous and coniferous trees. The interior is essentially impenetrable and holds little of interest to passing leisure craft.


The main landing is at a pontoon at the south tip called Barneen Point R250-521, opposite the public harbour in the village. This gives access to the few houses on the island and should be considered private. The entire of the rest of the shoreline is accessible at HW but a sea of mud at lower waters. The mud is fine glutinous silt, most unpleasant. Whether extending a handful of metres or one hundred, landing onto it isn’t an option. Access can be conveniently achieved at only one other spot, halfway along the SW side at R245-523. Here, rocks come down to the water that are both accessible and mud free.

Otter and Greenshank.

County Clare

Islands of the Fergus Estuary

The Fergus Estuary is the branch of the Shannon Estuary that juts north up towards Ennis, the county town of Clare. It is choked with islands big and small. The boating hereabouts is similar in some ways to Clew Bay and inner Strangford Lough. The big distinguishing factor here though is that this entire system is the upper reaches of an estuary, whereas the others are simply drowned landscape areas.


Accordingly, while Clew Bay to a large extent and Strangford Lough very much so, may be muddy, very muddy, especially in their inner reaches and in their nooks and crannies, every tiny part of this area is affected by mud. The mud is a fine glutinous silt, quite unpleasant. The silt permeates the water everywhere, and swimming isn’t on.  The only parts that suffer less mud are the parts of islands scoured by the main flow, being – logically enough – the east side of the many islands on its west side and the west side of the few islands on its east side.


As with all such places, vast areas become extensive mudflats at LW, and a heedless moment on a falling tide can carry a heavy penalty. Tides run strongly through the channels, and indeed the tidal range is huge.  Nevertheless, even in Springs, the speed of the lateral flow equates to mere neaps in Strangford, despite that the vertical range is much greater.

There is no commercial fishing of any kind done, but there must be flat fish and mullet who love such conditions.

Clew Bay and Strangford are each end of Ireland’s drumlin belt, but these islands here have solid limestone bases, not boulders and clay. The land is therefore very rich and fertile. The bigger islands are farmed, mainly cattle and sheep, with some horses and goats. There is no tillage. Nowadays the farmers all live on the mainland nearby. The last full-time island resident (Deer Island) died in August 2004. She was the only female sole inhabitant of an Irish island in the 2002 census, there being three other sole male inhabitants. Farmers hereabouts commute to work on flat bottomed or shallow draft boats, of a kind used in estuaries the world over. They are among the very few Irish farmers that carry tide tables on their persons at all times.


There is really no convenient embarkation point on the east side at all. There are two only on the west side.

Most central is Crovraghan Pier R278-601, a small working pier, busy at commuting times.  This means mid-tide on the up and mid-tide again on the down, when there will be many cars arriving and departing the pier, and left there between times. It is well sheltered by Illaunbeg 100m offshore, fast deep water filling the channel. A pleasant spot for campervanning.  The slipway being steep, the amount of mud to struggle past at LW is limited. Certainly it is always open at neaps, and possibly springs.  The channel is then always open to north/south.  The flow is very fast.  The pier is reached from a signposted crossroads 2km north of Killadysert on the main Ennis road.

To the south, Cahiracon Pier R249-563 may be the more convenient, depending on the excursion plan, especially for the more south islands, or an excursion south across the Shannon Estuary. It is reached from just south of Killadysert. Any excursion in the Fergus Estuary is best carried out around HW, and Cahiracon may be preferred for allowing a more comprehensive exploration in the one go.  Cahiracon though is however a dumping ground and a ships’ breakers’ yard. Most unpleasant.


HW in the estuary is an hour after Galway, slightly ahead of Limerick Docks, which is 1:30 after Galway. The main channel is on the eastern side, but on the top half of the flood, locals prefer a channel that hugs the coast on the western side, inside Illaunbeg and Illaunmore (Deer Island). The ebb and flood occur with the rise and fall of the water. The direction of the flow is basically north/northeast for the flood and south/southwest for the ebb, but it tends to twist and turn with the channels and the results are peculiar on occasion (e.g. in the channel northeast of Crovraghan Pier). The flow can be very fast and strong at times, but never really all that violent, despite the range being enormous by Irish standards, easily over 6m.

The islands are given here more or less from the SW, but with outlier Beeves Rock taken first.

Beeves Rock

R309-559          Sheet 64

An important lighthouse directing traffic at the junction of the Shannon and Fergus estuaries, a couple of km east of huge Aughinish alumina and beauxite plant on the county Limerick side, again just east of Foynes.  Built on a drying rock mid-channel, it is basically a house with a lighthouse poking up through the roof.  Built in 1855 its most famous light keeper in the 1920s was the grandparent of Ireland’s Taoiseach Enda Kenny almost a century later.  A fine and worthy destination for any paddle hereabouts, from any direction.

The house has a perimeter walkway at first floor level, accessed by metal stairways, narrow with little or no handrails.


Landing is extremely tricky at HW springs, directly onto the steps, but under other circumstances at the NE side, either side of a breakwater.  Nearer HW there is a mudfree shale bank on the south side of the breakwater, and at lower waters a raised rocky bed north of the breakwater works out better.  Probably best avoid very low waters.


R251-562          Sheet 64

A bitter acid-boggy island, a place of reeds and rushes and Yellow Flag. There are some Hawthorn. Outside on the SE shore, oysters and mussels grow wild. Its main merit is to serve as a shelter for Cahiracon Pier inside it on the mainland, now much abused.


R278-580          Sheet 64

Smallest of the five larger islands at less than half a square kilometre, it is farmed with cattle. The summit has exposed limestone karst, Burrenesque in an untidy ragged way. Good views north from its lofty summit. Land at the SE for that mud/rock compromise common locally.

Canon Island

R300-592          Sheet 64

Fourth largest island hereabouts, Canon is cattle farmed. It is nearly split in two, being joined by an area of marshy reeds at its narrow waist. The interior of each sector is very wooded, and would need local knowledge to explore. The island is best known for its prominent Augustinian friary dating from the 12th century and still in very occasional use, though entirely ruined, receiving annual pilgrimages, local bishop included, usually.  The belfry is a prominent waymark for the area.

Landing is at the NE tip just NE of the friary.  Get the timing right, ideally shortly before HW and don’t linger.  There is an abandoned farmhouse by a landing spot at the opposite SW end, which is at the usual mud / rock compromise at the south end of the west “beach” R287-581.


R311-589          Sheet 64

Also called locally Low Island, this is a low lying island with small fields, overgrown woods, cattle grazing, and extremely muddy all round on the lower half of the tide.  There is a lovely beach at HW on the south side, and along the west end there are some nice fossils to be found.  A rib can land at the quay in the little bay mid North side during the two hours either side of HW. Landing at the NE corner is possible a little earlier and later as the tidal flow scours the shore there.  Also, at mid west side a 200m long manmade line of rocks (now covered in seaweed) stretches out to a channel that always stays wet. The farmers use this to access the island at LW, pulling their boats along the mud to the shore.

Water in wells on the island should not be relied upon.

There is a nice elevated area just east of the main landing quay that would be a good camping spot, but avoid it if there are cattle in that field. The local farmer visits a few times a week.

The boreen that runs north to south along the island is known as the Highway. Off it lie a number of deserted, buildings.

Blackthorn Islands

R323-590          Sheet 64

Very attractive very low lying small triangular islet being a single field of about 3ha.  The most significant feature is the 19c dyke built of limestone blocks with no cement all round, to stave off the flooding.  The cost benefit analysis at the time must have been interesting.  Because it is in the path, almost, of the main flow, the shingle beaches on the north side are relatively mud free.

Doon Island

R281-590          Sheet 64

Tiny pleasant place, the grass in 2010 was under control courtesy of a herd of goats, but with cattle in 2020 brambles are encroaching. Flat and unpretentious, land beside the goat / cattle pen at the NE where there was an Elder tree in 2010, onto quite accessible shale. One single hawthorn near the SW provides the only shade available on a sunny day.


R290-599          Sheets 57/64

Third largest of the big five locally, it is more than one square kilometre of cattle farm and woodland. The slip at the landing spot midway on the NW side is quite pretty, sheltered by a stone jetty and makeshift projection.

Illaunbeg or O’Donnell’s Island

R280-602          Sheet 57

A well husbanded hayfield 100m of fast deep water off Crovraghan Pier. Its main purpose in life is to shelter the pier. A notable Curlew roost, land easiest at the north end.

Shore Island

R286-607          Sheet 57

Substantial unkempt uncared for island, distinguished by a stand of Ash trees on the summit. Also Elder. Land easiest at north end. No water.


R343-621          Sheet 58

To the recreational user, this is the most attractive of all the Fergus Estuary islands.  Two rolling hills of grass and ragwort give a nice open feeling.  Two lonely hawthorns are the only trees.  Herds of cattle are confined to their section by electric fences (that do sting !).  Lingerers or campers will ensure they are in a quarter different to the grazing livestock.  There is an attractive stone cottage on the SE side.  Agricultural access is from the NE.

The best landing is on a lovely shingle beach R341-617 on the SW side.

Deenish Island

R349-633          Sheet 58

One high hillock at the west side and reeds / marsh to the east, in 2009 this island was in transition from overgrown grassy to planned woodland.  A major dyke to the east helps protect a large field from flooding, or rather, used to.  The hillock is planted with alternating vertical rows of deciduous (oak) and coniferous (Contorted Pine) forestry, at 2m intervals, an interesting combination, presumably akin to intercropping in a vegetable garden.  Some older Alder and other broadleaf varieties suggest this was all well planned.

The beach R347-633 on the west side of the island is scoured by the main flow and mudfree to at least half height.

Inishmore or Deer Island

R305-632          Sheet 57

Largest of the islands locally at about two square kilometres, Deer Island is the preferred local name. The farmhouse is midway on the south side. Paddling round it is reminiscent of what paddling through Counties Cavan or Monaghan may be like if and when water levels rise sufficiently. The hedgerows may be lusher though. Its steep fields are stocked with cattle and sheep.

The point of embarkation dedicated to this island is at Rosscliff to the west at R288-632.  From Ennis take the first left as you enter Ballynacally. The road appears to lead into an estate but follow the rural road to the river.  Rosscliff is a long narrow slip that alows launching at all states of the tide. The channel is always open to the south, but the channel going north after Deer Island dries out. It is possible to make way NE around Deer Island and into a channel. Beware many mud flats and shallows. Parking here is limited as it is a working slip for farmers moving stock in and out to the islands.

Deer Island was until 2004 unique among Irish islands for having a sole resident who was female. Nowadays the island is farmed from the mainland as an out-farm, as with all the islands hereabouts now.

The passage between Coney and Inishmore dries out at just under half tide height.

Coney Island

R326-628          Sheets 57/58

Second largest of the larger islands locally at about one and a quarter square kilometres, and perhaps the most attractive, Coney is by far the tallest at 59m. On the summit are a trigonometrical station and a more attractive monument. The latter was erected by the then landowner Sir John Fitzgerald K.C.B. dedicated to his son of same name, who was killed in a cavalry charge in the Khyber Pass area of the Punjab in 1855. The monument is slightly squways. Local lore has it that in 2004 when President Bush of the U.south.A. visited Ireland, there was a massive security operation around Shannon Airport, about 4km away. Irish soldiers making security checks interfered with it, in case it was hollow or the like, but didn’t do a good job putting it back together. Pity.

The main landing spot is a jetty and slip at the west side R315-628. The slip reaches out as far as all but the lowest LWS. There are several houses all now boarded up. Farmers commute here by day on the tide from Crovraghan Pier. Cattle, sheep and horses are stocked. There are two old churches, both at the SE, and one graveyard is still in limited use. A network of boreens criss-cross the island.

From the summit, the very best views of the estuary hereabouts are achieved, up to Ennis, down to Aughinish aluminium plant on the limerick side, and of course Shannon Airport to the east, planes taking off every few minutes. It seems out of place in so rural a setting.

The passage between Coney and Inishmore dries out at just under half tide height.


R308-618          Sheet 57

This tiny islet is really the end of a spit of land projecting SW from Coney and not really separate. Sheep and horses grazing there will have migrated from Coney and get cut off by the rising water. It is low but has two distinct high points at either end, hence the name.

Midway between the island and the islet, at the lower half of the tide, it is said there is a tidal lake, a rockpool really. Locals are amazed that it never silts up nor gets filled with stones, even though fierce storms wash over it. It contains the clearest water hereabouts.


R303-621          Sheets 57

This is a genuine islet identifiable at all angles for its pronounced hump at the WSW end. This transpires as a jumble of limestone rocks. Essentially from mother nature’s kitchen, these rocks have been re-organised by man to pen sheep. Ungrazed in 2010, but supports two Connemara ponies in summer 2020. Elder tree.

Islands off Kilrush

The two low-lying islands off Kilrush make for an interesting day out. The area is particularly good for people teaching maritime skills, the tides being strong and even turbulent, yet enclosed and with a ‘safe’ feeling. The best embarkation place is at Cappagh Pier at Q985-540. There is access at all states of the tide, easy parking and toilets.


The ebb race between Hog Island and Cappagh Pier extends over 500m, extending northeast from the eastern point of Hog to just off the pier itself. This is a splendid play area, fast and steep, yet enclosed and therefore safe enough, even having distinct eddy lines. A swim, even a long one, deposits the swimmer close to a friendly shore, outside the gates of Kilrush Creek. Certainly comparable in power to the race at New Quay in the north of the county, the extra enclosed feeling is a safety factor that makes it preferable.

Scattery Island

Q973-525         Sheet 63

The island seems to have been named for a dragon (Cathach in Irish, giving Inis Cathach). It has a long and varied history and its origins are mostly associated with St. Senan, born in 488 A.D. He founded the Christian settlement there in the 6th Century. It was a holy island until the Vikings took over for a century or so before being recaptured by Brian Boru in 975. The Vikings must have been pleasantly surprised when they first arrived, to find the access door to the monastic round tower at ground level Q973-525. This makes it (nowadays anyway) the most easily accessible round tower in Ireland.

The island was inhabited until 1978. No artificial fertiliser was ever used on these fields so the island is of ecological interest as a semi-wild grassland. The south, west and north of the island away from the main buildings is wild and rugged but has good wildlife interest especially at the lagoon areas near the lighthouse and at the north end. Widgeon, Teal, Curlew, and Redshank were seen in good numbers in January 2012. 1 Hen Harrier was at the small pond in the centre of the island.

There is an abandoned village on the northern end of the east side. Many of the cottages have fallen into disrepair and access is now denied with security fencing in place. The lighthouse and battery are at the southern point. The battery is in good condition but access to the roof through the hole in the ceiling is now impossible. Metal grids prevent entry to the inside of the battery. The lighthouse was first established in 1872. The old lighthouse cottage is in poor condition but there is evidence of some repair work being planned.

By January 2012 the island has become much more managed with a small visitor centre, toilets and OPW staff quarters located in newly furbished cottages above the main landing pier. There is a well managed and maintained way marked trail that guides the visitor around the main monastic remains, round tower and churches.

There is what looks almost like a peat marina cut into the sod at the southern end of the east side. This is just north of the lighthouse. It would anyway hardly have been a commercial success.  The island has plentiful rabbit and in 1999, Golden Plover and a Short-eared Owl.


The tidal streams between the mainland and the islands tend to be stronger than between the islands. In each case they flow southeast with the flood and northwest with the ebb.

Landing and Camping

Land on Scattery at a muddy-sandy beach at a pier towards the northern end of the east side Q975-525. Also, less conveniently further over south towards the battery/lighthouse Q972-518. Camping is possible anywhere, but permission is needed from Dúchas. The water in the well behind the monastery is fresh and good to drink.

Hog Island

Q985-531         Sheet 63

Little neighbour of Scattery Island and less interesting. A drumlinesque few acres, there are horses, Shelduck and goats. The island is privately owned and camping is not permitted.

Rumours of a wind farm in January 2012 lack planning permission for corroboration.  All bushes and gorse on the island have been removed and a small breakwater wall is now located on the north side at the entrance to a salt marsh and lagoon Q985-533 that is navigable to kayaks at HW.

Wildlife was good at the lagoon with 250+ Teal, 100 Widgeon, Snipe 30 and good numbers of Oystercatcher, Curlew, and Redshank roosting there at high water. Common Seals seen (4).

The West Coast

a tidal overview

Local HW is generally:

From To Galway HW
Mizen Head

Loop Head

Slyne Head

Erris Head

Tory Island

Loop Head

Slyne Head

Erris Head

Tory Island

Malin Head






Offshore tidal streams

Tidal information inshore along the west coast of Ireland is only occasionally reliable or available. There just aren’t enough boaters sending in information.

Offshore – Loop Head to Aranmore Donegal
Direction Time
North 3:20  before Galway HW
South 3:05 after Galway HW

It is also very little different – half an hour earlier – the rest of the way north and east around the corner to at least as far as Malin Head.

The offshore mainstream makes itself felt where the land projects to meet it.

For example:

  • Loop Head to Kilkee
    • Outside of the Aran Islands
    •           Slyne Head
    •           Outside Inishshark, Inishbofin and Inishturk
    •           Achill Head
    •           Outside the Inishkeas
    •           Erris Head
    •           Rathlin O’Birne to Aranmore
    •           Tory Sound
    •           Downies to Melmore Head.

Inshore tides

Inshore, where paddlers operate, it is a little more complicated. It is widely accepted that tidal streams inshore in the shallows turn before tidal streams offshore. The islands and the much-fragmented coastline sets up eddies. The bays and inshore channels, from the Shannon Estuary in the southwest to Lough Swilly in the far north, fill and empty almost simultaneously. The variation between them is twenty minutes or less.

This inshore cycle of bay filling and emptying is associated with the offshore main stream. As soon as the offshore stream begins to slacken off, the inshore streams start to flow in the opposite direction. Here is how it works.

The offshore mainstream floods north until 3:05 after Galway HW, but inshore, the bays start to empty that bit earlier, at 1:00 after Galway HW. The inshore bays start to empty as soon as the offshore flood starts to slacken.

The offshore mainstream ebbs south until 3:20 before Galway HW, but inshore, the bays start to fill that bit earlier, at 5:00 before Galway HW. The inshore bays start to fill as soon as the offshore ebb starts to slacken.

To summarise, the bays mostly fill on the offshore flood and they mostly empty on the offshore ebb. It is just that the inshore cycle starts 1.5 – 2.0 hours earlier than offshore. As soon as the offshore flood or ebb slackens to about half pace, the process is exhausted and the inshore cycle the other way is triggered.

Thus, all the bays and channels on the west coast fill from about 5:00 before Galway HW and empty from about 1:00 after Galway HW.

Water movement in bays

It has to be stressed that these timings relate to the entrances to bays. Up near the head of a bay, or even halfway up, the timing tends to be that bit later. Further, in bays where a large expanse of water is filled through a narrow or constricted entrance, it can be very much later. Bays with restricted entrances, into which large rivers flow, operate to rules that are more extreme again.

The information that is commercially available about west coast tides relates to entrances of bays. The people who draw charts and write pilot books concentrate their efforts here. The reason is that mariners are always anxious to come and go with a favourable tide. Given that the west coast of Ireland consists almost entirely of such bays, this is very useful. The conscientious route planner is remarkably well informed for large sections of the coast.

Care should be exercised in using information from the table on the facing page.

  • Rates of flow are spring rates, mostly if not exclusively.
  • They are not necessarily consistent throughout the bay.
  • The value given may not be for the mouth of the bay itself, but for some other spot inside the bay which has been deemed more important. The reasons for this may not be readily apparent.
  • Similar arguments apply for start and finish times, though less vigorously so.

Common sense should be used or better again, consult the Irish Coast Pilot for more detailed information.

All times are given relative to Galway HW.

Bay and place Max. Rate Starts to fill Starts to empty
Shannon Estuary (off Carrigaholt)

Galway Bay – South Sound

Galway Bay – Foul Sound

Galway Bay – Gregory Sound

Galway Bay – North Sound

Kilkieran Bay

Bertraghboy Bay



Cleggan Bay

Ballynakill Harbour


Westport Bay

Clew Bay (weaker flow)

Clew Bay (stronger flow)

Achill Sound South (off Achillbeg)

Achill Sound South inner

Achill Sound North (Bull’s Mouth)

Blacksod Bay Outer (Achill/Duvillauns)

Blacksod Bay inner (north+east of Blacksod Pt.)



Broadhaven Bay

Killala Bay

Ballysadare Bay

Sligo Bay outer

Sligo Harbour

Ballyshannon (bar to the town)

Donegal Harbour

Killybegs Harbour

Gweebarra Harbour

Rosses Bay inner

Aran Sound, north & south

Rutland Channels, north & south

Cruit Bay inner

Sheephaven (+ Ards Bay entrance)

Mulroy Bay (entrance)

Lough Swilly (at Buncrana)









Very strong










































































































All of these carry a warning. No one in a small boat should ever pass a lobster pot without checking which direction the tide is flowing. It’s like going out in the rain without a coat because the weather forecast is good.

The Coast of West Clare

This varied coastline changes greatly in character. The SW Clare coastline is synonymous with vertical slate cliffs. These begin at Kilbaha in the Shannon Estuary, just east of Loop Head and run NE for 60km or so, uninterrupted except for the occasional small boulder beach or long sweep of sand. The cliffs go all the way to the limestone Burren hills in the north of the county. There are few enough landings among the limestone escarpments between Doolin and Ballyvaughan. Steep cliffs then give way to the deeply indented bays in low-lying farmland on the NE edge of the Burren.

Those who have set themselves to paddle all the way around Ireland, a mighty crew, properly fear the southern section of this county, from Loop Head to Doolin. It is one of the significantly exposed parts of the entire trip.

West Clare is here divided into small day excursions, which allow one to intensively explore.

Kilrush area to Carrigaholt

Q985-540 to Q849-512  Sheet 63

14km of stony shore with strong tides.

Embarkation is at Cappagh Pier at Q985-540 which is also the embarkation for Scattery Island. The rocky shoreline east of here goes all the way to Aylevarroo Point at Q997-529, the low-lying point on the horizon to the east. To the west lies the entrance to Kilrush Creek Marina. Access through the lockgates at Q984-544 is easy in season when the gates are normally manned. Call on VHF Channel 80 to be certain.

From the Creek, a stony shoreline extends to Querrin, past the mouth of Poulnasherry (OysterHole) Bay. Poulnasherry is a tidal inlet, so don’t explore on an ebbing tide. Querrin Spit encloses an interesting, marshy area, accessible only above LW, 3km west of the mouth of the Poulnasherry marsh. At Querrin, there is a handy embarkation point with good road access at the pier and slipway in front of the handball alley at Querrin Quay at Q925-541. Best avoid the lower tides for fear of slime.

Corlis Point is at Q915-530, followed by rocky reefs. Next is stony Doonaha Beach at Q883-528, where a caravan park and gun battery can be seen. Just east of Carrigaholt is Haughs Bay, secluded in that access is easier from the sea than from the land. Beware of LW at Carrigaholt, which leaves a mudflat inside the old quay (one of Nimmo’s). Better to land at the stony beach outside the pier.

Carrigaholt to Kilbaha

Q849-512 to Q738-480  Sheet 63

15km of varied coastline.

The bay south of Carrigaholt is Kilcredaun and has an isolated stone beach below the Irish College visible above. The well-preserved Carrigaholt Castle is prominent on the point SE of Carrigaholt.

There is a battery on top of Kilcredaun Point at Q850-494. Six such batteries were built towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars to guard the estuary against a French invasion. They were built mostly in matching pairs. This one was to be matched by a similar construction on the Kerry side at the Cliffs of Dooneen at Q885-478. Upstream, the next two are at Scattery Island and Carrig Island. The last two are at Kilkerin Point and Tarbert Island, where the estuary is at its narrowest and most tortuous.

Batteries were a more formidable proposition than Martello Towers. Martello Towers are a common feature on the east coast, but there are only three on the west coast. Two of these are in north Clare, at Finavarra and Muckinish, the thirs is at Rosaveel. Batteries were Dshaped or semicircular, and had much bigger armaments. These normally included 2 howitzers on the roof of the blockhouse and 6 guns along the outer perimeter.

Typically, a battery also had a dry moat and a drawbridge. Scattery Island battery is in good condition although access to the roof is no longer possible. Kilkerin Point has been renovated in recent years.

A school of porpoise and Bottlenose Dolphin are resident between this point and the Kerry coast for a number of years. They make full use of the sweeping tides to feed and frolic.  A credible eco-tourism industry has set up around these pods.

Rinevella Bay has a pebble beach with a sunken bog and forest at its western extremity at Q818-493. Next, Rehy Hill at Q801-484 slopes gently into the water. Kilcloher Head at Q772-475 has a cave and marks the end of an impressive section of cliffs, including some long narrow caves and ‘The Opera House’ – undercut layers of rock sloping into the water.  Land at the pier, Nimmo’s prettiest according to some.


Tidal streams are strong at Kilcredaun Point at Q850-494 where the estuary suddenly narrows and turns southwest after its long westerly progression to the Atlantic. Locals say the ebbing spring tide reaches 4kn.

Kilcredaun Point
Direction Time Speed
NE 5:20 before Galway HW 4kn
SW 0:50 after Galway HW 4kn

Kilbaha to Loop Head

Q738-480 to Q686-471              Sheet 63

6km of unremitting cliffs.

Kilbaha is a wild place, pretty, and remote. Best to approach by road from the north, the Bridges of Ross side. The coastal road along the estuary from Carrigaholt is often blocked at Rinevella Bay (Q823-498) by storm damage. The bay is closed out in stormy conditions, so the road is sometimes blocked with shingle or bigger.

Note how Kilbaha Pier is constructed without any mortar at all. There are two pubs and basic facilities. The Lighthouse pub does excellent bar food. A paddle to Ross Bay or the Bridges means a short road walk back, allowing a mighty paddle with no logistics or shuttle. Kilbaha has slipway access with shelter from off-lying reefs sloping into the bay. A little hut with caves underneath marks the SW extent of Kilbaha Bay.

The outermost 6km of the Shannon Estuary has the character of the coast outside it. Tides now play a significant role as wind from the south can cause unpleasant sea states. Along the striking cliffs towards the head are many narrow caves, including one cavern whose narrow entrance causes light to refract upwards through the water. Halfway between Loop Head and Kilbaha is Dunmore Head at Q718-466 where a sheltered break may be had inside. Dunmore Head is almost cut off, and is locally called Horse Island. There is a wonderful cave running north/south through the headland. There is a very steep storm beach just east of Loop Head where landing is possible in good conditions.


Peregrine, Chough.

Loop Head to Bridges of Ross

Q686-471 to Q735-504  Sheet 63

7km of cliffs lie between Loop Head and the Bridges of Ross.


Tides hereabouts, even in close, are the main west coast offshore stream

Loop Head to the Bridges of Ross
Direction Time Speed
NE 3:20 before Galway HW 1kn
SW 3:05 after Galway HW 1kn

Loop Head

Loop Head is a big square-cut, jutting headland. It consists of vertical black cliffs over 30m high. There is a detached section right at the head itself. This is called Diarmuid and Gráinne’s Rock. It is a vertical tower 100m by 20m, separated from the mainland by a deep, narrow gorge. In very calm conditions, it is possible to paddle through this gap.

Diarmuid and Gráinne fled from Fionn and the Fianna, a long time ago. Their near capture is recorded widely all over Ireland in places named after them, such as this. From the mainland, marvel at the cairn on top of the rock and wonder how it got there. It wasn’t Diarmuid or Gráinne. Mick Fowler and Steve Sustad, two English climbers, put it there in 1990. They have specialised in climbs such as this. They abseiled down, swam out, climbed up, and then tyroleaned back (shinnied along a rope suspended between rock and mainland) to the mainland, leaving their mark behind. The feat has not been repeated.

Around the Head, there is always a swell, which booms on the off-lying reefs. There is a huge lighthouse which is rarely visible from below, except from way out.

The cliffs relent after Black Rock at Q703-489. The view southwards from here looks bleak as rising black cliffs stretch out to sea. The detached rock, 2km NE of the head, is Gull Island at Q701-482. The prominent point by it is Bullaunaleama, with its significant arch, with hundreds of birds occupying its ledges. 3km ENE of the Head lie two shallow bays with storm beaches where landing is possible, Fodry Bay and Ross Bay at Q733-500, handy to the road.

The Bridges of Ross is a north facing, natural harbour. Once there were two bridges, but one fell into the sea. The remaining one is on the western side of the mouth of the inlet, just east of the Point of Ross. There are two inlets within the harbour. Access is normally easier from the wider one, being the more east of the two. There is a track down to a boulder beach. The bay is not completely cut off in rough conditions, as the mouth is wide enough. Care should be exercised though.

Bridges of Ross to Goleen Bay

Q735-504 to Q825-560  Sheet 63

This is 11km of beautiful committed paddling with no real landings between the two points. Worse, the mouth of Goleen Bay is closed out in swell. Goleen Bay is otherwise an excellent waystop and possible embarkation point. It has though, an awkward, mucky carry in. If heading north, and if Goleen is closed, then Kilkee is next stop. This makes for a trip of over 18km in total.

Between Ross and Toorkeal at Q762-512 are continuous cliffs with one sea stack. The north-facing, V-shaped baylet at Toorkeal has, in the cliff to its west, a remarkable T-shaped cave. This leads in over boulders to a sheltered steep-sided cove.

Gowleen at Q785-535 (no road access) is rarely accessible due to rocks at the mouth of the bay. Croan Rock marks its northern edge.

Goleen Bay is a further 5km to the NE. The hill with radio masts, SW of Goleen Bay, is Knocknagarhoon at Q814-551. There are impressive caves and inlets along this section.


Tides in this section are as mentioned previously – the main west coast offshore stream runs along the coast from Loop Head to Kilkee at up to 1kn in springs, with the flood running from HW Galway 0320 to +0305.

Goleen Bay to Kilkee

Q825-560Q885-604   Sheet 63

About 8km of vertical cliffs and steeps slabs.

Goleen Bay is an excellent waystop and possible embarkation point, well sheltered, but beware of rough seas closing out its narrow entrance during big sets.

The castle at Castle Point (Q836-577) cannot now be seen. The deeply undercut cliff here is popular with mackerel fishermen. From Goleen Bay to here are steeply sloped rock layers dipping straight into the sea. Offshore lies the distinctively shaped Illaunonearaun at Q827-570. There is no landing but it boasts fine arches and caves at its NE tip.


Storm Petrel, Barnacle Goose.

There is a lovely arch at Foohagh Point at Q854-590, but watch for the submerged rock on its northern side. There is a most beautiful stack to its south called Green Pillar Rock, also called ‘The Candle’ by divers. A large hole has eroded through the centre, and there is a splendid jump off the landward side of the hole.

The bay just north of Bishop’s Island Q856-595 has the remains of some huts. There is a straight, 200m long cave in the SW corner. The island itself is visible only from the land opposite, and no landing is possible to kayaks. There are caves in the cliff wall opposite Bishop’s Island and a mighty sea stack on the corner. Clapotis often occurs in the sound, especially in the shallower, inside part.

Approaching Kilkee Bay, just outside Duggerna Rocks, are a couple of nice caves, with the innermost having two entrances. The second is almost hidden by the big rock sticking up in the corner, or at HW. Waves tend to rear up between here and Knockroe Point to the south. The bay just to its south is Intrinsic Bay, where Goat Island is the tiny sloping rocklet heavily populated with birds. Avoid the tiny inlet behind the island.

On Duggerna Rocks, at the southern side of the bay, are the famous Pollock Holes. These are famous for their natural swimming and snorkelling pools of all sizes. Covered at HW, they are refreshed twice daily. The Pollock Holes are deservedly a most popular attraction. The offshore rocks at this point are busy divesites.

The inner bay has a beautiful, horseshoe strand, which is very well sheltered. As the town is right behind, the best landing is at the pier at the northern end of the beach. Scuba divers, both CFT and PADI (Comhairle Fo-Thuinn (Irish Underwater Council), Professional Association of Diving Instructors), organise themselves from this pier. Kilkee is a serious player as a tourist town.

At the northern end of Kilkee Bay, a number of underwater reefs run south from George’s Head. These are known by frightened kayakers to boom on even the calmest days. The sheltered Byrne’s Cove at Q882-613 on the north side of the bay is popular with male naturists. The prevailing south-westerly swells, coupled with reflection off the cliffs, makes for turbulent water in this corner of the bay.

Kilkee to Doonbeg

Q885-604 to Q963-665  Sheet 63

This section is around 14km.

Kilkee to Farrihy Bay is about 5km and is a pleasant trip with rock layers, sloping steeply into the sea.

George’s Head protects Kilkee Bay. The head has a cave opening to the south. The bay just to the north is Chimney Bay. Offshore 2km north are two rocky outcrops. That nearer Kilkee is known as Biraghty More at Q883-632, which is a popular scuba divesite. It boasts a good jump into the sea on the landward side. Facing Biraghty More on Corbally Point is a small cave. Further north is Biraghty Beg.

Farrihy Bay has a reef at the mouth. On the southern side of the bay is Corbally village where landing is possible, but there is a long carry to the road. Corbally village is mostly holiday cottages now, but the native villagers were noted Irish speakers up to 1950 or so. Clerical and lay ‘Gaelgeoirí’ were common visitors in summer months. There is a rocky beach at the NE corner of the bay with good road access, but sharp reefs force a long carry at LW. This is not a rough weather landing spot by any means.

Donegal Point at Q896-654 is turbulent at most times. It separates Farrihy Bay from a small, sheltered inlet to its north, called Bealnalicka. There is a rock beach here with steep access above the inlet to an in-fill quarry, which has road access. There are splendid caves at the inner, southern side of the inlet. One cave Q899-651 is a gem. It goes all the way south, through the headland into Farrihy Bay. The roof of the cave has collapsed halfway along, and being open to the sky, there are curious lighting effects even in poor ambient light conditions. Expect rough conditions at the southern entrance to the cave, and in the middle. Two reefs run outwards from the north entrance to the caves.

