Ballinskelligs


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Our day trip from Crookhaven Harbour to Ballinskelligs Bay took us past some dramatic coastal scenery and impressive feats of engineering, including The Bull, where a lighthouse perches atop a fantastic tunnel-pierced rock, and the well-preserved monastic ruins on UNESCO World Hertiage site Skellig Michael.

Trip highlights from June 19th, 2017 follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps

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Arch

A sea arch on Streek Head at the entrance to Crookhaven Harbour aglow in the morning sun.
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Brow Head

Looking up to the Brow Head signal tower high above.
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Mizen Head

The Mizen Head Signal Station coming into sight. We enjoyed the view from the water even more after visiting yesterday.
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Bridge

The spectacular footbridge to the Mizen Head Signal Station.
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Fishing Vessel

We haven’t seen many boats underway, commercial or pleasure, since leaving Kinsale. We do see a lot of floats in the water though.
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Dursey Island

The signal tower on Dursey Island, one of the 81 signal towers built along the Irish coast during the Napoleonic era.
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Calf and Bull

The Calf (foreground) and The Bull a few miles offshore from Dursey Island. The metal structure on The Calf is the remains of the cast-iron lighthouse that was installed in 1866, similar to the original Fastnet Rock Lighthouse. Shore dwellings for the keepers and their families were on the mainland at the south end of Dursey Sound.

In November of 1881, a violent storm snapped the tower off its base, sweeping lantern and all into the sea. Fortunately none of the six men on the island at the time were in the tower, but they weren’t rescued for two weeks.

A replacement lighthouse, visible on The Bull, was completed in 1889.

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Wing

We start the wing whenever we are in close quarter, such as now when we are nosing up close to the islands. If something happens to the main, we don’t want to be scrambling to start the wing, possibly find it won’t start, or not getting it started and in gear quickly enough.
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The Cow

A boulder wedged between The Cow and an off-lying spire. The seascape of the Irish west coast sure is dramatic. We’re loving it.
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The Bull

Constructing a lighthouse on a steep island such as The Bull is a real challenge. Before construction began, a party of miners were landed who climbed the rock to excavate level sites for the buildings. They dragged a light spar with them and found a site 110ft up suitable for mounting a crane. Using the light spar, they lifted two heavier spars that were installed as cranes and used these to land provisions, tools, winches and materials for the lighthouse construction.
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Light

The original light on The Bull, at left, was later replaced by an all-around quartz halogen light mounted on a platform at the summit of the island.
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Steps

Some of the more than 300 steps that were cut out of the side of the rock to access the lighthouse from the boat landing site.
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Gannets

The Bull’s increasing gannet colony have taken over one of the island’s two helicopter pads, so the lighthouse authority can only use the other.
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Cliff Buildings

More buildings, built into the cliff face, came into view as we came around the east side of the island.
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Buildings close-up

The buildings, tucked into the most weather-protected side of the island, might have been dwelling for the keepers. On the left of the building, stairs lead up to the lighthouse and down to the water.
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Landing

Stairs below the cliff building lead down to the water, with a ladder for low-tide access. That must have been an exciting landing in a big swell.
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Tunnel

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of The Bull came into view as we continued around east side: a natural tunnel clear through the rock.
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Tunnel Closeup

You can take a small boat through the tunnel on calm days such as today. We were tempted to anchor temporarily and try it, but sanity prevailed.
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West Side

Looking through the tunnel from the west side of The Bull, with the new and old lights visible above one of the helicopter pads. What an incredible sight.
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Skellig Michael

14nm north of The Bull are two offshore island known as The Skelligs. The larger of the two, Skellig Micheal, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 and was recently used as a filming site for the final scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Small boats make the hour or two run from mainland Ireland to bring visitors out to tour the island. When we arrived, perhaps a dozen boats were standing offshore while their passengers visited ashore.

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North Peak

Skellig Micheal was made a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the island’s well-preserved monastic ruins. Sometime in the 6th-8th centuries, Christian monks landed on the island and over the centuries built a monastery with beehive huts and a chapel high atop the island’s peaks, and extensive steps to reach them from several sides of the island.

Centuries later, two lighthouses were built on the island’s west side. The road leading from the bottom right of the picture up and to the left was built, along with a boat landing, to access the lighthouse.

