The bay provides a fair weather anchorage with tolerable shelter in settled or moderate prevailing conditions. Being unencumbered by outlying hazards and lying immediately south of Fanad Head lighthouse, it has straightforward access night and day, at all stages of the tide and in all reasonable conditions.
Keyfacts for Pincher Bay
SummaryA tolerable location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position55° 16.333' N, 007° 38.010' W
This is just inside the 5-metre contour in Pincher Bay.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
Not what you need?
- Portsalon - 4 nautical miles S
- Lenan Bay - 4.2 nautical miles ESE
- Crummie's Bay - 5 nautical miles SE
- Dunree Bay - 5.7 nautical miles SSE
- Scraggy Bay - 6.4 nautical miles SSE
- Mulroy Bay - 7.4 nautical miles SW
- Sheep Haven - 8.7 nautical miles SW
- Macamish Bay - 8.9 nautical miles SSE
- Buncrana - 10.5 nautical miles SE
- Rathmullan - 11.2 nautical miles SSE
What's the story here?
Image: Kevin Flanagan
Pincher Bay lies immediately south of Fanad Head and is entered between it and Carrickacken Point a distance of just under a ½ mile southward. The bay and entrance to Lough Swilly is well defined by Fanad lighthouse on the point, Fl (5) WR 205 38m 18/14M.
How to get in?Use northwestern Ireland’s coastal overview for Erris Head to Malin Head for approaches. A set of waypoints to assist when running up lough, as far as Fanad, can be found in the Lough Swilly Route.
For Pincher Bay it is best to approach the lough from a central point, as a spit with less than 8 metres of water extends nearly half a mile northeastward from the lighthouse. In heavy gales, the sea breaks on this and on the adjacent uneven ground. Even after the gale has subsided the rollers are dangerous, rendering it prudent to give the point a wide berth in passing.
The best anchorage is to be had in the middle of the bay in 3 metres or as far in as draft permits making the best of the shelter that its rugged cliffs provide to the prevailing winds. Holding is excellent in clear sand.
Why visit here?Pincher Bay is situated at the very north of the Fanad Peninsula, which lies between Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay. Although the origins of the name Fanad have been lost in time, there is some speculation that the name derives from an old Gaelic word fana meaning sloping ground.
Image: Tourism Ireland
The most prominent feature of Pincher Bay is Fanad lighthouse situated on the cliffs at Fanad Head. The lighthouse was erected and first lit in 1817 in response to the sinking of the frigate HMS Saldana in December 1811. Overwhelmed by a winter storm the frigate ran for natural shelter the Lough offered, but fell short of the entrance to break up under Fanad Head. The only survivor of the tragedy was the ship’s parrot which was identifiable because it bore a silver collar inscribed with the ship’s name.
Image: © Ronan Daly
The response to the tragic loss of life was a lighthouse to help guide ships and sailors safely into the most protected haven the north coast has to offer. The height of the lighthouse was increased in the 1880s and its light enhanced in 1906. Its light was completely replaced with modern electric equipment in 1975 and automated in 1983. It is classified as a sea light, not a harbour light, despite it marking the entrance into Lough Swilly which is a natural harbour of refuge. Today it acts as the land base for helicopters to make crew changes for the lighthouse stations on Tory Island and Inishtrahull.
Image: Kevin Flanagan
From a sailing point of view it is Pincher Bay's spectacular rugged cliffs and the enclosed secluded beach, on which it is possible to land a dinghy to go exploring, that makes it a wonderfully rewarding location. Fanad lighthouse is also a must visit here, and it may be accessed via its jetty. Standing between idyllic Lough Swilly and sandy Mulroy Bay, Fanad Head Lighthouse is one of Ireland's most photographed lighthouses and has been voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world. It has been developed into a visitors’ centre with accommodation so it is well worth visiting.
What facilities are available?There are no facilities in Pincher Bay.
With thanks to:Photography with thanks to Kieren Evans, Greg Clarke, Corinne Schleifer, Kenneth Allen and Michael Murtagh.
A brief view of Pincher Bay.
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