During the summer months Hook Head offers some of the best boat diving in the country on sites such as the Girl Arleen, Western Rock and Three Mile Rock. Couple this with the fact that it is only three hours from Dublin and you have a recipe for a great trip! Make no mistake though, Hook Head is not only for the summer months: it has some really good shore diving which can be experienced all year round and is also perfect for less experienced divers.
Should you need any help the Hook Sub-Aqua club have their clubhouse not far from Slade Harbour and have offered the use of compressors, clubhouse facilities, tractors, guided tours etc many times over the years. So in summary, they’re a lot like the A-team, they’re great and provided you can find them they will never see you stuck in Hook Head. If you want to see conditions in advance there is a webcam at the Hook head Lighthose Hook Lighthouse Webcam.
The Hook boat dives are a recent addition to sites we dived but Padraig O’Flynn (Podge) or Ronan Barry both took the boats down last year. Jon Meredith is our resident Hook shore diving expert.
There are three places to launch.
- Slade harbour is the probably the best harbour for operating out of, as it is the closest to the dive sites. The Inner Harbour where the slip is located dries out approximately 2 hours before and after low water. The slip is quite steep and is made from stone (similar to the main slip in Dun Laoghaire but more uneven). Launching with a car is possible but retrieving will be difficult without a 4 Wheel drive. The Hook Sub Aqua Club Clubhouse is located right next to Slade Harbour. They use a tractor for launching and retrieving and they could be asked for assistance if necessary. Alternatively retrieve at Duncannon see below.
- Duncannon has a good gently sloping slip but it is located on the Waterford harbour side of the Hook peninsula and much further from the dive sites. It is possible to launch or retrieve at any state of the tide however at low water the slip can be covered in seaweed and a rope may be necessary. On big spring tides there will be no access to the slip an hour and a half either side of low water. Keep in beside the trawlers for maximum depth.
- Fethard harbour has a very short slip and water will only reach the end of the slip on a High Spring Tide. The slip leads down onto the beach and it is very easy to get stuck in the soft sand. A 4WD is a must.
The Dive Ireland guide has some information.
As was mentioned before the boat diving in Hook Head is among the best in the country but due to weather conditions may not be diveable all year round. On the other hand, it is normally possible to find a sheltered shore dive regardless of wind direction. A southerly wind can spell disaster though as most sites will be exposed from this direction.
The reason that it is often possible to find a shore dive regardless of the wind is because the shore diving in Hook Head is split into three main areas, these being:
- Area around Slade Harbour.
- Underneath the lighthouse.
- Churchtown, 500m north of the lighthouse.
Here’s a map of the area with dive sites.
Area around Slade Harbour
Most of the shore diving around Slade Harbour can be accessed by going through the archway and walking across the adjoining field south of the harbour. Apparently it is possible to dive along the rocks north of the harbour but it isn’t worth the hassle as the diving isn’t great.
South of the harbour there are rocks and lots of points where safe access and egress are possible. Unfortunately there is a bit of a trek involved in reaching the better dive sites and the fact that this has to be done while carrying full kit makes it a bit of a pain in the arse!
The diving close to the harbour, although easier to get to, is not as rewarding as the sites which involve a bit a trek but if it’s a night dive that you’re after then you can slip in anywhere along and head back towards the harbour. The bottom consists of gullies, 2-3m high, which run several hundred metres out to sea. I haven’t dived along here before but am told that it is nice without being spectacular and has plenty of life.
This dive is situated about 300m from the harbour and consists of a large rock arch with a shallow depression underneath. This bowl-shaped depression makes a perfect area for kitting up and is a very easy entry for less experienced divers. The first part of the dive consists of a gulley which drops to about 12m in which you’ll see lobsters, crabs and wrasse. At the end of the gulley (~20m) the bottom gets stony and starts to shallow out before the gulley opens into a mixture of kelp and smaller gullies. It’s possible to see pollack, shrimps and the odd wrasse here. On your way back make sure that you find the gulley and it will guide you back into the bowl again. All in all an enjoyable dive best suited to novice divers or to winter diving. Watch out for tides- this is very tricky to dive at low tide as we found out in 2012.
