Ballycotton Bay provides excellent holding at a good anchorage in all westerly conditions. The area is somewhat affected by winds with a northerly component but strong south-easterly and southerly conditions send heavy rollers into the bay making it highly uncomfortable. Access is straightforward as there are no off-lying dangers for an eastern approach.
Keyfacts for Ballycotton
SummaryA good location with straightforward access.
LWS draught2 metres (6.56 feet).
Today's tide estimates
|HW 00:04||LW 06:36|
|HW 12:20||LW 19:14|
Position and approaches
Haven position51° 49.700' N, 008° 0.040' W
Ballycotton harbour's eastern pierhead by the entrance.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
Not what you need?
- Knockadoon Harbour - 6.1 miles NE
- Aghada - 7.8 miles W
- Northeast of Great Island - 8.1 miles WNW
- East Ferry Marina - 8.2 miles WNW
- White Bay - 9.4 miles W
How to get in?
Ballycotton Harbour is a small artificial harbour situated on the north side of Ballycotton Point in the southwest end of Ballycotton Bay. The small fishing pier extending from the extremity of the point with its village overlooking it from the rocky cliffs above.
Eastern approaches are directly into the wide open and unobstructed Ballycotton Bay located to the north of Ballycotton Island. The bay is entered from the east between Ballycotton Island and Knockadoon Head situated about 5.5 miles east.
A prominent old square tower stands on Knockadoon Head, and Capel Island that lies about half a mile east of the head, has a 37 metre high white tower standing on its summit.
If approaching from the west it is best to pass to the south of The Smiths that lie about 0.8 of a mile offshore and 1.5 miles southwest of Ballycotton Island.
The Smiths consists of three distinct pinnacle rocks, one of which dries, and the Wheat Rocks, that dry, lie between them and the mainland. They are marked by a port marker and are covered by the white sector of Ballycotton lighthouse.
The Smiths – Red Buoy Fl (3)R. 10s position: 51°48.615'N, 008°00.726'W
Ballycotton Bay is readily identified by the 50 metres high and bold-to Ballycotton Island, the outer of two small islands that shelter Ballycotton Bay to the south. Ballycotton Island is distinguished by its 15 metre high black lighthouse that stands on its summit with enclosing white walls.
Ballycotton Lighthouse - Fl WR 10s position: 51° 49.522N 007° 59.169W
The inner island immediately east of the point, called Small Island, is 16 metres high and is connected with the mainland by a bed of rocks that uncover on the last quarter ebb. The channel between the islands, called Ballycotton Sound, is a quarter of a mile wide and is obstructed by the Sound Rock that shows its head between the seas at low water.
The initial fix is within Ballycotton Bay and assumes a vessel has either arrived from the east or via a western approach that rounds to the south of Ballycotton Island; keep at least a quarter of a mile off at all times.
There is a passage through Ballycotton Sound, to the west of Ballycotton Island and to the east of Sound Rock, that in fair weather with good visibility may be utilised by leisure craft. It is 150 metres wide and carries about 4 metres of water. If conditions lend themselves this cut between the islands may be used by passing to the east of the Sound Rock; staying between 150 metres and 100 metres from the outer island, which should not be approached any closer on account of skirting rocks on its western side.
Proceeding in from the Ballycotton initial fix will take a vessel past the north side of both islets. The small fishing boat harbour pier, at the north side of the extreme point of the mainland and just within the western island, will be clearly seen.
Immediately to the north-west of the harbour entrance are six big yellow mooring buoys outside the wall. These are provided by the Board of Works to promote cruising.
The moorings are rated to 15 tons and are large, coloured bright yellow and labelled VISITOR. Land at the lifeboat station slipway or the beach at the head of the harbour.
Ballycotton moorings – position: 51° 50.000’N 008° 00.000’W.
Vessels may also come alongside in the harbour that is predominantly used by fishing boats and a lifeboat. It is protected by a breakwater and has a depth of 3.7 metres in the entrance, which is 25 metres wide.
The pier is 150 metres long, has limited water alongside and has a best depth of 1.5 metres LWS. The harbour shelves to the south where it dries entirely. It is subject to a heavy ground swell in southerly winds and is not lit.
Pier space is highly constrained and the walls are made of rough steel-pile shuttering so a fendered plank, to protect the topsides, is essential. There are no convenient rings in the walls to take a warp so vessels coming alongside will need a man ashore to take the lines. As the walls are high the only usable berth is off the steps. The best berthing arrangement will be to raft up alongside a fishing boat that has no plans to depart in the near future.
