Slievebane Bay is an exposed anchorage that only affords temporary shelter in moderate conditions with offshore winds from south-southeast through south to west. This bay unlike others along this coast is much more subject to a swell making it uncomfortable for an overnight stay. Access requires careful navigation with good visibility as it is entered between covered rocks and rocky islets in an area where strong tides prevail. However there is a good distance between the islets, plenty of deep water and a choice of natural transits to lead the way.
Keyfacts for Malin Harbour or Slievebane Bay
SummaryAn exposed location with careful navigation required for access.
Position and approaches
Haven position55° 22.260' N, 007° 20.008' W
This is the location of Bulbinbeg pierhead situated in the southwest corner of Slievebane Bay.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
- Vessels approaching from the east should pass close north of Stookaruddan then round Lackgolana, keeping well clear of the islet, to enter the bay between Lackgolana and Rossnabartan.
- Vessels approaching from the west should avoid Blind Rock, pass about 200 metres to the northeast of Rossnabartan Isle and enter the bay between Rossnabartan and Lackgolana.
Not what you need?
- Portachurry - 4.6 nautical miles NE
- Portmore - 5.1 nautical miles NE
- Culdaff Bay - 7.5 nautical miles SE
- Lenan Bay - 10.2 nautical miles SW
- Tremone Bay - 10.8 nautical miles ESE
- Pincher Bay - 11.8 nautical miles WSW
- Crummie's Bay - 12.4 nautical miles SW
- Dunree Bay - 12.9 nautical miles SSW
- Kinnagoe Bay - 13 nautical miles ESE
- Portsalon - 13.9 nautical miles SW
What's the story here?
Slievebane Bay, locally known as Malin Harbour is a small bay situated two and a half miles eastward of Malin Head. It is approached from Garvan Sound that leads through the Garvan Isles that are situated immediately offshore. The bay has a small fishing pier on its west side and a small village ashore. It is exposed to heavy seas and may only be used in fair weather or with moderate offshore winds.
How to get in?Careful advance planning is required by western approaching vessels as this corner of Ireland has to be treated with the utmost respect. Here the Atlantic Ocean collides with the runs of the Irish coastal tide amidst two rocky island groups, the Garvan Isles and Inishtrahull further offshore.
Dunaldragh Head, the northern most point of Ireland, is a low 70 metre high rounded hill with a square derelict concrete tower on top. The shoreline here is bold, jagged and fringed by outlying rocks that are steep-to and always visible. With the exception of Scars Rocks, lying about 400 metres west of the headland, the rocks are always visible and there are no off-lying obstructions. A berth of 300 metres or more clears all dangers here but it gets more challenging once Malin Head and Dunaldragh Head are rounded.
Situated close offshore to the east of Dunaldragh Head and to the north of Slievebane Bay are the Garvan Isles that are the chief danger to be circumvented. They are a collection of barren islands ranging from 15 to 22 metres in height and are surrounded by sunken rocks and shoals.
There are two western approaches to Slievebane Bay through the Garvan Isles. The first is to enter Garvan Sound and approach the bay through Portmore Sound. This is located between the highly visible islets of the 21 metre high tooth like Lackgolana and the low flat 3 metre high Rossnabartan. The latter approach to the bay offers a more direct western approach to round Rossnabartan to the south and pass between the islet and the drying Minad Rock that lies on the outer edge of foul ground extending from the shore.
Of the two approaches the preferred option is the former northeastern approach that leads from Garvan Sound in through Portmore Sound. Although slightly further for a westward approaching vessel it is the better approach for newcomers. It is 600 metres wide and passes between the always visible and conspicuous islets of Rossnabartan and Lackgolana. In the case of the latter approach, Minad Rock is sometimes covered and the channel between it and Rossnabartan although having 4 metres of water and being perfectly navigable, is narrowed by foul ground extending south-westward from Rossnabartan cutting the distance to less than 300 metres. Hence we have provided a single initial fix that leads in through the former Portmore Sound.