Having never dived this site I can’t give too much information on it but apparently another 150m along the shore from Solomon’s Hole is a promontory (sticky-out rocky thing) where entry and exit is possible. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any information on the dive itself but I would imagine that it is very similar to the other dives along this coastline, a mixture of gullies and kelp.
Again having never dived this site I can’t give much of a description but from what I’ve read there is a natural slope in the cliff face, another 200m on from Carraig Ahoy, where a steel trawler was wrecked in the 1960s. The remains of this trawler remain today but I can’t imagine them being anything but well flattened.
There are two wrecks here that are diveable as well as countless gullies etc. It should be noted however that the visibility here, and on the western side of the Hook Peninsula in general can be absolutely rubbish after heavy rains as a result of the silt carried into Waterford Harbour by local rivers.
Right on the point of Churchtown there is the remains of a trawler than ran aground on the Hook. The wreck is very well broken up and all that remains is the engine block, prop and some random pieces of broken metal and wood. This dive is best done around high tide because as the water level drops it makes the exit quite difficult and at times some sort of climbing experience is advisable. Once you have completed your stride entry you are pretty much on top of the wreck which lies in about 8m of water. What remains of the wreck is quite small and once you have finished looking at it you can continue out along the gulley which runs out from the shore. In the gulley you’ll see the usual tompot blenny, wrasse, crabs etc. and above are shoals of pollack and in the summer, sandeels and garfish. Halfway along the gulley you’ll come to a Y-junction where you should take the right turn, after which the gulley come to a dead end. Turn around and on your way back in take the right turn at the Y-junction. This will bring you back along a different gulley which will eventually open into a large cave which is under about 5m of water and has blowholes in the ceiling. After you’ve looked at the cave turn around and follow the wall on your right out and around the corner into the bay where the trawler is lying. Really enjoyable dive if you catch it on the right day.
With the little bay, in which the above wreck lies, on your right the promontory or headland forming the left side of the bay contains numerous blowholes that you can’t miss if you wander around. These are in fact all connected beneath in one large cavern that makes for a really exciting dive. There is an obvious gully above land that looks like it continues below the blow-holes beneath water. Either fin out on the surface and descend once you’re in the gully, or else enter the water on the left hand side of the headland and fin out underwater, following the headland out, turning right, and going up the first gully you come to. While this makes for a really exciting dive, plan your air carefully and don’t attempt it if there’s any kind of a swell. It’s a good dive for easterlies.
Again, I haven’t dived this wreck so this is only second-hand information but if you head towards the Hook lighthouse from Churchtown stop at the first gateway on your left. From this gateway take a bearing of 60° and the wreck should be 200m off. The wreck is well flattened but there is still steel cable and various bits and pieces to be seen. I’m not entirely convinced that this wreck is as easy to find as I’ve been led to believe but if you want to give it a shot then according to Hook SAC “you can’t miss it”!
Apparently there are also the remains of a German Lugger, “Slazine” here as well as the wreck of a trawler which is about 100m offshore. Unfortunately I don’t have any further information on either of these dives. It should be noted that the tides in this area are stronger than in Slade, especially as you get further from the shore.
Tower Hole is an easy dive which makes a very nice night dive or novice dive. The bottom consists of many gullies and rocky outcrops and the maximum depth in the hole itself is around 10m although this will increase as you move away from the shore. It must be noted that there is a strong tide around Hook Head itself and as a result diving is only advisable during slack. In 1850 the “Royal Arthur” ran aground here with her cargo of walrus tusks. None have been found recently but it is thought that there may still be some present.
At low tide there is a blowhole in the rocks on the point where it is possible to enter the water. After entering you should follow the gulley out to see and then follow the outline of the headland in a northerly direction back towards the lighthouse. Again, I haven’t done this dive but would imagine that the topography is going to be very similar to that of Tower Hole i.e. rocky gullies etc. The main attraction seems to be the entry and the dive relatively uneventful after that. There are a good many seals around this area, many of which are quite tame. We did this dive in 2012- excellent time was had by all and there were lots of cool things to see- flatfish, seals, shrimp, ect. The cliffs along the left side of the area make for great jumping post dive. If you don’t know what you’re doing or a bit nervous, the locals can teach you!
