Baltimore is a small village in West Cork and is one of the southern-most places in Ireland. The diving here is among the best in Ireland and it is becoming a regular club trip destination during the summer months. Roaringwater Bay lies between Crookhaven to the West and Baltimore to the South-East and includes the “Carbery 100 Isles” and it is these islands that offer the varied and sheltered diving which makes this area so attractive. It is also these islands that also make for the many wrecks in the area.
Baltimore is an ideal base for diving the area. There are a variety of dive sites ranging from shore dives for the absolute novice to demanding dives off the famous Fastnet Rock 12km out to sea. Tides need to be watched at a few exposed points, but in general diving can be carried out at any state of the tide. We generally require people to be sports diver or higher though there are plenty of ocean diver dives.
The club goes here quite regularly. Previous trip organisers include Amanda, Grainne and John H.
You can launch boats in Baltimore Harbour, a very steep slip or in Union Hall if you’re diving the U-260.
Lough Ine is a marine preservation and has an abundance of unusual sea-life. The Lough is open to the sea and so has a mixture of fresh water and sea-water. Some of the creatures, eg. lobsters are extremely large as the area is not fished. It should be noted that Lough Ine is a marine preservation under Irish and international law. As such, permits are required to dive here. Applications forms may be obtained from the warden. Only 500 diving permits are issued in a year. Successful applications will be shown a map of the Lough by the warden clearly marking the areas of the Lough that may be dived. Certain areas are permently off limits. Please note that the warden has the legal power to confiscate the equipment of anyone found diving in the Lough without a permit. Stories abound of clubs who have had to buy their equipment back in a public auction.
Whirlpool Cliffs, Lough Ine
The Whirlpool Cliffs is a site close to the rapids in Lough Ine. As the name suggests, it consists of a cliff above the water which then turns into a steep slope to the bottom at approximately 18m. The water here is crystal clear and the life is amazing. There are two huge lobsters, named Breakfast (pictured below) and Dougal, who live here. In addition, sea urchins, crabs and other sea life abounds. As one drops into the water, the crackling of fish feeding on the seaweed comes from all directions. This is a very relaxed dive that can be done at any stage of the tide.
The Hole, Lough Ine
Just off the island in Lough Ine is a large hole where the depth drops to 40m+. Care must be taken diving here as its location is very close to the marine reserve. Dropping down into this depth of water is great fun as you pass through the thermoclines and salt/fresh water mixing zones. However, the bottom consists of a thick layer of fine white silt. There are holes spread out that when you shine your torch into that seem to go down forever. The only life observed by some of the divers here was large fat slugs. However, other divers reported great dives by taking a slightly different direction on the bottom. This site was not a nice as the whirlpool cliffs but is a good spot for the depth-freaks out there.
We dived the landward side of the Stags, dropping in and finning towards the rocks as there were lots of seals sun-bathing some of whom we were hoping to see underwater. In the end I only saw one seal briefly for about 30 seconds after all that finning! Since we were finning towards the Stags we started off at about 15 metres and spent most of the dive between 6 and 10 metres. Towards the end we went off the easterly side of the rock and found about 20 metres, though there wasn’t a whole lot down there. Ronan and Tutsie went with the drift (eastwards parallel to shore) and ended up miles down having found 30 metres so sounds like there’s a completely dive down there.
As regards what it was like down there it was actually very pretty (and bright of course as it was shallow and early). Though it was kelpy there were lots of little gullies and pretty rock formations and a fair number of fish (wrasse of course) around. It would make a good novice/trainee dive.
The Kowloon Bridge is an enormous 300 metre super carrier that was wrecked on the Stags in 1986. It is the largest wreck, by tonnage, in the world. Until 2007 the bow stood intact, rising from about 35m to 7m. Winter storms have now collapsed it, and it lies on its side. The deck winches are still in place, and you can still see into the cavernous chain locker, but it’s not the dive it was. Aft of the hull was a series of huge holds, filled with iron ore pellets at the time of the sinking. These, too, are collapsing, and as you proceed further from the bow, the ship becomes more and more dispersed and unrecognisable so that it becomes harder to know if you are on the wreck or the seabed.
