• Ireland - Info

    Canoe Association of Northern Ireland website - the official Association for Northern Ireland, affiliated to the BCU.

    Irish Canoe Union's website - the official Association for Ireland. Affiliated to the International and European Canoe Federations

    The Irish Sea Kayaking Association has an informative site and "independently represents sea-kayaking in Ireland".

    Bing Maps will help you find places mentioned.

    Planning your first multi-day trip? Mark Rainsley's article "a Special Kind of Freedom" is essential reading.

    Anyone planning to kayak from Scotland to Northern Ireland might find this information and annotated images, from local paddler and Postman, John Ruston, extremely useful indeed.

    Broken links? Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with details.

    Local info

    Local Centres & Kayak Hire

    Weather & tides

    "Easy Reference Sheet" - Scotland - (includes Belfast's operating area). Summary sheet with paddling speed calculators, wind speed chart, CG contact & MSI Broadcast Times, Marine VHF channels etc. Specific MSI and VHF details for Ireland are in this PDF produced by John Rushton - it prints at A4 and then folds up for laminating.

    Ireland - Oileain, the Guide to the Irish Islands (in various forms, including a most excellent guidebook)

    Great Sea Caves of Antrim - astonishing site with fascinating images from Northern Ireland.

    Photography - The Geograph project aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland - there are some useful coastal shots.

    The entire coastline of the Irish Republic is now available online with continuous oblique helicopter photography (can be viewed as a slide show). Excellent!

    East Coast of Ireland - Tidal flows.


  • Ireland - Relevant Forum Threads

    IRELAND - WEST COAST - numerous videos by Chris McDaid of Mayo, Donegal and Connemara.

    Ireland - Galway area

    Ireland - SW - Schull - good pics.

  • Irish Sea Crossing - Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire

    - trip report by Barry Shaw and Harry Whelan

    Irish Sea Crossing - Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire

    Barry Shaw and Harry Whelan


    The route. Note the tidal allowance.

    At 08.20am on 25th August 2003 Harry and I were sat in our kayaks at Porth Dafarch on Anglesey about to paddle to Ireland.

    We reckoned that by leaving an hour before slack water that we’d drift north for an hour then south for roughly 6 hours, then north again for about 6 hours then towards the end of the journey start drifting southwards again.

    There was a F4-5 east northeast wind blowing and the sea was fairly flat, at least for now. We’d been to see Holyhead coastguard the day before to let them know what we were doing and they were fine but asked us to call them every few hours.

    We set off paddling out past Penrhyn Mawr and carried on west although the tide was still taking us north for a while until slack water. The plan was to always stay south of the Sea Cat that runs between Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire.

    For the first couple of hours the sea was fairly calm but the further we went the bigger it became. We stopped briefly after 3 hours to give the coastguard a call and have a quick toilet stop then off we went again. After another hour I had a bit of pain in my elbow so I switched paddles from my Nordkapp to an Archipelago which has a smaller blade and this seemed to do the trick.

    By now we had a following sea with 6 or 7 feet waves which kept breaking over the back of our kayaks. Stopping for a drink or to go to the toilet became increasingly difficult which meant that at times we didn’t stop when really we should have done to take in food and water.

    It was about 9 hours before we could see land ahead of us and it didn’t look any closer for quite a while. Pretty soon I began to feel rather ill but didn’t want to say anything as we still had a lot of paddling to do. I remember that for the next hour I was really struggling not to be sick while Harry looked like he was having a great time trying to go as fast as he could down the face of every breaking wave he could catch then suddenly I shouted out to him that I needed to raft up quick. As soon as he got to me I dropped on to his kayak and threw up all over his rear deck but the rough sea did a great job of washing it all away. We stayed rafted up for a couple of minutes and it was a bit of a worry that I wasn’t going to want to start paddling again but in no time I was feeling like new again (well for an hour or so anyway).

    As we started to lose daylight we knew that Kish Bank, a shallow area about 6 miles out from Dun Laoghaire, lay ahead of us. We thought that the sea might really kick up over it so wanted to be past it before dark. We were soon over it and it wasn’t any different to what we’d had for the rest of the journey.