Ballard Bay is noted for its sheer spectacular cliffs. Visit the caves inside a distinctive notch called the Horse Shoe at Q905-658. The caves are in the southern side of the bay, just west of the Napoleonic signal tower at Q910-659. A rocky shoreline leads around the headland to Carrickfadda known locally as the Blue Pool, a rock ledge at the outer NW end of the headland. Carrickfadda is popular with fishermen, despite some being tragically swept out to sea by boomers over the years.

On the west side of Doonbeg Bay, there is the remains of a castle at Killard Point. There is good road access to a sheltered slipway at Q953-674. Access is also possible at HW, right up into Doonbeg itself, at a slipway north of the bridge, at Doonbeg Castle. The Doonbeg area is also shown on Sheet 57.  Doonbeg pier is by Nimmo.

Doonbeg to Spanish Point

Q963-665 to R034-777  Sheet 57

The character of the coast all the way from Loop Head to Spanish Point is mostly steep, rugged, slate cliffs interspersed with sheltered bays, large and small. south of Doonbeg, the terrain is mostly suited to those who like to potter and explore in detail. This now gives way to exposed surf beaches.

The coast 9km north of Doonbeg is mostly surf beach, including the famous Doughmore (White Strand on the OS 1:50,000 map). Doughmore is famous with surfers for its reliable surf and mean rip-tides. Do not lightly decide to land hereabouts. Rock has been placed at the toe of the dunes.

Doughmore is famous with others for the golf played in the dune system behind the beach. Doonbeg Golf Course was developed controversially in the last few years. Golfers won out against conservationists. More recently, the golfers have applied to Clare County Council for permission to deposit 80,000 tons of rock and boulders at various points on Doughmore beach, to halt coastal erosion. Did they not realise that dunes are by definition impermanent? Was this not on the cards from the outset? This is one of the most beautiful remote and natural beaches in Ireland. While the land belongs to the golf course, the beach belongs to everyone. It is not the public’s fault if some of the greens were badly situated.

The pier (by Nimmo) at Lurga Point, 2km WSW of the village of Quilty, has a NE facing slipway at Q996-742, sheltered by a reef.  There is access at all stages of the tide and parking is plentiful.  Lurga is a most convenient embarkation point for off-lying Mutton Island. There is a somewhat sheltered storm beach R022-761 just 1km south of Caherrush Point R020-768. Here are farms and generally a welcoming environment, with water and camping on request. In 2010 the local farmer is as pleasant and helpful as ever and has no difficulty with visitors as long as it is small numbers and they ask permissionto access or use the land. There is a great story about his father RIP who accomodated a fellow in a “skinny boat” many years ago.

The curved beach immediately south of Spanish Point is a famed surf spot, absolutely to be avoided except in calm conditions. One can expect waves that often are higher than Lahinch itself, with the break line closer to the shore.

Mattle Island

Q972-721         Sheet 57

Mattle is 2km south of Mutton Island and will always play a secondary role to the larger and more attractive Mutton. Cormorant and Shag roost on the grass top. Cormorant colonise the summit while Shag have their home perched over a deep cut that penetrates the NE point.


Land in a cut at the southern point, or in various points along the SE side, depending on tide and conditions. A reef runs well out to the ENE, and landing may often be had in its shelter.

Mutton Island

Q971-745         Sheet 57

Mutton Island lies 1.5km off Lurga Point. There are three modest houses, nicely sheltered under a low hill, at the narrow, eastern end on the SE facing side. The middle one is still roofed. The houses are just NE of a lake which is just east of the narrow middle of the island. There is a significant signal tower midway along the exposed western side. The northern and western sides are high and craggy.

Landing and Embarkation

The landing place is onto a stony beach at a projecting spit at the narrow, north-eastern point Q984-748. There are also landing points nearer the houses Q983-747. If circumstances dictate, there is also a useful landing in a west-facing cut at Q982-747. Camping is equally convenient to all these landings. Embark from a sheltered and conveniently reached beach and slipway at Q996-742 at Seafield Harbour, tucked inside Lurga Point just 3km WSW of the village of Quilty.

With tide running, a most fearsome sea state is said to kick up south of Mutton Island. Beware also the reefs off the west of the island, beloved of wilder surfers.


Barnacle Goose, Great Northern Diver.

Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal and Mallard were seen on the lake in March 2004. Also seen were Barnacle Goose, Snow Bunting, Twite, Snipe and a herd of goats.


Q983-758         Sheet 57

A great slab of rock with minimal grass lies at 1km north of Mutton Island. Various slabs on the south side usually provide an easy landing. This rock has a fine feel to it. Seal, Barnacle Goose, Mallard and Teal were seen in March 2004.

Spanish Point to Liscannor

R034-777 to R068-884  Sheet 57

This is a committing stretch of coast, consisting of low cliffs and surf beaches. The main concern will be the sea swell. Unless conditions are very benign, there will be many hidden reefs below the surface and almost any swell will produce boomers. Keep 2/2.5km off Spanish Point itself.  Until well with Liscannor Bay, one must be on the lookout at all times and in every direction.

Once around the point, head back in towards the bay at Cleadagh Bridge R037 797. There are one or two small unremarkable caves along the low cliffs. A stony beach is inaccessible in larger swell. White Strand (“Travaun”) is a very sheltered bay and accessible at any time R039-805. You can expect a breaking wave off Freagh Point R026-818 and another boomer 300m out from this on a low reef.  Paddling between these two waves is unpredictable. The options are to head well off shore, save however that on the upper half of any tide, there is a very narrow gap right in at the beach between Freagh Island and the mainland. A few small caves on the far side of Green Island R047-832 are worth a look.

The bay to the south of Liscannor is Lehinch and a famed surf spot, absolutely to be avoided by sea kayaks. That said, fun is to be had there, and, at HW one may enter the Inagh River R085-888, and then all the way up to Ennistymon. The practical thing is to head for Liscannor Harbour (Nimmo) R068-884.

Liscannor to Doolin

The Cliffs of Moher

R068-884 to R058-971 Sheet 51/Sheet 57

To the north of Liscannor are the famous Cliffs of Moher, running NNE for 16km or more from Hag’s Head at R011-896. Hag’s Head lies 3km west of Furreera (R042-880 Sheet 57) in Liscannor Bay, or about 6km west of Liscannor Harbour (one of Nimmo’s). Small parties will start or finish this classic excursion at Furreera. Larger parties may prefer Liscannor, as it has the better parking, easy access at the harbour, and in the village itself, facilities including restaurants, pubs, hotel and hostel. The Cliffs of Moher are the highest vertical cliffs in Ireland. Except for one stack off O’Brien’s Tower, and a few storm beaches, landings are few. Even then, these are only accessible in very settled conditions. These cliffs provide the most dramatic and committing day paddle in Ireland. If doing the Cliffs of Moher, choose light winds, or south-easterlies, which will wash over the top.

Supreme Surfing Wave

Aill na Searrach (a.k.a. Aileens) is Ireland’s biggest and best surfing wave, at over 10m, thought to be among the top five waves in the world.  The wave is close inshore, just north of Branaunmore. It was known for years but never surfed until recently.  Efforts began October 2004 but standard techniques were found wanting.  Surfers came from Australia, USA and the UK to try their luck.  Eventually on 15th October 2005, surfers were brought out to the site from Doolin.  Getting onto the wave involves being towed a by jet-ski, which then makes a hasty retreat, tactics not then necessary anywhere else in Ireland.  Conditions only get suitable a few times every year.  The wave spills into the base of the cliffs themselves, so its danger is not just its size.  Keep away, unless you are one of a very small handful of experts.

Doolin claims, with some validity, to be the secret capital of Irish music. It is Mecca to every hitchhiker and cycling tourist under the age of sixty to visit Ireland. Doolin boasts excellent music, hostels, camping (in a paying site conveniently at the harbour), seafood restaurants, chippers, as well as everything touristy. Doolin Pier is the obvious embarkation place for the Aran Islands. Inisheer lies 8km to the WNW, or 10km to the main beach.

The slipway at Doolin pier is steep, less than well sheltered, and busy. Parking and launching especially in summer is easier just 100m north, in front of the campsite, at R058-971, Sheet 51, despite a small, awkward carry. There is no other embarkation for many a cliff-bound mainland mile on either side.

Day excursions either side of Doolin are committing and amongst the best in the country. Going south the first get out is approx 15km at Liscannor and even this is weather dependant. Going north the next get out is approx 16km at Fanore and this is very weather dependant also. After this the certain get out is at Gleninagh Pier another 8km further on, inside Galway Bay.

Doolin has a coast and cliff rescue service. Contact Mattie Shanahan at 065 – 7074415, the leader of the local Coastguard (Doolin) Unit. Local information may be had from any of the local ferrymen, there being a number of busy, small ferry routes to the islands.


Peregrine, Chough.

Branaunmore – An Branán Mór

R037-924                      Sheet 51

Branaunmore is the sea stack prominently visible below O’Brien’s Tower at the main public viewing point on the Cliffs of Moher. For this reason, it is more often referred to among kayakers as O’Brien’s Stack. Its importance lies in its strategic position, mid-trip along the Cliffs. Very occasionally, a trip along the Cliffs may here be broken, lunch taken, and legs stretched. Tall and thin at 61m high, this is a mighty stack, and although unreliable, do not discount the possibility of a landing. A shelf of rock extends out from the base of the stack on the seaward side, the Doolin side of which is peculiarly sheltered. Even when the gap with the mainland is closed out by booming surf, the north outer side is often quite free of surge and scend. Manageable groups will find it worth a look.

Climbed by Fowler 1990 (needless to say), with Sustad and N. Duggan.

Crab Island

R053-971          Sheet 51

Crab Island is a small, rocky islet just off the pier at Doolin. It is best known these days for the reliable right-hand reef break off its SW side. Surfers mostly ignore the nearby break between the island and the mainland off Ballaghaline Point at R056-969, because it dumps, but jetskis sometimes practise there. There is a stone building of indeterminate purpose on top of Crab, which looks like it might have been a wine cellar. Land onto a sheltered inlet on the NE side, which can be difficult, particularly in swell or at HW.


The German submarine Aud landed Dowing, servant of Roger Casement, on Crab, in 1916. He couldn’t make the mainland and was arrested. This was the first in a long line of mishaps and misunderstandings that undermined the 1916 Rebellion and essentially confined it to Dublin. Casement has remained a controversial figure ever since. Branded as homosexual to alienate American Irish public opinion at the time, to the puzzlement of students of the subject since, it appears actually that he was. The British were truthfully more upset by his exposition of third world abuses in the Congo and South America and elsewhere, but were happy to seize upon his treason in support of the Irish cause of the time.

Doolin to Ballyvaughan

R058-971 to M232-085  Sheet 51

The famous Burren area is a geological phenomenon, being 1,000km2 of ‘karst’. This comprises exposed limestone rock pavements, crags, escarpments, sea cliffs, caves, and above all, flowers.

Flora – the Burren is profuse with rare wild flowers. Some of these are not otherwise found north of southern latitudes, while others are not found south of northern latitudes – here, they are side by side. The *Burren shelves or drops vertically into the sea from Doolin to Ballyvaughan, with landings few and far between.

Climbing cliffs – halfway between Doolin and Fanore is the famous climbing sea-cliff of Ailladie at M090-030, developed since 1972. It is probably second only in popularity in Ireland to Dalkey Quarry in Dublin. The tallest smooth section is Mirror Wall, with the only apparent weakness being The Ramp [E1 5b] winding up from bottom left to top right, pioneered by Dermot Somers. The cleanest of the series of square-cut corners just south of Mirror Wall is Pis Fliuch [HVS 4C], a committing layback. It is very much amongst the best of Jimmy McKenzie’s many fine legacies to Irish climbing. Further south by about 100m or more, look for the prominent Great Balls of Fire [E1 5b], said to be Brian Walker’s best. It is the obvious fist-sized crack rising to twothirds height from a ledge just above sea level; the escape is left and up.

There are other cliffs, large and small, between Doolin and Ailladie, and there has been some climbing development on the more prominent sections. All other Clare climbing will always be second rate to Ailladie.

Landings – there is a possible landing at a storm beach just a km north of Doolin, but it is of little logistical interest as there is no road access.

There is a shallow bay with a steep slip about 4km south of Fanore beach, just where the road is closest to t**he high tide mark, but landing even here is troublesome under the best of conditions. A dolphin, Fáinne, arrived here in 1997 or so A dolphin, Fáinne, arrived here in 1997 or so and has remained ever since, though nowadays intermittently.

13.5km NE of Doolin and 4km or so south of Black Head, is the splendidly picturesque, dune-backed beach of Fanore at M138-084. The beach may dump even on a good day, but it is the nearest to a dependable landing on this stretch, so do not pass by without thought. Fanore has a public car park (height barrier) at the south end of the beach with water and excellent camping in a paying site at the north end of the beach. There is a lifeguard on duty most of the summer.

The coast for kilometres on either side of Black Head is scenic, and of special interest to shore anglers. Lines of them grace the low but sheer black cliffs all summer long. At the head, with its huge automated lighthouse, there will always be swell, especially when the tide ebbs into the regular westerlies. Under normal summer conditions, full-blooded Atlantic conditions suddenly yield to the protected waters of Galway Bay. Travelling northwards, the views of the hills of North Clare from hereabouts are at their most stunning.

3km around Black Head, the tiny pier (marked Coolsiva Quay at M181-108) at Gleninagh, gives a landing onto a small sandy beach. This is a pleasant spot for swimming, and is usually a reliable landing. There is camping and water in nearby houses. Car access is awkward, especially for larger groups. Many of the ‘Wild Geese’ are said to have left from this pier in Sarsfield’s time, after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691.

4km WNW of Ballyvaughan is Gleninagh Castle. Landing is difficult hereabouts, but it is worth the trouble as the castle is well preserved and home to breeding Chough.


M222-116         Sheet 51

Shown on the OS half-inch Sheet 14, but missing from the 1:50,000 Sheet 51. A rocky islet which makes a good waystop on a day paddle in south Galway Bay.  Land on the downwind side, mostly easily. Neither water nor camping.

Ballyvaughan Harbour

M232-085         Sheet 51

The sea inside Ballyvaughan Harbour is very shallow and care is needed not to ground at LW, even in kayaks. In particular, spits of land enclose the Harbour, keeping it distinguished from Ballyvaughan Bay immediately outside to the North. The Harbour is enclosed from NW by ‘The Rine’, an attractive grassy spit that juts out NE from the shore west of the village, the tip of which is at M223-096, and from NE by Green Island M237-092, a breeding spot for mute Swan, the end of a rough marshy area jutting out from Bishops Quarter to the NE of the village.  The Rine is an attractive tourist walk and families often get cut off at HW.  Green Island is less attractive and generates less problems, if any.

Gall Island M234-086 lies inside Rine and Green, a mere 200m off the new pier in Ballyvaughan M232-084 and shelters it.  With a huge LW footprint it was formerly a noted seaweed provider.  The harvest was formed into rafts and floated towards the collection point, beside the shed to its east.  The shed is just off the main road at M238-084 and was the commercial hub of the enterprise.  It is now unused. Seaweed lost its commercial value in the early 1980s when an iodine factory at Maam Cross closed but there is demand again from the factory established at Kilkieran in Connemara now run by Arramara Teoranta.

Camping at the village is very public, on grass in front of the Rent an Irish Cottages, or just west of the old quay M226-084. It may be possible elsewhere with permission. A better choice by far, is Bishop’s Quarter beach 1.5km NE at M245-095.  It is possible except at lowest waters to paddle inside Green Island all the way to Bishop’s Quarter.

Ballyvaughan is a very pretty village, with all supplies. It is probably best known with tourists for the seafood in Monks Bar at the (old) west pier, and cakes and delicacies in the Tea Rooms nearby. There is also the commercial Aillwee Cave, 3km to the south inland.

Poulnaclogh Bay

M277-100         Sheet 51

Poulnaclogh Bay itself is a most useful training area for beginners, being totally enclosed.

Tidal Flows

Shaped like the letter “L”, the outer shorter narrower west/east part is shallow and the tides run strongly, at the very mouth of the bay M253-104, again at “the Narrows” M264-108 before Muckinish Point, and again (less so) at the knuckle of the “L” M272-111.  Tides don’t run strongly in the inner longer north/south part of the “L” once the bay widens and deepens at about M276-103 one third way southwards up the inner wider part.

The inner wider southern two thirds of the bay is always deep and much used by the outdoor pursuits centre at Turlough, near Bell Harbour at the head of the bay, for beginner windsurfing, canoeing, and sailing, and as a permanent mooring for local yachts.


The tidal cycle in the inner wider north/south deeper half of the inner part of the bay is later than outside at the mouth of ther bay (which is “as Galway”), with HW about Galway +0040 in neaps, +0100 in springs. LW is much further behind, the tide flooding only after LW Galway +0230 to +0300, meaning in effect that the tide rises for four hours and ebbs for eight, as is the nature of bays of this kind.

There are two launching points.

  • For specifically the inner wider deeper southern half of the inner north/south part of the bay, at M282-100, approach by a boreen from just NW of New Quay church M286-101.  To the south, Polldoody Bay goes across increasingly muddy shallow banks up to Bell Harbour quay M283-085, at HW a convenient put in or out, a good campervan spot.
  • For general access to the inner parts of the bay or to begin/end an excursion on the ebb/flood to somewhere else, entry is easiest at the knuckle of the “L” at gridref M271-113 at a small pier beside a hexagonal monument on the roadside. Parking for a reasonable few cars.

The SW side of the bay is significantly humanly uninhabited, no houses within miles, and unsurprisingly has a large seal colony, and some otters.

Illauncraggagh island M271-106 (no camping, no nothing) guards shallow sandy Muckinish Bay on the SW side of the knuckle.

Illaunnalee island M275-098 is campable for several small tents for the very determined.  At HW landing is softest at the west tip but otherwise realistically achievable anywhere around.  Beautiful views and tranquility.  Seals all round, all the time.

Scanlan’s Island

M255-110         Sheet 51

Scanlan’s Island is a low, cultivated, agricultural island set out in large fields, lying 3.5km NE of Ballyvaughan. It is barely an island, being cut off only at HW, and being circumnavigable only on the very highest tides. The rest of the time it is accessible by land from the NE at M258-114, near Finavarra village.  The remains of a beautiful breakwater at the NW tip M252-112 guards a lagoon locally called “the Pond”.

Scanlan’s is noted here for the tidal race that sets up on the ebb at the narrows at its SW tip at M253-103. This is between a reef off the island and the mainland where Poulnaclogh Bay flows into Ballyvaughan Bay. The race runs due west. A significant height difference is discernible over as little as 50m, and the run-off in springs, with wind over, can go for over 500m.

Tide Race

Paddlers prefer playing in this race to the more powerful Aughinish Point race nearby, because of its ease of access and relative safety of escape. This race flows into the enclosed Ballyvaughan Bay, whereas Aughinish flows into the more open water of Galway Bay. It is shallow and bumpy with even a hint of westerlies – good fun to be in. Access is from Bishop’s Quarter beach at M245-094, 1km SW and 2km NE of Ballyvaughan. The beach is easily accessible to vehicles, with a good car park and camping. Ballyvaughan has all facilities.

Slack water immediately outside the narrows is as Galway HW and LW. The stream at the narrows and inside Poulnaclogh Bay can be up to +0100 flooding and a lot more ebbing. The most powerful flow at the narrows is the first part of the ebb. This is normal for such configurations, especially after heavy rain, as some fresh water fills Poulnaclogh Bay.  Indeed the surface water downstream of the narrows can taste quite fresh.  The lower half of the ebb usually yields longer flatter waves, a bit less confused, that bit more amenable.  However, the situation is very variable.

The whole area teems with bird life in winter. On land is found Snow Bunting, on Loch Murree Whooper mute and even Whistling Swan in 2010, beside regular winter Widgeon, Pochard and Teal. On the sea there are Brent Goose, many Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, and especially Divers. More than 130 Great Northern Diver have been counted in recent times. The area is particularly noted for the rarer Black Throated Diver. Clive Hutchinson’s ‘Birds in Ireland’ records a flock of 18 in 1985. Singles and small groups are regular visitors. Grey Phalarope were seen here in significant numbers in October 2001.

Razorfish are plentiful at the extremity of the lowest LW spring tides at the beautiful beach on the west side.

Aughinish Island

M273-130         Sheet 51

Uniquely in Ireland, Aughinish Island is separated by sea from the rest of its own county [Clare], while being joined by road to a different county [Galway].

Apparently, Aughinish was only ever completely cut off from the mainland for about 50 years. By local lore, it was of old joined to County Clare at New Quay to the south. Then a destructive tidal wave, caused by an earthquake off Lisbon, Portugal on 1st November 1755, swept into the area with such force it broke that connection. The Lisbon earthquake is said to have been the most focussed destructive seismic event in recorded history, measured at 9.0 on the Richter scale and lasting seven full minutes (San Francisco 1906 was 7.8 and lasted 30 seconds).  For a time Aughinish remained an unattached island. But then the military constructed the Martello Tower (1804 – 1810) in fear of Napoleonic invasion. For access, they built a road across a causeway at M296-132 from the east, in County Galway.  Immediately on the south side of the causeway in the sheltered bay lie ancient fish beds M298-131, recently rediscovered, possibly there from the time of the Cistercians at nearby Corcomroe Abbey, fishing being a Cistercian speciality.

Again by local lore, that tsunami also flattened O’Heyne Castle M326-106 at the head of Correnroe Bay, well ESE of the island, though Tim Robinson’s great Burren map has the castle falling to the tremors of the earthquake itself. 1755 might also explain the puzzling position of an ancient ruined church M278-127 on the SW of the island, opposite the popular beach on the Clare coast, coincidentally named “Church Point”.  1755 caused major destruction in west Cork, where at Barley Cove it is said to have created the extensive dune system now apparent there in the single day, and the evidence of its awesome power at Lough Hyne, unlike in most other places, is scientifically well established.


This provides kayakers with an opportunity for a short but interesting circumnavigation without logistical problems. Aughinish Point at M274-131 is at the west tip of the island. For best conditions, the circuit is best done clockwise if launching on the ebb, or anticlockwise on the flood.


New Quay
Direction Time
East 5:00 before Galway HW
West 1:00 after Galway HW

Avoid the southern side for the main part of the ebb, especially in a westerly, as a truly awesome tide race is set up here in such conditions. It extends over the entire mouth of the bay and stretches from New Quay Pier to Aughinish Point and beyond. On the northern side of the island, the tides are not generally strong. However, a shallow bar extends from Deer Island ESE to a point northeast of Aughinish Island Martello Tower, where some rough water may be encountered.

Until 1992, there was an old cannon, with emplacements, on top of the Martello Tower, but these are now gone. The top used to be reached with difficulty by climbing, but the tower is now a private residence. This is one of only three such towers built on the west coast. The others are at M241-116 Finavarra Point a few kms to the WSW, commanding the entrance to Ballyvaughan Bay, which still sports its gun, and at Rossaveal L958-239.

The south side of the island was the scene of a tragic drowning on 29th June 1969, when 9 children, all from New Quay (except one from Kinvara), died when a boat overturned on its maiden sea trials.

At the pier at New Quay, which was built by Nimmo, is Linnane’s Bar, renowned seafood bar and restaurant.

County Galway

The coast of south Galway consists of low-lying, deeply indented farmland on the north edge of the Burren area.

Deer Island

M283-153         Sheet 51

This is a small but lovely and worthwhile islet in open water, 2km north of Aughinish in County Clare. It is 5km west of Eddy Island, and 4km SSW of Tawin. Several dozen seals will typically be lounging about in summer. Multitudinous Cormorants. Absolutely no water.

Land on a beautiful, sheltered, curved, sandy beach on the SE side.

A shallow bar extends from Deer Island ESE to a point NE of Aughinish Island Martello Tower (M287-136). Although the tides are not generally strong except between New Quay and Aughinish Point, the shallow water at this bar, as well as that off Aughinish Point, can be rough in wind.


Embark from around New Quay, County Clare. The easiest launch is from Church Point Beach at M274-124, or from a slipway at the back of the pier in New Quay M281-123. The quay was built in 1837, and is a working quay, so please respect it. At the quay is Linnane’s Bar where there is pubgrub, with the best seafood in Ireland. The nearest launch for Deer Island is from the causeway joining Aughinish Island to mainland County Galway at M296-132. Also, the island can be taken in as part of a circuit of Aughinish, as launching or landing can be easily had either side of the causeway.

Mulroney’s Island

M367-117         Sheet 52

A tidal island in Kinvara Bay, on the western shore. Worth a visit, if only to view a huge oyster shell midden which occupies almost the entire NW end of the island. Landing is at its most practical at HW, when one may land at the NE side. No water. Good secluded camping spot if attending Crinniú na mBád, the authentic festival of traditional Irish west coast boats. These are principally the Hooker (Bád Mór), and the smaller Gleoiteóg and Néamhóg. The Crinniú is held annually on the middle weekend in August.

Tides in parts of the bay reach 1.5kn in springs.

Fiddaun Island

M355-159         Sheet 52

An undistinguished small lowlying islet north of the entrance to Kinvara bay. Essentially a grassy raised gravel bank beloved only of nesting gulls in spring. Best landing in SE onto stony beach.

The tidal stream emptying Kinvara Bay turns west just south of Fiddaun.

Island Eddy

M350-164         Sheet 52

Eddy is a large and pretty island, low-lying, 2km NW of the mouth of Kinvara Bay. Formerly inhabited by seven families, Eddy was abandoned in 1947. The islanders settled on the mainland nearby, mostly at Doorus and Clarinbridge. The village is in a line set back from the beach at the northern side of the east end. It is now mostly in ruins and overgrown, though one house has been restored as a holiday home.  Deciduous trees behind the village gave good shelter. The island is grazed in summer.

The bigger part of the island lies west of the village and is reached by a narrow causeway. There are enormous lagoons on the northern and south-western sides.

A coral sandbank projects from the eastern end of the island. This dries out all the way to the mainland at the bottom of very low spring tides, when Razorfish can be dug on the lowest parts.


Put in at a choice of launchings. All three piers mentioned are by Nimmo.

  • The nearest embarkation point is from a quay 2km NE of the island at M360-181, called locally Lynch’s Quay [Nimmo], 6km WSW of Clarinbridge.
  • Killeenaran at M372-167, 2km east, is more popular.
  • Most conveniently accessed (but height barrier) is the north facing beach (locally called Trácht) at M341-139, (by road) 2km south and 5km NW of Kinvara, where there is plenty of parking, and toilets.
  • Parkmore Pier [Nimmo] at M353-139 has parking and easy access.


Land at the beach on the east end of north side, at the abandoned village M351-164.


Good camping can be had almost anywhere. No water was found.

Tawin Island

M315-193         Sheet 51

Kilcolgan Point at M300-193 at the west tip of the island is a useful waystop for a tour in inner Galway Bay. Land onto boulders and slabs, on whichever side is sheltered. The island is accessible by road, and is flat but interesting.

Tawin is used here to describe a large area, being a long narrow peninsula with the island at its extremity.  Accessed from Clarinbridge or easier from Oranmore, both on the Galway Limerick road, the area includes the main island Tawin West and for two other islands (Inishcorra and Tawin East), besides a part of the mainland called Mweenish Island, which is actually attached at all stages of the tide.  The area is in the Galway commuter belt, and there is a lot of one off housing. The whole thing is lovely and includes two Nimmo piers.

Best known feature of the region is the Oranmore Sailing Club at the small Rinville pier (one of Nimmo’s) at M355-219 on sheet 46, well signposted.  Inside Rinville Point, the peninsula encloses a marine institute, an hotel, and a golf course.  There is a lovely walk along the shore to the point, and for the energetic, a walk along the north shore to beyond the golf course, where it is possible to access the woodland in the interior and thereby, back to the starting point.  Well recommended.

Mweenish in the extreme south is actually the remotest part of the entire.  Except for two raised areas, one at each end WNW and ESE, it is largely salt marsh, only occasionally below the waterline.  One could camp here and be undisturbed for a week. Short grass and clean seas make the prospect attractive.  The OS 1:50,000 shows the area as detached, but the old half inch shows it correctly as definitely mainland.  The views southward to the Burren are stunning.  Land access is strictly from the WNW, which is a long way by boreen from the nearest road.  It may be possible to arrive on foot from the NE at LW springs.  Oyster farming is carried out intensively in the sheltered bay to the NE.  Access from the Nimmo quay at M360-181, called locally Lynch’s Quay.

Inishcorra is a working farm area, not to be disturbed unnecessarily.  Access on foot is from Tawin East to the NW at HW.  Signs hereabouts refuse permission for the hunting of hares, and trespassing generally.

The strip of land projecting west on the south side that with the Tawins on the north side encloses the Inishcorra Bay area is called Glasheen Island.  It is best known for the wreck of the Pamela that came ashore here without loss of life.

Tawin East is really a part of the road to Tawin West that happens to have a bridge at each end.  It is otherwise undistinguishable from mainland.  Tides flow extremely forcefully under the bridge on the east side.  This area is popular for kayak training.

The school and houses on Tawin West are close to the Tawin East bridge.  Further west the land is barer, and sheep graze, some cattle too.  There is a swimming beach on the north side at M305-194.  Periwinkles grow in industrial quantities around the west end


Eamon deValera met his wife Sinead here in 1911 when he was running an Irish summer college in the local national school.  Jack B. Yeats painted here, and photography opportunities abound.  It is a noted birding spot.


The island is at the head of a useful round trip with a simple shuttle between put in and out points. Start or finish on the north side at Oranmore Sailing Club at the small Rinville pier (one of Nimmo’s) at M355-219 on sheet 46, well signposted from Oranmore village.  On the south side, on Sheet 52, try the pier called locally Lynch’s Quay, 6km WSW of Clarinbridge at M360-181 where there is good parking, or at HW, and for the easier shuttle, try a quay at M406-198 just west outside of Clarinbridge.

This provides a trip of 18km or so. Sheets 45,46 and 51 are needed.  There are nice west-going races on the lower ebb off Mweenish Point at M351-173, Sheet 52 (the east point of Mweenish Island) in the south. There are also races off St. Brendan’s Island at M326-213, sheet 46 in the north. Under normal winds, the trip is probably best done south to north. There are plenty of convenient escape points.

There are splendid views of the nearby Galway City from the island. Visit Island Eddy village en route.

Rabbit Island

M327-240         Sheet 46

Understudy to the nearby Hare Island (the pair are called the Leverets), Rabbit is cut off from the mainland at all points of the tide.  It is a small low-lying overgrown unattractive lump, given over to cormorant, Sea Radish, and nettles.  It commands quite a large footprint at LW.  Land on the west side of the NE tip onto stones as the rest of the shore is boulders.

Hare Island

M317-237         Sheet 45

A popular and attractive island about 1.5km SE of the entrance to Galway City docks and harbour.  A causeway to the NE dries out for about 90 minutes either side of LW, joining the island to the mainland at Ballyloughan Point in the suburb of Renmore, beside a camping and caravan park.  There, a municipal sign warns that access to the island is prohibited in the interests of public safety.  Apparently the unwary get trapped there overnight from time to time, frightened by the strength of the flow crossing the causeway when the water levels rise more quickly than expected.  The sign seems to attract more traffic than it prevents, and certainly, groups can routinely be seen waiting on the dropping tide for the causeway to appear, then smartly setting out.   The discerning kayaker will visit at HW.

The island is a raised green field on the west side, rising from the middle, with steep mud and grass cliffs around the higher parts.  The field features mainly ragweed and elder, with some brambles.  Rabbits abound.  No stock was seen August 2008 but a small construction suggests there must be at times.

A lagoon flanked by a grass covered raised stoney perimeter comprises the east side.  The lagoon drains NE on the east side of the causeway.  It never empties much really, but it is renewed at each HW and is fresh looking and clear.  There is a small wreck on the ENE shore.  Herring Gull roost and appear to breed.


The suburb of Renmore boasts a paying camping and caravan park at M323-247, a nice beach, and some parking on the very limits of Galway city.  East of the point is green fields.  Launch from immediately outside the campsite M322-247.  Land on a sheltered stony beach on the north said just west of the causeway, where the swimming is better on lower tide levels.


The beach on the western or city side of the point dries for quite a long way so do time your excursion well.  HW as Galway.

Causeway to Hare Island
Direction Start Time End Time
East 4:00 before Galway HW Galway HW
West Galway HW 4:00 after Galway HW

The causeway may be portaged in between times.

Leveret Light in the shallow water of the SW tip is a significant navigation marker marking the east side of the approaches to Galway port.  Mutton Island marks the west side.

Mutton Island

M297-233         Sheet 45

Situated 1km immediately south of the entrance to Galway City docks and harbour at the Claddagh. The main pier at Galway is the only one to be named after its designer – Alexander Nimmo, the great maritime engineer of the early 19th Century. No other one man changed the face of the west of Ireland more than he, ever. In the aftermath of the famine of 1821, the official response was to build up the infrastructure of western Ireland, which then lagged behind the rest of the United Kingdom, of which it was then part. He is responsible for 40 piers altogether between Waterford and Sligo, besides all the roadways we now call the national primary roads in the entire area from Clare to Mayo.  A practical visionary, he forced the official hand to keep building after the immediate effects of the famine had dissipated.  The results of his efforts made similar efforts in the great famine of the 1840s the more effective.

A non-portageable causeway has joined Mutton to the mainland since 2000. The causeway facilitates a new sewerage treatment plant for the city, the location chosen in controversial circumstances in spite of protests from conservationists. Mutton is useful more as a pitstop than as a waystop. The whole island is taken over by the sewerage works, except for a small swampy portion on the eastern side. Land anywhere on the eastern side. Camping is forbidden… it would be very unattractive anyway.

All Galway bound traffic keeps east of the island, and be careful at night. The low tower on the southern side is no longer a lighthouse.