The wreck has been colonised by marine animals, and you’ll find plenty of fish, including mean-looking angler fish that like to hunt divers. (S.P., dived July 2008)
The U260 is a special dive: an almost fully intact German U-boat, diveable on air. Lying in 43m, (35m to the conning tower), she is a dive leader+ dive, and the reason why many of us became dive leaders! With open hatches, torpedo tubes and a shiny periscope, this dive is really exciting. On a clear day, you can see the whole wreck lying below you as you descend the shotline. You won’t want to leave. Below is some more detailed information.
The U-260 was a type VIIC U-boat commissioned on March 14th, 1942. She was originally assigned to the 8th U-boat Flotilla as a training vessel. In Octob she was transferred to the 6th Flotilla where she served as a front-line vessel until October 1944. At this point, she was transferred to the command of Oblt. Klaus Becker with 33rd Flotilla. There is only one recorded sinking attributed to the U-260 for a total of 4893 tons. She met her fate off the south coast of Ireland on March 12th, 1945, where the crew claimed that she struck a mine at a depth of 80m. This was later disputed and it is thought that she actually ran aground near Union Hall. The crew attempted to return to deep water where they scuttled her. The crew made their way ashore where they were interned until the end of the second world war. There were no casualties and all 48 crew members survived. Unlike many other U-boats, which during their service lost men due to accidents and various other causes, U-260 did not suffer any casualties during the entire war (that are known of).
- 769 tonnes (surface)
- 871 tonnes (submerged)
- Total length
- 17.7 knots on the surface
- 7.6 knots submerged
- 8100 miles (surface)
- 80 miles (submerged)
- 14 torpedoes
- 26 mines
- a 88 Deck gun
- 44 – 52 men
- Maximum operating depth
About 150m south of the U260 is a broad pinnacle of rock that rises from about 40m to about 16m. It is possible that the U260 sank after hitting the rock, which was only added to nautical charts in 1978 (hence the name). On one side (from memory, the north) the rock slopes fairly gently up to a kelpy summit. On the other, there are broad vertical walls like hanging gardens, covered in jewel anemones and circled by shoals of fish. In all, it’s a very enjoyable dive and well worth doing if you want a change from the sub. (S.P., dived July 2008)
The famous Fastnet Rock, with its towering lighthouse, lies about 4 1/2 miles west of Cape Clear island.
Under water, the rock drops in folds to 45m or more. There are huge clumps of custard yellow boring sponge at depth, and dead mans fingers as you ascend towards the kelp zone. We also found ling, lobsters, crayfish and pollack.
The rock is well-known for its lighthouse, an impressive feat of engineering that has stood for over a century. After diving, we landed at the little jetty and navigated the maze of walkways and stairs cut into the stone to reach the tower. A curious young seal kept watch over the boat for us, poking his head over the transom.
If the weather looks calm enough to land on the rock, then don’t miss a chance to get out. (S.P., dived July 2008)
1500 ton Flower Class Sloop which went down in 1917 after hitting a naval mine off Galley Head. Well broken up (Gun is raised and in Kinsale) and a good spin from Union Hall (8nm approx, but she is only half a mile off-shore so should be diveable even in reasonably stiff northerly) but lots of very impressive machiney including massive boiler, condenser and part of her main structure (a bit like the Lismore off Wexford). Lots of fish life on the sea-bed, trinkets, bottles and other bric-a-brac abound. Its a flat 35m for the entire dive – making it an experienced SD plus dive. Only the bow section is at this location the stern was under tow, parted a line and is further out to sea (or the other way around). Not dived regularly so you’ll need to put a shot on her but the boilers will come up as an obvious mark on the sounder. A lovely dive and a great addition to a weekends diving on the sub/Fastnet.