    We paddled on a bit longer and suddenly Harry said there was a Sea Cat heading straight for us about 200 metres away which I hadn’t seen. We turned to try to get out of it’s way and saw a huge search light go on. It managed to pick us up and stayed on us as the Sea Cat went past. The wash from it combined with the waves coming in from behind us to make things quite difficult in the dark. I was completely drained by now but Harry kept pushing me to get to Ireland before the pubs shut.

    We kept out of the harbour and looked for somewhere to land. It all looked rocky and the waves were crashing in then we noticed a small beach facing north which was sheltered.It was just before 11.00pm when we landed, the 60 mile trip had taken us 14 hours 34 minutes. We were greeted by an incredibly friendly Irish lady who wanted to know everything about our journey. We climbed out of our wet clothes, got dried off and went to sleep on the grass verge at the side of the road.

    Next morning we strapped the kayaks on to trolleys and wheeled them a mile up the road to Dun Laoghaire ferry terminal where Stenna line were most helpful. They put the kayaks on for us and a couple of hours later we were back in Anglesey.The trip had been good but I still get stick off Harry for making him miss last orders.

    Barry Shaw and Harry Whelan

    Barry likes the Irish Sea - see also his trip report on the crossing from Portpatrick to Larne


  • Oileán Hopping

    - Zoe Newsam's report on a wonderful trip to the islands off Galway, Ireland.

    Oileán Hopping

    By Zoe Newsam - 2005


    Walking all the day, near tall towers
    where falcons build their nests
    Silver winged they fly,
    they know the call of freedom in their breasts
    Saw Black Head against the sky
    with twisted rocks that run down to the sea
    Living on your western shore,
    saw summer sunsets, asked for more
    I stood by your Atlantic sea
    and sang a song for Ireland

    (From ‘Song for Ireland’ by Phil Colclough)

    The West Coast of Ireland. The Atlantic Seaboard. For me this has always conjured up images of wilderness, of beautiful, committing, wild seas, of remote islands and peninsulas, of music and craic. Oh, and Guinness.

    It’s very easy as a visitor to Ireland to see the place as it’s depicted in picture postcard images everywhere: preserved for posterity and still living in the 1930’s. However we found very much the opposite: this is a country which is booming, and its traditions are living and breathing. Gaelic is a spoken language, there is music in almost every pub for locals as well as tourists, and new piers are being built on the islands to bring the ever increasing numbers of visitors in the summer months.

    Six of us boarded the ferry at Holyhead at 2.30am, with 2 cars and six boats. We are all regulars of North West Sea Kayakers, but had never done a trip together as a ‘team’ before, and we were a pretty disparate group, with as one paddler put it, ‘many hidden talents’! First stop, the kiddies play area- soft mattresses and things you can use as pillows for some much needed sleep. Shame about the kiddies that insist on playing right through the night!

    Somehow, we all managed to sleep, and were woken by the tannoy at 6am, telling us we’d arrived in Dublin. Sleepily we stumbled back to the cars and off the ferry, and after getting lost and finally negotiating the road works around Dublin Port, we were on the N4 and heading West. After the obligatory ‘Full Irish’ breakfast at a truck stop with just about all the other ferry passengers, we wound our way towards Galway. I was in the back and desperately wanted to sleep, but surrounded by dry bags and paddling gear I was far too excited. I was also mildly concerned that the wind was getting up, and forecast to continue that way. On the ferry we had decided that Clifden would be our starting point. We separated - one car opting for the direct route, and our car heading round the coast road via Roundstone, billed in the guidebooks as ‘the most idyllic hamlet in Connemara’. I had a particular interest, as my second greatest passion (after paddling!) is folk music. I wanted to visit Malachy Kearns music shop - located in a monastery, and makers of beautiful goatskin Bodhrans and other traditional instruments. Whilst in Roundstone, though, we also sampled the most wonderful fresh Seafood Chowder I’ve ever tasted. And it seemed as though all the cafes and pubs sold it.