Aran Islands

Sheet 51

The Aran Islands are an experience unlike anything else in Ireland, the maritime Burren, ruggedly beautiful.  Inisheer on the Clare side is the smallest, the prettiest, and the most accessible.  Inishmaan in the middle is the most traditional and remote, yet very progressive.  Inishmore is the largest, the most dramatic, almost mainlandlike, such is its popularity, at least by day.  The vast majority of tourism to the Aran Islands is day-tripping, overnighting the minority.  All three islands can be accessed by air from Inverin, about 40 minutes by car west of Galway City, but most people head out by sea ferries from villages on the Clare or Galway coasts, Doolin or Rossaveal.

Embarkation – Clare side

The beach inside the pier at Doolin in County Clare is the obvious embarkation place on the Clare side. Keep north of Crab Island at the harbour mouth, as the south side enjoys a world renowned reef surfwave. Inisheer is 8km WNW. There is no other embarkation point hereabouts, with cliffs for many kilometres either side.

Embarkation – Galway side

Passenger ferries go from Rossaveal. There is no one obvious embarkation point for kayaks on the Galway side for Inishmore. Set out from anywhere convenient on the Connemara coast, probably around Lettermullan or Carraroe.  Departure from the island north to the mainland requires care in identifying the landing spot, as the mainland coast is low-lying and rocky. The islands off the Connemara coast tend to merge with the mainland background, all the more so from kayak eye level.

The best navigational markers are :

    • a windmill L956-254 in Cashla Bay (the only one hereabouts, for now anyway), near Rossaveal village, with slightly to its west the obvious open Greatman’s Bay, for Carraroe’s famous coral strand L913-231,
    • the prominent signal tower L820-214 on Golam Head accessing Kilkieran Bay, and also – further away and further west, a small automated lighthouse L685-318 on Croaghnakeela, for Roundstone and Bertraboy Bay.


Local HW/LW is the same as Galway. The flooding tide fills Galway Bay through the four sounds around the Aran Islands.

Aran Islands
Direction Time Speed
In 5:20 before Galway HW Various
Out 1:05 after Galway HW Various

The direction of the flood is northeast through the sounds either side of Inishmaan, NNE on the Clare side and east on the Galway side. Ebb tide timings and directions are the reverse in all cases.

Western (Dun Aengus) cliffs of Aranmore
Direction Time Speed
NW 3:20 before Galway HW 1kn
SE 3:05 after Galway HW 1kn

Tidal streams northwest and southeast of the group, off the Galway and Clare coasts, are weak. South Sound between Inisheer and the County Clare mainland achieves only 1kn in springs and North Sound between Inishmore and the mainland even less, 0.5kn.

Streams in the middle two sounds east and west of Inishmaan are much stronger. Be careful of both central sounds with wind against tide, which occurs mostly on the ebb as prevailing winds are from the southwest. The stream between Inishmaan and Inishmore, called Gregory’s Sound, reaches 1.5kn in springs. Also, being surrounded by cliffs, quite a sea state rises in Gregory’s Sound. In westerly winds, a sea state occurs when the swell claps against the cliffs on the southwest of Inishmaan. The stream between Inishmaan and Inisheer, called Foul Sound, also reaches 1.5kn in springs, but lacks the reputation of Gregory’s Sound, there being no cliffs.

Inisheer – Inis Oírr

L982-028          Sheet 51

Population 300. On Inisheer there are provisions, pubs, music, hostel, airport, ferry, B&Bs, castles, ring forts, pretty scenery, nice walks, and has antiquities by the score. Teampall Chaomháin (Saint Cavan’s Church, sometimes Saint Kevin’s Church) is now practically engulfed in sand. On 14 June each year the sand is cleared away and the islanders pray through the night by candle-light. Altogether a most attractive island, Irish (and English) speaking.  Like Inishmore, there can be a mainland feel from breakfast to dinner hour when the day trippers are on the island, reverting to very offshore after hours.  Hire a bicycle on arrival.


The main landing place is at a NNE facing beach, midway on the NNE side, which may dump. Otherwise, try at the pier at the west end of the beach, where the ferry comes in. There is a paying campsite behind the beach.

L992-016        Trá Caorach, just west of the eastern point of the island, is a sandy beach. Nearby is the landmark wreck, the Plassey, rusting away above the HW mark since 1960.

L978-007        There is a quay, just NW of the lighthouse, by a slipway.

Inishmaan – Inis Meáin

L947-046          Sheet 51

Inis Meáin, the “middle island”, is the least visited, the most Irish speaking, the least crowded, and the most memorable.

Population stable at 184 in 2023.  The island has an airport L947-060 (connected to Inverin on the Galway side), ferry L943-068 (connected to both sides, but less frequent than for either other island), several B&Bs, pub L940-049 (Teach Ósta, central), snack bar L943-043 (above the harbour at the east side), chipper, and Post Office L937-049 where some facilities. An attractive island, almost exclusively Irish speaking. Note Dun Connor (Dún Chonchúir) L932-048, which is one of the finest complete ring forts in existence, oval in shape.

Highly recommended is the island loop walk – Lúb Dún Chonchúir and variations upon.

The church L935-049 was built in 1939 has an altar made by stonemason James Pearse, father of Patrick Pearse, 1916 Easter Rising leader.  Rock climbing on Inishmaan has developed since about 2001. Foraging, especially in the remote southerly half of the island, can be fun.  Samphire, wild garlic and sea beet are to be had on land, while the flat rock intertidal slabs yield the purest seasalt, in conditions of spring tides and a heatwave.

Landings and Camping

    • L947-046      The traditional main landing spot is at An Córa, mid-east-side, at the pier or the beach nearby just NE for camping.  Quiet enough now the ferries no longer call here, but maybe a little public for camping.
    • L952-060        At the NE corner, along the beautiful beach called Sandhead (Ceann Gainimh), but which can dump. Be careful not to disturb nesting Terns in spring and early summer. No water.  Very quiet except when a plane is landing.
    • L943-067        Modern new main pier at east end of the bay on north side called An Caladh Mór, but there is a long carry at LW. No water. Findable in darkness.  Camping just about.
    • L935-066        Better for the NW end of the island, there is a small pier and slipway, called Port na Cora. The carry is manageable at LW, the camping is convenient, and there is good water in a well nearby, up the boreen. This is also the best jumping off point for Inishmore. Difficult to find in darkness.

Inishmore – Inis Mór

L885-088          Sheet 51

Population 900. Inishmore is the largest and most westerly of the three main islands. It has several small off-liers, dealt with here as a group. With summer ferries from Rosaveel, its airport, and an all-weather 12/52 ferry from Galway City, Inishmore, especially around the town Kilronan, has a very ‘mainland’ feel to it.

Hire a bicycle on arrival.  The distances are otherwise too great for ordinary folk to manage, never mind enjoy.


L883-088        Kilronan pier (Cill Rónáin), for all mainland type facilities.

L888-073        Killeany (Cill Éinne) pier, by Nimmo, near the airport.  Remote.

L828-105        Kilmurvey (Cill Mhuirbhigh), west of centre on the northern side, has a sheltered sandy beach. The best campsite is on a grassy area on the western side of the bay, just north of the beach. This is just the other side of a pier, where there is an easy rocky landing, and good water in a well. This is the obvious departure point on passage NW.

L777-116        Bungowla (Bun Gabhla), a sheltered pier and slip, facing across the sound to the Brannock Islands at the west end of the island. Sheltered slipway, manageable camping, water. This is the jumping off point for the navigation of the Dun Aengus cliffs, the unbroken 15km line of cliffs of the SSW side of Inishmore. Rounding the tip from Bungowla L777-116 around tiny Brannock Island L774-112 (almost always impassable on the inside) is an instantaneous thrill, the speed of the change in circumstances unequalled elsewhere.

Dun Aengus cliffs

This passage is a major challenge for kayakers. What makes it different is that it is never ever done with an empty kayak in a “day trip”, as are all other big Irish such trips, even the biggest.  It takes an excursion to get into position at one end or the other, for most people anyway, and a day at the other end to get home again.  Both ends are austere places, so that means camping and that means laden boats.  The excursion is not to be rushed, but enjoyed, in flat calm or NE winds.  There aren’t the usual caves or much in the way of reefs, but the scenery is stunning every inch of the way.  The highest cliffs are under Dun Aengus itself, suggesting an east/west traverse, but it seems it is mostly done the other way.  Rounding the tip from Bungowla is an instantaneous thrill, the speed of the change unequalled elsewhere.

L831-092        In exceptionally calm conditions, in someone else’s empty plastic boat, or in extreme distress, there is the possibility of a landing just west of the midpoint on the SSW coast. This is near Kilmurvey under Gortnagapple (Gort na gCapall), 1.5km east of Dun Aengus. A sloping natural slipway lies at Port Bhéal an Dúin on the right hand side of the easterly of two bays, where the cliffs are lowest of all. Rumour has it that this place is very occasionally used by curraghs. This is the slipway made famous in the classic film ‘Man of Aran’. Otherwise, these cliffs are 14km of lee shore.

L824-093        Worm HolePoll na bPéist is an extraordinary feature, being a rectangular hole in the suspended sea-level platform below the cliff, so straight and true it might have been machine tooled.  Reachable on foot along the shelf from the Gort na gCapaill side.  The cliffs above it are about 15m at this point, and the World High Diving Championships were held here in 2013.  Brendan Walsh, father of your author, dived the hole from the clifftop in 1935.

L904-067        Portdeha.  A fine sandy beach protected by high dunes, but exposed to SE winds which may cause it to surf.  An attractive spot and well positioned for any run down the Dun Aengus cliffs from east or west.

No water found.  The only camping is for small groups and a little rough at the south end.  Otherwise camping would be a struggle, having to carry gear up the beach and over high dunes behind, besides then finding spots amongst tough marram grass. Certainly possible but areas of much easier camping abound.

L882-104        Mooltia. Trá na mBuailte.  Well sheltered sandy beach on the north coast, very private yet a handy stroll into Kilronan.  Camping but no water.  Probably the best option for camping on the north side.


Clasts are any particles of solid rock broken down by erosion and deposited in a new setting.  Mega-clasts are huge such clasts.  Recorded in numerous other localities along the west Scottish and Irish seaboard, nowhere are mega-clasts as obvious as on the barren karst of Inismore.  What could be powerful enough to lift huge angular / isolated sections of wave-cut platform weighing up to 2.5 tonnes and catapult them 50m upwards and leave them stranded in linear heaps 50m inboard of the cliff top? Recent research has produced two theories.  These mega-clasts may be the result of “recent” tsunamis in the North Atlantic, say the last 1,000 years, estimated from the degree of weathering. These tsunamis are often set off by submarine landslides in Volcanic archipelagos such as the Azores. Alternatively, or maybe as well, a recent theory, developed in nearby Galway University, suggests mega-clasts have been brought about by “freak” storm waves. Conventional ideas on the size of storm waves are shifting due to reams of data gathered by worldwide tsunami alert buoy systems, as well as data from offshore rigs, in ultra deepwater 1500m+. If huge freak waves are actually high frequency events, this would have significant implications for ship design and maritime insurance. Freak waves are finding growing acceptance amongst the scientific community.

Rock Island/Eeragh Island

An t-Oileán Iatharach

L759-122          Sheet 51

The more west of the two Brannock Islands. Landing is very difficult at the quay at the SE as it is subject to west / SW swells. Indeed it is marked on Tim Robinson’s map as hardly deserving of the name of ‘quay’. Robinson hopped off a curragh here, but landing a kayak would be ambitious. In calm seas, landing is possible on some rocky ledges further up the east side of the island. At the north end of the east side, there is a very small rocky beach, with some boulders, where there is another landing at LW to mid-tide. Camping is OK; there is no soil, but there is plenty of flat rock on the path to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse sequence is FL 15s, 35m, 23M (one flash every 15 seconds, the light is 35 metres high and is visible for 23 miles). It was first established in December 1857 and was automated 1978. No water was found but a herd of goats survive, so there must be somewhere. In an emergency the Irish Lights tanks might be accessible. Lots of limestone, but very little else aside from the lighthouse and a wreck.

Brannock Island

Oileán Dá Bhranóg

L767-118          Sheet 51

The more east of the Brannock Islands.  Minutes from Bungowla on Inishmore, this is a much more pleasant camping place, very private.  There is room for many tents, on reasonably good camping ground.  Lots of driftwood for campfires.  Fair Pollack fishing in the landing bay.

The landing is easy onto a stony beach in a bay (An Caladh) on the south side, sheltered by two large flat offliers. No houses and no water supply.

Donkies, seals, gulls, goats.

Note that the following information is received second-hand, and may not be relied upon as fully as elsewhere. It was researched from Tim Robinson’s ‘Stones of Aran’. He says the ‘most magnificent piece of Aran’s cliff-architecture’ – a sea cave with pillars and holes in the roof – is on the east side. Not yet found by modern kayakers.

Straw Island – Oileán na Tuí

L909-085          Sheet 51

Straw Island, at the mouth of Killeany Bay (Cuan Cill Éinne), is a good resting stop. Good easy landing onto shingle beaches all round except NW. No great merit. Major lighthouse (11 m. high) which flashes twice every 5 seconds.

Connemara South

Conamara Theas

Galway City to Slyne Head

Cathair na Gaillimhe go Ceann Léime

County Galway

Co. na Gaillimhe

There are no islands, and no information available as to the coastline west of Galway City to Inverin 30km west. The next sections deal with the coastline from Cashla Bay to Slyne Head, which for convenience are centred around its various deep bays, east to west:

    • Cashla Bay – Cuan Casla,
    • Greatman’s Bay – Cuan an Fhir Mhóir,
    • Kilkieran Bay – Cuan Chill Chiaráin and
    • Bertraghboy Bay – Cuan na Beirtrí Buí
    • and also its island clusters Gorumna/Lettermore, Mweenish/Finish in between the great bays, and lastle in the west close to Syne Head itself.

Historical Context

The very first roads, bridges and piers among the bays and waters of Connemara – Conamara were constructed under the engineer Nimmo after the 1821 famine.  There was no fully functioning road transport system until the late 1800s. Well into the early 1900s, wooden sailing boats, Connemara Hookers, were the workhorses of these waterways. Hookers were a dominant feature of the Conamara landscape. They ferried goods – tea, sugar, flour and tobacco to small shops in outlying communities on the many inshore islands, and even transported turf to the Aran Islands.

Before 1900, the region was among the poorest in Ireland. It was a harsh landscape. With hard labour, people were reasonably self-sufficient. They provided food and support for their families from farming, kelp gathering, fishing and trades. But there were groups who were very poor. Old people, widows with young children, or men with families and no land, all were vulnerable. Some years there was a poor harvest in fishing or potato.

The Congested Districts Board was set up in the 1880s to develop infrastructural schemes, which helped to alleviate such poverty. A huge number of men were employed in building roads, causeways and bridges. The Board achieved more under British administration than would be achieved in the years immediately after Irish independence. The causeways and bridges which joined the islands to the mainland, and between the islands of Lettermullan – Leitir Mealláin, Gorumna – Oileán Gharmna and Annaghvaan – Eanach Mheáin, were built in the years between 1886 and 1891. Many roads in the Carna area were built then also.

Men earned one shilling (about 6 cent) a day. 900 were working on these schemes from Ceantar na n-Oileáin, (Leitir Móir and Leitir Mealláin) which shows a huge reliance on these relief works to help families survive famine and high rents. About 1900, lace-making industries were set up to create income opportunities for women. It became a way for women to earn the price of a fare to America to escape from a life of poverty and hardship.

The population were tenants on the land. It was a struggle to keep their holdings and to survive. Landlords and their agents charged exorbitant rents. Those who could not pay their rent were evicted. It drove many people to emigrate. There were many schemes in America and Australia around 1900 looking for ‘white healthy people’ to occupy and inhabit the ‘new countries’. It was the beginning of emigration on such a scale that it scourged the west of Ireland until about the 1970s. The emigrants’ destination changed in the 1950s to England where work was plentiful, due to the efforts to rebuild after World War 2.  In 2013 emigration is again the scourge of all Ireland.

In the 1900s, all the islands in South Conamara were ravaged by poverty, emigration, and the hardships of making a living. This contrasted with how these same islands had previously provided people with food when many other parts of the country were starving. From the 1950s onwards, the final death knell for life on these islands came as people chose an easier lifestyle on the mainland. They preferred easier access to housing, electricity, health services, education for their children, and opportunities to work and earn money.

Who were the people who came to live on these offshore rocky islands?  We are privileged to know mainly because of the Griffith’s Valuation Survey.  This was, ironically, a property tax survey that was carried out between the years 1847 and 1864.  It involved a detailed valuation of every taxable piece of agricultural land or built property, to get an accurate estimate of the annual income it should produce.  It listed names of occupiers, landlords, area and type of tenement.  The names of the occupiers then and landowners today on Inis Oirc have not changed significantly, though there is the addition of one family. The survey was used as a basis for local taxation for 100 years up to the late 1970s, when residential property tax was abolished, but now in 2013 it is back.

Inis Oirc is one of six islands that form an archipelago of small islands on the outer western landmass of Ceantar na n-Oilean, Conamara. It is tucked away, a welcome haven, safe from the tides and turmoil of Golam Head. Five families lived on Inis Oirc. It is now abandoned. There were two families of Folans, two of Flahertys and one of McDonaghs. There were 40 children born to these families.  They endured tragedy and loss with the deaths of some 11 children in infancy. Children went to school on the mainland at Leitir Meallain. They lived by farming and fishing. Everything the families needed for the houses was brought ashore in currachs and was made use of.  As they grew older the children moved away and many settled on the mainland, while others emigrated to England and the USA. The last person left the island about 1984. Though the island is abandoned, the descendents of the people who left it still farm cattle there.

In 2013, the Down Survey of 1656-1658 was digitised by TCD and published on the www, another valuable insight into the past and the ultimate land grab of Irish history, between 1641 and 1670.  This survey, the first of its kind in the world, was carried out after the Cromwellian Wars. It sought to measure all the land that the native Irish Clans would forfeit, to be redistributed to the mercenaries who fought for Cromwell. It was a survey which recorded townland boundaries and measured areas with great precision at a scale of 1:40 perches, almost equivalent to 1:50,000 today. It even put a value on remote islands that were difficult to land on, never mind remote mainland.

In 2004, Oileáin was reporting that the government was making substantial improvements to the infrastructure of islands, extending and deepening harbours, and especially installing mains water / electricity on small inhabited islands.  Increasingly, many islands gained holiday homes.  For a time the tide seemed to be turning, but maybe it is ebbing again. The current hard economic times will surely discourage continuing investment, and the return of the taxation of residential property is hardly incentivising.

These days, islands are a very attractive destination for paddlers and other tourists. Kayakers, whose goal whenever the opportunity arises, is to visit offshore islands and in particular lesser visited islands, are in a unique position to explore the winds of change. Their questioning and awareness starts the moment they get out of their boats. Usually, their interest centres on how people have lived, – buildings, fields, field boundaries, paths, piers/landings, all the trails of their existence. Many of these inshore islands were inhabited until the not too distant past. When we shelter alongside the old walls of the people who have travelled these same boreens before us, we should reflect on their lives and the drastic causes behind these settlement changes.

Cashla Bay
Cuan Chasla

Cashla Bay is a well sheltered deep water bay, of military significance particularly in the 18th century, when Britain had good cause to fear a naval invasion of Ireland being used as a stepping stone to aggression against the mother country. Rossaveal – Ros an Mhíl L957-251 is to this day the ferryport for the booming Aran Islands tourist trade, but in the 1700s the fear was of an invasion by big ships arriving on the coast close enough to attack Galway City.  A part of the solution was to construct a Martello Tower at L958-238 on the east side of the approaches to the port, and indeed its big gun is still to this day to be seen safely in place on its roof. Building the tower began with making a deep water landing pier just to its south at L966-228 where the military buildings remains are still to be seen, then a roadway around the intervening inlet and over the small hill to the tower.  The staff quarters and other outbuildings are no longer there to be seen but the gun on the roof is available to the very able bodied.

A huge windmill at L956-245 a kilometre north of the Martello Tower is a prominent visual aid to marking Cashla Bay from seaward.  Viewed from the Aran Islands, the windmill is the only feature as prominent as the tower on Gowlam Head well to the west.  Navigation towards the low lying Conamara coastline from southwards has always been a challenge but this extra feature may allow some additional comfort to the confused mariner as regards places between these two prominent landmarks.

Coddu Rock – An Codú

L960-216          Sheet 45

Prominent low rock marking the southeast extremity of Cashla Bay, a popular place with Shags and Greenshank.  Just a flattish rock but easily landed in good conditions.  The views of the southfacing coastline of Conamara are stunning.  Many Shag and one Greenshank 12th May 2019

Foal Island

L963-217          Sheet 45

Beautiful remote islet in a stunning location immediately inside Codu Rock.  It shelters a large lagoon to its northeast and despite being separated on its north side by a channel of a mere 5m, is away from nearest habitation by about 2km.  One Greenshank 12th May 2019.  No camping or water.

Oileán Chaladh Ainse

L963-227          Sheet 45

Unremarkable twin-headed islands sheltering the cove and prominent pier at L966-228.  The twin heads are separated at the top of the greatest tides only.  Camping is possible but no water.  Attractive.

Illaunawehichy – Oileán na bhFaochacha

L961-256          Sheet 45

Always overwhelmed by the port area of Rossaveal for which this islet’s main function has always been to provide a natural breakwater to its northwest, there is nowadays a modern manmade extension consisting of huge boulders along the shoreward side, the purpose of which is to further improve definitive shelter to the new Rossaveal yachting marina on the north side of the port area.  The artificially increased area is still a fully fledged island, sheep grazed and very campable, for anyone visiting the port area for some reason, overnight, an unlikely eventuality perhaps.  Nevertheless one would enjoy private peaceful dry and convenient lodgings in this commercial heartland.

Rossaveal  – Ros an Mhíl is nowadays just a ferryport with no other attractions as such for the visitor, other than those transient to and from the Aran Islands.  But the Martello tower is well worth the visit, whatever about the windmill.

Greatman’s Bay
Cuan an Fhir Mhóir

Greatman’s Bay is the smallest of the three island strewn bays on the south-facing Galway coast. Greatman’s is bounded by the Carraroe – An Ceathrú Rua peninsula to the east and Gorumna Island and Lettermore Island to the west. Bealadangan – Béal an Daingin at the north connects Greatman’s Bay to Kilkieran Bay, for even quite large but unmasted vessels. Only the island free Cashla Bay – Cuan Casla just to the east is smaller among the great bays hereabouts.

At this east end of the south Conamara coast, information is comparatively scant for the kayaker. This is so even though Carraroe is a famous tourist resort, and that Gorumna is Ireland’s fifth biggest offshore island. Let the knowledgeable reader accept the challenge, and furnish information to put matters right.


Local HW in the furthest regions of the bay such as Bealadangan is about 1:00 after Galway HW, all much as one expects.

Greatman’s Bay
Direction Time Speed
In 5:00 before Galway HW Various
Out 1:00 after Galway HW Various

The tide floods north and east through the narrows, ebbing south and west. Greatman’s Bay is much more open at its northern parts than is Kilkieran Bay, so the tide runs very strongly indeed through the remoter gaps. A flow of 4 – 5kn is reported at Bealadangan, but following this logic, much less may be expected at Kiggaul Bay – Cuan Choigéil where Gorumna meets Lettermullan to the west.

As with other bays hereabouts, beware when navigating in the narrow places on a falling tide. One mistake and the kayak can be grounded, necessitating a long wait, or a muddy session dragging the boat over seaweed covered rocks in search of open water.

Camus Bay – Cuan Chamuis

Camus Bay Cuan Chamuis is the innermost bay among the myriad of islands at the head of Greatman’s Bay and Kilkieran Bay. The two bays are joined in places between the islands. Camus Bay is distinctive in that one can meet the tide ebbing from Camus Bay into Kilkieran Bay even as it floods into Camus Bay from Greatman’s Bay. This is due to the narrows that occur at L947-340 east of Cladhnach – Clynagh Island (off Rosmuc) further up the bay.


Two embarkation points face each other across the narrowest point of the bay

  • at Rosmuc L934-358 on the west side, newly reconstructed in concrete, and
  • at Camus Uachtar L936-358 on the east side, unreconstructed.

Parking is non-existant on the east side and tolerable on the west side.


  • Tides ebb and flow strongly through the bay.
  • Overfalls occur NE of Clynagh at L947-340
  • Tides flow strongly through the narrows between the two embarkation points around Dunmanus Island.
  • Tides ebb west/east between Inisheltia / Clynagh and flood east/west.

Dunmanus Island

L935-359          Sheet 45

This small island lies between the two embarkation points in this part of the bay.  Indeed it is part of their story.  A road was planned from one side of the bay to the other across the narrows hereabouts, and there remains visible evidence on the island.  The remains of a strong wall / road is to be seen on this pleasant island, otherwise unremarkable except for sheep and mallard.

Local lore insists that building this bridge will mean the end of the world.

Inisheltia – Inis Aillte

L937-348          Sheet 45

A large islet, formerly farmed from what is now a pretty ruined farmhouse at the landing place on the west side.  Land below the ruined cottage.  Now much given over to furze and bog, there is still camping near the cottage.  Rowan and Sallies.

Clynagh Island – An Cladhnach

L941-339          Sheet 45

Large islet, formerly farmed, no farmhouse found.  Land as wished.

Bog. Furze.  Deep turf. Water was found in a boggy stream flowing into the deep cut on the north side L940-340. Camping is possible on the east side of the cut.

A path dissects the island east/west midway north/south.  It is roughest at the east end, to the point of impassibility.

There are a couple of areas to be careful of in Camus Bay.

Upper Camus Bay fills and empties through a very narrow neck at Snámh Bó, where there is a very strong fall on springs. This is at L935-360, near Dunmanus Island where roads come down to the shore on both sides. Local HW at the top of Camus Bay can be up to 3 hours after that on the mouth. Pillars mark the channel Snámh Bó down to Béal an Daingean.

The fastest flow is between Clynagh Island – Oileáin Cladhnach and Camus Eighter – Camus Iochtair to the east.

Turas kayak i gConamara

Lá deas gan mórán gaoithe a bhí ann, i Meitheamh, chuaigh muid amach siar ó thuaidh do Cheann Gholaim go dtí Carraig Iolra. Chuaigh muid i dtír ag spaisteoireacht. Bhí sé lán le faoileáin agus guillemots, neadracha agus éanacha óga.

Dúleac na Foiriúin. Chuaigh muid uaidh sin siar go Carraig na Meacain, áit a bhí lán le cailleachaí dubha agus éanachaí óga agus neadracha. Bhí Dún Gudail agus Scéird Mhór le feiceáil siar uainn ach ní shin é ár dtreo inniu. Tréis greim le n-ithe, thug muid cuairt ar na Foiriúin agus ár n-aghaidh soir aríst i  dtreo Ceann Gholaim. Ar an mbealach ar ais dúinn dhúin sé isteach ina cheo ach bhí mapa agus compás againn agus bhí muid gar do Cheann Golaim nuair a ghlan sé arís.

Chuaigh muid i dtír ar Cheann Gólaim agus fuair muid buideál plaisteach  a raibh nóta agus broisiúr ann , gasúir scoile a chur i bhfarraige éi Roddington, Newfoundland, (Talamh an Éisc). Chuir muid litir chucu ach ní bhfuair muid aon fhreagra. Chuaigh muid suas thar Fraochoileán Mór ar a raibh caiple, idir Crapach agus Fraochoileán Beag chomh fada le Inis Eirc. Champáil muid ar an taobh shiar theas don oileán. Oileán shuimiúil é seo. Tá an t-oileán tréigthe óna seascaidí ach tá bail mhaith ar na tithe fós agus díon ar roinnt acu.

Larna mháireach bhí an la deas tirim ach bhí gaoithe láidir aniar aduath ann. Chuaigh muid suas ó thuaidhtaobh thoir do Inis Eirc agus idir Daighinis agus Foirinis. Bhí foscadh deas anseo againn agus Daighinis ag breathnú go hálainn. Ach bhí se ró luath le stopadh arís agus choinnigh muid orainn chomh fada leis an Oileán Iartharach áit a ndeacha muid i dtír le haghaidh an áit a fheiceál. Tá an t-oileán seo tréigthe óna caogaidí. Tá ballaí na dtithe fós ann. Bhí tobar ann ach tá sé fásta thimpeall air.

Chuaigh muid uaidh seo siar idir Bior Beag agus Bior Mór go dtí Inis Muscraí, nó Spike mar a thugtar air freisin agus as seo go hOileán na Lachan an áit a ndeacha an St Oiliver ar na carraigreacha droch thrathnóna le báisteach agus gála. Cailleadh an criú. Is beagnach carraig uilig an t-oileán seo agus  tá poll uisce istigh ina lár agus chonaic mé cupla uair san samhradh é agus dath bándearg  a bhí ar an uisce. Chuaig muid uaidh seo go Maisean, ceann des na hoileáin is deise ar fud an chósta. Bhí scoil ar an oileán seo agus roinnt mhaith tithe agus talamh níos saibhre ná ar an mórthír. Bhí clocha maith ann le haghaidh tógál agus ceardaithe maith lena n-úsáid mar atá le feiceál sna tithe agus san gcéibh. Sé an trua go dtriomaíonn sé. Tá sean iarsmai ann agus cill bheag.

Champáil muid anseo le haghaidh na hoíche agus tréis dinnéir bhí tine againn gar don trá, deoch fíon 7rl le n-ól agus cainnt agus comhrá agus ag baint sult as an saol go ndeachaigh muid a chodladh, thart ar meán oíche mar bhí lá eile romhainn amáireach. Tá sé mar cheann de rialacha ISKA gan do lorg a bheith fagtha i do dhiaidh agus sul a ndeachaigh muid chun farraige ar maidin ghlan muid suas áit na tine agus marach go raibh pictiúir againn di, ní bheadh fhios agat go raibh tine ariamh ann.

Thug muid a n-aghaidh siar go hOileán Mhic Dara. Ní fhéadfadh muid dhul abhaile gan é a fheiceál. Oileán deas a bhfuil stair ag baint leis, seipéal cloch agus iarsmaí eile. Shiúil muid timpeall an oileáin siar go dtí an taobh thiar don oileán áit ar a  dtugtar maidhm (spout) an tairbh. Nuair a bhíonn an fharraige suaite agus an taoille ag an aoirde ceart briseann sé in airde san aer. Ar an mbealach ar ais dúinn chonaic muid húicéara ag teacht anoir agus in omós don nós atá ann leis na cianta, chrom sé na seolta ag dul thar an oileán.

Ag an am seo bhí sé in am againn na seolta a chrochadh mar bhí píosa maith le dhul againn. Ag an am seo bhí an ghaoithe aniar aneas agus thug muid a n-aghaidh soir le cóir na gaoithe. Nuair a bhí muid imithe thar poinnte na hÁirde Móire níor airigh muid go raibh muid soir ó dheas do Inis Treabhair áit a ndeachaigh muid i dtír. Bhí greim le nithe againn agus comhrá le Patsy Lydon, fear a bhfuil fáilte i gcónaí aige romhainn agus am aige labhairt linn. D’fhág muid slán ag Patsy agus choinnigh muid orainn suas Dún Manus, go ceann scríbe Camus na Foirnéise.

Gorumna Island – Oileán Gharmna

L898-267          Sheet 44

The grid reference is for Maimin Quay – Céibh an Mháimín (one of Nimmo’s) in the NE, just left of the road as one drives onto the island from Lettermore. This quay does not dry out as much as other local quays that are convenient for exploring the bay. Much of the island is referred to locally as Máimín or Maumeen, and parts as Tír an Fhia. The island is very much in the heart of the Irish speaking Gaeltacht area.

There is a roadway along much of the NW side. The quays and bays of the south and east are more isolated from each other. A most attractive pub, Tí Antaine Laoi, in the SW at the Lettermullan Bridge serves excellent seafood. Tides flood north round both sides of the island meeting in a lagoon trapped between it and Lettermore.

Illaunnanownim – Oileán an Anama

L870-206          Sheet 44

Means literally “Island of the Soul”, or figuratively Live Island, as it would best be known locally.  Lying off the south side of Gorumna, Illaunnanownim, with its cairn, is a prominent navigation marker for passing boats.

It is sheep grazed and a pleasant island to visit or camp on, though no water was found.


Set out from a wonderfully remote but busy enough quay called Cé Pholl UíMhuirinn L868-210, found at the end of a long boreen, and this area generally feels about as remote as it gets.  From the level modern hardstand, a small staircase (easily missed) leads down to a creek that dries for about 100m at LW, before it gives onto the open water.  The sound inside the island is sandy, giving nice swimming.

Loughcarrick (means “Flat Stone”) at L868-203 is really just a low lying rocky projection to the SW.  One may walk between the two save at the highest HW.

Lettermore Island – Leitir Móir

L901-282          Sheet 44

Lettermore is a large, hilly island. The grid reference is for a quay in the SE, opposite Inishlay, just left of the road as one drives towards Gorumna. This quay does dry out at the bottom of a low tide but is otherwise very usable for exploring the bay. Good facilities may be had in shops by the Gorumna bridge at the SE. Tides meet in the lagoon west of the Gorumna bridge, which is navigable to kayaks at all times. Less navigable is the passage immediately NE of the island, as there are extensive drying areas.

Annaghvaan – Eanach Mheáin

L912-299          Sheet 44

Essentially the road bridge to Lettermore and Gorumna, the road passing along its SE side, Annaghvaan has its own community of its own people on its low lying terrain.


The passage immediately south of the island (SW to Lettermore) has extensive drying areas at LW. Bealadangan pass to the SE may be a better bet, but watch the strength of the current.

Inishlay – Inis Léith

L906-276          Sheet 44

A small, low, wet island, with cows, sheep, larks, mergansers, ferns, gorse, rushes, bog pools and an indented, inconvenient, rocky shore everywhere. Camping is possible but unattractive just about anywhere.

