Killybegs is Ireland’s largest fishing port and is sheltered in all weathers. Any maintenance issues on board can be dealt with here, and there are plenty of places to enjoy a night out and now with small marina.
The course leads past the cliffs of Slieve League, the second-highest in Ireland. Teelin offers an excellent temporary or overnight stop, with access by road to the mountain. To the west are White Strand and Malin Beg Bays, then the lighthouse island of Rathlin O’Birne offshore. The coast from here north-east is magnificent, with towering cliffs and stacks. Dawros Bay is a feasible anchorage but Church Pool, near the holiday village of Portnoo, is more sheltered and has visitors’ moorings.
Church Pool to Burtonport (25 miles)
Arranmore island shelters a shallow sound with the fishing and ferry port of Burtonport on the mainland. The north entrance to the sound is simplest but in fair weather with some rise of tide, the south is straightforward. Arranmore has visitors’ moorings, restaurants and pubs, and an alongside berth is available in Burtonport, which has a good seafood restaurant, and diesel by hose on the pier.
Burtonport to Tory Island (20 miles)
Heading north you will pass an archipelago of islands and either Gola or Inishmeane makes an interesting stop for lunch, walk or swim. This coast is the wild west and indeed one of the last unspoilt sailing destinations. Tory is the most remote island of the Irish coast and no doubt you will receive a real Tory welcome from Patsy Dan, the island’s King. There is an active group of artists on Tory whose work has been displayed world wide, formally established by the late Derek Hill.
The north coast continues cliffbound, with the broad inlet of Sheep Haven to the east of Horn Head. The holiday village of Downings has visitors’ moorings, but for better shelter continue round Melmore head and into Mulroy Bay, where Fanny’s Bay is a beautiful anchorage only a mile’s walk from Downings over the hill.
The inner reaches of Mulroy Bay offer some intricate pilotage and call for tidal planning, but are quiet and beautiful.
Mulroy Bay to Fahan or Rathmullan in Lough Swilly (23 miles)
A short trip round Fanad Head leads to Lough Swilly, the north coast’s best sailing water. The Lough is a historic place and was a strategic harbour from the earliest times.
There is a marina at Fahan, and on the opposite side Rathmullan offers pontoon facilities or anchorage. Both have excellent eateries and pubs. Fahan is just six miles by road from Derry/Londonderry. The ancient round fort Grianan of Aileach is well worth a visit.
Portsalon, near the mouth of the Lough, has visitors’ moorings.
Malin Head has fast tides and is the windiest corner of Ireland, so this passage calls for careful planning. Passing through Inishtrahull Sound the scenery of Inishowen is dramatic.
The passage can be shortened by a stopover at Malin Pier, Inishtrahull or Culdaff Bay.
Greencastle is a fishing and ferry harbour and offers good shelter; it’s a handy place to wait for the tide up to Derry, or you may decide to head on to Portrush or Coleraine.
The vibrant city of Derry/Londonderry was City of Culture 2013 and a huge range of events is scheduled – consult the web for details. There is a marina in the city centre.
Clare Island to Lough Foyle – thanks to Richard Timony
Thank you to Norman Keane and ICC Publications for use of their regional map images from their publications.