    Leaving Roundstone, we drove the coast road, watching the landscape become rockier and more barren by the minute. Houses built of stone collected from the land around them appeared to grow out of the ground. No wonder the area is known for its solid dry stone walls: if you want to cultivate the land, all those rocks have to go somewhere. Finally we could see the sea - without the Atlantic swell that I’d expected, but the wind was trying very hard to rectify that. Just the beginnings of the surf the area is famous for was visible on the pristine, empty white sandy beaches.

    Once tents were up at the campsite in Clifden (yes there is one - just ask!) and dinner had been eaten despite the midges, we ventured into the ‘town’. There we experienced the legendary Irish sales pitch: ‘If there are fish out there, this is guaranteed to catch you one’! We found our first ‘proper’ Irish pub of the trip: Mannion’s. Outside plaques proclaimed it ‘Pub of the Year’ and ‘Music Pub of the Year 2004’, and they weren’t kidding. Despite protests of tiredness, and one or two having to give in & go to bed, some of us enjoyed the music, craic & Guinness until the wee small hours in what turned out to be a pub full of seriously friendly locals.

    Next morning boats were packed in midge-free sunshine at the slipway, and we all eventually emerged from under the piles of gear that somehow fit into far too little space on the first day of a trip. The water and land felt very Scottish when we set out - the kind of paddling I’m most familiar with - and never failed to remind me of Scotland as the trip progressed.

    As we came to Turbot Island, or Tairbeart, we began to see signs of the culture unique to the West of Ireland. Along with its neighbour Inishturk, this island was once inhabited. When Tim Robinson wrote about it in his book ‘Connemara’, just one family remained. The people made their living from the sea, using Curraghs for fishing: small open boats, barely bigger than Canadian Canoes, and rowed by two men. Nowadays they’ve given up rowing, and the curraghs buzz around with outboard motors on the stern. We passed a Galway Hooker, the other traditional craft of the area.

    After lunch in the sunshine on the beautiful white sandy beach at Aughrus Point, we struck out for Inishbofin, our first offshore island. I paddled a slight distance from the others, enjoying the motion of the open Atlantic and the sea birds wheeling nosily around my boat: black guillemots, oystercatchers, razorbills, shags, terns doing a spot of fishing, and a solitary gannet. All around were islands and stunning coastline; a lifetime of paddling, of nooks & crannies waiting to be explored. We pulled into Bofin Harbour, to the first signs of the booming economy, or possibly EU subsidy…a massive new harbour wall. Then round to Inishlyon. This island was chosen to avoid the midges, but turned out to be a lovely camp spot with a view of the beach opposite on Inishbofin. ‘Oilean’, the Irish kayaking guidebook, mentions a ‘fierce tide race’ at Lyon Head, but we saw nothing of it, with calm seas & sunshine.

    Day Two was a day of open crossings: First of all, to another Inishturk. The 6 mile crossing took the best part of two hours, and we were rewarded with an extraordinarily friendly welcome. The guys building the new pier, shipped in each week from the mainland, chatted to us awhile. We befriended Delia, a local lady who filled our water carriers and gave us some tips on catching fish in the area.

    We detoured to Caher Island to investigate the caves on its Western end. Here the power of the Atlantic groundswell was in evidence surging over submerged rocks, despite the calm sea state.

    Crossing to Clare Island

    Boats on the beach - Clare Island

    Crossing to Clare Island, the fishing line was tried for the first time, and eventually, in the shallows just off its shore the sales pitch ‘guarantee’ given to us in Clifden came good: Mackerel! I found a hidden, skinny arch to paddle through, probably only paddleable in absolute calm at that state of the tide, but the rest of the group were far more concerned with catching dinner! The landscape, like most of the area, is covered in Lazybeds, their name belying their method of creation and purpose: sand and seaweed, carried from the shore in baskets by the women to produce fertile ground for growing crops.

    A skinny arch, Clare Island

    Another open crossing brought us to Achill Beag, the little brother of Achill Island, and our timely (as it turned out) bolthole closer to the mainland. Achill Beag is a deserted Island, but still has the remains of a village very much intact. It reminded me very much of Mingulay in the Outer Hebrides, with a similar layout: the village clustered around the sandy beach. These islanders remained far longer than Mingulay’s; the last 38 people leaving in the 1960’s. The island is still grazed, as are most of the Irish offshore islands, and one or two of the houses have been restored as holiday homes.