Eragh Island
An tOileán Iarthach Theas

L913-264          Sheet 44

Drier than Inishlay, with a more open feel, and good views north to the mountains. Goats. Camp on grass at NW.

Inis Mhic Cionaith

L921-263          Sheet 44/Sheet 45

This is the largest and most attractively varied of the islands hereabouts. There are both deciduous and coniferous trees. Houses, some of which are being restored are on the eastern side. Of these, the most southerly is the nicest in a lovely open spot GridReference). Tidal peat, bog oak and cows. Landing anywhere requires a carry except at HW. Camp by the houses if they’re unoccupied.

Lettermullan Island Group

The next ten or so islands are centred on, and are mostly accessed from, Lettermullan Island – Leitir Mealláin, on the east side of and somewhat outside the entrance to Kilkieran Bay.


Direction Time Speed
In 5:20 before Galway HW Various
Out 1:05 after Galway HW Various

The flow achieves 1.5kn at the entrance between Ardmore Point at L818-282 and Illauneeragh – An tOileán Iatharach at L838-273. 2kn is achieved inside the bay between North Island – An tOileán O Thuaidh and the mainland, just ENE of Kilkieran. In either location when the wind is against the ebb, quite a race forms.

Lettermullan Island – Leitir Mealláin

L843-226          Sheet 44

A sprawling ‘mainland’, island on the eastern side of the entrance to the main part of the bay. Lettermullan Island is central to more than half a dozen off-lyers on its west, NW and north. To the west, Golam – Gólam, Freaghillaun More – Fraochoileán Mór and Freaghillaun Beg – Fraochoileán Beag surround Crappagh – An Chnapach, which is itself attached to Lettermullan by an unmarked causeway/bridge of recent construction. Beware of the passage inside Crappagh at very LW.

To the NW and north, Inisherk – Inis Eirc, Dinish – Daighinis and Illauncosheen (Illauncasheen locally) – Oileán Chaisín surround Furnace – Fornais, which is similarly attached to -Lettermullan.

Lettermullan is joined on the east to Gorumna Island (and eventually to the mainland) by road bridges to the NE. The bridge between Lettermullan and Gorumna is passable with ease only at very HW but circumnavigators can get through all these gaps with effort at all stages. The gap between Crappagh and Lettermullan has extensive shallows and may be more difficult. Beware when navigating hereabouts on lower or dropping tides. Tides flow strongly, ebbing south or west through the narrows. Beside the Lettermullan/Gorumna bridge, on the Gorumna side, is a pub that serves good seafood.

The northern shore has nothing interesting. The eastern shore has a number of working quays. The southern shore has a beautiful bay east of centre at L843-216, inside Dog Island – Oileán an Mhadra, and a wild, westerly section off which clapotis will always be present.


Camping for the tourer may be conveniently had at L826-215 on the remote commonage at the SW tip. This is just inside and opposite the signal tower at Golam Head on Golam Island, at the eastern side of a sheltered north-facing bay. The bay is created by Golam Island, which is not totally cut off.

Dog Island – Oileán an Mhadra

L846-212          Sheet 44

A small island, about 500m off Lettermullan, Dog Island marks the whereabouts (on circumnavigation) of a beautiful, small beach on the southern side of Lettermullan. Smooth and rounded glacier-scoured, grass-topped rock, which could just about be camped on. Land on the sheltered, rocky, inter-tidal area on the north side at the storm beach.

Golam Island – Gólam

L820-214          Sheet 44

Wonderful cattle-grazed, remote, and somewhat short-grassed island, SW of Lettermullan. Camp at the shingle beach by the landing, midway along the east side, facing the WW2 watch-house and main camping site on Lettermullan. Huge 19th Century signal tower forms the major landmark hereabouts. Very much recommended. Marked 95’ on half inch OS map. There is a race on ebb on northern side into a westerly wind.

In fact, Golam Island is accessible on foot from Lettermullan, certainly in wellingtons, for some at least of the lower part of the tide. Golam Head – Ceann Gólaim at L817-214 is on Golam Island. Its elevated signal tower is a most prominent feature, which may be used as a visual navigational aid for many kilometres. The land hereabouts in South Conamara is otherwise low, confusing and difficult to identify, especially from seaward. This is the spot from which to embark for Inishmore on the Aran Islands, especially if heading for Bungowla at the western tip. More importantly though, coming from Aran, Golam Head is one of the few easily identifiable spots on the coast hereabouts (but in this context see also Croaghnakeela Island).

Eagle Rock – Carraig Iolar

L802-218          Sheet 44

Eagle Rock is an attractive low lying rocky island of granite slabs, glaciated boulders and boulder strewn hollows.  The island is difficult in places to walk around but nevertheless good to explore. Camping is possible but level areas not easy to find and may be best on a sandy beach at the NE corner. Landing is easiest at HW into an attractive small bay at the NE side, otherwise onto rock slabs and a boulder beach at same location. The bay is shallow, has a sandy bottom in places, and big kelp beds. Views are excellent all round and the island makes for a good lunch spot or place for a swim. A Salmon Fish farm is located north of Eagle Rock.  No water found.

Breeding GBB Gull, Herring Gull & Oystercatcher. Turnstone 20, Dunlin 1 and Grey Seal 2 (August 2009).

Redflag Island – Leac Dearg

L801-223          Sheet 44

Redflag Island, as its name suggests, consists of low lying rounded and shelving granite slabs, which are punctuated by interesting rock pools and small patches of vegetation on the higher slabs. Distinctive shaped granite boulder on southern side. It is worth a stopover to explore and landing is easiest onto obvious sloping slabs on east side in a sheltered bay area. No camping and no water found. Oystercatcher 40 seen August 2009 and both GBB Gull & Herring Gull breed.

Fish Rock – Maol an Eisc

Grid Reference: L796-220          Sheet 44

A low lying rocky outlier to both Eagle Rock and Redflag Island. Land in a narrow cut on NE corner, probably best at HW. Fine collection of rock pools adds interest and swimming possibilities. Good fishing.

Freaghillaunmore – Fraochoileán Mór

L821-222          Sheet 44

Granite ‘roches moutonées’, and boulders. ‘Roches moutonées’ means ‘scoured or scraped rocks’. Geologists can tell which way glaciers moved from the scrapes. Horses grazing. There is a very remote feel to this island. Pleasant. Marked 60’ on half-inch OS map. There is a race on the ebb on the southern side into west wind. It can be camped on, just. Land easiest onto sand at sheltered north-eastern tip.

Freaghillaun Beg – Fraochoileán Beag

L825-227          Sheet 44

Granite ‘roches moutonées’, and boulders. Horses grazing. Very pleasant. Land easiest onto sand at sheltered east side between it and Crappagh, where beaches form to either side of the almost drying gap. Marked 51’ on half-inch OS map. In 2007 there was limited grazing which meant a beautiful profusion of wild flowers in August.

Crappagh – An Chnapach

L831-227          Sheet 44

The summit is marked as 62’ on the half-inch OS map and 16m on the 1:50,000. The ‘almost an island’ is actually attached to Lettermullan by an unmarked causeway/bridge of recent construction on its east side, built across an extensive area of flats. The tide ebbs south. Be wary at LW. Cattle and an unusual house at east side.

Inisherk – Inis Eirc

L832-233          Sheet 44

Inisherk possesses a truly eye-catching feature. A small abandoned cluster of houses is built at the SE corner. These are built right down to the HW mark onto scoured and rounded ‘roches moutonées’, with a natural ‘pier’. The ‘village’ is reminiscent of similar developments much, much further north in Norway and Greenland where they also build right down to or over the HW mark.

Land onto slabs at the pier by the houses.

Camp between these houses and the narrows to the south. Alternatively, for the oceanic feel, try

  • the sandy beach on the south side of the western tip at L826-234 or
  • the corresponding storm beach north of this tip at L826-236 if conditions insist, or
  • a good sandy beach on north side L829-237.

In 2007 there was limited grazing which meant a beautiful profusion of wild flowers in August.

Furnace – Fornais

L834-235          Sheet 44

Furnace is attached to Lettermullan by a bridge, the water underneath which is passable at the higher stages of the tide (which ebbs west). A pier at L834-234 at the SW of the island forms a good base for paddling hereabouts. A flat grassy area at the north tip would provide good camping but the welcome is most uncertain, especially if accessed by road, as all the ‘Private’ signs face this way. The east side has several working piers of little interest save as waystops. The gap inside Illauncosheen is barely passable, even to a kayak, at LW.

Dinish – Daighinis

L830-254          Sheet 44

Mains electricity is connected to the few inhabited, probably holiday houses on the eastern and northern sides of this beautiful island. Two lovely sandy bays open onto the narrows opposite Furnace. The best beach of all is the east-facing, crescent-shaped beach at L830-254, tucked inside the northern tip of the island. It is backed by machair for camping in comfort, and the single house thereabouts even boasts its own pontoon-landing device. There appears to be mains water at the house.

Illauncasheen – Oileán an Chaisín

L841-243          Sheet 44

Known as Illauncasheen locally, but Illauncosheen on the OS map, this little island is situated in Casheen Bay – Cuan Chaisín. Ungrazed save by a single donkey, this is a small, unattractive island off the eastern side of Furnace. It provides shelter for the fleet of working boats operating from the pier opposite. Camping is theoretically possible at southern end.

Kilkieran Bay
Cuan Chill Chiaráin

The bay north of Lettermore Island is mostly very shallow, giving paddling which varies greatly with the level of the tide. At HW, there are quite a few small islands, some inhabited, some not, and all with reasonably straightforward landings. As the tide falls, the flow between the islands increases and the channels all narrow. Some of the streams reach 3kn, and then the channels dry up, so that the whole area is seaweed-covered rocks and islets. Many of the islets then become linked at lower tides. The area is heavily dredged by fishermen for oysters and bladder-wrack seaweed. The seaweed is collected and taken away in trucks to be processed into iodine and fertiliser. There is also salmon farming.

The local wildlife is spectacular with large numbers of seals, some of which are inquisitive, and otters, which quite definitely are not. Also, there are birds, Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull, and large numbers of Red Breasted Merganser. Worth visiting in its own right, the area is particularly attractive as a fallback in time of windy weather. Its combination of races and shelter can combine to give more fun than open ocean water.


From the west side, suitable for the middle section of the bay, put in is easiest at the harbour at Kilkieran L846-315 itself, where there is good parking.  Kilkieran also boasts good provisions and a pub.  Smaller groups may prefer pretty Ardmore Quay L817-293 for the south end of the bay, where there is limited parking requiring courtesy.  Further north, the inner bay is easiest accessed from a smaller working quay at Flannery’s bridge in a deep inlet at L867-353.  Opportunities to put in on the east side of the bay are far too numerous to list and the choice will depend on the group and its itinerary.


Kilkieran Bay
Direction Time Speed
In 5:20 before Galway HW Various
Out 1:05 after Galway HW Various

The tide flows at 1.5kn at the entrance between Ardmore Point at L818-282 and Illauneeragh at L838-273. It gets up to 2kn between North Island and the mainland, just northeast of Kilkieran. With wind over tide (usually on the ebb), a race forms.

Ilaunmaan – Oileán Meana

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Small, low-lying rocky island with grassy top lying mid-way between Ardmore Point and Illauneeragh.  Landing at HW at NW into cove, and at lower waters in stony cove to north. Grazed by sheep. Tides run strongly around the island. Small cairn on its highest point. Evidence of breeding Common and Lesser and Great Black backed Gull and roosting spot for Cormorant and Shags. Useful way-stop (even lunch point) for kayakers touring outer Kilkieran Bay.  No water.

Illauneeragh – An tOileán Iatharach

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Attractive heather and rock covered island at the eastern side of the mouth of Kilkieran Bay. The main landing is on a beautiful sandy beach on the SW side among rocks, just NW of south tip. Good camping on grass behind beach, near conspicuous ruined houses. Beaches also east of south tip.  There is an interesting, narrow gorge which is passable at HW, between this and a small island to the east. Note the former ford/bridge. No water found, except in surface water pools.

Inishbarra – Inis Bearacháin

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An attractive, high, rocky and heather covered island, east of the mouth of Kilkieran Bay. One householder lives there, who is a noted builder and sailor of traditional craft. The main landing place is at the newly improved but very untidy pier in bay on the northern side. It is also easy to land elsewhere. There is an interesting, very low water, artificial causeway to the mainland via several islets to the SE, but do not regard this as a tidal island. Worth a visit. The western part of the passage between Gorumna and Lettermore is easily passable at HW only, but sets up an interesting marine waterfall on the ebb, and then dries.

There are beaches all along the south curve of the island, with camping by ruins on the west side of the south tip.  A lovely harbour at the WNW is accessible at the top half of the tide.

A network of boreens makes exploration easy, and the ground is manageable.  Admire the flat topped national school, 1934, most unusual.

Cow Island

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Almost attached to SE Inishbarra, grazed with donkies, but flat and uninteresting to the casual passerby.  Cow was cared for once but has been let go.  The pass inside Barra is “The Pass” to the north and “Bóthar na nOileán” or the Island Road to the south.

Big Island

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Big is a low lying island fringed at low water by a dense network of confusing outlying reefs and islets, demanding attention to map or chart. The island is a series of rough knolls, hollows, glacial erratics, and wet marshes some with  several  fresh water ponds. It has been seriously let go, barely grazed by cattle, and it is rough, with ferns, heather and gorse, especially gorse.

Landings are possible all around the island but beware very soft mud in the obvious bays at LW.  The reefs and islets dry sufficiently to link up with Na Rua Oileain to the south, and the suspicion is that this is the route way by which cattle are driven on to graze the island.

A large glacial erratic on the north side marks what would appear to be a good HW landing and a good camping spot on a sheltered ledge.

Evidence of Otter. Common Seal. Teal, Mallard, Snipe and Black Guillemot noted in March 2008.

Puck Island

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Puck has been totally let go altogether, gorse, ferns, heather.  Little in the way of redeeming features.

The island is rock strewn with glacial erratics interspersed with small knolls, hollows and marshes. Several deep fresh water pools were located. A HW landing marked by distinctive stone bollard and iron stacks along the north side. Landing is onto obvious cut along the north edge, but is also possible at several other places along the south side. The “Pass” between it and Inishbarra almost dries and in particular, a rock ledge runs diagonally SW from Puck to almost close the gap. A series of small broken fields in the NW corner is the best camping.

Otter.  There was some evidence of recent grazing by cattle in March 2008.


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Illaunroe has been totally let go altogether, gorse, ferns, heather.  Few redeeming features.

Nice views from reasonable camping spot in NW corner. No water found. Otter and Common Seal.

Inchagaun   Inis an Ghainimh

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A large interesting island, in 2008 in the hands of an industrious farmer.  A single modern house stands at the harbour in the mid-east side.  Substantial stone walls modernly guard the shore and local tracks.  A pontoon and electricity / water pump and heavy machinery suggest industry.  A lovely slipway welcomes the kayaker.  Goats, dogs, rabbits, ducks and geese suggest effort.  Ask permission to linger here.

The north of the island is almost waisted.  Nice beach in west cut of waist. A collection of ruined houses and associated pathways show this was always an island in which the occupiers took pride.

The island is manifestly a working farm and should be approached as such.

Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone.

Kinnelly Islands

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Very low lying, immediately off Kilkieran.  Fragmented at HW, these islets are lightly grazed by insufficient sheep to do the job of keeping them clean enough to be attractive to the passerby.  Nevertheless, camping is very possible.


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Given by neglect to ferns and long grass.  Fragmented at HW.

Inishtravin – Inis Treabhair

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Waisted into almost two halves, there is a prominent water tower (disused) on west side summit.  A fine pier is found on the north side of the waist, where there is also the remains of the schoolhouse.  Houses are being done up, perhaps as holiday homes.  A fine network of boreens make the island interesting to wander around.

This is an attractive, non-intensively farmed, sheltered, low, inhabited island in east-mid-Kilkieran Bay. Hay is cut by scythe and saved in haycocks.

There is a landing place with camping at a pier on the NE end, the more northerly of the two piers on the east side.  There is excellent water in a well 100m up the boreen behind the house at the pier. Otters.

An unusual feature is the ancient square bay cut into the old NE pier, intentionally, to house “cattle rafts”. These flat square rafts can take a dozen cows, to be transported to another part of the island, or death, or whatever.  They are still in use.

Only one voter inhabits this island permanently, a gentleman, of whom ask advice about camping or anything else, locally or internationally.


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Very large footprint of very rough grazing for cattle and horses, that makes camping unreasonable as well as unattractive, or at least barely good enough for purpose.  Land to choice, perhaps easiest in SE.


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Launch from Eanach Mheain pier to east at L901-306.  Very small footprint especially at HW.  Nice camping but no water.  Nice feel.

Beaghy Islands – Na Beitheacha

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These two small islands lie to the north of Inishtravin and are linked to it and to each other at LW, however slimily. Easily approached at HW, at LW both islands become surrounded by huge expanses of mud and weed-covered rocks. These islands are a favourite haunt of otters.

Illaunard – An tOileán Garbh

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A small island to the NW of Inishtravin. Land anywhere on rocks, easily at HW, but with more difficulty at LW. Formerly perhaps used for grazing. Uninhabited. The only vaguely possible camping is on the northern side. There is a considerable tidal drop and access is probably best at HW. The higher parts of the island are dominated by furze, heather and bracken and sections can be difficult to walk.

North Island – An tOileán ó Thuaidh

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A small, uninhabited, ungrazed or undergrazed rocky island to the NW of Illaunard. Land in a small cove on the north coast.

Greeve Islands
Oileáin na Craoibhe

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Greeve possesses an open and pleasant feeling.  No water but camping just might be had.  Land easiest on the NW.  This island and its outlying rocks give interesting paddling on an ebbing tide. The entire area is almost surreal at LW. It is very easy to get lost and stranded by a dropping tide, with islands emerging all around.

Illauneeragh West
An tOileán Iatharach Thiar

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A low island connected to Illaunmore at LW, uninhabited in 2006. There are interesting old ruins and narrow paths through the island, which is quite marshy on the northern half and, seemingly ungrazed, the unchecked vegetation has gone wild, making exploration difficult. Land easily at an old slipway on the NE corner at HW, or anytime at the east end of the Crow sound. At LW, the mud between the weed-covered rocks is black, smelly, and gets everywhere. This has been a popular island with tourists in summer. July can be ‘hectic’.

Illaunmore – An tOileán Mór

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An attractive, low island connected at its eastern point to the mainland at LW. In 2006, one house was inhabited full time, and another mostly.  There are many abandoned ruins and deserted houses. Being grazed to some extent, there isn’t the same feel of neglect as elsewhere.  It is a popular venue with summer tourists for ‘camping sauvage’ in the fields.

Crow Island – An Cró

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A small island linked to Illauneeragh West at LW. Land easily at HW on the eastern side at some old walls. Formerly used for grazing but now let go altogether, and covered in briars.  An island of zero merit to the passerby.  A strong flow can develop on the ebb to the south of the island.

Illaunnagappul – Oileán na gCapall

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A small island north of Illaunmore. Uninhabited but there are signs of former fields. Neglected, it has lost the charm it undoubtedly once possessed.  A flow of about 1.5kn can develop just south of the island. Land anywhere, easily on higher tides, with more difficulty onto weed-covered rocks on lower tides.


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Large footprint of mud and weedy rocks at LW, low and rough but substantial at HW.  This islet is unattractive for the leisure seeker and remote of access.  The only easily accessible access pier is 5km to the SW at Flannery Pier L867-353.  A pier at L899-383 to the NW is private and awkward of approach.  A pier at L909-378 to the ENE is public but down a lengthy twisting boreen.

Ungrazed and rough, a place of otters and seals.

Birmore Island – Bior Mór

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A low, grassy island, SW of the mouth of Kilkieran Bay. Land on a sandy/rocky shore at the north end, where there are the ruins of a house. There are also several ruins along west side. Sheep. Pleasant.

Good numbers of Barnacle Geese c. 500 in all in winter which graze all the outer islands off this coast. Birds move from island to island when disturbed.  Biggest concentration normally on Saint MacDara’s Island.

Birbeg Island – Bior Beag

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Attractive low-lying island with lovely sandy beach on north side. Has extensive areas that partially dry at low water and an east facing sickle shaped bay.

The passage between Birbeg and Birmore dries completely at times of LWS.

Inishmuskerry – Oileán Múscraí

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Known locally as Spike Island, this is a low-lying, long-grassed island, WSW of the entrance to Kilkieran Bay. It was never inhabited, and there is no water. There is a sandy beach on its north side at which one can land easily. It is surrounded on all sides by off-lying rocks and reefs, of which take care. There is a well-sheltered, pleasant, sandy cove on the NW side, lovely for children.

Good birdlife.  About 300 Barnacle Goose frequent this and other South Connemara islands in the winter.  Snipe, Sanderling, Twite were also present in March 2005. Centre of island dominated by large stand of Phragmites reed. Very distinctive marker on highest point.

Finish Island – Oileán Finis

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A large attractive island, west of the entrance to the bay. It can just about be accessed on foot at very low springs at its NE end.

There are beautiful beaches along both sides. Long and narrow in shape, the island has extensive machair areas and wetter marshes in low-lying hollows. The original harbour is still in good condition and is located on the NW side. There are many ruined farmhouses, and in 2008 one holiday home and a mobile home nearby the harbour. The island has the distinctive atmosphere of being slowly reclaimed by drifting sands, especially along the original road that runs NE to SW through the central part.

A wide variety of wildlife is on the island, including ducks, terns, waders and otters. Grazed (possibly overgrazed) by cattle and horses during the summer months.


Good camping all over but probably best on the north-western side, in a little bay at L790-288, a couple of hundred metres SW of the quay. No water found.

Bertraghboy Bay Area
Cuan na Beirtrí Buí

The following half dozen or so islands are in or outside Bertraghboy Bay. Tides of 2kn are reported at the entrance to the bay itself between Inishtreh and the southern tip of Inishnee.


The bay fills from HW Galway 0520 to +0100.

Duck Island – Oileán Lachan

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Low-lying and barely grassed islet, with little shelter, and camping only for the truly desperate, immediately south of Mweenish Island. There is a landing that is vaguely sheltered on the NE side in an inlet that is better formed at the lower part of the tide. The highest point on the island is near the landing and has a low cairn, which is generally topped off with a marker to be readily visible for local boats over a wide area. The islet dries to expose quite a large area of boulder beach.

A drowning tragedy of October 2004 claimed 5 lives and the trawler wreck now dominates the SW corner and makes a sad sight. Debris all across SW corner. Another 100 metres to seaward and they would cleared the reef.

Mweenish Island
Oileán Mhuighinse

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A large, well-populated Gaeltacht island, 9km SE of the entrance to Bertraghboy Bay and attached to the mainland by a road bridge to the NE. The passage under the bridge is passable at the higher parts of the tide.

One Corncrake was heard singing here in 2003.

Mweenish is the home place of the Galway Hooker, the traditional wooden, gaff-rigged, tumble-homed sailing boat of the west coast of Ireland. Hookers very nearly went extinct as a working boat a century ago, but have enjoyed a considerable revival since about 1970 as a leisure craft. There are now 15 or 16 of them on the water.

One such hooker, the Saint Patrick, built on Mweenish in 1906 and skippered by Paddy Barry, crossed the Atlantic in 1986, and has since gone to Greenland. She also sailed to other Arctic destinations including beyond the 80o latitude parallel off Spitzbergen in 1990. Saint Patrick slipped her mooring and sunk at Glandore in 2003… may she rest in peace.

Paddy Barry went on to achieve even more fame by negotiating Canada’s North West Passage in 2003 and in 2004/2005 Siberia’s North East Passage, in each case in ‘Northabout’, the sailing craft specially designed and built for such purposes by Jarlath Cunnane of Dublin.

Landing and Camping

There are several working piers and quays, but the points of greatest interest to kayakers are the three beaches. The nicest is at L764-294 in the SW-facing elbow of the island, with good camping on machair in the dunes behind the beach, and good parking. This beach would be the best embarkation point for Mason – Oileán Máisean or MacDara’s Island – Oileán Mhic Dara. More reliably sheltered is the east-facing, smaller beach at L773-286, on the eastern side of the southern tip. Here, there is limited parking but excellent camping beside the ruin of a house at the southern end of the beach. Otherwise camping is impractical as the fields are stocked. There is a tide-dependent beach and a good flat grass area at the NE side opposite the bridge at L769-300.

Inishtroghenmore – Inis Srathair

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Grass and gorse.  A horse graxed this island in May 2008.  Nice views towards Carna and the mountains to the north.  A fine bundle of boulders graces the centre point, nowadays a shelter for four footed creatures.  Large mudflats surround, and the island is best enjoyed of a fine evening at HW.

Mason Island – Oileán Máisean

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Mason, 8km SE of the entrance to Bertraghboy Bay, is a spectaularly attractive formerly inhabited island.  Now there are some holiday homes. The population peaked at about 127 in 20 families or so in the 1880s, but was abandoned in the 1950s.  The pier at the west end L740-295 (tricky to locate) is uninviting to passing kayaks, as it dries out, but for larger craft it was in active use in 2009 with new cattle pens, and remains so in 2023. There is an unusual degree of organisation to the layout of housing and roadways relative to other islands hereabouts. This may be related to the fact that the men of Mason were regarded locally as being fine builders and had much inter-connection with Finish islanders who had a strong music tradition. Mains water is available but only in the houses, 2009.

Landing and Camping

Land virtually anywhere on north / NE / east sides. The best camping is probably in the NE at the GridReference. Camping is possible at other locations, but as cattle and sheep graze the island, be sensible. In particular, on any day the cattle of the island are being gathered for slaughter on the mainland, de-camp early.


The best known launching points for Mason or MacDara’s or any of the islands hereabouts are

    • the beach in the SW-facing elbow of Mweenish Island at L764-294, where limited parking
    • Mace Pier L742-316, where good parking, or
    • Ard East pier, at the disused fish processing plant at L757-311, where endless parking.

Ardnacross Island

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A wee gem, Masons in miniature, white sandy beaches all round the NW side, splendid isolated camping on short cropped grass.  One word of caution is that cattle can cross from Masons at LW.

In 2009, colony of 45+ Little Tern, Ring Plover, Shell Duck.

The east/south sides are rocky/boulder.  The gap with Masons to the NW is just passable at mid-tide  and the gap to Coarse Rock L750-293 to the east needs watching on passage.

Avery Island – Oileán Aimhréidh

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Lovely grassy islet.  Excellent camping. Land at lovely sandy beach in NW spit.  There is an exposed beach on the SW.  The passage with Mason Island is reef strewn and requires care.

Little Tern were probably breeding in 2008, as were Storm Petrel.

Wherroon Island – Na Fioriúin

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This islet has a huge LW footprint, but largely disappears at HW. It may even be awash at higher HWSs, notwithstanding which it supports a colony of mixed Arctic and Common Tern. It has two high points, rocky in the SW and a peculiar conical stormbeach in the NE, the only 360O stormbeach in Ireland that I know of. All else is awash above HWN. Land easiest at the foot of the stormbeach in the NE.

Saint MacDara’s Island – Oileán Mhic Dara

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A most attractive island, 7km south of the entrance to Bertraghboy Bay.

Named Cruach na Cara on the OS 1:50,000 map, but nobody calls it that.

It is uninhabited. 300 Barnacle Goose were found here in April 1994, but whether they were waystopping or wintering is not known. It is a place of annual pilgrimage on the 16th July every year. Saint MacDara is the patron saint of Galway Hookers, traditional sailing boats, which always dip their sails when passing the island. The church is of 12th Century construction. The roof fell in during the 19th Century and was restored in 1977.  An old graveyard became exposed in the big storms of January 2014.

Landing and Camping

Land at an attractive, sheltered, sandy beach on the eastern side below the church. There is excellent camping by the beach. There is another landing on the SE, south of the spit, on a pebble beach, necessary perhaps in easterly or north-easterly wind.


The best known launching point for Mason or MacDara’s is the beach in the SW-facing elbow of Mweenish Island at L764-294.

Consider also Ard East pier, at the disused fish processing plant at L757-311, where endless parking.

The Skerd Group – Na Sceirde

An impressive collection of rugged islets, lying 14km SSW of the entrance to Bertraghboy Bay. The whole is a network of rocks, bays, narrow channels, cuts, rocky reefs and small outlying rocks, though very much dominated by Skerdmore, which is bigger in area than one would at first expect, and is also highest at nearly 20m. Well worth the journey on a good day, these islets are said to have the greatest feeling of remoteness of all Irish offshore islands.

As one approaches from the north, the combined mass appears to be one. In fact, the group consists of a cluster of high, rocky islands, separated by narrow channels. The channels divide the mass into blocks, mainly Skerdmore and Skerdbeg, each with outliers.  Skerdmore is by far the largest and highest block, to the SW of the middle channel, and Skerdbeg next biggest, to its NE. The OS sheet is less than accurate in this regard.

The layout of the group is quite complicated. Skerdmore is rather horseshoe-shaped and faces east. Skerdbeg lies off the mouth made by its prongs, creating a reasonably sheltered interior embayment. There are rocks and hummocks lying off both islets, including a set that runs east/west from Skerdbeg towards the middle of Skerdmore, thereby dividing the interior embayment into two parts, north/ south of these rocks. The north part is accessible from the north, and the south part is much more easily entered from the south.

The two parts of the embayment are joined by narrow channels through the rocks, the most navigable of which is towards the east side, but even this may not be passable from north to south at extreme LW, but some are easily so at other levels. Kayaking through the channels is quite possible in calm conditions but the entire area has an aura of danger, and is probably quite hazardous in swell.


The nearest launching point is 11km NW at the beach in the elbow of Mweenish Island at L764-294. It is also practical to set out from anywhere around Roundstone or the Bertraghboy Bay area generally, and perhaps break the journey at Croaghnakeela at L690-324.

Breeding Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Shag, Black Guillemot and possibly Oystercatcher. Grey Seals.

Skerdmore – Sceirde Mór

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The south part of the embayment affords the best landing in a long narrow geo or cut that runs deep into the heart of the island, under the highest point. Landing is also possible in a similar cut into the north part of the embayment.

Skerdbeg – Sceirde Beg

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Skerdbeg is split into at least three separate blocks by narrow channels, the widest and most navigable of which lies between the two most west blocks. Landing is possible, and probably best at lower water, in the extreme NE corner in a narrow cut, although considerable surge has been experienced. This island is a rugged, rocky mass that gains height towards the SW. It is separated from the next islet to the west by an extremely narrow channel that may just be passable by kayak in calm conditions.

Doonguddle – Dún Godail

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Doonguddle is an outlier of the main Skerd group, located 1km ESE. The island is bigger than one would expect, rising to 12m. When approached from the north the smaller Doonguddlebeg is not obvious against its bigger neighbour. The channel between the two is narrow but looks passable at all stages of the tide. Landing is onto rock shelves in the channel between the two. This north side, although subject to surge and scend, is quite accessible at HW and may be even more so at LW, as large areas of reef dry out.  Landings are also possible onto reefs on the east side but these are a little more exposed. The island has twin summits of rounded but easily climbed rock, and there is a really inviting deep water rock pool on its east side.

A Spanish trawler, the ‘Arosa’, went aground and was shipwrecked here on 3rd October 2000 in a storm. Of the crew of 13, only one was saved. 2 others were taken off alive but died en route to hospital. Of the 10 that drowned, only 4 bodies were recovered, 6 being lost altogether.

Evidence of breeding Shags, GBB Gull and Herring Gull.  Other species recorded in August 2008 were Grey Seal, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Kittiwake, Curlew, Whimbrel. Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Auks and Storm Petrel. Good fishing.

Doonmane – Dún Mánas

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Doonmane and its sister rock Doonmanebeg lie 1.5km north of Skerdmore. They are smaller in height than either Skerdmore, Skerdbeg or Doonguddle, rising to 9m and 8m respectively. Like all the islands in this group the same exposed Atlantic feeling pervades.  Both islets may best be landed at times before or after local HW as rock shelves become more exposed.

The best landing found on Doonmane was along the north side onto steep shelving rock ramps in a small cut.  Good rock pools and super views of main the Skerd islands. No camping and no water.

Landing on Doonmanebeg L659-263 is onto rock platforms on its NE side, facing Doonmane. It rises to a rounded summit and has several large rock pools to explore. No camping. No water. Views all round superb.

Shags. GBB and Herring Gull breed and Grey Seal plentiful on both islands.

Doolick – Dúleac

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Located just over 2km NE of the main Skerd Group, this outlier is the first of the group encountered as one makes towards the Skerds from the mainland. Doolick just about gets its head above water and rises only to 1.5 m. It is an attractive waystop on a good day and has high numbers of Grey Seal, Turstone and Oystercatcher. It is totally different to the rest of the group in that is is low lying  and made up of enormous flat platforms of weathered granite. A very attractive and sizeable rock pool forms along its west side as the tide falls.

Landing is onto rock platforms along the north edge. No camping. No water.

Croaghnakeela – Cruach na Caoile

L690-324          Sheet 44

Croaghnakeela is also called locally Deer Island. An overgrown heather island, located 7km SW of the entrance to Bertraghboy Bay. It boasts bird life and an ‘oceanic feel’. The island is uninhabited but was once stocked with deer, and hence the name. There is a ruined church, named after St. Brendan.

A small, automated lighthouse near the southern point is a useful distinguishing feature from seaward. It provides the only readily distinguishable feature west of Golam Head signal tower for those on passage from the Aran Islands.


The landing, onto large boulders on the eastern side of a shallow bay by a bothy, is unattractive. It is better sheltered on lower tides. On higher tides, there is a possible alternative landing in a small rocky cut, midway along the northern side.

