In 2007 we had a cruise around Ireland. Unfortunately the photos which accompanied this log were lost. This is the narrative of the seven week trip.
Wednesday 11th July
After some delays (due to bad weather, Maggie’s hospital appointments and finishing off the installation of a new autopilot), we finally left Bangor on Wednesday 11th July for a cruise down to the SW of Ireland and return up the west coast if the weather improved in August. On board were David, Maggie & a sailing friend Brian Whan.
We left Bangor after lunchtime and headed south for Ardglass for our first night’s stop. The wind was initially a light NE but off Strangford Lough it turned into the S, and so was on the nose. As a result we motored the whole way, so as to get to Ardglass in reasonably time.
We tied up in Phennick Cove Marina at 19:00, went up to the pub for a drink and then down to the Chinese restaurant on the pier for a meal. The holiday had started.
(Marina charge £19/night)
Thursday 12th July
Normally the next leg south would be down to the Dublin area. However, to break the journey this time we decided to stop at the new fishing harbour of Port Oriel at Clogherhead, south of Dundalk Bay. We left Ardglass at around 10:00 and arrived at Port Oriel at 16:00. The wind was SW, again on the nose, so we opted again to motor the whole way. It was wet, showery weather, but it cleared up a bit as we headed south.
We crossed into Irish waters in the afternoon and raised the courtesy Tricolour, perhaps one of the few to be doing so on the 12th July!
We had a wander around the harbour and adjourned aboard for a beer and our first
dinner afloat – a mix of vegetable and chicken curry with rice. In the evening we
received half a bucket of mackerel from a passing angling boat.
Our conclusion was it was a useful stop-over port, and we were well received. But a
basic fishing harbour with no amenities in the immediate harbour area.
Friday 13th July
We left Port Oriel at 06:50 as the forecast said the weather was to deteriorate later in
the day with the wind changing from SE F2-3 to cyclonic F5-7 or F8 later.
Initially the sea was calm as we motored down towards the Skerries Islands.
In the Dublin area there are 4 possible locations to visit – Malahide, Howth, Poolbeg
in Dublin Port or Dun Laoghaire. We have visited Howth & Dun Laoghaire before,
opted to visit Malahide this time, after calling the marina to check there was sufficient
water to get in and that there were visitor berths available.
It was still raining and the wind had started to increase from the north. We followed
the buoyed channel into the marina without problem, but had a slight problem getting
into the berth due to the tidal current running through the marina. However we
squeezed in leaving a small scratch on the side of the hull, where the hull was pushed
against the metal edge of the pontoon. We were alongside by 11:00.
As we were tidying up our mooring ropes, a Danish yacht arrived and really
misjudged the strength of the tidal current. They came in too fast and tried to spin
around and go out again. But her stern hit and hooked onto the anchor of an adjacent
boat and ending up breaking her bow breast rope in the process. After another aborted
try we assisted them into the berth alongside us and left them to sort out insurance
claims with the owners of the yacht they has hit.
It stayed wet all afternoon and David & Brian waded through the puddles into the
town to check out the rail station and train times, etc. Later on in the evening, when it
had reverted to showery, we went back into town for a drink & meal at a Greek
restaurant. (Marina cost: €42/night, but 50% discount)
Saturday 14th July
Late in the morning Brian (and the Danish) helped us manoeuvre out of the berth and
then Brian left to get a train back up to Bangor.
We motor-sailed south in sunshine for a change. Off Dun Laoghaire, Dublin Bay was
full of yachts racing, as there was a major race week event in progress. During the
early afternoon the wind shifted to SSW F5-6 so we decided to go only as far as
Wicklow – another port we had not visited before.
Yachts tie up against a harbour wall and there were several in ahead of us. A couple
of members from the Yacht Club assisted us to tie-up and invited us to make use of
the Clubhouse facilities – very friendly welcome.
Having been invited we dropped into the clubhouse for a drink on the way into town.
We had a chat with one of the men who assisted us tie up and started discussing
places we were likely to visit. He turned out to even more anti-Arklow marina than
Maggie! He said anytime he visited Arklow marina, he put on surgical gloves before
handling any ropes or fenders that had been in the water.
Afterwards we went into town, ate at Ragantino’s Café Restaurant overlooking the
river and walked round the town to find Wicklow’s famous jail.
By the time we got back to the boat, another boat had moored up outside us – Maggie
referred to them as The Church Mice. They came back aboard later in the evening
with barely a sound and departed early the next morning just as quietly.
Sunday 15th July
We departed from Wicklow harbour at 08:40, after breakfast, with a view to get down around Carnsore Point (the SE corner of Ireland) if the weather permitted.
Initially when going down through the inside of the Arklow Banks, the tide was against us and we were only making 3.5kn over the ground but the tide turned at 13:00 and our speed increased appreciably and we were doing 7-8kn when passing Carnsore Point.
The weather was showery with an increasing light to moderate SW wind.