The key to the western approach through Garvan Sound is to locate the covered Blind Rock on Garvan Sound’s western approaches. It has 1.8 metres of water over it and is situated 1.1 miles east of Dunaldragh Head and about 900 metres north of the mainland point that exists on the west side of Slievebane Bay.
There are several alignments to avoid Blind Rock. By keeping the Chimney Rock at Carrickaveol Head approximately 4 miles east by southeast on the mainland coast just open of the singular 70 metre high bold and loaf-shaped Stookaruddan, 1.5 miles closer on the mainland coast, a vessel will pass approximately 400 metres to the north of the Blind Rock. This should represent a 117° T line of bearing to track in. Alternatively the low Rossnabartan directly in front of the vertical Lackgolana on about 140° T (astern 320° T) passes 100 metres to the northeast of Blind Rock. Likewise an alignment of steering for Rossnabartan with Ireland's North Point directly astern will pass well to the south of Blind Rock.
When Blind Rock has been passed alter course to approaching the low flat-topped Rossnabartan Isle and steer to pass about 200 metres to the northeast of the islet. This avoids a rock with 2 metres of water over it situated 300 metres to the northeast of the islet. A useful transit to avoid this covered rock is to align Lackgolana with a conspicuous roadway 1000 metres behind on the mainland, passing between houses and down to the cliff edge on 162° T (astern 338° T).
With Rossnabartan passing abeam steer for the initial fix to align for the entry between the islets of Lackgolana and Rossnabartan.
Vessels approaching form the east will find few hazards off the coast. The shoreline to the north of Culdaff Bay progressively rises in height for the final two and a half miles north to Glengad Head. All dangers will be cleared by staying 200 metres or more off the shoreline here. Glengad Head is a bluff headland with a remarkable hill near its extremity. From here the passage is rocky with high brooding cliffs with stacks that add interest along the route. A berth of 400 metres up to Stookaruddan will keep a vessel clear of all dangers.
Pass close north of Stookaruddan as it is clear of outlying dangers. From here it is safe to steer for 275° T for the initial fix. From Stookaruddan this will be a distance of about one and a half miles and it should be visible between the conspicuous 21 metre fang like Lackgolana and the low flat-topped Rossnabartan that will also be visible beyond it.
Give Lackgolana a berth of at least a hundred and fifty metres steering for the initial fix to align for the entry between the islets of Lackgolana and Rossnabartan.
A bearing of 235° T from the initial fix, for a distance of 1000 metres, will lead to Bulbinbeg pierhead. Portmore Sound, between the islets of Lackgolana and Rossnabartan, is 600 metres wide with plenty of deep water all the way in.
The small pier is on the west side of the bay extending south-southeast and then southward.
It is reported to have 2 metres of water at its head. In the past it was recommended that yachts lay an anchor out to the south and secure a stern warp to the outer bollard. Good sand holding will be had in the bay but the pier and bay are subject to swell.
The recently improved pier can be busy as it supports the fishermen’s co-operative for the local area.
Why visit here?Slievebane Bay, in Irish Sliabh Bhán, meaning White Mountain, is a sheltered bay in an area noted for wild craggy coastal scenery, vertical cliffs and offshore rock pinnacles rising up from a foaming ocean. Situated close to the famous landmark of Malin Head the bay and small pier is more often called ‘Malin Harbour’ by boatmen than its true name.
Nearby Malin Head, in Irish Cionn Mhálanna head or headland of Malin, derives its standing from a general acceptance that it is the northern most extremity of Ireland. Technically this is not correct as the high and rocky Dunaldragh Head, situated 2 km east-northeast, is Ireland’s true most northerly headland. The north-facing Dunaldragh Head is topped off by an interesting and now derelict three storey tower. Originally a Napoleonic Martello it was transformed into the present structure in 1805 by the British Admiralty to serve as a weather reporting lookout. It subsequently became a Signal Tower for the shipping insurers Lloyds of London and in 1902 the Marconi Company succeeded in sending the first commercial message by wireless from here. Today the tower and its general area have become known as "Banba's Crown".