Illaunacroagh More – Oileán na Cruaiche Mor

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This island is located about 2km north of Croaghnakeela Island and about 3km south of the launching point at world famous Gorteen Bay near Roundstone. Alternatively, it can be approached from several other mainland departure points in the Mace Head area. Illaunacroagh More is low lying overall and the rounded Connemara granite, boulder like erratics and rocky outcrops provide interest. The island is grazed by sheep and attractive to walk. The west side has extensive areas of rock slabs that, combined with the great views all round, give an exposed Atlantic experience to the walker. Landing is at an obvious cut along the east side onto rock slabs. There are the remains of a sheep pen just above the landing. A second possible landing point is onto a storm beach just south of the cut but this only possible at times of local HW.  It makes for an excellent days kayaking.

No water found but camping is good.

Breeding Herring and GBB Gulls and Oystercatcher.

Illaunacroagh Beg – Oileán na Cruiche Beag

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A narrow sound called Bealach an Dá Oileáin separates this from its bigger sister island Illaunacroagh More. This smaller island is quite attractive. It was not grazed in August 2009 but traces of an old sheep pen were found near the obvious landing on the east side. This landing is onto rock shelves. There is a storm beach above this landing that may also become available at times of HWS. The island’s natural vegetation is more interesting than that on Illaunacroagh More and both its geography and birdlife are more varied.

Good camping available and although pools of seepage water were found in pools above the landing, the quality was doubtful.

Shags, Herring & GBB Gulls breed and both Meadow Pipit and Skylark are much more numerous than on the bigger (grazed) island.

Colt Island

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A barely detached part of Mace Head, at highest HWS only.  From the shore, approach with permission through the grounds of the Mace Head Atmospheric Research Station grounds. From the sea, land at the NE or SW cut between shore and island, both sheltered, that to the NE easier of access.

It is an island of two halves, the more shoreward being rough pasture, slightly grazed by cattle and the camping is not great.

The unexpected treat in this island is the seaward half, which contains a tidal lagoon that makes for a splendid swimming and sunbathing area.  Approachable by sea at all stages of the tide from the NW, the lagoon is partly surrounded by scraped rocks, ideal for recreational purposes.  The water never drops below at least 1m.

Inishbigger – Inis Bigir

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This unremarkable little island lies off a beautiful beach, 5km WNW of Carna village, on the outer, eastern side of the entrance to Bertraghboy Bay. It is barely circumnavigable at LW. Cattle only occasionally graze it, so the undergrowth is lush. Nevertheless, Willow Herb, Ragged Robin and Self Heal abound.

Embarkation and Landing

It is not really possible to camp and no water was found. The softest landing is on the landward, east side. Embark from a large car park in the centre of a beautiful beach locally called Moyrus, at L741-339, beside a graveyard and abandoned church.  An alternative launching spot for this and Freaghillaun is from a pier at L746-348 where there is sufficient parking for small groups.

Freaghillaun – Fraochoileán

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A surprisingly attractive, small, sheep-grazed island, lying on the outer, eastern side of the entrance to Bertraghboy Bay, SW of Inishlackan. Very pleasant feel and aspect to this island.

The western side of the island is short cropped grass and very pleasant. The name Fraoch Oileán in Gaelic means ‘Heather Island’, probably the single most common name for an Irish offshore island. Uniquely among such islands, in this case the name is inappropriate, as no heather was found. The dominant vegetation is maritime variety of gorse that blooms in July/August.

Plenty of sheep and 20 Snipe were flushed on short walkabout in January 2008.  Waders included Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Purple Sandpiper, Curlew and Redshank at lovely beaches. The small islet to SE held 50 Cormorant as a roost spot.  Common Gull were seen in summer 2006.

No water either.

Embarkation and Landing

As for Inishbigger, embark from the car park in the centre of the beach at L741-339. Land onto lovely sandy beaches on both sides of a sheltered spit at the eastern point of the island. Camping is immediately above the beach.

Inishtreh – Inis Troighe

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This is an unattractive, flat, ungrazed lump of heather, gorse and reeds, in a beautiful setting. It guards the eastern side of the entrance to Bertraghboy Bay. Very extensive areas dry out on east & south sides.  The holy well shown on the OS sheet on the NE side has not been found.  In winter 2008, Sanderling, Turnstone, Snipe, Rock Pipit, Starling, and Chaffinch feeding on extensive amounts of seaweed thrown up at NE corner.

Land on the eastern side or walk out at LW from a beautiful quay at L742-367. Periwinkles.

Inishlackan – Inis Leacan

L721-377          Sheet 44

An attractive, low island in the mouth of Bertraghboy Bay.

Inishlackan is distinguished from the land by a conspicuous, rectangular, water-tank structure on the highest point of the north side of the island. There is water in rain barrels outside most houses. Water used to be pumped by a windmill (now ruined) from a walled pond up to the nearby water storage tank.

Formerly inhabited, it is now occasionally so in summer. The first summer dwelling was a restored schoolhouse in the NE corner above the harbour / beach. By 2005 there were up to half a dozen holiday homes, for that niche market. At least one of them was seriously well appointed, at the west end, complete with solar panels and well laikd out grounds.

There is a large, shell-midden in sand hills at the NE corner of the island, by the schoolhouse.

Inishlackan is a good stopover with easy access to the extremely pretty Roundstone village. Roundstone is a posh tourist centre, with pubs, restaurants, and some shops, but is poorly provisioned. It is the centre for intense tourist use of this stretch of mainland coast. The island is worth the visit.

Landing and Embarkation

Land in many places but it is best at a very sheltered pier with a sandy beach by the NE corner. There are rocky shores on almost all sides, with reefs offlying. Circumnavigation is iffiest at the SW corner.

There is camping near the pier and elsewhere.

The mainland embarkation is from a pier at Erlough at L717-386, in a bay about 1km to the north of the island, reached by taking the first left turn after the Garda Station as one leaves Roundstone for Ballyconneely.  Roundstone Pier and most of Roundstone were developed by Nimmo as a piece of private enterprise, one of a number of controversies that attached to the great man.

Inishnee – Inis Ní

L735-383          Sheet 44

The island has a population of 30. It almost fills the western part of Bertraghboy Bay. The grid reference is for the highest point, which is to the south of the figure-eight-shaped island. The island lies east of Roundstone. Nowadays, it is connected to the mainland by a modern, new bridge, replacing the picturesque relic built by the Congested Districts Board around 1890. Going from the modern and popular holiday village of Roundstone to the island is stepping back a generation or two in time.

The island has a rocky shore all around. There are 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 may land on the east coast almost anywhere. The south/SW coast is steeper and landing is not so easy. The northern and western shores may be used to land, but involve carries over uneven ground. Water may be obtained from houses on the island. There are no shops.


Bertraghboy Bay
Direction Time Speed
In 5:20 before Galway HW 2kn
Out 1:00 after Galway HW 2kn


Flows of 2kn are reported at the entrance to the bay between Inishtreh and Inishnee and on the western side may be up to 1.5kn just at and south of the bridge, where there are some shallows.

Oghly Island – Oileán an Chlaí

L750-390          Sheet 44

This medium sized island, remote despite nestling just off the east side of Inishnee, was reported when this Oileáin project began in 1991 as showing no evidence of previous habitation or of water, but there were two wooden huts on the island.

Now in 2008 there is a house and various outbuildings, probably including the two huts.  Solar panels on the boathouse beside the pontoon landing at the NE at L750-390 provide power, as does the wind generator up by the house to the SE, in the shelter of a mature stand of conifers.  With all the appearances of a summer-house only, there are modern additions, such as a sunroom.

The land maintenance and work achieved on the island is impressive. The island is most unusual in a Connemara context being heavily planted with trees and the near absence of the usual granite rocky outcrops gives the island an almost landscaped feel.

Paths have been cleared around the island for walking. Planting has been extensive and by  March 2017,  mature conifers not only surround the house but also nearly extend around the islands perimeter. Planting of a very varied nature has continued and experimental trees such as eucalyptus, contorted pine, alder, sally, and even rhododendron can be seen. Rhododendron Ponticum, a native to the Pontiac mountains. Ponticum is unusual among Rhododendrons in that it is lime tolerant. Almost all others prefer lower pH levels.

Finest development of all is the tidal swimming pool in the SE, created by a simple garage, over which broods an ornamental elephant.

The coast is rocky all around, but totally weed covered, so landings may be effected quite easily, downwind.


Cashel Bay Islands


A group of quite diverse islands are located in that part of the inner parts of Bertraghboy Bay, in or about the entrance to Cashel Bay. There is an inner Cashel bay and an outer Cashel bay.  The whole area is attractive especially if paddling from south to north , as there are great views of Cashel Hill and Twelve Bens, as well as a feeling of kayaking in close proximity to the mountains.


Cashel Bay – Outer Islands

There are ten islands located in the outer Cashel Bay or close to the north east sector of Bertraghboy Bay.  Two, Seal Island and Oileain an Ghiolcaigh lie close inshore along its northwestern edge while a group of eight islands lie in a realitvely tight formation in the ENE sector of Bertraghboy Bay, This latter group is dominated by the distinctive height of Croghnut Island. Most of these islands are flat and low lying, which seems to exaggerate the 30m summit of Croghnut. The island’s summit is a very useful navigation aid. All these islands have extensive inter-tidal zones that dry at LW, thus giving good feeding habitats for a variety of ducks, divers and shore bird species. The islands are quiet and uninhabited and both Mink and Otter are found.

Croghnut Island and Illauncroghnut to its north become joined at LW, as do Illaungorm North and South, so kayakers need to plan ahead to avoid embarrassment.


Seal Island

Carrig an Roin

L774-407          Sheet 44

The island comprises of a series of small narrow boulder strewn islets that lie just east of a new pier at Canower L770-406 (2017). Together, they form the southern boundary to the small harbour at Canower. At low water the combined mass of each islet forms an extensive area of rocky platforms and shoals that are covered in seaweed. Landing is possible at many locations. Like many of the islands in the bay, the views are worth the scramble ashore. Access from the mainland beside an attractive cottage is possible but difficult over the tangled terrain.

Despite the islands name no seals were observed in March 2017 although evidence of Otter was found.

Oilean an Ghiolcaigh

L778-408          Sheet 44

The island lies close inshore at the western entrance to Cashel Bay. It is a small low lying island with a mixture of rocky outcrops, glacial erratics and a pleasant grassy summit. The northern and eastern flanks have extensive rocky platforms and shoals that dry at low water and increase the islands footprint significantly. The views are well worth the landing or a stopover as camping areas are good. No water available. Like many of the islands in Bertraghboy Bay evidence of Otter was found in March 2017.


Illaungorm North

L786-398          Sheet 44

A low-lying yet interesting island that marks the entrance from Bertraghboy Bay to Cashel Bay. The island is very attractive and has a number of interesting features.


Approached from the south the best landing is onto a lovely coral beach at a small spit in the extreme SW corner. This beach may well be best for landing as the tide drops but a narrow cut just north of spit also allows access. The cut is interesting in that is has remains of an old landing place, one of three found around the island. The unsightly wreck of gantries, pontoons and galvanised walkways from a ruined fish farm operation unfortunately mars the south shoreline.

The second landing is at the site of the original village located in the NW of the island. The village has super views looking north to Cashel Hill and beyond into the Glencoaghan Horseshoe of the Twelve Bens. The houses are set close to the HW mark, reminiscent of those at Inishsherk.  The remains of a small quay/landing place are located here also. Just south of the largest ruined house the remains of an old boulder choked well was found.  It contained water in January 2008 but it was not certain if it is gravity or spring fed, so its reliability is not known.  In May 2008 it was judged unusable.

A third landing area with three distinctive small jetties is located further east of the village along the north shore in small bay with a small ruin just south of the landing. The island’s only tree is an atmospheric wind shaped Hawthorn dominating the NE corner. On the south shore there are outcrops of old peat, which the sea has eroded to expose some very interesting examples of bog deal. The intertidal areas almost double the island’s size at LW and provide good feeding areas for duck and wading species and the presence of Otter was noted. There was no sign of recent grazing in January or May 2008 so the diversity of flora was rich. About LW, it is possible to walk to Illaungorm South. Best camping near village and at NW corner.


L783-401          Sheet 44

Small grassy topped islet lying just NW of Illaungorm North.  Notable for its views towards the village on Illaungorm North, as well as views north.  The narrow cut between it and Illaungorm North allows passage by sea kayak at LW. Landing onto rocky seaweed covered foreshore. Cormorant, Shags, Turnstone and Golden Plover.

Camping is possible but hardly in preference to better sites on Illaungorm North

Illaunnamrogue – oileán na mBróg


Very small footprint at HW, at which time land better south side, but north side possible too.  Oyster Catcher.

Illaungorm South

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A smaller version of its bigger neighbour. Illaungorm South is also low lying, dominated by heather and rank grasses. The vegetation length in January 2008 would suggest it has not been grazed for some time.  Best camping is on the west side but not as attractive as Illaungorm North. No water and no evidence of former habitation were found.  Large areas of inter tidal zone become exposed at LW.

Good numbers of Mallard, Teal and Red-Breasted Merganser were present in January 2008.  In May 2008 snipe 2, Mallard 2, Great Black backed Gull 2.


L795-394          Sheet 44

The distinctive name and shape of this island draws the eye and invites the kayaker to explore. The island is different from the rest in the group due to its height difference. A mini “Sugarloaf” like hill dominates the centre of the island.  Its 30m summit contrasts with the other islands in the area. Croghnut is craggier than its immediate neighbours and is an attractive mixture of heather, scrub and grassland.

There are remains of an old cottage or booley on a ledge above the east landing, tucked under the summit. The island has extensive areas of foreshore that become somewhat exposed at LW, and would appear to dry completely at its north point where it joins with Illaunacroghnut, its low lying but bigger sister. The summit has good views over the entire area, the island group and of the Twelve Bens.

In winter, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Red-brested Merganser, Mallard & Teal.


Landings can be found onto stony beaches on all sides of island but are best at the south / east sides at obvious cuts.

Camping and water

Camping is available at a number of sites, particularly at the south end. No water was found, but the presence of a small herd of cattle in January 2008 would indicate its presence.


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This island is larger than its near neighbour and namesake Croghnut Island. It is low lying and full of knolls, hollows, wet marshes and stands of willow. The vegetation although grazed periodically is rough and wild. Exploration is for the determined only. The island is very nearly joined to Croghnut Island at its SW corner where there is just a very narrow channel dividing the two, and then only at times of HW.  There is also a good landing at this SW corner onto a stone beach, but numerous other landings are also possible. A stone wall, its purpose rather a mystery, exists above the landing at the SW corner.

Red-breasted Merganser, Teal, Mallard, Grey Heron, Turnstone and Snipe.

Illaunaknock – Oileán an Cnoich

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Small island south of Croghnut, near the shore in the SE corner of outer Cashel Bay, but with a very maritime feel, especially in the SW point, where the camping is excellent.  Land anywhere downwind but easiest in the south part.  Grazed by sheep and therefore pleasant to explore.  No water found.

Inishfadda Islands

L803-390          Sheet 44

Appropriately named, this is a long finger of an islet(s) just off the shore.  Detached from the mainland at all stages of the tide in the SE of outer Cashel Bay, a strong current flows through the gap on its south side. Land to choice but especially under the old ruined cottage in the ESE.  Marvel at the stone lintels above the windows.  Mussels everywhere.  Ungrazed.  Difficult to explore.

Cashel Bay – Inner Islands

The very sheltered inner Cashel Bay is very pretty and a most pleasant spot.  A road runs close along its north side.  Often bypassed, a mistake.

Near the west end is a prominent boathouse L794-423 on the shoreline. Beside and around the boathouse is

  • a leisure facility consisting of a child swimming pool gouged out of the foreshore, prettily surrounded by large blocks,
  • a diving board arrangement for adult attention,
  • a “three-and-in” type football pitch, and
  • the boathouse itself, altogether a marvellous community facility.

This is private land.  The boathouse is reached by a closed gate, opposite which is parking L794-424 for a handful of cars.  The 150m carry to the watertline is acceptable.

At the east end is a public pier L805-421, very handy, room for a couple of cars at least, but it dries at the bottom half of the tide, so that at LW the mudflats reach out 100m.  Timing is important.

Common Seal may breed, as several are to be seen in the locality and the habitat is suitable. Good numbers 45+ of Red-breasted Merganser and a single Goosander were seen in the area in March 2008.  The male Goosander was seen again in May 2008.

Green Islands – Glasoileáin

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The main event is a very small islet with some green vegetation on top, which suggests it remains above water all year. Extensive areas of seaweeds and rocks surround Green Island. The many tiny outliers become progressively exposed as the tide drops.

Fox Island

L796-422          Sheet 44

Grass and furze, available on foot except the top one third of the tide.

Inishdawros – Inis Damhraí

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Accessible on foot at LW, the inside channel on the east side provides great shelter to its north/south for smaller working boats.  Nice beaches at south end and also at various stages of the tide elsewhere.  Mallard. Rabbit.White cockles. Unspectacular. Nice outlook.

Illaunurra – Oileán Ura

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Illaunurra is 15km west of the entrance to Bertraghboy Bay and lies beyond even Ballyconneely. It is about 7km east of Slyne Head and lies near Bunowen Bay and Aillebrack, a pretty holiday spot for the relatively wealthy. A number of attractive islets lie off the shore, largest of which is Illaunurra. Beware the notorious shallows hereabouts, which may leave you stranded on a falling tide. Also, boomers abound in conditions of even a little swell. Read Brian Wilson’s experience, as told in ‘Dances With Waves’, and be chastened.

Embarkation and Landing

Embark from the east-facing beach, sheltered by Bunowen Bay pier at L590-417, or just west of that from a pretty, west-facing strand at L585-418. The pier is probably the most logical embarkation place for rounding Slyne Head.

There is a sandy beach with camping on the northern tip of the island, and several storm beaches. The landing place of choice must be a sheltered sand/storm beach at the SE. Immediately above it is manageable camping, greater privacy, and abundant firewood.

There are sheep, Dunlin and Mallard.

Horse Island Olieán na gCapaill
L580-412          Sheet 44

NW of Illaunurra, Horse is easiest reached from a pretty, west-facing strand at L585-418, less than 1km to the NE. This is a wee gem of a pleasant, sheep-grazed islet, giving unexpected privacy just off a crowded beach. Reachable on foot at low waters, and thus prone to occasional day-trippers from the mainland, so that those seeking privacy may prefer to go a little further.  There is a dependable sandy beach landing in a lagoon on the eastern side. Camp anywhere. No water. Ringed Plover.

Note that in previous versions of OSI Discovery series 1:50,000 maps, which Oileáin slavishly follows, Horse and Strawbeach were inverted, so Oileain reported them inverted, now corrected.  The original early 19th century 6” maps have Horse north of Strawbeach, and so now does OSI Discovery, and so now does Oileáin.

Strawbeach Island Oileán na Muiríleach

L575-409          Sheet 44

SW of Horse, Strawbeach appears as pleasantly grassy, but isn’t. It is an unexpectedly large expanse of rock, with very sparse vegetation. Surprisingly, rabbits are living here, but must be the hungriest of their kind in Ireland. No camping. No water. A spit of stormbeach at the NE gives a soft enough landing.

Note that in previous versions of OSI Discovery series 1:50,000 maps, which Oileáin slavishly follows, Horse and Strawbeach were inverted, so Oileain reported them inverted, now corrected.  The original early 19th century 6” maps have Horse north of Strawbeach, and so now does OSI Discovery, and so now does Oileáin.

Connemara West

Conamara Thiar

Slyne Head to Killary Harbour

Ceann Léime go dtí an Chaol Sháile Rua

County Galway

Slyne Head – Ceann Léime

Slyne Head is a major headland and divides the west coast of Galway and Mayo from Galway Bay. It is an island headland. Slyne Head is actually the west tip of Illaunamid, the outermost of a fragmented group of islands lying off the SW tip of Connemara. There are three main groups of these islands: Illaunamid, Chapel/Duck Island, and nearest the coast, Illaunaleama – Oileán Léime and Doonawaul – Dún na bhFál. The innermost and outermost sounds are unnamed. The much-fragmented gaps on the inside of Duck Island are Cromwell’s Sound, Blind Sound and Joyce’s Sound. Tim Robinson’s map of Connemara and/or Admiralty chart 2708 are recommended for the detailed navigation required in this area. The area consists of shallow reefs and islets surrounded by deep water and is exposed to Atlantic swell from all sides.

The more interesting route west towards Illaunamid passes through the chain of islands. These are divided by sounds where strong tidal currents and overfalls occur, and are formidable in wind over tide conditions. The area between Chapel Island at L529-409 and Illaunamid at L518-410 is also dotted by reefs, and should be treated with caution, even in small swell. If there are frequent breakers on these reefs, landing at Illaunamid is likely to be difficult, if not impossible. However, if conditions permit, there is scope for exploring and playing in the tidal races outside Illaunaleama – Oileán Léime and Doonawaul – Dún na bhFál.


The nearest departure point is approximately 3km east on the Galway Bay side, in the bay opposite Connemara Golf Club, at the NW end of a long beach (Trá Mhóir) at L570-432.

Parking may dictate a start further east at the totally dependable Bunowen Bay at L590-417.

A trip north around the headland adds a certain interest and variation to the trip. The nearest alternative landing to the NE is at Stackport at L557-435, 1km NE of the coastal headland inside Slyne Head. This landing is a 1.5km road walk west from the Trá Mhóir put-in. Irish Lights used this quay for ferrying goods to the island, but the road is now through a series of gates, and may be private, so please ask for permission before taking your car down to the pier. The landing is difficult to see from seaward, but is close to two small houses.

More dependable is Doonloughan at L569-453, but there is limited parking. Easiest perhaps on this side is at the head of Mannin Bay at L629-455, where the main road skirts the sea and there is plentiful parking.


HW and LW are as for Galway.

Slyne Head
Direction Time Speed
North 3:20 before Galway HW 3kn
South 3:05 after Galway HW 3kn

However, locals say that the north-going stream is stronger and runs for longer in each tidal cycle.


Storm Petrel, Sandwich, Arctic, Common & Little Tern, Barnacle Goose.

Illaunamid – Oileán Imill

L519-410          Sheet 44

This island is best known for its western headland, Slyne Head or Ceann Léime, and its lighthouse at L515-412. Illaunamid means ‘Wood Island’, because of the amount of flotsam washed up here. Robinson also terms it Oileán Imill (Edge/Margin Island), which Anglicises as Illaunimil.

The most obvious feature of the island is the two lighthouses. Both were built in 1836. One is unused. The other flashes twice, every 15 seconds. For the story of these lighthouses and their people, read Bill Long’s excellent ‘Bright Light, White Water’. Tales include drowning tragedies during the building of the lighthouses, drowning of keepers, alleged murder of Irish Lights’ personnel on the island, shipwrecked sailors stealing boats and dismissal of keepers for drunkenness. Three big sets of solar panels are now connected into the lighthouse complex, along the southern wall.

However, other features not mentioned in the book show that the keepers’ lives were not all misery. For instance, in the mid-90s, the remnants of a mini-golf course were to be seen, just to the south of the lighthouse. Alas, this is no longer evident. There is also an unusual model of a lighthouse, complete with crane, on a rock in a brackish pond. The elaborate model is the strangest sight here. It is north of the path between the lighthouse complex and the quay. It was refurbished in 2005. The model also has a small extra and easily missed feature – an outlying channel buoy in the extreme east end of the large pond. The effect of the relatively small model within the large pond/rock pool is quite realistic.

The rock of the island is metamorphic (gneiss).

The island is attractive with a remote feel to it. However, the impression of neglect and decay is strong around the unused lighthouse complex. The functioning lighthouse received a general clean up and was looking well in 2005. The quality of the building work in the network of houses and workrooms around the older lighthouse is impressive. Some of the fireplace mantles and capping stones are of beautifully worked granite. The assortment of debris and flotsam and jetsam, both around the lighthouse and on the storm beaches, does provide diversion for avid beachcombers. The island merits an overnight.


Wildlife includes seals and rabbits. Breeding birds include Cormorant, Shag, Arctic Tern, Wheatear, Meadow & Rock Pipit, Raven, Skylark, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover. It is the best seabird and cetacean watching point in Galway. Some excellent work was done here by Davenport in 1979-1981 on spring Skua passage migration, but none appears to have been done on other species since. Pomarine Skua were spotted in nearby Ballyconneely Bay on the southern approaches in May 2003.


There are two landing areas, both of which are only dependable in low swell conditions.

The first, and more reliable, is at a quay on the east end of the island at L519-410. It is easily spotted by a small pump-house and crane, formerly used to transfer fuel oil to the lighthouse. If the waves are too much at the quay, there is a small gully a few yards south. It leads to a small coral strand, more accessible on the top half of the tide. It is accessible at lower water, but only onto boulders. The gully is very narrow, admitting one kayak at a time. A less attractive alternative is a larger boulder beach on the north side of the quay.

The second landing area is on the north side of the island, close to the west end and the lighthouse itself in a cove at L515-412. This small cove has the attractive name of Fuaigh na gCaccanai (Cove of the (Cormorant) Shite)! This landing is only reliable in calm conditions when all weather is coming from the south. There are steps cut in the stone towards the centre of the cove. On the west side there is a rock-choked passage topped by a concrete bridge leading to other steps. In both landing spots care must be taken to lift boats well clear of rogue waves and rising tide.


There are sheltered flat areas suitable for camping near the outbuildings of the older, disused lighthouse. The walk from the east landing to the lighthouse requires quite a bit of ferrying of gear. Camping is also available south of the east landing over the first hummock. Although not as protected as by the lighthouse, it is fine for reasonable weather conditions.

Chapel Island – Oileán an Teampaill

L529-409          Sheet 44

Chapel is a lovely island with pleasant camping and a hint of fresh water in slightly brackish pools. The 12th Century chapel founded by Saint Caillin at L530-410 itself is interesting, and boasts a collection teapot. In early 2003 there were no Euro coins yet evident, but in 2005 there were a few, probably indicating that not many pass this way. There is a lovely attractive bothy at a tidal lagoon on the south side, found in 2005 to have been done up.

Chapel Island and Duck Island are separated by a narrow channel, open at all stages of the tide. The channel is easier found from the north. It passes immediately under the chapel.


The main landing on Chapel Island is on the south-western side at L529-409, almost facing Illaunamid. A landing may sometimes be had under the chapel, probably better at LW.


In March 2003, the following species were seen. An asterisk after the name indicates that they were probably breeding. There were seen 50+ Purple Sandpiper which is a nationally important number. There were also 40+ Oystercatcher*, 30+ Ringed Plover*, 10 Redshank, 1 Merlin, 6 Shelduck*, Raven, Skylark, Black Guillemot, Shag, and 20+ Swallow*.

In March 2003, there were 40+ Grey Seal.

At the same time on Chapel, 3 male and 1 female Eider were seen, and on nearby Horse Island another male, suggesting breeding. This would, if proven, be the southernmost outpost of breeding Eider on Ireland’s west coast as of summer 2003. The official such record is Inishkeeragh, Mayo. Eider are expanding southwards year by year, and it is thought that Mink disturbance is the cause.

Ferroon Rocks

L527-407          Sheet 44

Ferroon Rocks is bigger than the name suggests and is a pleasant mixture of craggy outcrops and grassy hollows with steeper cliffs on its east and south flanks. Landing is at a small boulder beach at NW corner that faces the landing on Chapel Island nearby. No water. Camping possible but better available on nearby Chapel Island.  Breeding Shag and Gulls. Good numbers of Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper in March 2005.


L 532-413         Sheet 44

Rocky and steep with grassy summit.  Land onto rock shelves on east / NE corners. The OS map differs from Robinson’s as to which island of the three in this locality is mall Garve (Meall Garve). Landing took place onto the middle island separated by a narrow channel from smaller narrower islet immediately to its east.  Breeding Shag, Herring and Great Black backed Gulls. Good views of the geography of the bigger Chapel and Duck Islands to the SE and SW and towards Illaunamid.

Duck Island – Oileán Lachan

L536-415          Sheet 44

The eastern island of the middle group of islands. It deserves exploration.

Duck is higher and craggier than its immediate neighbours. Tides flow strongly through its many thin channels, which would confuse any navigator.

There are breeding Shag and Black Guillemot on the steep eastern side. 40 pairs of Shag nest in the eastern gully at the waist.

Landing and Camping

Landing may generally be possible onto boulders / shelves in a sheltered cut on the NE corner. Camping might be bearable, just. No water found.

Doonawaul – Dún na bhFál

L543-420          Sheet 44

Unattractive uninteresting little brother of Illaunaleama. Deep water landing only onto shelves to suit. Boulder strewn. Not really worth the effort.

Summit dominated by what appears from OS map as an old Dun but now appears as a broken summit cairn. A pleasant location from which to view the complex of islands that makes up the Slyne Head group. Separated form Illaunleama the innermost of the group by Elbow Sound.

Illaunaleama – Oileán na Léime

L547-419          Sheet 44

Closest of all the group to the mainland, this is a beautiful island, only a narrow passage separating it from the mainland to the east. Sheep grazed and short grassed, even the rocks are scoured smooth, and no other Irish coastal island deems shoes more redundant. There is a very pleasant sandy beach facing east to the mainland, onto which land. There is also a storm beach landing on the west side, with a sheep pen above, a working environment. Camp pleasantly, but water was not found.

Doonloughan Group

Doonloughan is a beautiful mainland area of machair and beach, with a sprinkling of houses, about 7km NE of Slyne Head. The four islands described here are important as they create a sheltered inside channel. This is useful to know of in the context of a passage from Slyne Head to Mannin Bay to the NE, especially in any kind of wind conditions. The whole area outside the islands is strewn with dangerous booming reefs, and shallows of every kind. Here be dragons! Frightening waves tube, for a long way off, to great height and power, in almost any conditions. The middle channels entering this inner area on either side of Illaunamenara should also be avoided for the same reasons.

The inside channel is impassable at lower water, when its two mainland piers are separated by 1km of sandflats.  Enter the channel from the SW Slyne Head side via the open bay inside Inishkeeragh, to a little quay at L569-453.  Enter from the NE Mannin Bay side via the sheltered deep-water channel inside Inishdugga, to a substantial and sheltered pier at L569-457.  Camping by either pier is excellent, but better at the latter.  No water found at either location, but ask at the houses.

It is important if arriving at evening time to choose the campsite with open water available in the direction of travel the following morning. If necessary, wait to camp until the channels connect.

Inishkeeragh – Inis Caorach

L557-449          Sheet 44

Lovely grassy, sausage-shaped island that demarcates the entrance to the inside Doonloughan channel from the SW. There is a beautiful little beach at L558-449 with a lovely campsite in a prominent little bay near the north-eastern tip, on the landward side. This is a more private camping option than the mainland at Doonloughan itself.


Oileán na Meannán

L555-453          Sheet 44

The most remote and western of the four, this island is pleasant to walk around. It gives awesome views of the crashing waves working the reefs outside in the open ocean. It may be reached on the lower half of the tide on foot across the Calf Islands. Otherwise, this island and its approaches on all sides are best avoided altogether. A large conical cairn on its low summit is very visible.

Calf Islands

L563-450          Sheet 44

A group of fragmented grassy mounds grazed by cattle. Accessible on foot at the lower half of the tide, and via these islands to either outer island. A sandbar stretches through these islets and divides the navigable inside channel.

Inishdugga – Inis Duga

L567-458          Sheet 44

Pleasant grazed island that shelters the NE channel described above, opposite the pier. Landings are numerous all along eastern and north-eastern flanks, some well protected from Atlantic swell, onto sand and gravel beaches. There is some evidence of habitation, now in ruins, at the north-eastern end. There are traces of a small circular building and a few low walls. There were 250+ Golden Plover in March 2003.


L629-473        Sheet 44

Ardillaun is a prominent drumlin-like island, more suited perhaps to Clew Bay, very visible all along the Clifden / Ballyconneely road, just off the coast. The clay cliffs all round are especially dangerous at the west/SW sides.  Lazybeds. Land at a low grassy area on the east side.  Here there is a low grassy area with its own small salt-lake.  Sheep, all with long curly horns.

The closest launching spot has almost no parking at all, down a boreen, at L634-470, where there is barely room for one car. Launch more reliably at any of the beautiful beaches where the Clifden / Ballyconneely road touches along Mannin Bay 1km south.

Galway West Coast

The Inner Islands

Turbot Island – Tairbeart

L578-523          Sheet 37

Evacuated in 1978. Nowadays the increasing number of houses are summer homes. Land on a sandy beach, just east of the sheltered slip, in a bay on the east end of the north side. There is attractive and convenient camping on machair in the dunes behind the beach. There is water in a well.

A road running east to west bisects the island.

Two Corncrake sang in 2003.  At least 3 were heard in 2007, but there was a rumour of a 4th.  5 birds were calling in 2010, when a mink was causing concern to conservators.  At least one was calling 2014.

Eeshal Island – An tOileán Íseal

L561-529          Sheet 37

A small low, grassy island grazed by sheep, just WSW of Inishturk. Landing is possible onto boulders on the south-eastern side in a shallow bay. The water source that runs down the narrow cut from middle of the island held a good bit of freshwater of dubious quality. There are several reed fringed pools along the small waterway and other freshwater pools located in various hollows around the island. Otter tracks, spraints are present in abundance. Breeding Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover. 26 Mallard and 4 Common Scoter were seen on 12th September 1999.  25 Mallard also seen in August 2010.

Inishturk – Inis Toirc

L574-532          Sheet 37

An attractive island, identified by a small hill with a disused RT mast on the top. It is just NW of the mouth of Clifden Bay. Catte graze on fertile grassland on East side of the island. The landing place is at a sheltered, sandy beach and harbour just north of the SE tip. There is water in a well nearby.

In 1991, there was a single holiday home. In 2010, there were 12. Camping is available, but the welcome may dwindle if too many visit. There is an alternative landing place on the NE side. It is secluded, on a sandy beach at the foot of an attractive, formerly cultivated valley. There is limited camping, which is sheltered from the SW.

Formerly a Corncrake island, they were gone in 2003, but 1 was heard in 2010.