Out on the Arklow Bank and at two locations onshore there are now large wind farms, such as the one shown on the right.
Only one turbine was working on the Arklow Bank, as the wind was still light, but most of the onshore ones were working.
As usual the final leg from Carnsore Point to Kilmore Quay seemed to take forever, where I think there must be a
reverse tidal current over this stretch and the rain set in. But after a long day, we arrived in Kilmore Quay at 18:00 and rafted up beside an Australian boat Honey Moon, which had arrived in just a bit before us.
Monday 16th July
After deliberating whether to rest up after a long leg yesterday, we decided to push on to Youghal (pronounced Yawl). We had a shower at the Stella Maris building and stocked up with fresh bread & milk (and a crab sandwich for Maggie’s lunch). The crew of Honey Moon assisted us in getting out past all the rafted up yachts, with a fresh SW’ly wind blowing.
We left the harbour at 12:00 and after motoring out to the (new) Safe Water Mark, we hoisted sails and headed for Youghal. By 16:00 the wind shifted and dropped, so we motored the rest of the way and anchored off Ferry Point opposite Youghal town at 20:30.
It turned out that Sunday’s rain had drowned the autopilot controller, so we had to hand-steer all day.
Tuesday 17th July
Now that we had reached the South coast, Tuesday was declared a rest day; and the autopilot controller was removed, taken to pieces and dried out. To our surprise (and joy) it came back to life again.
The weather was wet and windy, so we just stayed aboard and watched the boat traffic coming and going.
Wednesday 18th July
What a change a day makes – Wednesday started in brilliant sunshine and almost no wind. We departed at 09:30 and motored to Cork Harbour, arriving there by 14:15. By
then it was raining again! We pulled in to Salve Marine at Crosshaven, filled up the fuel tank and decided to stay the night there. One of the attractions of being there is they have a small restaurant on site.
Thursday 19th July
Another sunny start, so after a shower we motored up the Owenboy River, as far as Drake’s Pool and then came back down past the Royal Cork Yacht Club admiring the myriad of yachts moored up there and back out into Cork Harbour. From there we went up towards Cobh and turned right and went up to the picturesque East Ferry Marina, at the east side of Great Island, arriving there at 12:30.
The autopilot controller refused to play again, so we had another go at stripping it down and drying it out. This time we managed to break it down into more bits. Although it came to life again, some of the writing on the display didn’t work but that doesn’t stop it doing its job. Wrapped ‘duck tape’ around the edges to try to improve the waterproofing. (Marina cost €18/night)
Friday 20th July
We set off at 09:10 for Kinsale, returning back down East Passage and out through the entrance of Cork Harbour.
Another nice sunny start, but it was clouding over by the time we got as far as Oyster Haven. We arrived in Kinsale and moored alongside a 54ft Moody. Just after we finished tying up, the heavens open up again. What a month for rain!
After lunch, and the rain had passed, we went into Kinsale to do some shopping and find a laundrette. When collecting the laundry later, we got them to give us one of the plastic covers they put around shirts on hangers and put it over the binnacle with the
instruments in front of the steering wheel. We will see if this helps keep the autopilot controller dry for the rest of the journey (or until the next laundrette).
Kinsale is supposed to be the gourmet capital of Ireland and in a butcher’s shop we got some marinated chicken, which made for a very tasty meal later. (Marina cost €38, incl. €6.50 harbour dues)
Saturday 21st July
After showers and another bit of shopping, we motored upstream to look at the marina past James’ Fort and the anchorage near the road bridge. After that we motored slowly out to the Old Head of Kinsale, so as to arrive there at slack water – it has a reputation for being a bit ‘lumpy’, but when we got there at 12:45 it was flat calm.
Past the Old Head the wind filled in from the SW, so we motored into it heading for Glandore. We arrived at around 17:00 and tied up to a Visitor’s Mooring.
We stayed aboard and listened to the Coast Guard organising the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat to rescue a yacht who was caught on a lobster pot mooring off Galley Head, which we had passed 2 hours before. Shortly afterwards the lifeboat towed the yacht into Glandore and moored her up to a Visitor Mooring behind us.
Sunday 22nd July
Weather forecast was for the wind to increase from F3-4 in the morning to F4-5 in the afternoon with rain and increasing to F6 overnight. So we decided to set off early, while to weather was relatively benign. We departed from Glandore at 07:15, after the morning forecast and got into Baltimore at 10:30 with an hours rain en route.
Rather than join the masses tied up at the pontoon, we anchored further up the harbour near to the Lifeboat house. No sooner than we were settling down to a cup of coffee than the lifeboat was called out to go to the assistance of a small fishing boat with a rope wrapped around his propeller. When it returned the lifeboat went out again to Clear Island in the afternoon for their Lifeboat Day and we saw her being hauled back up into the station later on.
Monday 23rd July
As forecast the wind did whip up during the night with plenty of rain and when we came to lift the anchor the following morning, it came up together with a bucket sized lump of thick grey clay. The anchor had been well dug in.