Slack on Hook Head is an hour before low water and an hour before high water.
Three Mile Rock – 15m -> 35m
Also known as “The Big Rock” by locals, this is a rock pinnacle 4 miles from Slade or 7 miles from Fethard Harbour, south-east of Hook Head. The rock does not break the surface and you will need a sounder to locate it and a shot to mark its position. The top of the rock is in approximately 15m and the surrounding seabed is 30 to 35m. The steepest wall seems to be on the South East side of the rock although any side of the rock can be dived. This site is absolutely teeming with fish life with shoals of Pollock, coalfish, mackerel and whiting in season. At the bottom of the wall there are large boulders and gullies with lots of wrasse, conger, dogfish and a John Dory was even spotted!
This is a sports diver dive. There can be a slight current around the rock during half tides but it is nothing serious and the rock can usually be dived at any state of the tide. This is also a popular rock with angling boats. Divers should descend using the shot to the top of the rock and ascend using DSMBs.
Western Rock – 22m -> 40m
This is another submerged rock, south-east of Hook Head about half a mile west of Three Mile Rock. This is a slightly deeper dive and is more of a rock plateau than the pinnacle shape of 3 Mile Rock. The top of the rock is in about 22m and the surrounding seabed is 35m to 40m. Again divers should descend using the shot and should not return to the shot but should ascend using DSMBs. On descending to the top of the rock, you will be met with a series of massive gullies. Pick one gully and follow it out away from the rock. The gullies end in about 35m with some massive boulders. Less fish than in 3 Mile rock but lots of congers, lobsters and wrasse in the crevices.
This is a sports diver dive. It is better to attempt this dive as the first of the day as most of the dive will be spent in 29 to 30m and you will clock into decompression quickly. Like 3 Mile Rock there can be a slight current on this dive but it is usually very sheltered once inside the gullies.
Girl Arleen – 27m
The Girl Arleen is the wreck of a fishing trawler, which went down in 1995 after the collision with another boat in the fog. The wreck is mostly broken up but the wheelhouse is intact and absolutely teeming with life. The wreck lies in 27m, due east of Baggabaun head and is 4 miles from Slade harbour or 10 miles from Kilmore Quay. The wreck is normally shotted by local diving clubs. For the 2005 diving season it was marked with a string of 3 small bead shaped floats, which became submerged on a high tide.
The upside down wheelhouse is the most interesting section of the wreck and one can get inside and see the crew’s toilet and sink stuck to the roof! The rest of the wreckage is quite flattened and strewn across the seabed next to the wheelhouse with lots of congers and lobsters hiding underneath. This is a sports diver dive. It can be dived on any state of the tide.
George Milburn (Minesweeper)
The George Milburn was a steel steam trawler that was converted to use as an armed minesweeper in the first world war. She was built by R. Irvin & Son, with the dimension 37.31m length x 6.75m breadth and a draft of 3.76m and a weight of 235 tonnes. Power was provided by 1 3.75 triple expansion 78hp boiler.
On 12/7/1907, she was escorting the oiler SS Wylie from Queenstown to Milford when she blew up with the loss of 11 of her crew. Reports taken from the sole survivor, who was picked up by a fishing boat, indicate that a mine detonated amidships and he was blown clear into the sea.
DUSAC dived this wreck in 2006 for the first time while on a trip to Fethard. Andy T noticed he had a set of nearby marks for a wreck called “minesweeper”. He went out early one morning (while everyone else laid about in bed) and located something that appeared to be a sounder contact at the coordinates. The first DUSAC divers on the wreck were Andy T and Caitriona McLean. The wreck lies in 23m of water east of hook head with what appears to be the bow pointed towards the lighthouse. Slack water appears to be identical to the Girl Arleen with a current running on the surface but slack on the bottom. The wreck is well broken up but was covered in fish life along with lobsters and conger eels. As you proceed east along the wreck you will note a large shadow to the left. Leave the wreck and swim towards it and you will see the ships boiler. Directly west of the boiler there is some other wreckage. This is a lovely spot for an afternoon dive as the relatively shallow depth means that a great deal of time can be spent without excessive decompression penalties.