Hog Island

L583-542          Sheet 37

Joined to the mainland except at HW, this island is bigger than expected and worth exploring as it has an interesting mixture of small walled fields, a varied foreshore and a lovely Connemara botanical mix in August.   The views are good in all directions.The island is well divided into grassy fields by high stone walls.  Hog is grazed by cattle, which are landed at the east side near the highest point of the inner channel.  Land along the NE side or in an east-facing cut at the SW.

Streamstown Bay

L584-546          Sheet 37

Streamstown Bay empties south of Omey Island via a narrow mouth, giving a clean bouncy race in sheltered circumstances, well worth a play in springs, especially against west winds. This tidal race at the mouth is almost entirely avoidable by those travelling in small boats, so access in or out of the bay is always possible. Spring tides converge with convenient, midday low tides, giving a good flow for a tour out of the bay and into Clifden Bay to the south, or Cleggan or Ballynakill Bays to the north.

The most convenient put in point in upper Streamstown Bay is L636-531 near the head of the bay on the north side, over 1km from the main road, sheltered by a tiny spit of land that is almost an island, near a graveyard.  There is ample parking for all but very large groups.

It is also possible to put in on the south side. This is beside the bridge at L640-525, 1km from the fork off the main road from Clifden to Letterfrack. The road is being widened hereabouts but it is still necessary to be considerate with the parking.

Best feature of all in the bay is the paying campsite entered from the road on the north side of the bay at L588-548.  Long may it remain unsophisticated and welcoming, with its private beach at L587-547, safe for all, short cropped grass, and adequate if minimalist services.  A truly beautiful spot, even by sea kayaking standards.

Boolard Island

L629-531          Sheet 37

Small, grass and fern covered island in the middle of inner Streamstown Bay, with camping possible at the east tip.

Omey Island – Oileán Iomaí

L565-555          Sheet 37

This island is accessible to vehicles on all but the highest parts of the tide. A lake dominates the interior of the island. Many houses.  There is a ruined church and graveyard all smothered in sand, on the north side at L565-563. Human remains are visible which are being archeologically investigated by Dúchas. A lovely, worthwhile island not to be missed.

Perhaps launch from Aughrusmore Pier to the NW of the island at L558-566.  Newly improved as of 2004, the pier now boasts a water tap, is much larger than before, and the parking is much better.  A beautiful spot in and of itself.

Landing and Camping

The inside passage at L575-562 dries mid-tide in the NE corner. Landings are possible along much of shore on the north and east sides on either side of the dry area.

Also, at L573-551, there is an attractive small beach in a small cove just west of the SE corner. However, it is a bit exposed, and not very suitable for overnighting. No water.

At L565-555 on the west side of the island, there is a sheltered beach in a deep bay, which is much better. There is excellent, remote, machair-type camping. There is water in a streamlet 500m NW of the beach, out of a pipe.

4 Corncrake were heard in 2003, 1 in 2010.

Dog Island

L565-597          Sheet 37

Isolated as inner islands go, low lying and entirely separated from other islands in this group by a deep water channel to the ENE.  Big footprint especially at LW.  Rough grass covers the top, which supports half a dozen shhep, besides Shellduck, Great Black backed Gull, Herring Gull and Atlantic Seal.

A little rough for camping, and no water.  Great views.

Landing is soft enough in a dogleg inlet in the ESE corner.


L571-599          Sheet 37

Low lying island in the middle of this group. Land at the SE point onto sand.  Lovely.  Very campable.  No water.  Grazed by cattle.  Most of the south side is sandy.  Oyster Catcher.  Mostly turf and boggy.  Much turf has been taken away from the island.

The island is barely separated from Gooreen to its ESE by stormbeach and rocks.

Gooreen Island

L574-597          Sheet 37

Land south side of NW point onto sand.  This low lying island is the nicest by far of these three islands, grassy, grazed by cattle, camping at its most attractive.  Attached to the mainland except at HWN.  Sea Holly grows in profusion.


L642-603          Sheet 37

A small islet just SW of Freaghillaun South.  Land onto a rocky/pebbly beach on south side.   Some steep and awkward climbing from landing onto a rough heather/grass top. No water.  No camping.  The only interesting feature is the very craggy south side and the nice views into Ballinakill Harbour and out to Inisbofin.  Two types of sally trees are trying to get a foothold.

Freaghillaun South          Fraochoileán Theas

L648-605          Sheet 37

An attractive, small island at the mouth of Ballynakill Harbour, just SW of Tully Mountain. Once inhabited but the houses are now in ruins. Land on a stony beach on the southern side. There is drinking water at a drip feed from an artificial pool under the cliff by the landing. Camping is available on the bluff above the landing.

Other landings are possible, including in a lagoon between the main island and a detached 14m high satellite smaller island on the west side, where one may step out onto tidal peat, best at cove midway along NE side. The channel between the two probably dries at LWS.  Both parts of the island are grazed by sheep and both therefore campable.  Freaghillaun South and its separated little brother are worth a visit.

There are fish cages to the east of the island. There is a significant tide race off Ross Point, 3km ESE. Ballynakill Bay fills from Galway HW -0500. The tides are generally weak, except at the narrows.


L650-616        Sheet 37

Lovely grassy island that is barely separated except HWS from the mainland to the east, which is a working farm covering the whole south side of Tully Mountain, so there is realistically no foot access from thereabouts.  Well grazed by sheep, there are also lazybeds.  The whole thing is very attractive and campable.  Land just west of the gap, on its south side, onto a stony beach.


L682-590          Sheet 37

An island in the inner reaches of Ballynakill Harbour disconnected from the mainland except at LW, when foot access is possible across a seaweed-covered remains of a causeway marked by two large white quartz boulders below the village of Letterfrack. Cattle are grazed on the island, which means functioning fences and gates, so camping cannot be recommended, except perhaps at the remote west extremities, where anyway lie the leisure seekers’ attractions.

Attractive sand/coral beach at the west end, with flowery meadows, shelter from wind and fine views.  Good for a lunch stop. Excellent views in to Diamond Hill and out to Bofin and Shark.

There are the ruins at the east end of a small village of half a dozen houses or so, now roofless and overgrown, deserted in the mid 20th century.

Surrounded by trees.  Lazybeds in places.  Remnants of a small roadway.  No water found.  Access from the quay [Nimmo] at L688-598, near which small museum and at which good parking.

Inisbroon     Inis Brún

L634-640          Sheet 37

Lovely grassy island, the shape and gimp of which strongly suggests inner Clew Bay, with its high clay cliff to seaward and grassy slopes to leeward.  It lies 1km off Renvyle Point.  Many sheep and lazybeds, between which grow thistles.  Firewood abounds, and to the north is a lovely horseshoe bay, sheltered at all times, but it is stony and rocky.  Better swimming in shallow bay to SW.

Rock Pipit breeding.


L643-642          Sheet 37

Essentially an extension of Renvyle Point, accessible at LW.  A good waystop between bays, and very good views.

Illaunananima – Oileán an Anama

L642-656          Sheet 37

The name means ‘Live Island’, in the sense of the soul or the living spirit. A tiny islet, 1km NNW of Renvyle Point, to be avoided in any kind of west swell. The waters inshore of this islet can become one seething mass of foam when swell runs, so do not be caught off guard. Otherwise, this island is a superb waystop. Land by a very secluded channel like entrance on the north-facing shore. This channel invites a swim at HW. The soil and grass on top the island are barely hanging in.

Freaghillaun North – Fraochoileán Thuaidh

L666-648          Sheet 37

Low lying and with storm beaches in every cove at every 100m on north side and all along the south side.  Camping everywhere.

Breeding rabbits, Shellduck, sheep.

Crump Island – Oileán Dá Chruinne

L678-653          Sheet 37

Important Notice. In October 2019 the owner of the island informed Oileáin that owing to poor experience with sea kayakers and other visitors, landing on and exploring Crump is now forbidden to all.

Crump means ‘Island of the Two Rounded Humps’. Landing at HW is best on a shingle beach on the NE side. This landing becomes awkward at LW so otherwise land at cove on SE side below ruined house L679-653. Sand below half tide. There would be camping physically possible near the old, ruined, two-story house in which some shelter could be had for cooking. No water found.

Farmed, cows and sheep, but lumpy, the island would be attractive to explore.

The story goes that when deciding where to draw the county boundary between County Mayo and County Galway, the ancient local Councillors threw a sack of oats into the ebbing tide as it spilled out of Killary Harbour. The islands that lay to the north of the oats as they floated out would be in Mayo, those to the south, in Galway. To the surprise of many, the oats floated down south of Crump and then headed out to sea. Hence, Crump is in Mayo.
Editor’s Note: Crump is included with the west-facing Galway islands for convenience, and because Oileáin doesn’t believe a word of this pisteogue.

Green Island

L683-651          Sheet 37

Much larger than expected from looking at the OS map where it is not named, and where only the spot height 8m is given, this wee islet is large even at HW, and has substantial sounds on both sides to Crump and Shanvallybeg.  Note its strange reed bed.  Land SE side.

Known on the 1829 OSI six inch (1:10,000) map as Green Island, it is commonly known as Oileán na nGamhna – “The Island of the Calves”.  This island was primarily used to wean young calves born in summer on the larger two neighbouring islands.  This island was primarily used to wean young calves born in summer on the larger two neighbouring islands. Called “No Name Island” in the 2014 edition of Oileáin the correct name in English and Irish was established in 2019 arising out of research for a television programme about Irish placenames “Creedon’s Atlas of Ireland”.

Shanvally Beg

L685-650          Sheet 37

Important Notice. In October 2019 the owner of the island informed Oileáin that owing to poor experience with sea kayakers and other visitors, landing on and exploring Shanvally Beg is now forbidden to all.

Smaller than Crump and intensively farmed (sheep) the island is smoothe and uninteresting to explore

Illaunmore – Oileán Mór

L751-647          Sheet 37

A tidal island, just south of the entrance to Little Killary Bay. Though shown on the OS map as well off the shore, it is joined for half the tide by a sand bar to the mainland, at a beautiful crescent shaped, north-facing beach, known locally as Glassilawn. The island actually forms the outer part of this beach, appearing merely as a headland from most angles. Nice views. It has a holding tank for fish. A PADI scuba-diving school and rescue possibilities are all at the head of Little Killary, the bay opening to the east of this islet.


L759-659          Sheet 37

Bearna means ‘gap’. Unnamed on the OS map, this craggy island is well named locally, as it is jammed in the very mouth of Killary Harbour. It has a hillock running WNW/ESE. There are great views from the summit. The main channel passes through on its north side, the narrower channel on its south side being called Smuggler’s Gap. There is a tower on the summit, tiled white to seaward. With a similar tower on Doonee Island, also unmarked on the OS map, at L751-661, it forms a transit for safe passage for larger craft through the reefs south of Inishdegil.  Land easily onto a small stony beach at L761-658 on the east side, just under and NE of a ruined bothy.


The tide runs in for 6 hours from 5 hours before Galway HW at up to 0.5kn until Bundorragha, when it increases to 1.5kn approaching the Erriff River, northeast of Leenane. Tides in the inner half flow stronger and start and finish later.

Inside Killary Harbour, there are several new leading lights associated with visitors’ moorings just west of Leenane. Also there are new lights marking most of the mussel farms.


L751-661          Sheet 37

Donee (or Doonee) is located west of Inishbearna and is easily recognised by its tower on the summit, tiled white to seaward. With a similar tower on Inishbearna Island, also unmarked on the OS map, at L759-659, it forms a transit for safe passage for larger craft through the reefs south of Inishdegil.  Landing is possible on the NE side and is best in mid to HW as there is a gap through which one can paddle / surf.  Hummocky Sea Thrift.


L824-627          Sheet 37

Killary Harbour is 15km long, straight and narrow, canyon-like.  Halfway in, at an elbow, on its north side, lies tiny Illanballa, probably the only near-obstruction, discounting the fish cages, which are mainly on the south side, most of the way. It is only a small rock, but grass covered, and with a prominent warning light.  Most easily reached from stunningly beautiful Bundorragha L8421-633 on the Mayo side, or more conveniently for many on the Galway side from the new catamaran pier at Nancy’s Point L855-625.  There are other nearer slips on the Galway side, but with little parking.  Land into a cleft on the SE side.  Mussels galore.

Well inside Killary Harbour, there are several new leading lights associated with visitors’ moorings just west of Leenane. Also there are new lights marking all mussel farms. In the outer half, tides flood from HW Galway -0500 and ebb from +0100, and reach 0.5kn.  Tides in the inner half flow stronger, up to 1.5kn, start later and finish later.

Galway West Coast

The Outer Islands

Cruagh Island – An Chruach

L535-550          Sheet 37

The name means ‘The Stack’. Cruagh appears from the mainland as a large, exposed haystack-shaped lump of a heathery fern and grass island, out west of Omey. In fact, on close inspection, Cruagh is a hugely attractive island with superb walking. At over 63m, it is almost as high as High Island. It has magnificent cliff scenery on the northern side, and spectacular spires in the NW. The island from a distance gives no hint to its variety of hidden valleys within the rocky outcrops and hillocks.

There is a Manx Shearwater colony of some importance on the island besides Breeding Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock & Meadow Pipit, Skylark.  A single Peregrine was seen on NW side.

Deep-water landings only are available, in sheltered creeklets on the eastern side.  The three modern wooden hut structures (GridRef) just above the most sheltered landing spot are in good order.

Friar Island – Oileán na mBráthar

L524-578          Sheet 37

This island is split into three or four sections, providing interesting exploration. On the north-eastern side, at the centre of the fragmentation, there is a sheltered storm beach. It is dependably easy to land on, and from which the interior may be explored. A beautiful place. The drying area shown on the 1:50,000 OS map to the east is actually a pronounced heathery/grassy knoll and gives shelter at all times. Well worth the visit.

High Island – Ard Oileán

L506-576          Sheet 37

High Island is the jewel in the crown of west coast Irish wild islands. Surrounded by high cliffs virtually all around, its overall geography, variety of magnificent and inspiring views, fauna, and other points of interest mark it out as being special.  Circumnavigation and exploration in the occasional benign conditions is a spectacular experience.


All or any potential landings are very difficult.  To complicate matters, a “private” sign is reported in 2024, its provenance as yet unknown.  The island is currently up for sale on the open market.

    • Midway along the SE side is a prominent cove, backed by huge cliffs under the highest part of the island. The traditional kayak landing was about 200m east of this in a boulder choked cove L507-575. The back of the cove is shown on the OS sheet as having a ‘Cross Slab’, where the lower ground to the eastern end of the island begins to rise towards the centre, and where the island is narrowest and most waisted. Kayakers may well land in calm conditions onto the boulders, and used to be able to scramble airily to the plateau above.  As of 2024 this is reported as being no longer possible without rock climbing experience and equipment. It seems a fairly large rockslide has created a mighty cliff at the back of the boulder beach.
    • On the east side of the same cove maybe 100m back, is a hard-rock landing for boats, an awkward place to pull up a loaded kayak, but where surge is limited and the scramble to the plateau above is much easier. Groups have therefore sometimes left a raft of kayaks floating.  The boats can be secured to a substantial metal ring for a shoreline,  which can double as an out-haul anchor for landing even one boat, in case conditions deteriorate while ashore.

Above these landings beware the opening to an old mineshaft – quite apparent in good conditions, but dangerous for the unwary.

    • There is another landing point reported (unchecked), just east of the SW tip of the island at L503-571.  Clinker boats might manage better here, but it is a bit exposed for kayaks. If manageable, it is closer to the monastic ruins on the island and might thus be preferred by some. It is directly underneath the smaller of the two island lakes.
    • There is a fourth landing point reliably reported on the north side of the island at L507-577, at the tip of a minor narrow jutting point, about 300m west of the east end of the island (or on the map – roughly opposite the traditional kayak landing cove). There are a couple of metal rings and and ropes in the rock that may be of assistance.

Camp at will. Water in the lakes appears stagnant but looks better in the streamlets east of centre.

High Island is uninhabited. It was once owned by Brian Boru, and more recently by Richard Murphy, the poet. In 2024 it is for sale.  There is a (Murphy) stone hut, and a more recent timber Dúchas building. Rumours abound of a ruined copper mine on the eastern slopes near the high point of the island, and of an awesome cavern-like cave on the north-western side.

There are the ancient 7th Century ruins of an early Christian beehive hut, monastery and chapel, said to have been founded by Saint Feichin of Omey Island fame. The ruins are beside the larger of two lakes above the western end. In 2003, these were refurbished by Dúchas.  There are three impressive inscribed slabs at the back of the chapel, worth finding.

S.P.A.  Peregrine, Chough, Storm & Leach’s Petrel, Barnacle Goose.

In 2003, there were Raven, Twite, Black Guillemot, Skylark and Meadow Pipit.

Inishshark – Inis Airc

L501-640          Sheet 37

The name means ‘Sea Monster Island’. A splendid, formerly-inhabited island. There is an abandoned school, but no modern church. The pier was built in 1937 by Michael O’Sullivan of Ballycastlebeg in Cork, according to a commemorative stone nearby. The islanders in living memory went to Inishbofin of a Sunday for mass.  Expert natural meteorologists, on 28th October 1927 they saw the front coming that caused devastation to fishermen up and down the west coast, depopulating the Inishkeas.  They had no way to warn anyone and Shark, alone of ALL THE ISLANDS, lost not a single man.  There were 26 families in 1893, but the population dwindled, and the last left in October 1960, mainly for the mainland nearby. The island is rugged yet pretty.


The island is home to 70 or 80 Barnacle Goose each winter. Bonxie also breed here.

There is an interesting, small burial ground at the harbour and a small derelict 19th Century chapel, which is called St. Leo’s, after the patron saint of the island. The church had a bell, which broke and fragmented, and it was believed that to bring any part of it on a journey would bring good luck. Emigration being what it was in the middle part of the 20th Century, North America is thought to be littered with carefully kept and much honoured little bits of the bell.

Inishshark lies WSW of and is separated from Inishbofin by Ship Sound. The island has large cliffs and sea stacks on the western side. Big breakers and reflecting waves are the norm out the back of the island, providing an interesting and committing circumnavigation. The crossing of Ship Sound can be treacherous with contrary winds and many shallows, which may boom.

Landing and Camping

The traditional landing is inside a protective but otherwise unusable pier below the abandoned village on the east end of the south coast. The landing is onto a steep slipway or stony storm beach beside the slipway.

There is also a fine landing located at the SE tip of the island a couple of hundred metres NE of the pier L503-642 that can be missed quite easily by kayakers making direct to the old pier and slipway. A distinctive square shaped hummock on the shoreline is a useful marker to guide in those looking for this landing. There are two narrow cuts leading to a lovely hidden sandy beach. The most northerly of the two cuts is the better for landings as a boulder partially blocks the more southern one.

The camping above this landing is very good and water can be found in the obvious little valley than runs away uphill. This may require a pool to be dug below the boulder area on the beach but the water quality was good in August 2010.

A pair of territorial Great Skuas was actively defending two well fledged young on the NW side in August 2010

Inishskinnymore – Inis Scine Mór

L513-641          Sheet 37

This is the larger of two islands, midway across the south-eastern entrance to Ship Sound. Inishskinnymore is low, sheep-grazed, short-grassed, and altogether quite a pleasant 3/4 hectares. There is a lovely sandy beach on the northern side. A pebble beach in the SE has the best camping potential.

Inishskinnybeg – Inis Scine Beag

L512-646          Sheet 37

A small, isolated satellite of Inishskinnymore, Inishskinnybeg lies just to its north. A sandy beach faces SE and other storm beaches lie to the north and west. Long grass testifies that no animals graze, but camping is just possible between the storm beaches.

Inishgort – Inis Goirt

L502-631          Sheet 37

The name means ‘Bitter’ or ‘Salty’ island. Inishgort is a farmed, grassy island of 10 hectares or so, SE of Inishshark. There are landing places at stony beaches in bays on either side of a waist just north of the southern point.

Sheep grazed. Uninhabited. Good camping. No water.

An Buachal – The Boy

L478-645          Sheet 37

An Buachal is a huge vertical stack, lying about halfway along the western side of Inishshark. It is said to have been a target for the young turks of Inishshark, who would come of age climbing it. Certainly, there is a cairn on top. It is nationally renowned as a scuba-diving spot because its walls drop 45m straight to the bottom. Climbers may enjoy the vertical 65m above the high water mark.

Landing and climbing

In the right conditions, one may land easily onto shelves on the southern side. The stack is well sheltered by the cliffs of Inishshark from anywhere east, really from SSE round to NE.

To climb, strike out for the south-eastern ridge. Once gained, immediately follow horizontal ledges all the way to the south-western ridge. Scramble with caution and patience up the south-western side of the summit pinnacle. A more elegant line, but somewhat delicate, is to follow the south-eastern ridge directly to the summit pinnacle.

Inishbofin – Inis Bo Finne

L540-648          Sheet 37

The name means ‘White Cow Island’. A regular ferry serves this lovely island, out from Cleggan in County Galway at L602-584 (pier by Nimmo). The population is 150. There are pubs, hotels, hostel, shops, chipper and restaurant.  Now there is even an airstrip.

Inishbofin is a large attractive English-speaking island, popular with tourists. The grid reference is for the new main pier. The village area is well spread out, ribbon fashion, along the shore of the south-facing harbour and bay area.


Ship Sound
Direction Time Speed
NW 3:35 before Galway HW 2.5kn
SE 2:50 after Galway HW 2.5kn


The sea state at the entrance to the main harbour and bay can be very rough for tidal reasons. Two white towers on the island face the entrance to the main harbour, on a bearing of 032o (true), and lead in through the safest entry point. The entrance can boom in heavy swell to either side of the best route. The best landing for small craft is on a slipway beside the old pier further into the bay than the new pier, or a shingle beach behind it.

In emergency or on circumnavigation, there are landings on every side of the island, but fewest in the north.


Watch for Dun Na hInine (Daughter’s Fort), an almost detached stack at the NW point. Otherwise, the circumnavigation is interesting if undramatic by local standards. The most turbulence may be expected at Ship Sound and around the Stags of Bofin in the NW at L505-671.


There is good camping with easy landing and privacy at L537-644. This is by the ruined fort at the harbour mouth, opposite the village. Access to the village area is then easiest by sea.  The pleasant 10 minutes walk around is also entirely manageable, certainly worth it for the quality of the camp spot. Any campsite on the (convenient) village side of the main harbour will lack privacy.  Minor warnings are that noise late at night from outside the pubs across the water may bother, and camping too near the fort means you could be cut off by the tide.  Caveat camptor.

For a longer stay, camping is undoubtedly best made around at the eastern end of the island, in the horseshoe shaped bay, which has a very pretty beach for a nice soft landing, very sheltered, but a bit public. The end of the beach where Inishlyon meets Inishbofin used to be popular but is no longer allowed. Coastal erosion defence measures are being put in place in the form of newly planted Marram grass. This landing spot necessitates a long walk to camp or stay at Day’s Hostel at L543-653 (095 45855), not to mention the pub and the good shop.


Inishbofin was always a Corncrake stronghold, but there were only 14 recorded in 1988. By 1994, there were none. The good news is that 5 were serenading in 2003, and 3 in 2010.

Inishlyon  – Inis Laighean

L560-648          Sheet 37

The name means ‘Strip of Land’. A small island, just SE of and separated from Inishbofin at HW. The best landing is onto the beach at the western end of the north side (facing the beautiful east beach of Inishbofin). There is an automatic, small, white lighthouse at Lyon Head on the eastern end, where there is a fierce tidal race on the ebb.

Davillaun – Damhoileán

L587-6623        Sheet 37

Called locally Ox or Stag Island. Land in small cove on the southern side (GridRef), about at the middle. The cove is SE facing and not obvious until close. Alternatively, there is a difficult landing onto rocks on the east side at half to full tide.

Overgrazed by sheep to the point of barren-ness.  Good camping spots everywhere but some sheltered spots are marshy. No drinking water. Uninhabited.

The island is exposed to any swell that is going and often throws up huge waves and breakers off the east and west sides. Interesting paddling, at the west end where a small channel separates the island from Ox Island. There are channels and inlets and arches and blowholes and caves on both sides of the west end, especially the north-facing side.

Offlying Lecky Rocks L597-601 1km to the SE are an interesting pitstop, being halfway between Cleggan and Inishturk.  The easiest to land on will usually be the more west rock, which has a large footprint and is well fractured, providing a calm option under many conditions.  The highest rock is small and has a smooth periphery, landing being hard.

Ox Island

L581-663          Sheet 37

Just west of Davillaun and separated by a narrow channel, which may dry at LWS but is worth a look at HW for a series of low sea arches on the Davillaun side. The island is bigger than it appears from the sea and consists of a series of low ridges and hollows. Sheep grazed, making camping attractive. Landing is easiest onto low rock ledges at the SE corner near the channel.


Killary Harbour to Killala

County Mayo

Inishdegil More

L736-671          Sheet 37

A tiny gem of a formerly inhabited island. Grassy and rocky, with outliers. Incredibly, people lived here until the 1940s. It lies a couple of kilometres directly outside the mouth of Killary Harbour. The island is privately owned and particular care should be taken to leave absolutely no litter, to ensure continued use for all. Sheep, Peregrine, Terns.  Well worth a stopover, and a good waystop on an inner coastal tour to avoid the exposed beaches under Mweelrea Mountain.


The main landing place is onto a gravely beach in a cove on the NE side, under ruined houses. Camping is at the houses, with water in a well behind the middle ruin, which may or may not be drinkable. Approach this landing via the main channel through the group.

There is also a storm beach just SW of the northern tip. Because this spot is joined by a half-tide reef to outlier Cooneenfadda, landing is always possible.  The camping hereabouts is more openly attractive, and certainly the unlimited driftwood is an attraction to those who would be sociable round their bonfires in the night.

There are other landings, onto boulders on the west side in a creek, and more easily on the south side but the camping isn’t great.

Inishdegil Beg / Carrignaglamph

L740-673          Sheet 37

Two small grassy islands just NE of Inishdegil More, joined at all but the highest waters. Landing place on sheltered gravel beach on SE facing side of Carrignaglamph.  Sheep, Purple Sandpiper, Arctic Tern.  Carrignaglamph has the ruin of a bothan as well as lazybeds, and views.

Govern Island

L718-690          Sheet 37

Govern Island 2km NW of Inishdegil More, and 1km SE of Frehill Island, is ungrazed and inhospitable. Far preferable for waystop or emergency is Inishdegil to the SE. There are plenty of seals but little else.


Landing is on the NE side where a sheltered channel is closed midway most of the time, so that the SE end is mostly flat calm.  Landing on the NW end of the channel can be on to separated rocks, so be careful.

SW of Govern Island are the Carrickgaddy Rocks (Carraig Gadai – Thieves Rocks) L706-675. These were named when Gráinne Mhaol allegedly chained some thieves to the rocks and spread mackerel on their stomachs for the gannets to dive onto. The ebb tide is often felt here where it turns SW towards Crump after spilling out of Killary.

Frehill Island

L709-697          Sheet 37

Lying 6km NW of the mouth of Killary Harbour, Frehill is a steep, narrow, grassy island running WNW/ESE. It is about 500m long, with an extensive area of drying rocks to the SE.  The island was sheep grazed upo to the 1980s, but no more. The island is privately owned and particular care should be taken to leave absolutely no litter, to ensure continued use for all.


The forced deep water landing, in moderate conditions, is at the ESE tip.  What is a channel at HW becomes a narrow lagoon sheltered by higher drying rocks on the bottom half of the tide. Entrance to the lagoon from either side is via a narrow gap. The north opening is always there but is not visible until very close.  The south opening more or less disappears at LW, leaving the lagoon often very calm.  Access up the rocks is easy and direct.

Frehill would be acceptable as a waystop in calm conditions, or an emergency stop in less favourable conditions, but only on the lower half of the tide.

Far preferable for waystop or emergency is Inishdegil. The ground to the north and NW outside Frehill towards Caher Island is shallow and breaks in wind. This inshore passage between Killary and Roonah is strictly for good weather only. In any kind of west swell, there are many breakers around the island. If paddling past, it’s best to keep close to the north-facing shore. Particular attention should be paid to Carrick McHugh, a rock 3 cables north of the island.


L634-720          Sheet 37

Inishdalla is a small very attractive grassy island, lying just 2km SE of Inishturk, with superb scenic views all round. The most remarkably wonderful aspect of the view is that despite that there is no other land hard nearby, solid land provides the horizon over 340 degrees of the available 360.

Landing is onto a beach in a long narrow cut (called Boat Cove on the admiralty chart) at the north side of the east tip, marked by iron stakes and some new stone mooring points. The cut is wide enough to take small boats but narrows considerably towards the beach. At some points of the tide, the landing can be awkwardly onto boulders.  Uninhabited.

There is a large colony of grey seals.

No water found, but there is super camping available on flat grassy terraces.  This is probably best above the beach on north side. The island was being grazed by Sheep in August 2008.

Several inter-tidal pools provide wildlife and a possible swim in moderate circumstances.

Breeding gulls, Wheatear, and possibly Storm Petrel.


L620-749          Sheet 37

This is one of the most rugged and remote of all the inhabited west coast islands, 189.3m high, the village on the east side at the harbour. Inhabited on and off for thousands of years, in modern times since 1700 or so, there has since been up to 577 people resident – before the famine, 174 after – and now there are 56 in 2023. Recent arrivals include evacuees from Inishark to the south in the 1950s.  The local national school had only 3 pupils in 2001/2012, 4 in 2023.  The island children have always gone away to secondary school as teenagers. Until 1997 there was no regular ferry, which now runs from Roonah Quay, three times a day in summer, the Pirate Queen.  The roads are paved, there is mains electricity / water, a pub / restaurant and so on – in the community centre near the harbour – and a café in summer, but the island has in spades that authentic “different” feel.  There are 2 B&Bs, 2 self-catering cottages, but no hotel.  The helipad is for medical emergencies only.

Operating out of Cleggan sometimes, as well as mainly Roonagh Quay, the ferry also has a real significance for kayakers, as the homeward trip becomes possible even if the weather kicks up overnight. Those who travel in small boats off the west coast of Ireland must occasionally expect to fail to be behind their desks at work of a Monday morning. Inishturk is now a more dependable objective.

There are fantastic high cliffs at the back of the island. The western side of the island can cut up very rough and care should be taken to avoid breakers up to 100m west of the cliffs. In mirror-calm conditions or offshore easterly winds, the back of the island has huge cliffs to explore. Care should also be taken at the north of the island where fierce downdraughts can be experienced beneath the two high points.

There is a splendid circular roadway to walk. This goes inland, up the valley from the harbour, and back anti-clockwise by the southern side, a quality walk on a par with the Great Blasket or Aranmore, and takes the stroller past what must be the highest GAA pitch in the country? Generally, the hill walking on the island is also very good. The north and west are dramatically cliffy. Near the NE tip is a blowhole, the seaward end of which emerges through a penetrable boulder-choke, giving a scuba dive of great quality.


Formerly a Corncrake stronghold, there were 26 pairs counted in 1988. Paddlers heard at least one in 1992, but they were all gone by 1994. Happily 3 have been heard by visiting kayakers in 2023, at Portadoon, at the pub carpark, and at the main harbour area. Two of them were even seen, an unusual occurrence.


The main landing place is in the main village and harbour (by Nimmo) on the east side (but see Portdoon below), which has recently been extended and is very sheltered. Also, landing is possible at beaches just south of the main harbour, if necessary. Off the mouth of the harbour is a bar, which can give a sporting arrival or departure. But the water inside or outside the bar is well sheltered. In the Great War, the Royal Navy favoured this as an anchorage.

Portdoon           L608-737

A narrow cut in rocks yields a superbly sheltered natural harbour, halfway along the southern coast. Camping is easy, but it is a good walk to the pub.  This is where the ancient inhabitants lived, and the archeological evidence is plentiful.

Rock climbing

Rock climbing has taken off this century on the huge cliffs of Dromore Head and northwards  Most is (as yet) very high and very hard.


L591-732          Sheet 37

This is a small low lying island lying just at the SW corner of Inishturk.  A narrow channel separates the island from Inishturk, but is navigable by kayak. Landing is easiest onto rock shelves along its north edge. The island has little to hold ones interest save the super views in all directions.

Breeding Bonxie recorded on adjacent slopes of Inishturk in August 2008.


L588-738          Sheet 37

A small island located just north of the SW corner of Inishturk. The west facing slopes are low lying, but the east side rises sharply to form a narrow attractive channel between it and Inishturk. The passage is dramatic with good rock scenery. The cut is prone to considerable swell at either entrance.

Landing is easiest onto rock shelves on the west or SW corners, but would require a very calm day. Landings onto the sheltered east flank are possible, but require good rock climbing skills with rope protection to reach the grassy summit.

There is good available climbing reported on both sides of this channel. Breeding Greater black-backed and Herring Gulls.  No water and not suitable for camping.


L651-754          Sheet 37

A small island lying SW of Caher. No sheep were present in August 2008, and consequently there is a nice wild flower mix. An interesting enough place , the main interest is in the twin narrow cuts on the west side, where there is nice cliff scenery especially from kayak level. The south cut nearly bisects the island.

Shag colony in this cut and breeding Greater and Lesser Black backed Gulls, and Herring Gulls. Oystercatcher, Curlew, Whimbrel, Knot, Redshank, Turnstone all noted in August 2008. Resident Grey Seal colony.

Deep water landing is possible through an inlet on the NE side.

Caher Island – Oileán na Cathrach

L665-759          Sheet 37

A lovely island, and a must for the passage maker, Caher is 8km out from the shore and 11km SW of Roonah Quay. On the SE of the island is a brackish lake and on the NW high point is a well – St. Patrick’s Well. The island is uninhabited and ‘belongs’ to Inishturk, the people of which have the commonage grazing here. There is a fine 5th Century monastic ruin and crosses, close to the landing, which are used for the annual pilgrimage to and ‘pattern’ on the island. A pattern is an ancient rural Irish Catholic prayer tradition.

