Castletownshend on Ireland’s southwest coast is a small country village about 8km, outside Skibbereen in west Cork. The main street is characterised by a steep hill, which leads down to an idyllic waterfront. This small beautiful country village is surrounded by stunning scenery and is a largely untapped diving location with huge amount of potential. This is still a newly discovered area for diving for the club and definitely warrants further trips.
This area is still very new to the club and has a huge amount of potential. Ian O’ Gorman organised a trip here over the Easter weekend in 2010, diving sites off both Castletownshend and within Lough Hyne.
Castletownshend is the main slip in the area. This is a large slip and allows for launching and retrieving at any stage of the tide. There is a petrol pump in Castletownshend but I wouldn’t trust the fuel from it. There are garages in Skibbereen and you are better off filling fuel cans from there. This slip can get very busy during the summer months. There is a boat shop called Atlantic Marine in Skibbereen if there is a problem with the boats.
The area is also a perfect base for diving Lough Hyne. If googling you come across a RIB to rent from University College Cork (5m 40hp) at a cost of €15 euro a day, Its only for scientific researchhttp://www.ucc.ie/zeps/pages/research/res_loch_hyne.htm
The slip at Lough Hyne dries up at low tide, although launching/retrieval may be possible by pushing the trailer by hand – the bottom is stony and slopes very gradually. If here during the busy summer months beware – visitors tend to park at the top of the slip and this may prevent access for launching and retrieval.
Tides at Castletownshend harbour are reported to be 20mins before Cobh during spring tides and 30mins before during Neap tides, with a tidal range 0.4m and 0.2m less than Cobh during Spring and Neap tides respectively. Additional information on the area is given on Admiralty chart 2129, Long Island Bay to Castlehaven.
(51˚ 30.309’N, 009˚ 10.734’W)
About a mile and a half out from Castletownshend Slip, this rock is the obvious formation to the west of the harbour entrance, on the seaward side of Horse Island (see chart below). The seaward face is where we dived (the chart indicates that the landward and the eastern sides have lots of submerged rocks so we steered well clear) and it is lovely. There are lots of gullies running parallel to the rock face that are covered in anemone and invertebrate life with some large wrasse hiding in the clefts. Interesting topography, great viz and a lovely dive suitable for all grades (it peters out at about 25m odd). Very straightforward as long as divers make an effort to stay on the seaward side of the rock and not to follow the face all the way around, and to come away from the wall before surfacing so as to aid in pick up by the boat cover.
Located about 1.5 miles outside Castletownshend, Castlehaven beach is a perfect beach for sheltered shore diving. This beach is in a stunning very sheltered location which basically guarantees not to be blown out. Although shallow with a max depth of approximately 7m the diving is very good with great viability lots of crabs and flat fish buried in the sand. This site should not just be considered a secondary dive site if other sites get blown out. The gradient of this beach is quite steep allowing boat access close to the shore. To get to Castlehaven beach from Castetownshend, come out of the village and take the first left, follow this road for about a mile and you will see a bad left turn (almost a full U-turn) take this and the beach is at the end of the road.
(51˚ 29.312’N, 009˚ 12.578’W)
Although we didn’t dive this site on this trip, apparently this is a very nice dive, this site is located at the tip of toe head on the sandy cove bay side of the headland and is located approximately 1.5 nautical miles WSW of Black rock. Depending on the conditions this site is often more sheltered than Black Rock, the above water topography shows a massive dramatic cliff face dropping into the sea and apparently this face continues down underwater to a depth of 25m. This site is defiantly worth checking out in the future.
Lough Hyne is located about 3km outside Skibbereen on the Baltimore road. This is a fantastic dive site, with spectacular visibility, and an abundance of sea life on steroids, including huge Spider crabs, Crayfish and Lobsters. Lough Hyne is a marine reserve therefore a permit is required in order to dive within the Lough. Permits need to be applied for in advance for each individual diver. An absolute minimum of two weeks is required to process permit applications which are done through the national park and wildlife service, the permit is available from the following website: www.baltimorediving.com/Loch_Hyne_Permit_Service.pdf. Lough Hyne is extremely sheltered and is primarily unaffected by tidal conditions, making it the perfect location for divers of any grade. More information on specific dive sites in Lough Hyne is listed in the dive guide under Baltimore. You cant run the Compressors at Lough Hyne so make sure to bring plenty of bottles so that you can ferry them back to fill at the hostel.
You need to usual boat safety equipment: O2, 1st Aid kit, flares, VHF, GPS, Also make a note of the following:
Mizen Head Coastguard.
VHF Channels 0, 26, 16, 67. The nearest RNLI stations are Toe head or Glandore. RNLI Lifeboat Tel: 028 20143
112 (or 999) on land.
Skibbereen Medical Centre Tel: 028 23456
Skibbereen Hospital Tel: 028 2167
Galway 091 52422
Weather Dial 1550 123 855
RTE Radio 1 (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 which is about 9miles from Skibbereen, if you need to fill bottles. These are:
Baltimore Diving Centre, Tel 028 20300
Aquaventures Dive Centre, Tel 028 20511
Skibbereen is the nearest big town, it has an ATM a Lidl and two large supermarkets.
We stayed in the Russagh Mill hostel, which is on the Castletwnshend road from Skibbereen. The hostel is an old mill and is full of bags of character. Accommodation consists of dormitories and double rooms. The hostel has many large common rooms and two self catering kitchens. The hostel is cheap and cheerful with beds in the dormitories costing around €15 a night. The hostel staff are very friendly and accommodating. There is a large car park around the back of the hostel with ample parking for the boats and space to run the compressors. The hostel is within walking distance of Skibbereen although not recommended as there is no path along the road back to the hostel. A taxi from the main street in Skibbereen to the hostel costs approximately €5. More information on the hostel can be found from the following website: www.russaghmillhostel.com
Other recommended accommodation in the area is Shana Court which is located Castletownshend village. This house is right in the centre of the village, right across the road from Mary Ann’s pub. The house sleeps 14 people and there is also a cottage next door that houses another 4 people. For more information and availability on Shana court contact Geraldine on: 0044 2088861223, and see http://shanacourt.wordpress.com/.
Mary Ann’s bar and restaurant in Castletownshend serves a good feed. The food is a bit on the expensive side so be warned, but you get what you pay for, if you are looking for really good seafood it’s defiantly the place to go. Castletownshend has two pubs Mary Ann’s at the bottom of the hill is mainly for eating and Lill Mc Carthys at the top of the hill is for drinking. There are two night clubs in Skibbereen Chasers and Dakota, both clubs are generally pretty busy at the weekend.
To get to Castletownshend follow the following directions to Skibbereen from Dublin:
To get to the hostel from Skibbereen go through the town following signs for all routes (Baltimore), you will then come to a roundabout with Lidl on your right and Atlantic Marine on your left, go left at this roundabout following signs for Castletownshend. The hostel is on the left hand side of this road about a mile and a half outside Skibbereen. If you continue straight down this road and straight through the next crossroads you will get to Castletownshend village.