Downpatrick Head situated just outside the nearby village of Ballycastle is one of the finer dives sites carved out by the atlantic. Looking out to sea, Doonbristy sea stack rises up from the ocean, holding strong in in front of Downpatrick head. It’s spectacular formation promises exceptional diving. Kilcummin Head is also an excellent dive site and a short boat ride from Kilcummin Pier.
Launching in Bunatrhir Bay to access Downpatrick head and the sea stack dive sites is advised.
In 2012, Julia O’Rourke organised her AD dive trip and retuned again with the club in 2014 to expore Kilcummin Head sites.
Access to Dive Sites
Ballycastle Slip (3min drive from house) in Bunatrahir Bay
- Recently renovated; slip extended, protecting wall heightened (works due for completion by end of 2014). For a view of the slip, from the Coastal Helicopter Resource click here
- Low water access can be an issue (CD 5m)
- No secure moorings in bay
- lots of fishing nets and pots in the bay
- The bay faces directly North. It is difficult to launch/retrieve boats from here with northerly winds as the bay is exposed. The dive sites are about 20-30mins drive by rib from the slip.
- Ample space for neat parking of 6-8 cars.
Lacken Pier Slip (20min drive from house)
- Dries out at low water
Kilcummin Pier (25min drive from house)
- Can launch HW/LW
- Frequently used by other Sub-Aqua Clubs e.g. Grainne Uaile
- Can tie up at pier for lunch
- Possibility of mooring overnight. Contact local man (Mr.Boland) residing adjacent to slip.
General site info
Site 1: Downpatrick Head
Start at the beginning of the third finger, which is a good sheltered place for kitting up. Dive down the wall where you will find many openings in the cliff and kelp down to 15m with some very large rocks.
At the bottom, depth 28m, go along the wall in a Southerly direction and you will come to an amphitheatre. It is very hard to describe it’s beautiful smooth rock, it is as if someone designed it! As you exit keep your left which will bring you along another ridge. This is a suitable dive for advanced novices.
Site 2: Downpatrick Head
This dive is on the inner side of Downpatrick Head. Start on the second finger and again go in a SW direction to a maximum depth of 30m. Descending down the wall you will see the ridge go to the right, this will lead you to a very large opening which will bring you into the cliff under the headland. Coming back out, keep a straight course and your dive will finish at the Northern tip of the Head.
Site 3: Doonbristy Sea Stack
Decend on the eastern side and work around the stack to northerly, then westerly and southerly direction. Bearing west is advised for the ascent. The Easterly and Northernly section of this sea stack is the most interesting for life and topography.
Site 4: Ceide Fields
The pyramid for the interpretive centre is a good navigation marker to find this site. The steep cliffs rise 60m straight out of the water, they are 300-400m long and surround the site. The cliff walls drop vertically to a sandy bottom at 20-25m. This cliff is composed of deep horizontal cracks, it has abundant plant and fish life. As you head out to sea the bottom is covered with large rocks. There are many sea caves opening in the cliff walls. Visibility here is generally good.
Site 5: Kilcummin Head
Launch at Kilcummin Pier. Locals report can launch and HW and LW. Dive site is 1.1NM, Direction N-NW, 4-5min boat ride. Site has mix of bounders and rocky reef dropping from 10-25m on the eastern side. Bearing North will offer more depth (30M). This site is dived frequently by numerous local divers and local sub-aqua clubs. We were really impressed by this very scenic dive site. Kilcummin Head has a lot to offer, every dive was different with plenty of life and great landscape consisting of walls, underwater sea arches, canyons and various types of rock boulders. It simply contains few dive sites in one spot.
Traffic reports are to be made to Glen Head coastguard on channel 24. It is right across Donegal Bay and has clear line of sight form Downpatrick Head dive location. If communications are not going through on ch.24 then contact Donegal Bay coastguard on ch.02 or Belmullet on ch.83 although due to the location of the broadcasting mast from the Downpatrick head dive site the signal might not be good.
The nearest coastguard rescue boat is located in Killala bay and Tony Culkin is the officer in charge.
The nearest local sub aqua club is Grainne Uaile SAC. A C.M.A.S. dive club.
There is a local rescue diver, Kevin Gilvary based in the town of Killala. He is very knowledgable on the North Mayo dive sites. He owns a pub, Gilvary’s (no sign over the door) situated directly across the road from the petrol station on the Ballycastle side of Killala.
In 2012, we stayed in a beautiful house perched high and looking out over the atlantic and Doonbristy sea stack. The house called “Muingelly” is located a little over 1 km from Ballycastle pier. It is a privately owned detatched residence which sleeps 12. Is is wonderfully spacious and the accommodation comprises of 4 spacious double rooms, a master bedroom with a walk through closet and a twin room. The living area boasts fantastic views of the sea stack. There is a large stove fire that can be lit and the owner left a few bags of turf for us. The house owner’s parents live nearby and the key can be collected from them. There is ample space for parking boat trailers, cars and setting up compressors, a large detatched shed can be used for storage too.
Contact the owner: John Madden through the website for booking the house. Electricity was charged extra at a rate of 20euros for the weekend. Gas (for heating) was calculated at .85c/litre
We mostly made our own entertainment in the house. Ballycastle village has up to 14 pubs. Polkes local emporium and pub where time truly stands still was our favourite for the weekend.
If blown out, there are some fantastic walks (parts of the western way) and historical sites (megalithic and neolithic) to visit in the area. You are free to ramble the bogs, hillsides, stone ruins along the coastline. The Ceide Fields and walks along Downpatrick head or Killala beach are recommended.
Other local Info
There is no ATM in the village of Ballycastle.
Local taxi bus service is available and can take up to 8 passengers.
Contact numbers: Martin-John 086 2858359 or Collette 086 8561606
Stella Maris Country House Hotel. A blue book referenced hotel and also one of the top 100 restaurants in Ireland is located just a few metres from Ballycastle slip. Tel: 096-43322
1. From Dublin Click Here
2. Ballycastle pier and the accommodation are located approx. 3km beyond the village of Ballycastle on the western side. The house is situated on an elevated site on the right hand side. It is a detached private residence. See here to view google street view of the house.
Sat Nav: Ballycastle, MAYO (not Antrim) will see you right