A circular wall 1.5m high and 20m in diameter, now broken in places, forms a “cashel”. Inside is a wee oratory. The island is the alleged resting place of Saint Patrick. His bed is outside the oratory, a flat stone half covered in mud and grass. The ‘floating’ stone is still there in the oratory, and will always return to the island, even if stolen. There is also an ancient prayer/wishing bowl. Unfortunately, some holy stones seem to have gone missing in recent years.  The altar stone depicted in Oileáin behind the monies offerings platter was not there in 2008. And beware the thief, whose boat will sink. Some work has been done to re-create the Stations of the Cross and a new “old” one is now visible on the ground behind the east wall of church.

The monks lived in terror of the Vikings from 800 or so to about 1,000. By 1,500 they had Algerine slavers to worry about. All the while they starved in winter. Their faith must have been enduring.

Landing and Camping

Land on the SE L665-757, or at Port Temple L664-759 in a shallow bay below the ruins of the church, just NW of the eastern tip. There is another, in some ways better, landing on the SW side L662-757. It is difficult to find until very close, and consists of a narrow inlet, which turns to the right after a few metres. The land just opposite is probably the best for camping. The holy well is unsuitable for drinking water.

Bird life

Bonxie breeding.

Lovely island.

Roonah Quay

L745-808          Sheet 30

Situated where Clew Bay turns south, this recently modernised pier is in an exposed cove. There are almost continuous breaking swells over a long rock ledge running out west from the pier. This is the embarkation place for the ferry to Clare Island, with waiting room, public phone, and toilets nearby. Roonah is a corncrake stronghold. Launching is difficult, from the steps or a boulder beach adjacent. In northerlies, a better spot for small groups is the north end of sandy White Strand beach just south of Emlagh Point at L748-796, about 1km to the south, reachable easily by road from Roonah. Larger groups will prefer the south end of the beach at L748-788.  More dependable, but less convenient, on the Clew Bay side is the sand-silted Carrowmore Pier at L794-816. It is just NW of Louisburgh, within walking distance, and has toilets.. Another launching point is Old Head Pier (one of Nimmo’s), about 4km further east at L834-824 where there is a hotel but is otherwise remote from facilities.

Clare Island

L715-852          Sheet 30

14.1 and 462m high, Cliara or Oileán Chliara is a beautiful, large, high, dramatic, inhabited island of 150 residents (double in summer), dominating the mouth of Clew Bay and best known as the 15c base and stronghold of the pirate Queen Gránúaile. There is a regular ferry service from Roonah Quay at L745-808. Hire bikes or bring your own.  Camping with facilities is at the main beach.  There are several self-caterings and B&Bs of all standards up to and including the former lighthouse. Basic provisions are available and there is a pub and even a public health nurse.  Former hostel / now hotel is very popular, with bar and fish restaurant, the fish caught daily by the manager. There is a “no booze inwards” policy here as elsewhere, and any drinking must be done at the bar. The island is well worth a special visit. It is the highest of the truly offshore islands of Ireland. Knockmore at 462m gives spectacular views of the Mayo coast and falls almost sheer to the sea. Corncrake have not been heard since 1988 except for a single calling bird in 2002.

Landing and Camping

Land by the recently much extended and improved pier at L715-852 by the main harbour near the SE tip. The pier is just by an old, square castle, being one-time HQ of pirate-queen Gránúaile who ruled the western seaboard. Camping is in the campsite in the field behind the beach L714-854. There is a small charge for this facility and it includes access to the toilets / showers in the community centre just across the road. If utilising the camp site it makes more sense to land on the beach rather than the pier.

L692-842        This is a significant landing on a gravel beach beside a broken pier. It is about halfway along the south coast at Portnakilly. It is not apparent until close and is situated below a conspicuous church and ruined 12th Century Abbey. This has been recently restored. It is early Cistercian, pre-Norman, pre-English and pre-Gránúaile. There is a well-stocked Co-op shop, but it is a long way to the pub at the harbour.

L703-875        Near the northern tip of the island, landing is also possible on the north-eastern side, about 1km SE of the tip, in a well-sheltered cove. Unfortunately this cove is not dependable as swell can make landing very difficult, but it is worth a look. The cove is about halfway between a prominent boulder beach and the disused but conspicuous lighthouse on the northern point of the island. Landing is onto a steep slip, or onto a sheltered breakwater. This landing is of interest on circumnavigation, or for its green road giving convenient access to the interior. Space for boats at the landing is limited.  Larger groups should consider leaving tethered boats floating on the water.


A circumnavigation is a memorable experience, but a serious undertaking. There are long sections without reliable landings, particularly from Portnakilly on the southern side, all the way through the SW and north to the landing spot on the NE. There is an inlet on the southern side of the island, 1km east of the south-western tip. Locally called Lackwee, it is exposed to the SW but otherwise sheltered.  There is always strong tidal effects at the north, east & SW points.  A superb cave, strictly for the determinedly undaunted, runs about 150m east/west through the headland under the lighthouse, from about L696-883 to L694-883.  The east entrance is garage door sized while the west entrance is cavernous.

Rock Climbing

The first rock climbing on the island was pioneered by Gerry Moss in 2013 at a few scattered crags centred at L665-843 about 5km from the pier along the south shore.  These were significantly developed in June 2022 and the up to date position can be found at  The climbing is all single pitch and easier grades, exclusively VS and well below.


Tides flooding into Clew Bay flow east on the northern side of the island and northeast on the southern side.

North of Clare Island
Direction Time Speed
East 5:30 before Galway HW 0.5kn
West 0:40 after Galway HW 1.5kn


South of Clare Island
Direction Time Speed
NE 5:30 before Galway HW 1.5kn
SW 0:40 after Galway HW 0.5kn

The ground on the southern side is shallow.

Both passages, particularly the northern side, kick up when the ebb is against the prevailing westerlies. If on passage north, catching the flood combines well with the tides into and through Achill Sound, but care is needed on passage south.

Flora and Fauna

Robert Lloyd Praeger the greatest ever Irish naturalist, organised probably the greatest ever survey of a particular area ever conducted in Ireland. From 1909 to 1911, 100 scientists from all over Europe put Clare Island under the microscope. Once again (Praeger had gone this way on the less remote Lambay Island off Dublin a few years before), they found no new Galapagos, where species change and adapt in a remote environment over time. They did though recognise 9,000 organisms overall, including 109 animals and 11 plants new to science.


In the 16th century, Grace O’Malley – Gránúaile – sea-queen of western Ireland, was based here at Clare. Her castle dominates the landing at the pier in the quiet bay on the east side. The O’Malley motto was “invincible on land and on sea”. Gránúaile took that seriously. She tolled every ship that came her way, Irish or not.

Famously, she sailed to London to visit the queen, Elizabeth. She was well received. She offered her “tolling” services to the British, in what sounds like a somewhat mercenary arrangement. She used and abused her femininity and particularly her husbands – she had three – to gain territory and advantage generally.

The Islands of Clew Bay

L934-875          Sheet 31

The islands of Clew Bay are very accessible, and provide a highly attractive option for visiting paddlers, whether or not suffering bad weather.  In the opinion of the author, this area is far better than Strangford Lough or the Fergus Estuary, its similar comparators, by most or all recreational yardsticks.

Essentially, these islands are the most westerly tip of Ireland’s ‘drumlin belt’, the other end being at Strangford Lough, south of Belfast.  Drumlins are the remnants of lateral moraines left behind by the last ice age, boulder clay and gravel covered with soil and grass.  The belt wanders through Down, Armagh, and Cavan, and then meanders ever westwards, disappearing into the sea at Clew Bay. The islands, just as in Strangford, tend to be grazed, grassy hummocks.

These islands are pretty and in the prettiest of locations. They are sandwiched between the mighty cone shaped Croagh Patrick to the south and the Nephins range to the north. Croagh Patrick is a holy mountain with a chapel on the summit.  Known all over as ‘the Reek’, a reek is a haycock, or also a stack of turf, which the mountain resembles, being distinctively cone shaped. The Nephins are probably the remotest and wildest mainland hills in Ireland.

It is widely believed in Ireland that there are 365 islands in inner Clew Bay, ‘one for every day of the year’.  Pilgrims climbing Croagh Patrick get their chance to count them, but must be distracted, as in reality there are slightly less than 100. About 58 are dealt with in this text as of 2023. The barefoot walk to the summit of the Reek, on the last Sunday of July, is an annual test for the hardier of local Christians.  In kayaking terms there are half a dozen islands that stand out, a dozen highly attractive, another dozen nice, and the rest, well they are grand altogether.  Quality, in terms of the visiting recreationalist with a day or days to spend, peaks along the west outer rim, and even at that tends to be better in the south half.  Inishoo midway is generally regarded as the jewel in the crown, while Innishcannon just to its north is pretty unattractive.

In June 2012, only some of the islands were inhabited, and no water was found on any uninhabited ones. There is probably a connection. Collan More, and Island More / Knocky Cahillaun are the largest. All inhabited islands had been given piers and/or pontoons about 10 years before, and most had mains water and electricity even before that.  Inishlyre had the largest population at 6.  Collan More, with a permanent population of 2, has the famous Glenans Sailing Centre, capable of over 50 students at a time. Inishgowla South had 2.  Inishgort with 1 has a lighthouse. John Lennon bought Dorinish in 1969 and a commune thrived there for a while. It is said locally that he preferred the hotels of Westport and Mularanny, accessing the commune by day by helicopter.  The commune survived in tents.

Many of the islands are interconnected by reefs at lower tides, and many others are almost so, making seagoing journeys amongst them less trouble on the top half of the tide, easier again when it’s rising. Reefs / gravel bars sometimes differ from OS (understandably). For instance Inishgort to Islandmore dries at mid tide, while Islandmore, Rabbit Island, Derrinish and Inishbee are more or less permenently connected.  The big worry is being caught on a falling tide, unable to float out of trouble.  Realistically, the portage is a necessary part of the sea kayaker’s skills hereabouts, so factor it into the trip planning.

A different island may be chosen each night. Beware that navigation needs careful map reading and getting lost is more than possible, necessitating landing and a stroll to the nearest summit to reorientate. There are a few derelict crofts.  The local mudwall division of fields will interest the many for its labour intensive character.  Marvel at the lazybeds, the term used to describe famine time potato growing activity.  There was nothing lazy about those who grew potatoes this way or subsisted on potatoes any way.  On some islands lazybeds cover every green inch.

Regrettably, the islands are divided west/east between OSI Discovery sheets 30 / 31, truly a pity.


The islands of the bay may loosely be divided into three categories for the visitor.

    • The outer islands, particularly in the middle/south, are remote and wonderful and invite camping overnight.
    • Inside these the islands tend to be farmed, but the more remote tend to be absentee farmed.  That means sheep but not cattle, so these are also a joy to walk, mostly unfenced, the views are stunning, and camping is normally perfectly possible.
    • Nearer the shore the islands may be inhabited or farmed as though on the mainland, so greater respect for the privacy of the owner is required, especially where there is one house only on an island. While walking is a pleasure, on occasions strictly with permission, camping would normally be out.

Flora & Fauna

Black Guillemot, waders, Grey Wagtails, and all the usual bird and plant life abound. A single Corncrake was heard in 2001.  There are no rabbits.  Several islands in the NE were rat infested in 2012.  Seals are few and localised.  Some signs of otter.  Foxes reside. Damson trees are frequent in the NE, so roll on September.


There is no committed or exposed paddling.  Beachcombing on low tides is a must, especially where a stormbeach joins two islands in a natural catchment setup.   Slack water corresponds closely to HW and LW Westport, which is about half an hour later than Galway.

Beware of the tidal race on the ebb off the Inishgort lighthouse at L901-876. There are 3kn+ races through gaps between Bartra, Inishdaugh and Dorinish, and similar but weaker (approx 1.5kn) north & south of Inishoo. Flows are also significant in Newport Channel and south of Inishbearna. Beware of localised wind –v- tide. Care should be taken in the north side of bay, especially off the Rosturk strand area, for risk of stranding on sandflats as the tide recedes.


Access for groups of more than one or two requires consideration.

    • For the southern / middle section of the bay there is nowhere more central or convenient and with good parking than the pier at Rosmoney Quay L934-876.  There is a stand-pipe for fresh water and easy slipway access.
    • For the northern section, nowhere is better than the newly renovated and extended pier at Carrigahowley / Rockfleet L923-951.  Here there is ample carparking, pleasant campervanning, fresh water on tap on the pier, and an easy slipway for launching.

Accessibility is more flexible and nuanced for very small units or for specific interests :

For the southern / middle section of the bay there are a couple of options :

    • Roscahill Pier L942-883 on Castlelaffey strand is convenient and is more sheltered in north winds, but to be avoided at LW springs.  It is adjacent to a castle associated with Graineuaile’s most famous seafaring son Tibod Na Long. There are significant tidal streams on both ebb and flood through entrance channel. The road crossing this channel on the OS doesn’t exist.
    • The Carraholly area may also be considered for the very south/SE area near Westport, called Westport Bay.  The best put-in is Pigeon Point L954-850 – park sensitively as the shellfish factory is operational, and remember that trucks need room to turn. There is a huge harbour seal colony just off here.  This is also the site of the Achill islanders tragedy when 34 migrant workers from Achill waiting to go on board the Elm, a steamship bound for Scotland.
    • Leckanvy Pier is lovely altogether but a bit remote at L887-829.

For the northern section, access options are poorer, and certainly there is nothing readily suggestive for the NW outer islands.

    • Even Mulranny pier L832-957 may be considered in that regard.  Elsewhere along this north side of the bay, the carry to LW may be offputting.
    • For small parties there is a feasible option at L868-958 Rosturk Strand, just down a short boreen from the main road.  Here the rising tide reaches earlier than elsewhere, but the parking is limited, very much so at spring tides.
    • To the north inner islands, in Newport Bay, access is best from Newport Marina L978-938 (at the apartments themselves, formerly a seaweed factory).

Carrigahowley / Rockfleet pier is adjacent to the excellently restored Rockfleet castle.  This is associated with Grainneuaile’s second husband, Richard “Iron Dick” Burke, who acquired his name from his habit of always wearing armour, from which he made his fortune. At HWS it is possible to paddle right up to the castle door. Access sadly has been prohibited in since 2010 by the OPW in fear of litigious entrants.  In 2023 the castle is under huge renovation.

Pedalling / Paddling Planning

The Westport – Achill Sound railway, closed in 1937, has now been converted to an excellent 42km cycle route, making a great option for a combined paddle / cycle trip.  Opened spring 2011 all the way.

Main Channel into inner Westport

The main channel from seaward into Westport passes immediately south of Inishgort lighthouse, and swings south, passing SW of Inishlyre, continuing between Inishlaghan and Inishimmel.  Now head ESE (actually 127o, SW edge Inishlyre on Inishgort lighthouse), pass between Inishraher and Inishgowla South, then keep Finaun and Green Islands to left, the little Corillan and Carricknamore to right.  Once into inner Westport Bay the channel towards Westport is called Westport Channel, which passes south of Monkellys Rocks, and is a excellently buoyed all the way in to a soft landing and parking at L973-847.  Follow the channel along the old quay, until a handy slipway at the gates of Westport House L982-845, where parking is reasonable in the area, and all modern facilities nearby. Best approached at mid-tide or above.  Do explore the fine old boathouse of Westport House, opposite the quay. Do not under any circumstances deviate towards Westport Quay to the ESE L978-843.

From Close inshore the south part of Clew bay, a passage is perfectly possible just off Bartraw, inside Inishdaugh.


L921-845          Sheets 30/31

Remnants of 3 houses above beach at NE.  Mudwalls with prominent channels each side, meaning they were built by one landowner separating stock, and not neighbours separating land holdings.  Extensive mussel cages to SE, April 2006.

According the Annals of the Four Masters, a large gathering of ships assembled here in 1239, the greatest galley fleet ever assembled on the west coast at that time.


L915-849          Sheet 30

Flat walled garden but no remnant of house at north end.  Camping in field provided.  Some lazybeds.  High clay cliffs to south.  See how close it is to Bartraw Strand spit to the SW.  The main channel for boats passing from the south part of Clew bay comes through this gap, the boats passing being a mighty sight.


L909-852          Sheet 30

Flat land at north end with house remnants provides excellent camping.  Land just east of north tip.  Flotsam galore.  south side vies for highest boulder clay cliff hereabouts.  Lazybeds.

December 2008 Otter and Red-breasted Merganser 15 seen, Brent Geese 20 and evidence of grazing by geese all over. Golden Plover 15


L926-852          Sheet 31

Outfarmed, perhaps best landed upon away from the one summer dwelling at NE point above a lovely swimmable beach.  Land perhaps therefore in the SW, below a man-made cut through the cliff above.  Poor camping.  Sheep. Flagpost and bunting on summit.

Inishraher is unfortunately a victim of the 2008+ Irish recession.  It suffers the hideous eyesore of an abandoned building site, that boasts the grand name of the “Clew Bay Centre for World Peace”.  This consists of 8 unfinished buildings and associated crud which sadly make the nice beach on the east side somewhat less attractive.

Dorinish Mor

L899-860          Sheet 30

Every inch of this magnificent island was tilled at one time.  Approaching from the sea to eastward, the ridges of the lazybeds are so prominent that this one factor bears in strongly.  Landing on the extreme SW corner at LW one is struck immediately by the distinctive “drumlinesque” twin summits and the cropped off west sides eroded glacial till slopes. These two islands are separated by a raised storm beach that catches all the flotsam that passes nearby.  Extensive spit to NE.  Land at a beautiful sandy beach in the SE of the north island Mor.  Larger in every way than Beg, Dorinish Mor has possibly the highest boulder clay cliff in the world.

Here boasted the famous Beatles commune of the late 60s, post Woodstock era.  Promoted by John Lennon, he and Yoko Ono occasionally came 1970 – 1972, and there was even a visit from Princess Grace and Prince Ranier.  The commune was directed by the “King of the Hippies” Sid Rawle, who retains that title to today.  It all began with a summer camp in July August, but an overwinter was tried.  Banks surrounded every construction, anti-wind.  Mostly they lived in teepees but the king had a wooden structure.  At the height of its experience, tomatoes were growing under plastic, but the wind won out in the end.  There are also the remnants of three crofts just NE of the beach, with kitchen gardens still obvious.

Lennon’s music came under various regional influences during his lifetime, mostly from the far east.  Why not from the west?  Imagine Matt Molloy on the zitar and John on the uileann pipes.  Maybe both would have benifitted?


Sheep, no cattle, Merganser, Lapwing, lots of breeding Cormorant.

Dorinish Beg

L902-856          Sheet 30

Small version of Mor, 100% lazybeds, extensive spit to SE.  Separated by long raised storm beach. 200+ Barnacle Geese feeding on southern slopes of hill and 10+ Divers offshore December 2008. Attractive.


L908-857          Sheet 30

Collared all round by mud cliffs save for a single breach at north, n.b. not at beach at NE, above which sheep pen. Sheep and lazybeds.


L909-860          Sheet 30

Little brother of Immel, but across the main Westport channel from it.  Beach at east side.  east half not collared.  Lazy beds and sheep.

Inishgowla South

L927-858          Sheet 31

The impossibly pretty whitewashed cottage midway on NE side is actually a very modern comfortable self catering cottage for letting.  The island is farmed with cattle as well as sheep, which means fences, and therefore unattractive to wild camping.

Shallow water on inside is always passable but needs care in navigation.

Finnaun Island

L933-853          Sheet 31

One of two prominent lumps of rock and grass that waymark the main Westport channel, like huge natural buoys.  Possible otter set.

The other lump is Corillaun at L935-847.


L923-865          Sheet 30/31

Absentee farmed, but with the farmhouse still well there at the east end.  Very nice to walk, it enjoys mains water and electricity.  Nice views all round. Pleasant.  Sheep.

There is also a sometimes little beach at just east of NW tip. Otter. 30 Red-breasted Merganser December 2008.


L931-867          Sheet 31

Land SW and opposite the enormous former Customs Building on the mainland.  There is a track across at LW from the SE, gated, which looks peculiar at HW.  Very pretty holiday home at east end.  Absentee farmed, sheep, very pleasant, mains water and electricity. The cottage sleeps 6 and is basic, but makes an excellent budget base for those wanting to launch from the front door to explore the bay.


L905-880          Sheet 30

A large exterior island, there are two permanent and two holiday homes in the sheltered bay on the east facing side.  Six people permanently reside.  Here there is an excellent new pier and pontoon.  All is farmed, cattle and sheep.  Ask about camping.

The Inishlyre (formerly the Newfyne registered out of San Lorenzo in Honduras 1965, also formerly the Glenfyne, also formerly serving the Aran Islands out of Galway in the 1990s, sadly lay for a long time nearly derelict against the new pier on the east side, but has now been cut up and scrapped in pieces.  A great pity.  Much older boats are still are still at it.  A mystery ship, as they say.

25 Brent Geese + 4 Divers.


L901-876          Sheet 30

To the visitor, the more interesting part of this lovely island is the SW tip, complete with the only lighthouse hereabouts.  Land and/or camp near the lighthouse on short flat grass, to be out of the way.  There is a single house at the main landing pier at the inhabited NE tip.  The island is farmed – sheep and cattle.  A good track passes between the NE and the SW lighthouse area.

Land by the lighthouse on the SE facing side in the lee of a windlass ramp, or on the NW facing side as conditions dictate.

Lovely place although the new gabion type pier, protective gabion type walls and ruined landing on west side give feeling of decay and disorder not typical of lighthouse islands. 2 Divers.

Collan Beg

L911-883          Sheet 30

Lovely small neighbour of Collan More, barely detached at LW.  Inhabited with one very private summer home, it is lovely to walk.  Grazed by sheep.  Camping to the south of the dwelling at the end of the sound, where land onto sand.

Collan More

L927-877          Sheet30/31

A huge island, possibly the biggest hereabouts.

Land at the gravel beach at the Glenans Sailing Centre in the sheltered east facing bay in the SE opposite the access point Rosmoney Pier.  The centre was built in 1979, and though originally a French outfit, it is now entirely Irish run.  Parties of 50+ can stay at Glenans.  Two people live permanently in the centre.  The summit is just above the centre to its north.

About 3 other houses are not permanently occupied, including a renovated schoolhouse to the NE.  Absentee farmed.  Little attractive camping found.  Sadly. “No Camping” signs appeared in 2010.

Island More

L907-895          Sheet 30/31

This is a conglomeration of a number of islands very connected, including Rabbit Island to the NW, Knocky Cahillaun and Freaghillan to the NE, and mighty Clynish to the east.  The centre is at the gap with Knocky Cahillaun where there are half a dozen houses.  A laneway though the gap is an important thoroughfare hereabouts, certainly a significant portage in an area where these things matter.  The houses are well appointed, money no object.  The ridge walking either side of the gap is gorgeous.  Rabbit L902-897 is also joined to Inishbee / Derinish, and nowadays is an absentee cattle ranch.  There is also a posh quay / pontoon on the spit joining to Quinnsheen Island at about L909-891.

Most remarkable is the fine path created from the pontoon to the nearest house, across unstable storm beach.  The house is old, with old vegetation, there a long time.

Even more so, view the Steamship wrecked in Island More Harbour, called the  Charles Stewart Parnell. She caught fire while at anchor there, and was lost with no casualties. She is famous for the enormous lobster living in her boiler, who has been trapped there the last 30+ years, as it grew too big to escape!


L923-894          Sheet 30/31

Large intensively farmed mainland type island.  The main habitation is in in a bay on the SE.  No real attraction to the passing recreational user.


L902-903          Sheet 30

With a flat area at its north end, and 2/3 remnants of houses, camping is possible.  Land at the east facing beach at the NE.  Very pleasant, good walking, sheep, locally typical mudwalls between fields.

Divided into two parts by a massive linking storm beach spit, the south end is vintage Clew Bay walking on a sausage shaped ridge, the views changing all the time.  Very beautiful.


L915-901          Sheet 30

Connected to Inishbee by spit L907-900, which is another significant local portage, land at the old quay at the centre SE facing side of the island.  There is one remant of a house here.  Typical local sausage shaped ridge.  Lovely to walk.

Calf Island

L913-905          Sheet 30

Unremarkable small island.  Land on sand at east tip.  The only camping would be on top where flat. Damsons in sheltered watyery valley mid-north side.  Tide flows strongly north side.  Sheep.  Lovely walking.


L932-907          Sheet 31

Lovely small island.  Sheep grazed.  Mud wall ditches.  Lazybeds.  Land onto sand at east tip.


L943-906          Sheet 30

Very privately owned and recently developed as a commercial enterprise involving rental holidays and the production whiskey and Irish traditional music.  This island is possibly Ireland’s poshest island? Land, with permission only, at the original habitation in the SE (GridRef), which is conserved.   The modern housing is above the SW.  Everything is of the highest standard, even the tennis court, horses, and long-horned cattle.  Developed and modernised by unorthodox millionaire Nadim Sadek, it was sold on in 2013.  Views from the summit are stunning.  The nearest access is from a sheltered north facing pontoon and slip in Ross Channel due east at L956-904.


L903-911          Sheet 30

By far the most beautiful of all the Clew Bay islands, period.

A sandy swimming beach on the east side greets the visitor.  The camping is dry, sheltered and on short grass.  The foraging on the shore for flotsam and bonfire material is about the best there is.  A dune system to the NE adds interest.  The remnants of a couple of houses do too.

The NW end of the island is very high and sheer, and the island has a distinctive shape seen from north or south.  The cliff is among the highest hereabouts.


L914-911          Sheet 30

A fine substantial island.  It has a classic horsehoe shaped topography, beloved of the hill walker.  In the coum is a valley and even a lake.  By the lake are the remants of 2/3 houses.  Sheep, Shelduck, ash and beech trees around the remnants.  Camping and swimming on east facing beach centre east side.


L928-914          Sheet 31

Wonderful pretty island, and campable at the NE above the shingle beach, were it not for the nearby rat infestatation at the (defensive?) ramparts at the east tip.


L936-913          Sheet 31

Small island, unkempt in 2012, but someone loves it.  Ungrazed and going to seed, there is a stairway from the sandy landing at the east tip to the summit plateau, and even plantings of New Zealand flax and some struggling alders. Must have been grazed until recently and hopefully will be again.


L951-912          Sheet 31

Land in the sandy beach in the bay at the ESE.  Lovely sheep grazed island.  Church at east tip L953-913.  One full wall remains and other partials. Some local recent burials within. Note especially the wall around the enclosure at HW level and also the stepping stones into the enclosure.


L934-998          Sheet 31

Let run to nature as of 2012 but it possesses a fine sandy beach at the NE.  A shed at the beach is noticeable but look for a shack in behind hedges above.  All very basic, all very beautiful.  The interior is let go, which is a pity.  Why no sheep?


L912-920          Sheet 30

Unmeritorious.  One sheep, but needed more in 2006.  Bluebells.


L927-921          Sheet 31

Christened by its inhabitants “Inishfox”, there is a sandy beach below an old house painted to Rastifarian nightmare standards.  Old ruins nearby.  This island reeks of money spent in good times and then abandioned.  The decking out front of the hose is impressive, but the Velux in the roof is broken.  A double door is boarded up. The interior of the island would be an access challenge.


L935-924          Sheet 31

Rough shore, land anywhere downwind, onto rocks. Long skinny tall island, a delight to walk with its almost detached satellite to the west, its mudwall ditches, it is let go a bit, but not gone 2012.


L937-929          Sheet 31

Very visible small tall islet, its height quite disproportionate to its footprint, by any standard. Appearing as a big lump from all directions, it is an important daytime channel marker into or out of Newport.  At night an electronic structure just off it operates.

Summit plateau is overgrown and uninviting.  Get there with great care, perhaps only from above the best landing, which is onto stones at the east tip.


L990-931          Sheet 31

Most attractive, classic of its kind, high, long, narrow, hump backed, unfenced, sheep grazed, grassy island with some shrubs / trees, nice to walk.

Land at east tip onto stones / steep shingle.  Camping is possible here but the grass is long and not so attractive an option as other nearby alternatives Rabbit (islet off) and Inishdaweel.

Rabbit Island

L953-935          Sheet 31

Medium sized island with a long ridge running roughly east –west. Landing is easiest onto shingle beaches at the lower lying eastern end where the main island is connected to a small outlying  islet.  Good camping is possible here but no water found.  Good walking on well grazed sheep sward especially along the summit ridge line.

Even better camping is to be had on the small outlying  islet off the east end, where the grass is short, the swimming is attractive on the shingle beaches, and mooring yachts find shelter just off.


L939-938          Sheet 31

Very nice large high topped island that competes with Muckinish L933-934 to dominate the view westward as one approaches from the Newport Channel. Landing is most convenient at the eastern end onto shingle beaches. The area just above the landing is low and flat and very suitable for camping. The walk to the summit is worth the effort as the views west and south west are stunning.

Some blackthorn trees.

The island has a long narrow spit of land that extends southwestwards on its western side. It adds considerable interest to the walking as one drops rapidly off the summit. Grazed by sheep in January 2016 and in June 2023.


L935-944          Sheet 31

Roslynagh is very different to the neighbouring islands in this sector as it is obviously more intensively managed. The grass sward has witnessed considerable improvement and its proximity to the mainland at Ardagh allows vehicular access at times of low tide. There are cattle pens, fencing and silage bales which suggest that the island is grazed by cattle in season. Sheep only were present in January 2016 (and also in June 2023).


L933-934          Sheet 31

Lying further west than Inishdaweel L939-938, Muckinish is a great big lump of an island that seems higher in altitude than its neighbours. However there is only a metre in the difference between it and Inishdaweel. The most convenient landing is on its western side onto a shingle beach located midway between two storm beaches.

Superb to walk, sheep grazed.  The summit views are worth the effort.


L929-931          Sheet 31

A small narrow island that is quite different in aspect to most of its immeadiate neighbours. The island is obviously much less grazed and consequently has a more natural vegetation. The easiest landing is located mid way along its northern edge where curiously an old wooden handrail was still present in January 2016 (and in June 2023) to help ascent to the central ridge. The ground underfoot here is quite wet and running water noted. Significantly, obvious evidence of Otter presence on the island especially around the freshwater run-off areas.

Freaghillaun East

L923-927          Sheet 31

Land onto shingle at east end.  Grazed. Nice.

Freaghillaun West

L913-928          Sheet 30

Rough.  Ungrazed. Bluebell, mallard, primrose, flags, vetches. Land anywhere downwind.


L920-930          Sheet 30/31

Beautiful.  Land at NE onto shingle.  Hawthorn.  Lovely to walk.  Lazybeds.  Grazed.


L913-932          Sheet 30

Beautiful.  Land at east onto rocky area.  Lovely to walk.  Lazybeds.  Grazed.


L918-936          Sheet 30

Dominated by a house the planning permission for which seems extraordinary?  A steep slipway defies landing with onshores.  Lovely stand of broadleaves to east of house.  Grazed.  Land elsewhere and enjoy.


L913-939          Sheet 30

Lovely island, lovely house nestled into the topography, fitting nicely into the landscape. Lovely gentle road up from slipway.  Easy to land.


L922-942          Sheet 30/31

Lovely island (Island of the brothers), waisted near the west end, the smaller further west end being the more intensively farmed, and even fenced.  There is a shingle beach for landing either side of the waist.  Portaging ?  Both ends are grazed and both are pleasant.  Damsons grow in profusion. The shingle bar that connects the two segments of the island may be very occasionally flooded over. The height of tide line debris in January 2016 was very close to beach-head.


L930-943          Sheet 31

There is a pleasant disconnected islet (Subsidiary Island of the Brothers) off the eastern tip of the eastern end of Illannambraher which is depicted on OS Sheet 31 as connected, but actually it isn’t at ordinary high water. Nor is it named there, though it is on larger scale maps.

It very pleasantly campable, being flat and grassy, and extensive enough for a group.


L905-943          Sheet 30

Fine agricultural unit separated from the mainland at all tides.  Land in a sheltered sandy cove in the NE.


L901-929          Sheet 30

An unpleasant ungrazed lump in 2006, grazed by sheep in 2012, and though formerly severely rat infested, the rats have departed.  It has the remnants of a recent shack and a septic tank/well/holding tank, with a dangerously flimsy fibre glass top.


L900-935          Sheet 30

Land onto stony beach at NE side.  Lovely to walk.  Cliffy south side.


L893-938          Sheet 30

Land on rocky shore under ruined house in NW.  Nice to walk.  Damsons.


L892-932          Sheet 30

Unmeritorious ungrazed lump, but not at all unpleasant.  Land on NW side.  Remains of bothies.


L889-936          Sheet 30

Rough.  Nothing much.  Land in NE.


L892-941          Sheet 30

Large and tall almost mainland type sheep farm.  Well husbanded.  Land at NE onto gravel spit.  Lovely to walk.  Boundary erosion issues.


L886-935          Sheet 30

Undoubtedly once nice.  Rough.  Rat infested 2012.  A short boreen gives tractor access from the sheltered landing beach in the NE corner inside a spit.


L879-931          Sheet 30

Attractive short grassed sheep grazed remote island.  Land at the east end of the north side in a sheltered sandy (LW) bay.  Very nice camping by the sandy beach.  High cliffs on south side.


L878-937          Sheet 30

Intesively farmed.  Modern fencing divides into several bands. Land at the gate at the east end.  Lovely to walk.


L881-944          Sheet 30

A cattle and sheep outfarm.  Shallow water to north.  Attractive.

Its finest features are at the east tip.  Here are found a nice landing spot onto gravel either side of the NE spit, swimming in summer at HW, nice camping, a broadleaf copse of beech, ash, sycamore and hawthorn, an old ruin of a fine house, and a strange rampart.  No money was spared building the house, and one wonders at the importance it possessed maybe hundreds of years ago.  A rampart can safely be said to be older, and its importance years ago only guessed at.

Moynish More

L866-946          Sheet 30

An outfarm with cattle and sheep, this is a large double headed island, with boreens and tracks.

There is a sandy LW beach at the NNE in a small bay.  Good camping is on short grass on the east side of the bay.