    Achill Beag

    Force 6 was forecast for the following day, so we decided to have a ‘tea and sticky bun’ lunch stop halfway up Achill Sound…a sort of mini Menai Straits. The tide floods and ebbs from both ends, so you catch the flood tide north, have pasty, cake & tea in the cafe, wait for it to turn and then catch the ebb north again! With the wind funnelling in from the south this was our easiest day yet. Round the top of Achill Island I found some lovely little nooks & crannies for rockhopping, and we picked our campspot at the North end of the Island.

    I don’t particularly like being stormbound, and this night was no exception. The wind and rain closed in almost as soon as we landed, and we retreated into our separate tents for the night. I decided to brave the rain for a brief walk and discovered a very surreal sight: a Black Taxi Cab parked in the middle of the sand dunes!

    Motivation was lacking somewhat next morning, when we woke to pounding rain and wind. The early morning forecast wasn’t even audible due to the volume of rain on flysheet! All plans were revised when we finally emerged, and we decided to retrace our paddle strokes to Achill Beag (via the sticky bun cafe!) to try to paddle into Westport & the Clew Bay islands the next day. The weather brightened as the day went on, and the 5-knot tide race at Bull’s Mouth (with a Southerly Force 5-6 wind-over-tide to kick it up a bit!) served to provide a bit of entertainment along the way, near the fantastically named Inishbiggle. Having dripped all over the floor in the cafe again, we fought the wind back down Achill Sound. However, almost as soon as dinner was over on our second night on Achill Beag the rain arrived with a vengeance.

    Next morning the little stream was a peaty torrent, and we’d had enough. We bolted to Achill Bridge in stairrods rain, and the two drivers jumped in a taxi bound for the cars in Clifden. We found rooms in the hotel at Achill Bridge, a meal and hot showers, with a view to heading for Westport and a day paddle for our last day.

    At the sailing club slipway in Westport we met another group of kayakers - strangely enough from the same area of the UK as most of us. They had much the same story, and were also planning a day paddle in the shelter of the Clew Bay islands. We fought into the wind towards the lighthouse, and through a sound or two into the extraordinary maze of sunken drumlins that guard the entrance to Westport Bay…some of which are inhabited. I was amazed at the greenness & fertility of the ground - so different to the Connemara coastline. Navigation amongst the islands was a test of all our skills, but just added an extra dimension to a fascinating & lovely day.

    Westport provided a campsite with showers (luxury!!), and a short walk into town found us in a pub with live music, which could only be considered ‘traditional’ if you believe ‘The Commitments’. We drank and danced the night away and celebrated the end of a fantastic trip to the sound of an Irish woman singing classic Blues, Soul & Jazz.

    We boarded the ferry to Holyhead the next evening. Passing the lighthouse while the sun set over Dublin, a gull hovered behind the boat. I reflected on a week with a little of everything: good company, great paddling. Beautiful and varied landscapes where the hands of man and nature are visible in harmony with one another. In my mind I replayed snapshots of deserted islands, and islands with thriving, open, friendly communities; of music, craic, and the surging, powerful Atlantic, and most of all, I looked forward to the next time…

    Zoe Newsam.

    Thanks to Andy Biggs for planning the trip & navigating, and managing to keep such a rabble together for a whole week, and to Helen Marsden for chatting up the Irish Coastguard every day.

    Paddlers were: Andy Biggs, Stephanie Connor, Helen Marsden, Jim Morgan, Glen Parry, Zoe Newsam.

    Oileain by David Walsh, Pesda Press -
    Lonely Planet Ireland -
    Connemara by Tim Robinson, available locally
    Ordnance Survey Ireland, maps 37, 30, 22 & 31.
    North West Sea Kayakers

  • Old Head of Kinsale trip

    - trip report from "A Novice Sea Kayakers Log Book" (Illustrated)

    « Inspired by a tee shirt

    Old Head of Kinsale trip

    Map of The Old Head of KinsaleI had booked a beginners' sea kayaking expedition with H2O Sea Kayaking in Kinsale to coincide with the start of a family holiday in Cork and persuaded my wife, Deborah, and her sister, Imelda, to come along too.