Banba, or Banbha in Irish, in Irish mythology was a daughter of Ernmas, of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and with her sisters, Ériu and Fódla part of an important triumvirate of patron goddesses. Legend has it when the Milesians arrived from Spain, each of the three sisters asked the bard Amergin that her name be given to the country. Ériu seems to have won his favour as Ireland is known today as Éire, in English 'Erin', and in the dative 'Éirinn' a modification of Ériu. But this name is conveniently the same as the Germanic, Old Norse or Old English, word for ‘land’ which is its most likely derivation. The ancient poets hold that all three were granted their wish, and thus 'Fodhla' is sometimes used as a literary name for Ireland, but 'Banba' is widely represented as the goddess of Ireland and often interpreted as a modern day personification of the nation. Hence, situated on Ireland’s most northerly point, the small castellated building has become known as "Banba’s Crown" in honour of the nation’s mythological Queen.
To underscore this nationhood, laid out in large white stones on the grass beneath the tower, is the word ‘S.S. EIRE’, meaning ‘Saor Stat Éire’, Irish for "Free State Eire". This was set down in 1939 to alert World War II aircraft crews that they were flying over Ireland, a neutral country during the war, in order to prevent accidental bombing. At the same time vulnerable Atlantic convoys were funnelling into a relatively constricted and exposed area of the ‘North Channel’ close offshore. It was here that the U-boat wolf packs would intercept them and the destruction they unleashed was enormous. In a bid to reduce the slaughter the Irish Government secretly allowed the British to place two radio direction finders on the headland to monitor aerial and U-Boat activity. When the war ended these RDF buildings were converted into the present weather station for the Irish Meteorological Service. The Met Eireann station in turn has served to underpin the headland’s prominent position in Irish sailing circles by creating the sea area of ‘Malin’ in the national weather forcast.
From a purely sailing perspective Slievebane Bay is more exposed to the swell and less easy to approach than the other bays on this northwest coast. But it provides hiking access to this significant headland that stands prominent in Irish sailing circles. En route magnificent cliff scenery will be discovered, interspersed with golden sandy bays, rocky outcrops, and Inishtrahull Island will be seen lying off the cost. Wildlife such as choughs, with their glossy black plumage and red legs and bill inhabit the cliffs, and the rasping cry of the rare corncrake can be heard in the fields. Around the headland there is a nice non-waymarked trail around the immediate area, and the general location is still a place that is relatively unfrequented and where walkers are subject to little restraint. This, along with good provisioning makes Malin Harbour, in moderate offshore conditions, another location that the coastal cruiser would regret passing by on a voyage around Ireland.
What facilities are available?Water is available at the pier and petrol can be obtained at Slievebane village at the head of the bay. The village has a mini supermarket, two pubs and a restaurant.
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel in Malin Harbour.
With thanks to:Bill McCann, Londonderry Harbour Master. Photography with thanks to Francoise Poncelet, Kay Atherton, Kanbron, Nicolo Govi, Chmee 2 or Mates, Greg Clarke, Brian Deeney of Donegal Cottage Holidays, Peter Homer, Andrew Hurley and murielle29.
This video presents aerial views of Slievebane Bay and Malin pier
This video presents a History of Malin Head
This video presents an aerial view of Malin Head
This video presents an aerial view of 'Banba's Crown'
Add your review or comment:
Please log in to leave a review of this haven.
Please note eOceanic makes no guarantee of the validity of this information, we have not visited this haven and do not have first-hand experience to qualify the data. Although the contributors are vetted by peer review as practised authorities, they are in no way, whatsoever, responsible for the accuracy of their contributions. It is essential that you thoroughly check the accuracy and suitability for your vessel of any waypoints offered in any context plus the precision of your GPS. Any data provided on this page is entirely used at your own risk and you must read our legal page if you view data on this site. Free to use sea charts courtesy of Navionics.