The coast between Kinsale and Crookhaven is varied and spectacular. As you travel west this wonderful landscape and coastline becomes increasingly wild and rugged. It’s dotted with beautiful sheltered harbours offering you a chance to explore on land after your adventurous day’s sailing. In general tides are not particularly strong along the south-west coast, but you will experience a tidal race at a some headlands and channels, particularly the Old Head of Kinsale, Galley Head, Cape Clear and Gascanane Sound. Refer to the ICC Sailing Directions for detailed tidal and pilotage information.
Kinsale to Glandore (30 miles)
Kinsale to Glandore is the classic first leg for most yachts heading west. Once round the Old Head, the next headland in sight is the Seven Heads, 7 miles, followed by Galley Head, another ten miles. The prevailing SW winds may have you tacking into both Courtmacsherry Bay and Clonakilty Bay for smooth water. Once clear west of Galley Head you can head for Adam Island at the entrance to Glandore Harbour.
Glandore has pubs and restaurants, and the larger fishing village of Union Hall across the harbour has supermarkets (and an outstanding fish shop) as well.
To break up this leg, an often overlooked option is Courtmacsherry, well worth the visit. The bar at the entrance has 2.5m at half tide and the channel is well marked. A warm welcome is always at hand in the hotel and three pubs.
Glandore to Baltimore (15 miles)
From Glandore, head SW past High Island, and between Toe Head and the Stags, where the 1986 wreck of the ore carrier Kowloon Bridge is one of the biggest in the world. Rounding Kedge Island takes you to the entrance to the spacious and sheltered Baltimore Harbour. Baltimore has good pubs and restaurants, a shop, and diesel by hose.
Alternatives along the way are Castletownshend and Barloge. which are highly recommended. Castletownshend, on a beautiful and sheltered harbour, has the renowned Mary Anne’s pub where your host Fergus will serve up the finest local produce.
A beautiful lunch spot is Barloge creek, at the mouth of Ireland’s first marine nature reserve Lough Hyne. Lough Hyne is a salt water lake with a diverse range of wildlife. It’s well worth a trip in your dinghy to the rapids where the lough empties into the creek.
Baltimore to Schull (7 miles by the direct route)
Today is your chance to explore the wonderful Roaringwater Bay with its many islands. You can leave Baltimore by either N or S entrance; the north is trickier but more sheltered and interesting, and recently simplified with new buoyage. The south route leads to Gascanane Sound between Cape Clear and Sherkin Islands. Within Roaringwater Bay there are too many spectacular anchorages and swim spots to mention here. They are all in the Sailing Directions. Cape Clear is worth a special mention and a day on the island exploring and relaxing is worthwhile. If conditions allow, its South Harbour is well worth a visit.
Schull is a vibrant village and a busy and popular sailing centre with good shops and pubs.
Schull to Crookhaven (8 miles by the direct route)
Long Island Sound and out to sea east of Goat Island is the most rewarding route to take you to Crookhaven. Although it’s not on your direct route, you can’t visit south-west Ireland without sailing round the famous Fastnet Rock, 4 miles SW of Cape Clear. The detour round the Rock adds 8 miles to your day’s run from Schull.
Crookhaven is well protected in all but easterly winds (but may be a little windswept in strong westerlies). Be sure to check out Sullivan’s Bar for a pint and the Crookhaven Inn for great local produce. A brisk walk from Crookhaven brings you to the Mizen Head visitor centre, an excellent lighthouse museum on Ireland’s south-westernmost headland.
Kinsale to Crookhaven – thanks to James Lyons of Sovereign Sailing.
Thanks goes to Norman Kean of ICC Publications for contributions, editing and charts adapted from their publication “Cruising Ireland”.