On previous visits when we had left Baltimore, we either went up through the Gascanane Sound between Clear Island and Sherkin Island or on one very calm day we motored out and around the Fastnet Rock. So this time, in keeping with trying something or somewhere new, we left Baltimore harbour via the small north channel around the north end of Sherkin Island. This called for a bit of ‘eye-ball’ navigation past a number of rocks, as the chart plotter didn’t have any detail of this route. But we made it through unscathed and continued west across Long Island Bay to
Crookhaven, arriving at 14:10 in glorious sunshine. Here we made use of a visitor’s mooring for the night (€10/night) and went ashore after exploring around this interesting inlet.
On the west side of the inlet there are old ‘mine workings’, where the locals advised us that it was rock excavation for road building, and both their grandparents had worked there.
Tuesday 24th July
We departed early at 07:20, in order to catch slack water off Mizzen Head (another of those headlands which can be a bit bouncy). By 08:50 we were passed Mizzen Head and the nearby Three Castles Head, where there was little sea but a 1.5m high swell. From there we headed north up to Castletown Berehaven arriving in the harbour area at 10:00. After motoring around a bit looking for a suitable place to anchor, we ended up going round to the next bay and picking up a visitor’s mooring and motoring back ashore in the dinghy. During this time the Castletown Bere Lifeboat was called out to assist a yacht in difficulties off Three Castle Head.
We did the usual bit of shopping and stopped at the famous MacCarthy’s Bar for lunch. Later in the afternoon, with S-SE F6-7 forecast overnight, went down Berehaven sound to Laurence Cove and picked up a visitor’s mooring at the entrance to the harbour and snuggled down for another wet and windy night. En route we passed the lifeboat returning from her rescue mission, having towed the yacht into Laurence Cove.
Wednesday 25th July
And it rained and it blew …. So we stayed put and read (and wrote up the logs for Wks 1&2).
Thurday 26th July
Still blowing but now heavy showers instead of rain. Getting a bit tired of sitting in the boat reading, so went into the marina in the dinghy and had a shower and disposed of a bag of rubbish. Today’s highlight!
Friday 24th July
Weather getting better, so we waved goodbye to our visitor’s mooring and went down to Bantry at the far end of Bantry Bay. This route takes you passed the Whiddy Island oil terminal, but there was no activity when we passed.
Bantry turned out to be quite an attractive town and reasonably large by West Cork standards. A chance to get some washing done at the laundrette and to do a big shop.
Saturday 25th July
Back ashore to pick up the laundry in the morning and then the rain set in around midday. After lunch we moved off and slowly motored out past all the mussel farms and over to Glengarriff, arriving there at 16:00 as the rain started to clear.
We were entertained by some very young seals, playing around in the shallows with their parents and making an odd yelping noise. Initially we thought the heads were so small that they might be otters. But once the adults appeared they were too big and whiskery for otters.
Sunday 29th July
Rest day at Glengarriff. In the morning Maggie & I went across in the dinghy to the Italian gardens at Garnish Island and had a stroll around the gardens looking at the flora and the Italian architectural features. The island is now owned by the Irish Heritage Board, but was brought into being by a Scottish MP (I think their surname was White) and his wife, and later by their son. As a local historical link, the Scottish MP was born in Belfast, But perhaps our main memory of this visit to Glengarriff has to be the seals. The adults were playing with very small pups and presumably the pups were letting out little yelping noises. In the afternoon we sat and enjoyed a lovely sunny couple of hours, watching the world go by. Later we topped up the water tank, ferrying jerry cans to and fro, and walked into the town for a meal later.
Monday 30th July
Maggie departed to return home for an appointment with a consultant at the Ulster Hospital on Wednesday. We arranged for her to get a lift on a scheduled minibus service from Castletown Bere to Cork, which picked her up in Glengarriff en route. The minibus arrived about half an hour later than advised, which didn’t do much for Maggie’s early morning humour – given her need to be early for everything. Because of the delay she missed her planned train at Cork but caught the next, which didn’t result in any over all delay, and she was picked up by Rory in Bangor at 18:30.
Travelling in the opposite direction by car, Liz & Terry descended for an impromptu visit, as Terry found himself with a free week at short notice.
It was our second day of super sunshine – just great. Could get used to this!
Tuesday 31st July
Liz and Terry took the dinghy over for a visit to Garnish after breakfast, whilst David did a bit of a tidy-up aboard and the weekly log write-up. It was another calm sunny day, so we headed off in the afternoon over to Bantry, munching lunch en-route.
As we did last week, we picked up a visitor’s mooring and went into town for an explore and for some shopping.
Wednesday 1st August
We left Bantry at 08:45, while the tide was still high, and left around the south-west side of Whiddy Island, where there is a shallow sand bar. It was the first time we had been through this way but couldn’t see the leading marks which are supposed to lead you over the deepest section of the bar. However with the high water, we got over the bar without problem and were greeted on the other side by a group of large dolphins – the first large group of dolphins we have seen this trip so far.