We also dived this in a big Westerly sea on spring tides in 2011. No tidal movement but visibility was shocking and it was a miracle the wreck was found at all. Congers and lobsters seen in the gloom so had viz been better it would have been a nice dive. Highest point is only 2m above seabed so some nifty shotting will be required. Clubs marks are pretty much spot on.
If you are shore diving, be sure to bring a fifty metre rope.
You need the usual boat safety equipment: O2, 1st Aid Kit, flares, VHF, GPS. Also make note of the following:
- Rosslare Coastguard
- VHF Channels 23, 67, 16, DSC 70
- Emergency services
- 112 (or 999) on land
- Recompression chamber
- Dublin (private)
- Galway, 091 524222
- Weather Dial 1550 123 855 (or 851 for Leinster)
- 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
Hook Head Sub-Aqua Club have a compressor.
There are tons of B&Bs in Fethard so if you were that way inclined you won’t have any trouble finding such accommodation. Normally DUSAC tend to rent some of the self-catering cottages around Fethard and these are great!
In 2012 and 2010, we stayed in a cottage at number 8 Valley View, Ciaran Callan is the guy to contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Mbl + 353 87 215 0686. It had 8 beds(double, twin, quadruple), two bathrooms, bbq and is situated right in the town. This place was awesome and cheap and also has two pull out couches and space in the back garden for two well placed tents. Also, Ciaran is super lovely. In 2012 we also rented a cottage at 7 Castle Park, which was good for a less rowdy group. You can contact +353 1 4558841. It was relatively inexpensive and very close to 8 Valley View. If you’re looking to bring a larger group, it was nice to have the two cottages close together, very close to lots of pubs and a Centra. If you have questions about either, ask Maureen or Katie Still.
If you’ve only a small group then there is a cottage called Seascapes which is pretty much IN Slade Harbour, very handy for diving but not so much if you wanted to go for a drink. Unfortunately there is nothing within walking distance and as such it’s not the ideal location for a bunch of thirsty divers.
A much better bet is the Grange Beach self-catering cottages which are just on the outskirts of Fethard. This complex consists of about twenty really nice cottages which will have ample parking space for trailers, boats, cars etc on all but the busiest bank holiday weekends. Each house sleeps five and consists of a double, a twin and a single room as well as two bathrooms and a great sitting room. These are a good bit more expensive in the summer.
Fethard has a Londis/Centra-type supermarket with an ATM.
As for pubs, there are a couple in Fethard which are about a twenty minute walk from the Grange Beach cottages. These range from the typical Irish rural pub up to a funky music bar so you’ll find something to suit you in Fethard. Hint: Go to the funky music bar, it’s great! (Really, the highlight of 2012 was the playground in town- stop by after the pub)
You can get more information about the area from the following sources:
- Underwater Ireland book
- Dive Ireland site
- Chart 2046, Waterford Harbour & approaches
- Hook Head chart/Saltees? (there’s another)
We often stay in Fethard (on Sea) when we dive Hook Head. Here’s how to get to Fethard.
Take the N11 from Dublin all the way through Gorey, Clogh, Ferns until you hit Enniscorthy. From here take the N30 to New Ross. When in New Ross take the N25 which is signposted Rosslare / Wexford and very shortly afterwards there will be a right turn onto the R733 (signposted Fethard on Sea). This will lead into the R734 and go through Arthurstown before arriving in Fethard. The Grange Beach Cottages are down to the left just before you hit Fethard but are signposted. Continue on this road for about half a mile and the cottages are on the left. If you come to a sharp left turn at the beach then you’ve gone too far! On most Fridays it shouldn’t take much more than three hours to get from Dublin to Fethard.
For detailed directions see the AA route planner.