    We met our instructor, Noelle, at Sandy Cove and, after getting us all kitted out, she gave Deborah and Imelda a brief paddling lesson before we set off.

    Once out of the shelter of Sandy Cove Island the calm water gave way to a smooth oily looking swell of about 0.5 metres, the clear water giving good visibility to the seabed below through waving fronds of kelp.

    The moving water gave us all the chance to get a feel for the handling of the boats. Deborah and Imelda seemed to enjoy working together in the double while I found my extremely wide boat rather unwieldy and bracing my knees on either side of the gaping cockpit felt like doing the splits. Despite my reservations, the boats did at least make good progress and we soon rounded Hake Head where we spotted cormorants perched with wings outstretched drying in the sunshine.

    We paddled towards a secluded beach for lunch and the appeal of sea kayaking began to sink in. This isolated spot could barely have been reached by any other means as it was nestled beneath cliffs with no access by land and even small craft would have difficulty getting in close.

    After a leisurely lunch we headed across Dooneen Bay for Blackhead, the swell was larger now but the sea surface retained its oily smooth quality. Even in these benign conditions I was aware of the vulnerability of our boats on the open sea as we left the shoreline about a kilometre off to starboard.

    Noelle showed us the entrance to a dramatic sea arch at Blackhead and I paddled in to explore and take some photos, unfortunately, the tide was too low to paddle through.

    Double kayak setting off after lunchWe rounded Blackhead and found ourselves in a slightly heavier swell of up to 0.75 metres and we paddled for the castle visible above us on the cliffs at the narrowest part of the peninsula. Under the castle are three sea arches which go right through the headland and we explored each in turn hoping to find a way through.

    Paddling into the middle, and largest, arch was the highlight of the trip. Our arrival roused the colony of nestling terns perched on every nook and cranny around the entrance creating an awful squawking din. Also notable was a strong smell of fish, presumably the birds� leftovers.

    Sea arch under The Old Head of KinsaleOnce inside the arch the water was shallow and clean and we saw shoals of sprats swimming beneath us and small starfish clearly visible on the seabed. At the far end the sun shone in as if through a Gothic cathedral window. We clambered out of the boats at a stony beach halfway through to explore the exit. We carried one boat over the rooks and Noelle went to investigate the far entrance but felt that the breaking surf might make it tricky for Deborah and Imelda and so we returned the way we had come.

    On the way back we saw a seal in one of the other arches and as we paddled back along the coastline we saw more cormorants perched in rows along a series of rocks and apparently observing a strict pecking order with the largest birds occupying the best vantage points.

    Once we rounded Blackhead the swell was behind us and we were able to catch a ride from the waves until we got further into Dooneen Bay where the water was more sheltered. We stopped to chat to a family fishing from a small boat who donated some mackerel for Noelle�s supper.

    Finally, we arrived at the Quay in Dooneen delighted with our first day�s sea kayaking.

    Total distance paddled was about 12 kilometres.


    Posted by Luke on 1 August 2004

  • Seven Heads trip

    - trip report from "A Novice Sea Kayakers Log Book" (Illustrated)

    Seven Heads trip

    Earlier in the week I had made arrangements with Jon Hynes of H2O Sea Kayaking to join him and four other paddlers, Noelle, Gerard, Rob and Susan on a weekend expedition. The provisional plan was to paddle around the Seven Heads on Saturday, camp and go on towards Clonakilty on Sunday. On Friday Jon rang and asked if I had been watching the weather forecasts as the tail end of Hurricane Alex was stirring up a storm due to pick up from the south east at some time on Saturday afternoon. He suggested we get started as early as possible on Saturday to make the most of the available weather window but accepting that we might have to pull the plug at any stage.

    Map of The Seven Heads.We set off from Coolmain beach and made directly for Barry�s Point across Coolmain Bay. The crossing was sheltered by The Old Head of Kinsale as the wind was in the south east and the small waves made it possible to paddle together in twos or threes chatting but we could see larger breaking waves � a sign of things to come - on Horse Rock as we approached Barry�s Point.