En route up to Bere Island we called into Adrigole to check out the moorings there and then carried on to Laurence Cove Marina, arriving there by 11:30. We filled up with diesel and water and later went hiking up a hill on the far side of the village of Rerrin so as to get a mobile phone signal and find out had Maggie had got on at The Ulster Hospital. Turns out it was a very short visit, as the specialist decided that as the tests so far had found nothing then there was little he could do and signed her off his books. So the visit was a bit of an anticlimax. However on the positive side, the tests showed there were a lot of illnesses she didn’t have!
In the afternoon a Dutch couple came in and berthed alongside us. They had just arrived directly from the Azores and Laurence Cove was there first stop.
Thursday 2nd August
We let the Dutch couple have a long lie-in and had a quiet morning, looking around the different yachts in the marina and stocking up with milk and bread for lunch.
After they surfaced, we slipped the boat out from inside them and motored up to Castletown Bere and anchored in the harbour.
The place we anchored in was not the best spot, especially as the wind was to rise to gale force later on Friday and we needed reasonable swinging room as the wind changed direction. There were 3 other yachts already in the small anchorage area and gradually as they left, we moved (twice) during the afternoon as the available space changed.
Friday 3rd August
Up early and Terry caught the 07:30 bus back along the coast to Glengarriff to pick up his car. Once back we had a fry-up for breakfast and then Liz & Terry departed for home. Maggie arrived after her marathon journey at 20:00, just as the rain was settling in and the wind gusting strongly.
Saturday 4th August
Weather was still unsettled and to give Maggie a quiet day to recover from her journey yesterday we had a quiet day aboard, with a walk around town later.
Sunday 5th August
After our day of rest yesterday, to allow Maggie to unwind after her trip back from Bangor to Castletown Bere, we departed at 09:45 heading for Darrynane.
Previously we had used the shortcut through Dursay Sound – a relatively narrow gap between Dursey Island and the Beara Peninsula, over which there is a cable car to transport people (and livestock) to and fro the island. We timed our departure such that the tide should be slack going through the sound – it can run up to 4knots at times. However by the time we approached Dursey Island the drizzle had stopped and the sea was relatively calm, although there was still a noticeable swell. As the conditions were reasonable, we decided to go around the outside of Dursey Island, where you pass four small rock outcrops – The Bull, The Cow, The Calf and the Heifer. With the pilot book warning of swell building up in the triangle between the Cow, the Calf and Dursey Island, we steered a course south of the Calf and then north up between the Bull and the Cow. All went well as we approached the Calf and the Heffer, but then the rollers got higher and higher as they rebounded off the Calf. Scenes of the fishing vessel in the film ‘The Perfect Storm’ sprang to mind, as we climbed up and over the rollers. However it was not unsafe as the waves were on the nose and not breaking, but quite scarey all the same. Once clear past the Calf and en route up between the Bull and Cow the seas returned to their normal size, but were now broadside on – so it turned out to be a rolly detour, but we were glad we had done it and now fully appreciate the benefit of the shortcut through the Dursey Sound.
Having gone around the outside of Dursey Island, we were now west of Darrynane
and decided to carry on to Port Magee, near Valencia Island instead – passing the
We arrived in Port Magee around 16:00 and picked up a visitor’s mooring.
Monday 6th & Tuesday 7th August
The wind was a fresh NW’ly, so we stayed on the visitor’s mooring and enjoyed the
sun between the occasional shower. We had thought of going out on a trip to the
Skellig Islands to see the bee-hive huts, which we had visited many years ago, but
thought it was probably a bit rough even though a number of boats did go out.
Wednesday 8th August
Maggie’s brother John was coming over from England to join us for a week and we
arranged for him to come by rail from Dublin and we would meet him in Tralee. The
nearest port for us was the marina in Fenit.
In order to make the best use of the tide this necessitated a departure at first light at
05:15. The sky was starting to lighten to the east but it was still pitch black as we
carefully wound our way westwards from Port Magee down to the open sea at Bray
Crossing the mouth of Dingle Bay towards the Blasket Islands the sun rising behind
the Kerry mountains gave a colourful display of reds and pinks on the clouds. The
dawn sunrise often makes an early start worthwhile.
Derelict cottages with a few summer homes on Great Blasket Island
By 08:45 we had passed through the Blasket Sound and rounded Sybil Head and
Maggie retired to bed for 40 winks. The coast from The Blaskets up to Brandon Head
has steep cliffs and this is usually a rolly journey as the swell rebounds from the cliffs
and interacts with the new incoming swell. Not good conditions to get to sleep in.
During the latter part of the journey we saw three Sunfish – the first on this trip.
We arrived at Fenit at 13:00, just as a fleet of wooden Mermaids (?) were setting out
as part of a week’s regatta.
After a shower to revive us after the early start, we wandered around the harbour and
visited the statue of St Brendan the Navigator, who was born in Fenit, and then up
through the village to ‘the shop’.