Vessels may anchor anywhere in the outer bay that affords good shelter as a whole. The soundings are regular, and shoal gradually from about 15 metres abreast of the lighthouse, to 5 metres at half a mile's distance from the western shore. The bottom has very good holding ground, being sand over mud and clay. Very little sea comes in between the islands, even at high water when there is any western component in the wind. But with the wind from the east of south, a heavy sea rolls in.
What's the story here?Ballycotton, in Irish Baile Choitín, is a quaint small and picturesque fishing village. Perched on a rocky-ledge it overlooks a fine sandy beach that stretches 25 km east to Knockadoon Head. The current village is a re-settlement of an older village which is now entirely underwater as the area experiences severe coastal erosion with several metres of land crumbling into the sea every few years.
The areas main note in history is marked by the discovery, documented in the British Museum as "said to have been found in or near Ballycotton Bog", of a 9th-century jewelled Celtic cross. The cross has a central glass jewel with an inscription of the Bismillah in Kufic script that may be interpreted as; As God wills or In the name of Allah or We have repented to God. In 1875 a local antiquarian, Philip T. Gardner, donated the Ballycotton cross to the British Museum where it is located today in the museum's brooch collection. The cross is seen as an early indicator of links between Ireland, Britain, and early Islam, and has been cited in academic papers and histories of Islam's presence in the late Dark Ages within Northern Europe.
Ballycotton Island’s lighthouse is the hallmark of the haven, but the tower on Capel Island situated six miles to the east, predates the Ballycotton lighthouse. In the early nineteenth century the Ballast Board recommended a lighthouse should be installed on Ballycotton Island and Mine Head to protect this length of coast. But Cork’s merchants and ship owners vehemently disagreed and spent 19 years lobbying to have a lighthouse set on Capel Island instead. Finally they got their way and in 1847 a reluctant Ballast Board commenced the construction of Capel Island lighthouse.
The original Ballycotton Island lighthouse keeper and his family lived on the island; their children rowed ashore to school when weather permitted. By 1899 the lighthouse’s four keepers were housed in the town with the keepers rotating lighthouse duty. In 1975 the light was converted to electricity and it was automated on 28 March 1992 when the lighthouse keepers were withdrawn.
In the summer of 1995 the town almost featured in a scene in the major movie 'Divine Rapture'. It starred Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp and Debra Winger but unfortunately the production went bankrupt two weeks after starting and it was never made. The taste of drama never departed the local community who today host an annual arts festival called the 8 Degrees West Arts Festival. The festival is named after the line of longitude which runs between the island and the mainland and is held on the first weekend of June.
The area is most noted today for its 9 km scenic cliff walk extending westward to Ballytrasna. The goat-track like walk has occasional safety fencing, as required, and bench seats placed at the better viewing points. The walk provides excellent opportunities to take photographs of the cliffs and seascapes. It also offers a good chance of spotting Peregrine Falcons near the rocky inlets at dawn and dusk. Wildlife is truly plentiful in the area, with seals and dolphins being regular harbour visitors. The nearby beach at Ballynamona is part of a wildlife sanctuary, and herons, oystercatchers and sandhoppers are regularly spotted.
Alongside this wildlife many artists, craftspeople, including woodworkers, painters, potters, writers and musicians who regularly exhibit at the Stephen Pearce Gallery in Shanagarry, make their home in this area. Several big names in entertainment have also chosen the relative seclusion and natural beauty of Ballycotton for their home. These qualities sit alongside many fine public houses that have excellent traditional music.
What facilities are available?Fresh water is available from a tap on the pier plus modest usage of electricity is permitted at the seaward end of the south jetty. There is a bar above the moorings that often has traditional music. The small village, that is situated about 20 minutes’ walk away, offers basic provisioning, a post office and three bars. One of the bars serves food and there is also a restaurant. Ballycotton is situated about 25 miles east of Cork city and is serviced by three buses a day to Midleton.
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel anchored or on moorings off Ballycotton.
With thanks to:Burke Corbett, Gusserane, New Ross, Co. Wexford. Photographs: With thanks, litlg, Finbar Cotter, David Pickersgill, Michael Harpur and Burke Corbett plus a very special thank you for the beautiful images of John Finn.
The above plots are not precise and indicative only.
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