    Once past the point we regrouped head to wind and swell, to discuss the next section. Jon explained that we would paddle across Seven Heads Bay towards Vregira Point, then past another couple of headlands to Leganagh Point. From there, he explained, we would have about two kilometres which he described as the crux of the trip in that there was no landing place and we would have to keep paddling.

    We made good progress across Seven Heads Bay with the swell growing as we lost the shelter of The Old Head. Now we were paddling directly across the waves having to lean into them as they approached the side of the boats and adopting a longer paddle shaft on the windward side to counter the wind and swell that was tending to turn us towards the shore.

    As we rounded Vregira Point we passed a yacht going the other way just outside us, we exchanged waves and I imagined how mad they must think us to be out in what were now developing into quite adventurous conditions. From Vregira Point and beyond we found the waves increasingly large and confused around each headland with evident clapotis. This made it ever more difficult to predict which direction the next wave might strike from and heightened the need for constant observation all around one (while I was busy watching the waves Rob managed to spot a sunfish as we rounded Illaunbaun).

    After we passed Reenreagh we again regrouped facing together into the waves and paddling slowly to hold our position. Jon checked how everyone was doing and I told him I was a little nervous of the growing swell and that I was suffering from a stiff right leg (I was afraid of cramp and had been trying to stretch and straighten it whenever the waves did not seem too threatening). Jon explained that we were now entering the crux and that once past the next headland (Leganagh Point) we would keep going quickly towards Dunworley Point which we could see adorned by a fortification set back from the tip of the promontory.

    Fortification above Leganagh Point as seen from Dunworley Point.
    By the time we rounded Leganagh Point the swell had grown to about 1.5 metres and was coming from behind us across the windward quarter, this made things quite tricky as one could not see what was coming. Despite frequent glances over my left shoulder, there were inevitably some bigger waves that hit me unsighted requiring swift corrective action. At one point, a large wave broke right over me. I instinctively made a strong low brace into the wave on my left hand side and stayed steady while the water crashed over me. Jon and Noelle saw this and congratulated me on my brace. I had not seen the wave coming, as perhaps they had, and did not think it noteworthy but was glad that I had not lost my instinctive paddling skills.

    I found the next section, the crux, much more threatening. This was not due to any immediate danger, but rather, to the intense and sustained concentration required to paddle a course, stabilising the boat as necessary, while watching out for waves from behind and keeping in contact with the rest of the group.

    By the time we reached Dunworley Point I was longing for a break, not because I was physically tired, but just to be able to relax my concentration for a few minutes.

    Rounding the point was again quite an anxious moment as the sea state had been steadily increasing and we were now very exposed. We were past the crux as we could have got in to Foilareal Bay but Jon had decided to go another 1.5 kilometres to Dunworley Bay which was a preferable camp site.

    Channel between Bird Island and the headlandOnce around the point we cut across the small bay and made for the narrow channel between the headland and Bird Island. Jon went in first and found a position facing outwards where he could hold station and call the rest of us in one by one whenever there was a break in the waves. When my turn came my adrenaline surged as I paddled like mad for the calm water beyond the rocky gap, silently uttering a prayer that I would get there before the next wave.

    I negotiated the channel safely and passed into the sheltered water behind Bird Island. Finally, I was able to relax and I drifted gently for a minute with my paddle resting across my boat feeling slightly giddy as my nervous energy dissipated.

    Channel between Bird Island and the headland
    When the whole party was safely through we laughed and congratulated ourselves and found an even more sheltered spot in a sea cave where we were able to stop, admire the scenery, share some coffee and take pictures.

    After a little rest we paddled out of the cave and into the calm water of Dunworley Bay taking time to explore another dramatic sea arch on the way in to the slipway beneath our camp site. Again, Jon went in first calling us each in turn onto the slipway, between the bigger waves, from where we carried the boats up to some conveniently located picnic tables for lunch.

    Breaking waves at Dunworley beach on Sunday morningOur total distance travelled for the day was about 14 kilometres.

    On Sunday morning the sea state had risen substantially and Jon made the decision to abandon any further hope of paddling as launching, let alone landing, through the surf would be too challenging.

     Posted by Luke on 7 August 2004