Thursday 9th August
We received confirmation from John that he had landed in Dublin and was hotfooting
it from the airport to the train station. There had been a slight delay on this
flight and he had missed the planned bus; so wasn’t sure he would make it to the
station in time.
We got a taxi and went into Tralee in the afternoon and had a walk around the town
and their rose gardens and visited the museum. John had made the train on time and
arrived at he station at 19:05. We ate in a Chinese near the station and then got a taxi
back to the boat in Fenit.
Friday 10th August
The 5-day look-ahead forecast at the marina office was showing gale force northerly
winds for Tuesday, so we altered the original itinerary of visiting Kilrush for a couple
of days before moving on to the Aran Islands to an overnight stop at Carrickaholt
nearer the mouth of the Shannon and then straight up to the Aran Islands.
We left at around 10:00 and sailed for the next hour and a half, until the boat speed
dropped too much as the wind died away and then motored the rest of the way past
Kerry Head in a big swell and then across the Shannon estuary to Carrickaholt, where
we picked up a visitor’s mooring for the night. As it was raining, we stayed aboard.
We debated whether the swell in the bay was excessive, but it seemed to die away in
the evening and we retired to bed. During the night the tide changed and the boat
turned broadside to the swell and we rolled and rolled for couple of hours, with
various things clanking and banging. So much so that David threatened to get up and
leave at 04:30 but the tide turned and we all fell back to sleep again.
The moorings at Carrickaholt had been the same two years ago when we came up the
west coast, but there is no where better to overnight unless you go further into the
Shannon up to Kilrush.
Saturday 11th August
The alarm clock woke us up at 06:00 and we were dressed and underway by 06:15.
With an ebb tide we sailed down and left the Shannon Estuary and turned north past
Loop Head by 08:00. Half an hour later the wind had dropped a bit and swung round
so that we couldn’t sail directly towards the Aran Islands, so we reverted to motorsailing and then later dropped the sails all together.
In the Shannon Estuary we saw our first pods of Common dolphins and later another
It was a grey wet day with only about 1-2 miles of visibility, which made it a rather
boring passage up to the Aran Islands. The visibility lifted a bit as we approached
Gregory Sound, between the largest island Inishmore and it’s neighbour Inishmaan.
The Aran Islands are made from horizontal layers of limestone, which gives them a
very distinctive appearance.
After passing through Gregory sound we tuned in past Straw Island into Killeany Bay
and picked up a visitor’s mooring off the main village of Kilronan and had a late
Sunday 12th August
The start of week 6 found us at Inishmore in the Aran Islands, off Galway. Inish, meaning island in Irish Gaelic and Mor meaning big, Inishmore is the largest of three islands running approximately in an east – west direction at the mouth of Galway Bay.
For a yachtsman, Inishmore has the best anchorage of the three islands; but for the tourist, it has the ancient Celtic cliff-top fort of Dun Angus. This is a semi-circular stone walled fort, which backs onto 70m high vertical sea-cliffs and has good views over all of the surrounding land, making it a very strong defensive position. The fort has three separate sets of walls and archaeologists believe its construction began in the late Bronze Age and was further fortified during the Iron Age.
An aerial photo is really required to appreciate the shape and size of the fort, but the photo below shows the inner semi-circle of the fort.
We went up and explored the fort in the morning, (making use of a mini-bus this time – having cycled it two years ago) and then walked out to another similar fort – Dun Duchathair (The Black Fort) at the other end of the island in the afternoon.
Monday 13th August
Maggie’s brother John, who joined us last Thursday, had to be dropped off in Galway on Friday 17th. So with unsettled weather forecast for later in the week, we left Inishmore and sailed down past the other two islands in the Aran ‘chain’ and then over to Galway in sunshine.
The middle island is Inishmann and the most easterly and smallest island is Inisheer.
Both islands have ruins of old forts and churches, dating from the early Christianity
period. However Inisheer has recently become more famous as ‘Craggy Island’ in the
opening sequences of TV comedy series Father Ted.
With a light westerly wind behind us, we had a leisurely sail past the islands, then
over to Black Head on the south side of Galway Bay and on up to Galway itself.
Shadowing us was a three-masted French Brig (?), which was also sailing from
Inishmore to Galway. The entrance into Galway Harbour has lock gates, which only
open from 2 hours before high water until high water. This gave us a couple of hours
to spare, so we went into an adjacent bay and picked up a visitor’s mooring opposite
Galway Bay Sailing Club and were able to nip in for a quick shower. (On these trips,
a hot shower becomes a significant highlight – even for the men aboard!)
Then, clean again, we proceeded across to the harbour and followed another yacht
into the yacht berthing area at the west side of the harbour. The French 3-masted boat
came in shortly afterwards. The harbour is well sheltered and the water level only
changes by a few feet during the time the lock gates are open. However the entrapped
water is a bit ‘green’, with an accumulation of floating rubbish blown into the corners.
