This coast includes the Dingle Peninsula, with its towering cliffs and the awesome Blasket Islands offshore, Tralee Bay and the long estuary of the Shannon. Then the cliffbound west coast of Clare and the famous Aran Islands, and finally the low and rocky shores of Galway Bay leading to the lively city of Galway itself. Many yachts make the direct crossing from Dingle to Kilronan, but the coastwise passage in stages is worth the time. There are strong tides in Blasket Sound and in the narrow parts of the Shannon, and offshore the coast is exposed to the Atlantic swell. The scenery is stunning. Detailed pilotage is in the ICC Sailing Directions.
Dingle to Brandon Bay (32 miles) or Fenit (42 miles)
If the longer trip to Fenit Marina doesn’t appeal and if there’s no north in the wind, Brandon Bay is a good overnight destination. Ten miles from Dingle, Blasket Sound can be rough, and in these conditions is best done on a slack tide. The Blaskets themselves are well worth exploring, although only Great Blasket offers easy landing. Smerwick harbour is a useful bolt-hole if needed, with a pub at Ballydavid. Brandon village boasts two pubs one of which serves pub-grub. Magharee Sound is straightforward and the islands have a pleasant anchorage.
Fenit has an excellent and sheltered marina. Village facilities include a small supermarket, two pubs, a good restaurant and a cafe. At week-ends or on mid-week race night the Tralee Bay S C clubhouse overlooking the Marina welcomes visitors.
Fenit to Kilrush (33 miles)
Fenit, it’s worth catching the flood tide into the Shannon. The passage is straightforward as far as Kilcredaun Head, where a nasty tide-race can be avoided by staying close inshore. Carrigaholt is a nice stopping-off point.
Kilrush has a marina in a basin enclosed by a lock gate. This Heritage Town has a boatyard, supermarkets and good pubs and restaurants. 45 minutes by road from Shannon airport, it’s a good place for crew changes.
The trip up the Shannon is lovely, and can be shortened by taking the flood up and the ebb down. Foynes YC has its own pontoon. If time permits, it’s well worth exploring the Fergus estuary, which has some lovely anchorages, and also the River Deel.
Kilrush to Kilronan (53 miles)
Kilbaha offers a possible anchorage to break this long trip. There are no good harbours on the west coast of County Clare. On a fine day the cliff scenery is lovely but you may wish to admire from a safe distance! The channels between the three Aran Islands are straightforward. Kilronan, on the largest island Inishmore, has a fine new harbour. Inishmore has the amazing prehistoric fort of Dun Aengus, a World Heritage Site, and it attracts thousands of tourists. Kilronan has supermarket, shops, pubs and restaurants. A lovely bay at Portmurvy offers temporary anchorage and is handy for Dun Aengus.
Of the smaller islands, Inishmaan also has a good new harbour, while Inisheer has just an open roadstead and pier.
Golam Hd, about 10 miles NW of Kilronan, is the key landmark on the Connemara coast, and it might be tempting to head for there on departing Kilronan. But if time allows, Galway City will prove a memorable point in your round Ireland cruise. Being the destination of the 2012 Volvo Ocean Race , and a stopover in the previous one, Galway can now nicely accommodate visiting yachtsmen in the Harbour Marina. Access is through lockgates close to HW. With a well stocked chandlery, excellent shopping, and a great selection of pubs and restaurants, all within a short stroll of the harbour, Galway is definitly worth a visit. With good mainline bus and train services it is also a good crew changeover point.
Dingle to Galway – thanks to Brendan Travers.
Thanks goes to Norman Kean of ICC Publications for contributions, editing and charts adapted from their publication “Cruising Ireland”.