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Monastery

A close-up to the monastery and beehive huts atop the north peak of Skellig Michael.
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Busy

Skellig Michael is a popular destination, even more so since the Star Wars filming. Small boats were constantly at the landing to pick up and drop off passengers, or to take in the view.
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Landing

Conditions were calm today, but in high surge landing at Skellig Michael can be rough and difficult, similar to St. Helena.
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East Steps

Portions of steps the monks constructed along the east shore above the boat landing.
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Saddle

Over 600 steps lead from the lighthouse road up the saddle to the monastery. A steady stream of visitors were working up and down the cliff.
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Force Awakens

The only official way to land at Skellig Michael is through one of the 15 licensed small boat operators, who are allowed to land only once a day with at most 12 passengers, limiting to 180 the maximum number of visitors per day. Trips sell out weeks in advance, but they do have cancellations. A few days earlier, we were able to book a trip for tomorrow on the Force Awakens. Derek Noble (on the bow) and Brendan Walsh (at the helm), came over to say hello as we viewed the island.
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North Shore

The island’s north shore appears even more rugged than the south, with dramatic spires reaching skyward.
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Upper Station

In 1821, construction began on two lighthouse stations on Skellig Micheal’s west cliffs. Two lights were built to distinguish them from nearby lights at Loop Head to the north and Cape Clear Island to the south. The upper light, pictured, is 372ft above the water and was discontinued in 1870.
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Lower Station

The lower light is 175ft above the water and was automated in 1987. The upper light is to the left, just out of the picture.
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Lower Lighthouse

The lower light perched above sheer cliffs on the northwest corner of Skellig Michael.
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Little Skellig

Little Skellig is a smaller version of Skellig Michael, and equally dramatic-looking.
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Arch

Arch at the west end of Little Skellig, with Skellig Michael in the background.
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Gannets

What looks like snow on Little Skellig is in fact thousands and thousands of gannets.
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Second Arch

A second arch along the eastern tip of Little Skellig.
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David Walsh

We’d made our booking on Force Awakens through Ballinskelligs resident David Walsh. David was incredibly friendly and helpful—he offered us the use of their heavy-duty winter mooring for Force Awakens, advised us on where to anchor in Ballinskelligs Bay, called to offer assistance when he saw us arriving, and later came out to say hello. We feel spoiled already.
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Pier

Our tender tied off to Force Awakens at the Ballinskelligs Pier.
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Coast Guard

In the early 1800s, the British set up Coast Guard stations around the Kerry coast to thwart smuggling and illegal distilling. Most of the stations were destroyed during the War of Independence, fought between 1919 and 1921—the local IRA burned down the station at Ballinskelligs. The rationale was that they might be used as barracks for British soldiers.
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Abbey

In the 12th century, the monks retreated from Skellig Michael to an abbey they built at Ballinskelligs. These are the ruins, currently being renovated and preserved.
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McCarthy Mor Tower

The tower on a sandy isthmus at Ballinskelligs Bay dates to perhaps the 16th century and is thought to be a stronghold of the McCarthy clan who were 16-century Irish chieftains.
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Beach

Lots of people were out enjoying the beautiful beach at Ballinskelligs.
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Ballinskelligs Bay

Jennifer taking in the view to the anchorage in Ballinskelligs Bay from the top of McCarthy Mor Tower.
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Bridge

We walked back from the castle along the isthmus and crossed over a footbridge over a small stream. This is the view looking northeast with McCarthy Mor Tower in the distance.
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Dirona

Dirona at anchor in Ballinskelligs Bay. We sure have been enjoying some nice weather these past few days.
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Telegraph Cable

The Atlantic Telegraph Company in 1858 completed the first transatlantic cable between Newfoundland and Valentia Island, Ireland, to our north. A competing company, Direct United States Cable Company, built a station at Ballinskelligs in 1874 and the following year completed a cable route to the US via Nova Scotia. The cable station operated in Ballinskelligs until 1923. This plague commemorating the area’s cable stations is outside the still-standing Ballinskelligs Station superintendent’s house.
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Cable O’Leary’s

We had an excellent meal overlooking the bay on the patio at Cable O’Leary’s pub. The cable company superintendent had given Ballinskelligs resident Donncha ‘Cable’ O’Leary the nickname ‘Cable’ after he risked his life to prevent the loss of a cable in deep water off Ballinskelligs Beach. ‘Cable’ later achieved local fame by resisting eviction by the local landlord, an act that encouraged others in the area to resist landlordism and demand better living conditions.
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Lamborghini

When we left Cable O’Leary’s this tractor was running outside and the driver appeared shortly after from inside the pub then set off down the road. We were amused to see it was a Lamborghini tractor, our first Lamborghini sighting in Ireland.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps.

 
 


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