The streets behind the harbour quickly become a pedestrian area full of cafes and
restaurants and we were spoilt for choice as to where to eat.
Tuesday 14th August
Tuesday was a ‘domestic’ day – with visits to the laundrette, shopping, and the
Tourist Office, where we booked to go on a bus tour around the Burren area.
The weather was beginning to break and rains set in again.
Wednesday 15th August
We set off on our bus trip to the Burren around 10am. The party aboard the bus was
split between a walking party (including ourselves), who were marched up one of the
‘hills’ in the Burren by a guide explaining the flora and geology of the area, and the
non-walkers, who stopped at some caves to view stalactites. Following this we
reassembled aboard the bus and headed down some very twisting narrow roads to the
Cliffs of Moher.
The Burren is a limestone region that from a distance looks very bare. However
during our walk we saw that there are grassy areas between the rock outcrops and
local farmers, who own the hills, leave these areas covered with wild flowers during
the summer months and then move their cattle up into the hills for 10 weeks in
December. Being a limestone area the grass doesn’t retain any rainwater so the grass
doesn’t get damaged by the cattle in the winter. It was very interesting, if initially a bit
wet in a heavy shower and exhausting following a long-legged, fit guide up the hill.
The Cliffs of Moher are another well known feature of the region. On top of the
limestone, which was exposed in the Burren by glacial activity, was sandstone and
then shale (formed by mud deposits). All three layers were visible at the Cliffs of
Moher, which although not the highest seacliffs in Ireland are certainly very
spectacular, with a 200m drop into the sea.
After all the fresh air, we stopped for lunch at a pub in Doolin and then returned along
the coast back to Galway.
Thursday 16th August
In the morning we explored a bit more of the town, following the river up to the
salmon weir and then went in search of a replacement gas cylinder. His led us out of
the centre to a new shopping centre, where as well as getting the gas cylinder replaced
we found a large Tesco store, so topped up with food and drink and ferried the whole
lot back to the boat in a taxi.
In the afternoon, we filled up with water, checked the diesel and engine and generally
got the boat ready for leaving on Friday. Maggie and John took an open-topped bus
ride around the city and visited the 3-masted ‘Jeanie Johnston’, an Irish-owned vessel
that is a recently built replica of a famous emigration ship based in Tralee.
While we had been in the harbour, two small tankers had come in on the evening high
tide, manoeuvred around a tight bend and berthed at the opposite side of the harbour.
The manoeuvring was always interesting to watch as the stern of the tanker came
close to the moored yachts. They discharged their cargos and left on the tide the
On Thursday evening another tanker came in and wanted to berth the other way
round. So she turned with her bow towards the yachts and kept coming forward until
her stern had cleared the end of the entrance channel, so she could back up into her
berth. To help the bow to come round they had a rope from the bow to the quay,
pulling the bow round. Unfortunately this rope broke and she ended up ‘very close’ to
the Jeanie Johnston and then close to us as well as she swung around. The deck
officers were running around shouting commands into their handheld radios, but they
recovered well and she avoided touching any other boats.
Friday 17th August
We were up early, as John had to be at the station by 09:15 and we had to leave the
harbour by 08:30. However the 07:05 forecast was giving strong to gale force
southerly winds for Friday afternoon and then similar strength winds from the W-NW
on Saturday afternoon as another depression passed over Ireland. So we somewhat
reluctantly decided to stay in Galway Harbour until the wind die down before heading
up the next exposed section of coast up to Donegal.
After getting John off to catch his train, we had a quiet day browsing around the
smaller shops (stocking up on books to read), etc.
Saturday 18th August
Sitting writing the log. The rain and strong southerly winds seem to have died away,
but strong W-NW winds and showers forecast for this afternoon. So plan to get this
log finished off and get it sent off via an internet café and then go to the cinema later,
in anticipation of setting off tomorrow, weather permitting.
Sunday 19th August
Week 7 started with us still in Galway, waiting for the weather to improve. The forecast was for force 6-7 N to NW winds. So we had to stay put for another day and went for a walk out to the lighthouse on Mutton Island and then up the river and back through the city centre. Having been here for a week now, we are starting to feel like locals.
Monday 20th August
Despite the forecast still being marginal by Maggie’s standards, we decided to leave the sheltered confines of Galway harbour and to see what the conditions outside were like. Tall buildings surround the harbour, so it is difficult to feel how strong the wind is actually blowing. On our walk out to the lighthouse yesterday we were left with the feeling it was not as bad as forecast and perhaps we should have gone then.
To leave the harbour it is necessary to go in or out between 2 hours before High Water and High Water. A tanker had called up the harbour pilots to request a pilot for them to come in, so we cast off and departed at 08:30 just as the gates opened – so we didn’t get caught up with the tanker manoeuvring in through the dredged channel leading into the harbour.