In 2011 we dived the south-western tip of Sherkin island and found a nice slope down to about 40m. The approximate location of the site (taken from the charts) was 51° 27′.45N 009° 26′.66W. There was a lobster pot here near crab rock. The site could be found by sounding due West of it. See chart 2129 Long Island Bay to Castlehaven for more information.
Situated east of Baltimore, Kedge island can provide some nice dives if the weather is playing up. We found a very nice dive in 2011 at at the south-western tip of Kedge island (51° 27′.71N 009° 20′.85W). There are two parrallel rows of rocks pointing south-west from the island with some nice gullies between them.
There are many sites around Baltimore that we have yet to dive. See the Dive Ireland guide for more details.
If caught in Glandore in a gale then the only real option we could find was to dive High/Adam’s Island right in the centre of the mouth of the Harbour. We were in an easterly and we dived in the lee (western side). Nice site with sand, kelp and small rocks littered around the place. A reasonable amount of life (big edible crabs, some nice flatfish on the sand, prawns and loads of anenomes (include flat or carpet anenomes that I (JK) have never seen before. Viz good and max depth of 14m. Worth doing and a pleasant way to while away a blown-out afternoon.
We dived Rabbit Island (about a mile to the SW) a few years ago and although slightly deeper wasn’t nearly as nice.
You need the usual boat safety equipment: O2, 1st Aid Kit, flares, VHF, GPS. Also make note of the following:
- Mizen Head Coastguard
- VHF Channels 04, 26, 16, 67, DSC 70
- Emergency services
- 112 (or 999) on land
- Recompression chamber
- Dublin (private)
- Galway, 091 524222
- Weather Dial 1550 123 855 (or 853 for Ulster)
- RTE Radio1 (88-89fm) at 0602, 1253, 1655, 2355
- VHF 0103, 0403, 0703, 1003, 1303, 1603, 1903, 2203
- Warnings on VHF (channel 16) 0033, 0633, 1233, 1833
There are two dive centres in Baltimore if you need fills and Aquaventures do nitrox as well.
- Jerry and Rianne, Aquaventures Dive Centre, The Stone House, Baltimore: +353-(0)28-20511.
- Baltimore Diving Centre, Tel. +353-(0)28-20300
Whenever DUSAC comes to Baltimore, we always stay in Rolf’s Hostel. This large hostel is situated on a hill overlooking the town and is only about five minutes walking distance from the pubs. There are twin rooms, four-bed dorms and twelve-bed dorms available. There is usually plenty of parking at the hostel and they are well used to divers. There are also many B&Bs situated in the town along with holiday cottages.
If staying in Glandore we stayed in a big house on the Hill that sleeps 8 called Ait-Eile. Up a bad road but very swish and within walking distance to Hayes Pub.
There is a small supermarket in the village centre.
There are many pubs and restaurants situated in the harbour area, not to mention the restaurant in the hostel itself which does a nice fry-up in the morning and some great seafood salads. The Algiers does nice enough food but it can be a long time coming. However, for really nice grub, the pizza place in the square is great and the open crab sandwich from Bushes is to die for. Usually the divers congregate in one of two pubs, either Bushes or McCarthy’s. Bushes is covered in shipwreck memorabilia while McCarthy’s often has live music.
You can get more information about the area from the following sources:
- Underwater Ireland book
- Dive Ireland guide
- Chart 2184 (Mizen Head to Gascanane Sound)
- Chart 5011
- Discovery Series Maps, No. 72, 84 and 89
From Dublin, take the main Cork/Limerick road. When you get to Port Laois, take the off ramp and get onto the N8 to Cork. Follow this road all the way to Cork. Go through the Jack Lynch Tunnel and follow the signs for West Cork (N81), for Bandon and Skibbereen. Once you reach Skibbereen, follow the signposts to Baltimore. The hostel is signposted on the right-hand side as you enter the village.