Achill Island Area

Achill (14,672ha) is the biggest and most populous Irish island with 2,500 full-time residents. It is connected to the mainland by a swivel bridge at Achill Sound, built 1888.

‘L’ shaped, high mountains mark the scenery all along the SW side. Only in the far NE corner is there flat land.

At Keel, there is a substantial machair, and behind it is the most populated part of the island where there are pubs, restaurants, and all amenities. Two-thirds of the way down the west side is Dooega, a sheltered harbour, and at the south tip lies Achill’s little sister Achillbeg, a wonderful island.

The east shore on the edge of Achill Sound is low and boggy. Near the south end of the sound is a Granuaile castle worth visiting. The RNLI station is close by. Midway up the sound is the bridge at the village of Achill Sound, where there are all facilities.

On the north coast is the hamlet of Doogort, under Slievemore Mountain, with its beautiful beach and pier, backed by machair. During the famine era of the mid 19th Century, Edward Nangle ran the most energetic Protestant ministry ever experienced in Ireland. Generally, the various Christian churches in Ireland do not proactively proselytise (convert / zealously convert) each other’s members. Nangle went in hard and succeeded to a degree, but at a price. He opened schools and even a hotel. He stands critically judged by history in that he only offered food to the hungry who would become Protestant. Those accepting this bribe were called ‘soupers’, a pejorative term all over Ireland to this day. He also operated on Inishbiggle.

Paul Henry (1876 – 1958) the noted Belfast landscape artist spent years on Achill and some of his best works were painted here – Launching the Currach, Potato Diggers, and Granuaile’s Castle.

Achillbeg Island

L720-923          Sheet 30

Thought by many to be among the finest of formerly inhabited islands off Ireland, and a worthy rival to the Blaskets and the Inishkeas. Attractive. A fertile valley links two ice rounded hills to north and south, schist to the north and sandstone to the south. There is a row of cottages on the north slope of the valley and a disused schoolhouse on the south side. Of the 326 total acreage, there are 80 arable acres and 200 acres grazing.

Geological evidence suggests the island was once joined to the mainland to the NE.  Sociological evidence suggests it was joined to Achill to the NW until much more recent times.  Ancient maps show similar townland and other place names shared with Achill and the mainland. More intriguingly, an old fort Dún na gCurrach (Dun Gurrough) L708-931 (with nearby Dún Beag) at the NW tip surely guarded the SE end of what must have been a narrow strip of land providing a NW passage between the two islands before the sea broke through.

In the mid 1800s there was said to have been 200 people on the island, but the population was never more than 117 in the 1900s. There were 104 in 1900, and this was down to 67 in 1936 when the remaining people resisted evacuation and resettlement on Achill. Specifically in 1959, there were 8 pupils in the school, all brothers and sisters. The last 38 people all left during the 1960s. In more recent years the population has now risen to and in 2024 is stable at 1 person.

The island missed the worst of the blight that gave the Great famine of 1847. Edward Nangle the missionary visited but did not proselytise here.  There was once poor turf in the NW but by 1880 or so all turf was brought in from Saula through Achill Sound, back breaking and dangerous work.  Formerly Irish speaking, the island was entirely bilingual by 1900.

The crossing of Achill Sound to the east of the island and Blind Sound to the north are often treacherous as both are exposed. Rabbits, plentiful on the mainland nearby, never made it here, though hares and foxes did, in numbers. Rats invaded twice in living memory but the islanders trapped them and prevented a colony forming.  Badgers established themselves just before the islanders left. Stoats and hedgehogs were very occasionally seen, and mice only towards the very end.

Dún Chill Mór a forked headland on the west side, is a triple fort with the outer, east, section at L709-926. The two inner citadels are on the two branches at L708-925 and L708-926. Dún Chill Mór (Dun Kilmore) is said to be the most elaborate promontory fort of the west coast. It was started in the early Iron Age, and was inhabited by many cultures over a long period up to early Christian times. It is somewhat dilapidated through incessant Atlantic assault. Find it by walking west along the north side of the waist, past a storm beach and under a cliff, until the forked headland is identified.

There are some remarkably attractive (70m) rock climbing cliffs at L715-921, though north-facing. Note also the early summer Mediterranean Heath (Erica).


The best landing is at a lovely sheltered sandy beach midway on the east side L720-923 called locally Trabóderig (the strand of the red cow). Landing is also possible on the NE side, but less easily. There is a new pier and steps 500m to the south of the main landing beach at L721-920 which provides deep water access to Achillbeg always, but is of little interest to very small craft.


A “No camping” sign appeared at the main east facing beach in 2010.  It is understood though that kayakers in small numbers who enquire locally will be facilitated.

There are also some storm beaches on the outside (west) of the island for those who favour the oceanic feel to their camping.


See below for tidal information for the southern entrance to Achill Sound.

When there is sufficient depth of water in springs, Blind Sound between Achillbeg and Achill fills east when Achill Sound is flooding north and empties west.

Bills Rocks

L551-938          Sheet 30

The Bills Rocks lie 11km due south of Keem Strand (F562-043) on Achill Island. Keem is pronounced ‘Kim’ locally. This is the nearest launching point for a trip to the Bills. Larger groups might prefer Gubalennaun Beg quay at F623-036 (locally “Purteen”) where there is easy parking and no surf. This option adds 1km to each leg of the trip.

The Bills comprise three large, steep-sided, grass-covered rocks. The largest rock has a grass covering of approximately half a soccer pitch. The ground is relatively level and could be camped upon, but it is completely exposed and it would probably be foolhardy unless you were sure of settled weather.


It is possible to land on the largest rock, which is the most northerly. On the southern side is a long, sloping cliff to the top. The gradient here is approximately 50º and while it might be easy for a rock climber, it could be quite challenging in canoeing gear or wet weather. The landing should only be attempted in calm weather and is best at LW, when there is an obvious ledge approximately 2m above water level, which can be accessed by a large, ‘easy to climb’ crack. It would be prudent to have a light kayak for this endeavour.

There is probably only enough room for three kayaks on the ledge, which limits the size of the landing party. Kayaks can be left on the ledge and tied to the rock face using rock-climbing chocks.

From the ledge, a large fissure runs diagonally from bottom left to top right and the top of the rock face. There are obvious handholds along the crack and it would probably be graded a ‘diff’ in old rock climbing parlance.

If you have the skills, the climb is worth it. At the top, you really feel exposed, miles from anywhere on a rock in the sea. It is an airy feeling. There are great views back up to Achill while to the SE, the exposed western coasts of Clare Island, Inishturk and Inishbofin are visible. The trip is a brilliant day paddle. It is worth circumnavigating the rocks. There is a beautiful arch to the west.


F622-030          Sheet 30

Impressive large island lying 500m south of Gubalennaun Beg quay (by Nimmo) (locally “Purteen”). The island is high and whale backed, grassy on top, and of sufficient steepness to make camping sites a premium. The island is grazed by sheep. Views in all quarters are spectacular.

Landing and Water

Landing onto sloping rock shelves at obvious cut in NE corner. Given any swell it could be tricky enough at most tide heights, and swimming may be necessary if seas are lifting. The low water situation is better, in that low LW does allow for kelp and softer landings/launchings to become available.  Scramble to top.  Water not found.

The island has 3 sea caves on its east flank and a gem of a sea cave at its west end. This cave cuts right through the island north/south but also has a west exit. The north entrance is accessible at higher stages of the tide but is decidedly narrow at the lower end of the tidal cycle. All entrances are narrow and kayakers entering need to be wary of swell conditions. The run through is “interesting”. Tides run hard on the ebb off the south/SE corners of the island.

Breeding Shags, Herring and Greater Black backed Gulls.

Achill Island (Outer) – the Round of Achill Head

The round of Achill Head may be done from either side, depending on conditions. The wind direction is everything, but beware of katabatics (downdraughts) on the lee side of the final ridge out to the head, a notorious local feature. The round trip from Doogort to Keem is about 26km. If going to Keel, it is even longer at over 33km.

The round of Achill Island as a whole is about 80km, especially if the beautiful Achillbeg is taken in, and it is worth taking at least three days. This expedition round Achill Head will always be the crux of that trip, and has to be one of the foremost Irish sea paddling trips, to be grabbed when conditions allow, and with caution.

Those on expedition along the coast will find it considerably easier to stick to the inner route through Achill Sound, but the round of Achill Head will be an integral part of the outer route. A trip around Achill and the Mullet Peninsula to the north is a week’s unrivalled expedition. This trip involves a challenging open crossing to Duvillaun Mór from Achill Head itself or Saddle Head to its NE.

The Round of Achill Head is described here from the northern side, starting at Doogort.


F671-088          Sheet 22/Sheet 30

This is an important launching or finishing point for the route outside the Mullet peninsula or Achill Head. There is a good beach – it is best to land on at the western end under the hotel. There are also a campsite with facilities and water. It is a bit of a carry from the campsite to the beach. The quay just NW has a landing and water, but no camping. Beware of overfalls to the east of the beach on the ebb. They are just west of Ridge Point at F704-109.

Annagh Strand

F601-076          Sheet 22/Sheet 30

The outer, western part of Achill is dominated by the two summits of Slievemore (671m) at F653-087 and Croaghaun (664m) at F554-058. Between these two, on the northern side, cut off from civilisation altogether, lies the utterly beautiful north-facing Annagh Strand. It is 9.5km or more into the anticlockwise round of Achill Head. The beach is backed by Lough na Keerogue (Lake of the Beatles). From Doogort, the coast follows the cliffs around, with at least one memorable arch, until a truly remarkable pap (teat) shaped hill (269m) at F608-075 lies just SE of the beach. This is a worthwhile trip in itself, either by hillwalk or paddle, and a must on the circumnavigation, as 16km lies ahead. The megalithic tomb at F601-076 is easily found as it has a ‘modern’ bothán (hut) built in its middle, anything but a normal sight, probably of Inishkea islander construction.

The beach is backed by fairly steep boulders which are covered by the tide a couple of hours before and after HW.  Launching/landing is not recommended during this time, particularly in surf, which tends to dump.  Timing is critical.  Best to come and go between LW and mid tide on the sand.

Achill Head

F518-051          Sheet 22/Sheet 30

From Annagh Strand it is necessary first to travel NW to Saddle Head at F567-096 where a considerable lump may be expected. A reef just offshore adds both technical interest and fear. Then it is SW to the head itself. A few storm beaches litter these impressive cliffs under Croaghaun. At least one is well enough sheltered, and in the right conditions, lunch has been enjoyed at Gubfoheratawy F567-077.  Conditions do need to be calm indeed to land. The head itself has broken islets off it and the innermost passage is passable under the right conditions. Moyteoge Head at F565-035 lies 5km ESE, behind which is Keem Strand.

Keem Strand

F562-043          Sheet 22/Sheet 30

A beautiful, horseshoe beach at the end of the road on the southern side of the island, Keem Strand is known to photographers the world over. Sheltered in most conditions, it surfs in southerlies. There are parking spots and viewpoints here, and many walks for Croaghaun and Achill Head. Extensive and excellent rock climbing has recently been developed on the east side of the valley.  This bay was the killing ground for the Achill Basking Shark fishery.

Toilets (by day) are up from the beach a bit.  Camping is inhibited by this being a favourite courting spot, winter and summer, after dark.

Rock Climbing

Significant sea crags are to be found below the higher points of the road east of Keem Strand, centred around “Waterfall Cove” F584-041, south and west of the “Eire 59” sign to be found above Carrickmore Point.

Gubalennaun Beg Quay

F623-036          Sheet 30

Locally “Purteen”.  In trouble, this is the only dependable landing spot for dozens of kilometres in either direction. Keem Strand to the west may dump and Keel to the east is a famous surfing beach. This is a quay with no facilities except water and camping, and the certainty of a landing in any conditions. In nearby Keel can be had most anything – nice restaurants, pubs, provisions. The famous Achill Basking Shark fishery was based here until the mid-20th Century.

Keel Strand

F632-045          Sheet 22/Sheet 30

This is a famous surfing beach to be used by sea kayakers only in calm conditions. There is a camping and caravan site just in from the beach, with a convenient road and water near the village at the NW end of the beach. There is a golf links in the middle. The most remote part is in the SE where the Minnaun (or Menawn) Cliffs begin. Camping is excellent just behind the beach just about anywhere, though watch for golfers in the middle.

Achill Island (Inner) – Achill Sound

Sheet 30

The kayaker on passage can easily manage Achill’s inside route. The tide governs entirely only in its narrower places, and the wind mostly prevails.

Achill Sound Bridge at L738-998 and Bull’s Mouth at F737-068 are major challenges to larger craft, but kayaks can always manage. Under most conditions, one may paddle under the bridge, even against the flow. This may involve a short sprint, or at worst, a portage. Avoid the very bottom of the tide because drying mudflats south of the bridge inhibit the process.  All facilities are available here, as Achill Sound is the main town of the island.   The spectacular new swing bridge at Achill Sound was opened in October 2008, replacing the 1947 structure whose pivotal mechanism had become stuck and corroded. From the kayakers’ perpective, the channel is clear and navigable, but do be aware that the direction of buoyage changes north of the bridge

At Bull’s Mouth, at the northern entrance to the sound at F737-068, the eddies allow one to avoid problems. Wind against tide generates its fearsome reputation.


The tide flows simultaneously in from both ends to meet on the extensive mudflats just south of Achill Sound Bridge. Accordingly, the flood flows south under the bridge until local HW, which is 2:00 after Galway HW.

The tide floods north through the southern entrance of the sound at Achillbeg

Southern entrance to Achill Sound
Direction Time Speed
In 4:50 before Galway HW 4-5kn
Out 1:35 after Galway HW 4-5kn

The fastest flow is at Darby’s Point, just inside the entrance. On the flood, a major eddy circulates just inside the Point at L723-938 on the Achill Island side, reaching as far as Gránúaile’s castle at L721-941.

The tide floods south through the northern entrance called Bull’s Mouth F737-068 at up to 5kn.

Bull’s Mouth
Direction Time Speed
In 4:50 before Galway HW 5kn
Out 1:20 after Galway HW 5kn

With wind over tide, quite a race is set up to the SSE. On the flood, a major eddy circulates just inside the entrance on the Achill side. On the ebb, the sound empties to the north, which is often benign.

In summary, going either way through the sound, slow boats should start a couple of hours before Galway HW and enjoy the flood to the mudflats just south of the bridge. Then perhaps break the journey, provision up and have a meal, in time to enjoy the ebb out the other side.


F746-067          Sheet 30

The population is 12/16, all adults. Inishbiggle is a large, attractive, low, hummocky island with a dozen or so inhabited houses, perfect for a “back to basics” half day expedition on foot or much longer, there being no shop, no café, no “facilities”, no nothing.  Traffic is sparing, the local boat is the curragh, some Irish is spoken and hay is saved by scythe. The post office is at F746-067. The abandoned school F753-066 (shown as a church on the OS sheet) thrived from 1948 to 1998.  Electricity arrived in 1978 and reliable water in 1990 (from Ballycroy side).  Previously water was local until piped in after 1981 from Achill side across the infamous Bulls Mouth, but the strength of the flow there defeated the engineers.


Edward Nangle was an infamous proselytising cleric, who against the run of play then and now in Ireland, sought to convert Christians of all sorts to his own brand of Christianity.  His main efforts were on Achill but he owned Inishbiggle at one time.  His church at F759-067 is a “must see”, built in the 1870s with the best of quarried sandstone from Achill.  No nails were used in the timberwork, only dowels, all still deemed perfect in the early 2000s when a local team of craftsmen set about to refurbish the lot.  The red pine timber was entirely free of worm.  Nangle would surely have turned in his grave when the church was rededicated to ecumenical Christian use in 2003.  It hasn’t been well maintained since then unfortunately and stands yet again in disrepair in 2023.

Access was traditionally from Achill.  The post boat still comes that way.  The islanders campaigned for generations for a cable car on the Achill side across Bulls Mouth and finally they lost that war in 2004.  The decision was instead to build waterborn ferry pier facilities, but on the mainland Ballycroy side, where the tidal flows are not quite as harsh.  Essentially Inishbiggle now mainly looks east to the mainland instead of west to Achill.  The mainland road eastwards was much improved and is well signposted off the main road near Ballycroy.

Embarkation and Landing

The main access to Inishbiggle is nowadays from the mainland at Dorans Point F775-078 where there is a substantial pontoon and pier.  The ferry is run by Michael Leneghan 00 353 (87) 126 9618.  His boat Iomaire Ganamh means “sand bank”.  Landing is then at a similarly modern gabion reinforced pontoon and pier at Gobnadoogha F764-077 in the NE of the island.  Eamon Ó Cuiv, an ardent irish language entusiast, the then Minister for Arts, Heritage, the Gaeltacht, and the Islands, was serious about and showed more genuine interest in the islands, even the English speaking ones, than any other minister, ever.  His legacy is to be found all round and off the coast in piers and slipways and sea-going facilities.

Inishbiggle is at the northern end of the Achill Sound “inside route” and is separated from Achill Island by the Bull’s Mouth at F737-068. Cyclists or hitch-hikers lucky enough to secure informal passage across to the island this way amy dependably continue onwards to Ballycroy and beyond.  Kayakers approaching from this side may land on a beach of small stones, and/or at a modest slipway F739-069, just east of the Bull’s Mouth.  One may launch from the slipway opposite, on Achill, at F735-070, where there is some parking. Another handy embarkation point on the Achill side is at Bunacurry Harbour at F718-044 which is 2.5km SW of the Bulls Mouth. This is a stone and mud flat area, with a manageable carry even at LW, but plenty of parking.

Vehicular Access

All vehicles such as there are on Inishbiggle were driven there via Annagh Island that lies to the SE.  It is possible to drive from the mainland across the inner sound at a spot called locally Claggan F786–046 to F783-046 on Annagh, for a couple of hours when the sound dries at LW.  There is a fine boreen across Annagh south of centre to about F773-053, from where the strand to Inishbiggle can be driven for the bottom half of the tide.  6 hours dry and 6 wet is the rule, springs or neaps.  The inishbiggle drive-in point is just below the church.

Anecdotally, this complex access becomes famous virtually every nationwide election or referendum held in Ireland.  Policy dictates that all the islands off the coast are balloted a few days before the actual polling day, for fear it might be necessary to try again and again.  Anytime there is a blow and the ferry can’t go to Inishbiggle, the local sergeant of the Gardai sets off from Claggan to Annagh and then to Inishbiggle.  Mostly he gets the business done quickly enough but not always.  All too often he has been caught unable to drive home that day, and in the line of duty, he has famously been photographed, up to his waist, carrying the ballots shoulder high, a beacon of civic duty.  Inishbiggle votes have therefore been dubbed “floating votes”.

Tiny islet locally named Oileán Ruairí F757-058 is a peat hag inside the SE point, of little interest to the recreational user, surrounded by water most of the time, but reachable on foot some of the time from south of the church.

Ballycroy was the scene of the filming of the iconic “Ballroom of Romance” in 1981.


F766-078          Sheet 22

The main function of Inishaghoo and inside (east of) it the Illanamona Islands F770-080 is to shelter most of the ferry crossing from Dorans Point on the mainland to Gobnadoogha on Inishbiggle from northwesterlies.  They do this very well.  A good old race sets up between Inishaghoo and Inishbiggle, and a lesser one between Inishaghoo and the mainland, but neither race compares in the least to Bulls Mouth at the NW of Inishbiggle. It is feasible to walk to Illanamona for periods at either side of LW  and to wade across to Inisaghoo from the larger Illanamona at LWS.  The electricity powerlines run overhead the larger Illanamona island and Inishaghoo towards inishbiggle.

Inishaghoo is surprisingly grassy given it isn’t grazed, or grazed enough nowadays, and could be attractive to the recreational user if it were.  Suspicion of foxes.

The islands and particularly Inishaghoo are interesting for being a blanket peat bog resting on underlying sand/silt, which is quite the educational sight.  Bog oak protrudes aplenty from the very base of the peat and the peat itself runs under the tide in places.  The coastal erosion is as inexorable and as fiersome as one might imagine, especially on the exposed sides.

Annagh Island

F784-046          Sheet 22/30

This huge island is almost 3km2.  It is flat as a pancake and mostly ungrazed bog.  There are some stands of forestry in the SW.

The landing spot is anywhere but essentially where the Inishbiggle vehicular access penetrates at a boathouse at F784-046.  There is a house and shed at the mid-south and similar at the NE.  Neither is occupied regularly.

It is possible to drive from the mainland across the inner sound at a spot called locally Claggan F788-046 to F783-046 on Annagh, for a couple of hours when the sound dries at LW.  There is a fine boreen across Annagh south of centre to about F773-053, from where the strand to Inishbiggle can be driven for the bottom half of the tide.  6 hours dry and 6 wet is the rule, springs or neaps.

Illancroagh and Heath Island

F786-030          Sheet 30

These two small islands jointly and effectively guard the entrance to the SE corner of Achill Sound North, a water system called Bellacragher Bay. The bay penetrates between the Corraun Peninsula and the mainland almost to Mallaranny, a narrow twisting inlet of great interest and a splendid option for a foul weather day.

The embarkation point at F783-025 is just below the post office at Tonregee, halfway between Mallaranny and Achill Sound Bridge. Limited parking but with a handy stony landing.

Illancroagh at F786-030 is the more interesting of the two islands. It can be landed on anywhere. There is splendid, huge, exposed bog oak on the western side, and a significant Common Gull colony in season. There are tide races all around. The tide runs east and west on either side. Wind over tide in these gaps normally happens on the ebb. These conditions provide a fun race just off the put-in point, and elsewhere at times. The tide also fills and empties round the duller Heath Island.

The passage inwards from this point features strong tides at all the projecting points, and a varying landscape best savoured on the journey SE and inwards. Rhododendrons are followed by conifers, by grasslands suitable for remote yet convenient camping, then by ubiquitous peat-hags, sometimes close to the road and sometimes away from it. At the head of the bay are salmon farm tanks, always worth a visit to see these brutes leaping and displaying.

The trick is to catch the tide inwards, lunch, and then catch it again outwards. Otherwise eddy-hop. Local HW is about Galway + 0230 in the furthest recesses of the bay, which is perhaps an hour later than local HW at the Bull’s Mouth.

Tidal races are to be found at most of the twists and turns. The most playful ones are on either side of Illancroagh, and these are best enjoyed on the top half of the ebb. Being shallow, they do not particularly need a spring tide.

Inishkeas/Duvillauns Group

F552-211          Sheet 22

This remarkable group of islands is well worth visiting.


Nearest embarkation is from Portmore, a sheltered sandy south-facing beach about 3.5km west of Blacksod Point, and 1km south of a prominent tower on a low hill, known as Glash. The surf is much smaller at a small slip called Port F614-183 at the west end of the beach. Camping is best on machair at Fallmore F619-185, the east end. Surf can be an issue off the tip of the stormbeach off Portmore, and also 1.5km NNW at Surgeview Point.  To compound things, the tide runs hard in this area, especially on the ebb.

Alternatively, the most dependable launch of all is from Blacksod Pier itself, 4km east at F653-186, where the camping is less private but still wonderful.  This pier is by Nimmo, as is Saleen Pier 12km to the North at F670-290.

Blacksod Lighthouse at the pier was a weather forecasting station until 1956.  Most famously Maureen Sweeney sent in weather reports on 3rd and 4th June 1944 that caused the D-Day landings in Normandy to be postponed from June 5th and then to go ahead on June 6th.  The Allied invasion of Europe might have turned out very differently but for these reports.

The southern part of the Mullet peninsula is a stronghold for Corncrake.


The main west coast flood runs north from Achill Head, past Black Rock, then NNE past the outside of the group, from 3:20 before Galway HW until 3:05 after. The flood and ebb pour into and out of what is almost a sheltered ‘lake’ confined between the group of islands and the Mullet. The flows through the gaps seem to start a couple of hours earlier, at 5:15 before Galway HW until 1:00 after. They flood generally northeast/north through the channels between the Duvillauns, the Inishkeas and the Mullet. Certainly, in Blacksod Bay south of the Duvillauns, the ENE flood runs at about these times. The streams are weak inside the lake but achieve 2.5kn in springs off salient points and flow strongly through the gaps in the inner islands. From inside the islands, the ebb pours out of the ‘lake’ the same way and the timings are the reverse of the flood.

The Spanish Armada

Ships driven into the Blacksod area north of Achill could turn left or right. On 21st September 1588 two Armada ships sailed in. The Duquesa Santa Ana turned left into Elly Bay and safety, the Rata Encoranada turned right towards Achill. It put down its anchor off Doona point. It dragged and the ship went aground. All the crew got off safely. They then force marched around to Elly Bay and joined the Duquesa Santa Ana They all got going again but were shipwrecked in Loughros More Bay in Donegal. The survivors of all this walked overland to Killybegs where they were lucky to find the Girona, and joined it on its way to Scotland and safety, they hoped.

Black Rock

F483-156          Sheet 22

The rock is known to locals as Tór Mór, and to Irish Lights as Black Rock. Like Eagle Island, Black Rock is a prominent lighthouse rock on which landing is impossible in most conditions. This, along with the fact that it is over 11km offshore and steep-sided, makes it essential that any visit is undertaken in (very) settled weather. Black Rock rates as one of the classic sea kayaking destinations in Ireland. It is a most dramatic and beautiful place to visit if kayakers get the right conditions, especially in late April-May.

Kayakers attempting to land on Black Rock (and similar remote lighthouse islands) should be aware that many of the guard rails and steps on the islands have deteriorated since the automation of the lighthouses.

On Black Rock the eastern landing is always difficult to access as it is very prone to big swell and tidal surges. The southern landing is somewhat more protected. However, the access steps from the southern landing to the summit are steep and the upper sections have fallen away. Kayakers landing need to be aware that some degree of rock climbing is involved and a safety rope is highly recommended.

A traverse from the southern landing to the steps above the eastern landing is possible and may be safer than a direct summit approach from the southern landing. Again some rock climbing experience is a distinct advantage and a safety rope highly recommended.


A landing is possible near the steep, carved steps on the SE side of the rock, with very low swell conditions and an unladen (or someone else’s, plastic) boat.

There are 3/4 options from mid to high tide but only one at lower tides, about 20m from the sea-arch.

There is a jetty at the east end, but there is often too much movement there.

In the  right conditions (very settled!) the easiest landing is by the  jetty, where convenient rock platforms, especially at LW  allow “seal” type landings in addition to to the  jetty itself.

The jetty is only place where kayaks can be easily managed. All other landings are very “physical” in terms of making boats secure and require a fit crew to lift and haul kayaks clear.  All steps and approaches from all 4 possible landing points are steep and in some cases in poor condition. All landings are very steep, in deep water, with any waves giving a lot of vertical movement. This gives a real risk of a bad bang if the boat hits any rocky outcrops while dropping with the waves. So, even in the calmest conditions, landing cannot be assumed and it is recommended to keep lunch handy to eat on the water before the long, open disappointed crossing home.

After a successful landing, the boats must be hauled up the steep rock and tied to the iron stakes near the steps, which were probably chiselled into the rocks in the 19th Century. The walk to the top is steep. Launching is, as always, much easier. Always ask Irish Lights for permission for landing at a lighthouse.

There is rough camping, but this is not advised, as lighthouse keepers have been known to wait months to be taken off after their stint of duty here. Bill Long states that it is reputed to be the ‘most difficult of the lighthouse rocks on which to land; totally inaccessible at times, either by boat or by helicopter’.

No water.

On a day trip, embark from Fallmore at F614-183 or Portglash beach at F612-202, for a 12km journey on a bearing of about 250o. If based on the Inishkeas, the distance is 8.5km at 235o from the western end of the sound between the north and south Islands at F556-218.


Departing from the Inishkeas, the only relevant tide is the main west coast tidal stream, which floods north from 3:20 before Galway HW until 3:05 after and the ebb in reverse. For a departure from the Inishkeas, a good strategy might be to leave at or after local LW, taking advantage of the last of the south-going stream, to arrive at slack and allowing a return after the start of the north-going stream. At least close in to the rock, tides run strongly, possibly 2kn. Paddlers report having to ferry glide to avoid being swept past.

On Black Rock itself, the light character is FL WR 12s 86m 22/16M, i.e. flashing, white & red sectors, every 12 seconds, height 86 metres, visibility 22 nautical miles in the white sector and 16 nautical miles in the red sector. It was, until recently, an acetylene gas light, one of the very few in Ireland or Britain. It was converted to acetylene from incandescent paraffin vapour in 1974 when it was automated. The acetylene system was decommissioned to a museum in Wexford in 1999 and replaced by solar power.

In 1940, the south.south. Macville was attacked by a German bomber close to the Rock, shattering the lighthouse panes and damaging the roof.

There are impressive, recently renovated dwellings of cut stone which was quarried from the rock. Amazingly, lighthouse keepers and their families lived here for 29 years until 1893. Then, dwellings for the families were built at Blacksod and the keepers would stay in shifts on the Rock in the years until the light was automated.


In March 2017 rescue helicopter R116 with four crew on board struck the Rock in poor conditions, crashed and was lost with all hands.  At time of writing the full investigation report has not yet been released.  There are reports that Black Rock did not appear or did not appear correctly or adequately on the maps used by the crew.

Duvillaun Mór

F578-157          Sheet 22


The current owner discourages landing.  There is an unreliable landing place on a somewhat sheltered sandy beach (bouldery at LW) on the southern shore at a point marked Gubnageeragh. The scramble up is awkward, but tired paddlers from Achill Head may take advantage. There is camping above the beach. Water is available in small lakes at the top of the island. Otherwise the much more reliable landing point in calm conditions is in a shallow bay on the NE side, almost facing Duvillaun Beg. Land onto flat rocks, in a sheltered cut, best just NW of a ruined dwelling.

The construction of the house on Duvillaun has suffered some setbacks and recent storms have taken their toll on the building.  The main doorway and windows on the southern side have weathered badly and the building is open to the elements as at May 2016. The scars of the building process on the landscape have thankfully healed. There is a rudimentary rough slipway in a small cove on the north eastern side of the island that allows access to the monastery site along the obvious path resulting from the house building process.

The island was abandoned in the early 20th Century. In the 1821 census, there were 19 people living on the island, and a community existed here up to at least 1917. The ecclesiastical remains on the brow of the hill at the western end are of a small Anchorite settlement being an eremitic establishment from the 6th to 10th Centuries.

The square ruin is a killeen, a children’s’ graveyard. A carved flat stone on the summit depicts a Greek crucifixion on one side and a pre-Celtic cross (with a circle surrounding the cross) on the other. Well worth the visit.

Unfortunately the most prominent feature of the top of the island these days, begun in 2007, is the “work in progress” of a modern house, unsightly in 2010, unless and until it is finshed. There is also a covered shed, and a forty-foot container. Overall, it is a mess. This epitomises the tragic mismanagment of our wild islands. The application for this development was granted planning permission to build on an SPA, so the Parks & Wildlife service now have the massive headache of trying to limit the damage done.

The north/west end is wild and dramatic, with small sea stacks and islets lying off the shore. The whole north and west sides are worthy of a slow passage.  Good cuts and stacks, and in particular two fine sea arches, merit exploration.  One horsehoe shaped sea arch near Drumacappul Island F570-160 has a very distinctive quartize keystone at its apex.  The other one cuts through Turduvillaun F566-160 and is a challenging passage.


Storm & Leach’s Petrel, Barnacle Goose, Peregrine, Chough, Arctic & Little Tern.

Lapwing and Greater Black-backed Gull breed and there is a colony of black rabbits.

Duvillaun Beg

F591-164          Sheet 22

The landing point is on a storm beach just NE of south-western tip. Otherwise, land on rocks just north of a long spit at the eastern tip. Pleasant enough place. Sward grazed by sheep in season.  Inhabited by a single family called Gamble in the mid-19th century

Gaghta Island

F601-175          Sheet 22

Land onto stony beaches, midway along the north-eastern side in a cut.


F608-176          Sheet 22

Land at shingle or rocks on the northern side. Greater Black-backed Gull breed.


These islands are not named for Inis Gé (the ‘islands of geese’ in Gaelic), despite their ornithological significance. Instead, they are named for ‘Insulam Gedig’ in Latin, or Naomh Géidh or Saint Gé in Irish. The first written reference to the islands was in a letter from Pope Innocent III appointing a local Bishop in 1198.

There was a thriving and stable Irish speaking population here from the late 18th to the early 20th Century. Nevertheless, no native writer ever emerged to record their lives from their own perspective, as happened elsewhere. Their story is pieced together from outside records. The population was stable at about 300 between the two islands for much of the time, though the South Island nearly always held more people than the North Island.

They ran out of turf by the 1830s, importing it thereafter. They survived the 1840’s famine better than the nearby mainland, partly through fishing and piracy. Circumstances suited piracy because calm weather conditions in April and May becalmed many a sailing boat hereabouts. This all got out of hand so the coastguard placed a presence on the island to stop the practice.

Ravaged always by storms, the islanders were almost beaten by a big one in 1857, and were finally defeated in 1927. As protection against the wind, they developed a special style of lazy bed for the potatoes, 2m across and 30cm higher on the windward side, to protect the fragile young plants. The climate being milder than the mainland, potatoes could be sown in February or even January, giving the islanders a huge competitive advantage at the market in Belmullet.

They kept cows for milk, pigs for meat, and sheep for sale and for wool. They even kept horses to work the land, but more so on the north island where the widespread machair is more equine friendly. They also grew barley and their poitín was well known over a wide area, being favoured by the Boycotts, a well-known but not particularly popular local landed family. Their poitín was despised by the artist Paul Henry who visited in 1909. The boat crew got sozzled and gave him a trying journey back to Westport.

A pier was built on the North Island in 1863 but it was blown away within the year. A sturdier model was built on the South Island beginning in 1888, which is there to this day and looking well, sheltering the strand in front of the village. Schools were established on both islands about 1899. Three policemen were stationed on the North Island about the same time to try to stop the worst of the illegal distillery industry. Relations between the islands were never good, except when absolutely necessary. Burials took place only on the North Island. The North Islan