After clearing the buoyed channel we motored along the north coast of Galway Bay towards Cashla Bay. The wind was Force 5 from the North West, but being an offshore wind there was not much sea and wasn’t too uncomfortable, except when we were hit by a rain squall on the way into Cashla Bay – making spotting and avoiding lobster pot buoys very difficult.
Tuesday 21st August
We had expected the weather to keep us in Cashla Bay for another day, as the next leg
of our journey would be west and then north up to Slyne Head. However there was
little wind when we finally got up, after having a lie-in. So after a hasty breakfast we
left the visitor’s mooring and motored out past the rocks at the western entrance of
Cashla Bay and hoisted the sails. The wind was Northerly and would give us a good
reach for a couple of hours before we turned north up through the rocky islands
enroute up to Slyne Head.
The wind was gusting 15-20kns and we were racing along at 6.5kns. But ….. we had
not realised there was a submerged rock in our path and we hit it and the boat
instantly stopped and tilted forward. A couple of feet north or south of it and we
would have sailed past oblivious to it.
In the long seconds following such an incident, we started the engine and were
thinking of dropping the sails when we realised we had passed the rock and were
sailing on. A check of the chart and electronic chart plotter clearly showed the rock,
called English Rock, but because we were concentrating on sailing in the gusty
conditions, we hadn’t seen it. The boat has a very loud bilge pump alarm, so we
quickly realised that there was no leak but we had obviously bent the keel backwards
and that in turn had buckled upwards the floor stiffeners.
Once we recovered our composure, we took down the sails and motored to the nearest anchorage at Roundstone and a strong drink was called for when we were safely tiedup to a visitor’s mooring.
Wednesday 22nd August
Still a bit shaken, we moved on and headed for Slyne Head at 06:30, planning to
round it at slack tide, when the seas would be minimised.
The day started clear, with the sun rising as we left. By 09:00 when we rounded Slyne
Head a bank of mist/fog had rolled in with a NE wind, so it was quite cold but
reasonably calm. We passed Inishboffin, which we visited two years ago and motored
on to the smaller Inishturk, arriving there in time for a late lunch and the sun returned.
We debated whether to stay at Inishturk or move on to the next island Clare to stay
overnight. Both have slightly exposed anchorages, but as the Irish Cruising Club’s
guide said that Inishturk had a shop, pub and restaurant and we knew the shop on
Clare was quite a long walk from the harbour, we decided to stay where we were.
We went ashore mid-afternoon to find that the shop only opened from 17:30 – 18:30
and there was no pub or restaurant! Bad choice. After a walk across the island and a
wait down by the harbour, we stocked up with bread and milk and retired aboard for
more home cooking.
Thursday 23rd August
Overnight there was a bit of swell and the buoy on the visitor’s mooring squeaked all
night like a really good snorer, until the tide turned at 03:00. So we were happy to get
up and leave early at 07:00.
We headed direct for Achill Head leaving Clare Island to starboard. By 09:00 the
visibility was down to 3 miles and we had the radar on to look out for other boats
approaching. We passed Achill Head at 09:50 in thick fog. Immediately north of
Achill Head are the highest sea cliffs in Ireland – normally very spectacular, but all
we could see was the base of the cliffs.
We carried on in fog outside of all of the islands west of the Belmullet peninsula and
round into Broad Haven Bay. During the afternoon the fog would thin with blue sky
overhead, giving the impression that the fog was about to disappear and then it would
suddenly get thicker than ever. However as we entered Broad Haven Bay we left the
fog behind as we crossed to the mouth of the bay at Gubacashel Point and up the
estuary to Ballyglass, arriving about 14:30.
After another late lunch, we went ashore and got a lift into the nearest town of
Belmullet for some food and shopping.
Friday 24th August
Our next hop was from Broad Haven Bay across Donegal Bay to a small inlet, called
We departed at 08:10 in misty drizzle and poor visibility. The viz lifted a bit as we
passed Kid Island and the Stags off the east side of Broad Haven Bay and then the fog
lifted and we had a sunny day all the way across to the coast of Donegal, where it
closed in again.
It was a long, rather monotonous crossing with a light SW wind but we arrived into
Teelin at 17:00 and joined with a couple of other visiting yachts in the anchorage area.
Saturday 25th August
The forecast was SW Force 4-5, occasionally 6 – which was marginal for our next leg
up to Aran Island. (Yes a bit confusing, as we had already visited the Aran Islands –
but that’s Ireland!!)
We decided to give it a try but had to have a rethink after bashing into large seas for
half an hour and turned around and headed instead back past Teelin to Killybegs, the
largest fishing port on the NW coast.
We were low on diesel and managed to arrange for a tanker to come down to the pier
and fill us up. At this stage we were moored outside two fishing boats, so we decided
to move across and pick-up a vacant yacht mooring and keep our fingers crossed the
owner wouldn’t return too soon. However during the afternoon the wind shifted and
we came close to touching the nearest yacht, so decided to depart from Killibegs and
return to Teelin for the night.
Sunday 26th August
We left Teelin, on the S. coast of Donegal at 09:15 and headed out of Donegal Bay bound for Aran Island (our second attempt). The sea was significantly reduced from yesterday but was still a bit rolly.
By 10:45 we had passed inside of Rathlin O’Birne Island and then on past Malin More Head, where the seas became a bit steeper and more confused and they bounced back off the cliffs. The visibility was reasonable and we soon could see Aran Island ahead.
The passage from the south up Aran Sound is very shallow, so we played safe and rounded the North of Aran and back down to the anchorage in Aran Roads, arriving at 16:00. Two of the cruising yachts we had seen in Teelin arrived in shortly after us.
The anchorage is well protected around the east side of Aran Island, but the W-NW swell curled and rolled down Aran Sound and then curled and came into where we were anchored, as a short steep chop at 90 degrees to the direction of the wind. So we had a rather uncomfortable night as the boat rocked from side to side, leaving us both feeling a bit queasy.
Monday 27th August
We had already planned for an early start, but given the disturbed night’s sleep we were up and ready to go as soon as we had heard the 07:05 forecast. The visibility was again poor, so we kept well outside all of the isolated rocks enroute up to today’s major headland – Bloody Foreland.
Despite it’s name it is quite unimpressive, being a long low lying spit of land with a
lighthouse at it’s end. We rounded it at 10:20 and were able to turn more to the
northeast, allowing the seas to come more from behind us and giving us a slightly
After Bloody Foreland the sky cleared and we could see Tory Island to the north and
watched a ferry coming across from the island to the mainland. We have never visited
Tory Island, but we would have needed better weather than we had today.
By 14:45 we were at Fanad Head, on the west side of the entrance to Lough Swilly.
As Loch Swilly faces north, we were worried about whether the swell would dissipate
sufficiently as it rumbled down the Lough. There is a marina at the south end of the
Lough, but that was 2.5hrs motoring to get there and required us to enter around high
water. Otherwise all of the other anchorages were a bit exposed to swell.
We headed for Port Salon, which is the first sheltered anchorage on the west side of
the Lough. There was some swell, but less than last night. So we went ashore and had
an evening meal in the restaurant and retired for an early night.
Tuesday 28th August
Today’s passage was around Malin Head, at the northern tip of Ireland and it is
probably the worst headland to round in Ireland. With strong tides and tidal eddies at
the tip of the headland, it generates lots of big confused seas and broken water.
We left Port Salon at 06:15 in order to get to Malin Head at slack water at the start of
the flood tide.
The wind had dropped overnight and the sea had quietened down as a result. So the
passage up to Malin Head was quite comfortable. However off the Head we could see
white tops to the waves, indicating broken water. So we braced ourselves and rounded
the headland and after a few tense minutes were through the worst of the broken water and on our way South East down to Lough Foyle and N.Ireland.
The next obstacle having rounded the Head is the Garvin Isles, a chain of small
islands stretching out from the shore and further out the larger island of Inishtrahull
and adjacent rocks. Last time we rounded Malin Head we went outside of the Garvin
Isles, but the pilot book said there was a passage inside which shortened the route and
kept us out of the main fast-flowing tidal stream.
So we passed inside of the Garvin Isles, in relatively calm water, breathed a sigh of
relief and put the kettle on for a well-deserved cup of coffee and some breakfast.
With the tide behind us we reached Portrush harbour at 12:10, tied up and went ashore to unwind and have lunch at the restaurant on the pier.
The distance from Portrush to Bangor is too far to be able to do it one tide and there
are strong tides to consider passing through Rathlin Sound and down the North
Channel. So we waited in Portrush during the afternoon and then moved on to
Ballycastle late afternoon, once the flood tide started. This got us into Ballycastle at
19:30, leaving us just a 6-hour passage the following day down to Bangor.
The Harbourmaster was on the pontoon to direct us where to berth and assist with our
ropes – having just had 4 other yachts arrive shortly before us. The marina was full
and as it was the last day of the traditional Lammas Fair in Ballycastle, the town was
Wednesday 29th August
We snuck out of the marina as quietly as possible at 06:30, so as not to waken too
many fellow boaters and set off for the iconic Fair Head. Unfortunately the sun was
rising behind it, so we couldn’t photograph it as we approached and by the time we
had rounded it the cloud had blotted out the early morning sun, so our chance was
We were in a period of Spring Tides and were travelling at 12.7 knots past Fair Head
(as compared to our normal 6+ knots) and maintained a speed of over 9 knots down as
far as Garron Head. From there the tide still helped us along at 8 knots, so we arrived
in Bangor at 12:00.
So we were back home safe and well, exactly 7 weeks to the day since we departed
for our Round Ireland 2007 trip. Compared to our 2005 trip, we had much more wind
and rain – but I guess everyone had this summer. What happened to the record hot
summer they were predicting earlier in the year?
It was nice to revisit some of our favourite stops in the SW of Ireland and to explore
some new ones.