St. John’s point is the first trip away for the club after our novice trip. The beauty of this trip is that the May bank-holiday on which it is held always seems to provide us with glorious weather which in turn just improves the already breathtaking beauty of Donegal in the north west region of Ireland. Novices or crossover’s who could not make the novice trip usually get priority for St. Johns point, as it is not only an easy and beautiful dive site, it is also sheltered and safe. Many others use this trip as a way to kick start their diving year while those organising it are usually first time organisers under the guidance of a more experienced diver.
A lot of people have organised trips here over the years. Your current diving officer will probably have been here more times than they care to count so talk to them and you won’t go far wrong. Claire McGuinness organised a trip here in 2006, Julian Carroll organised one in 2008, Ian O Gorman and Helen Mulvihill organised one in 2009. Paula Tierney organised a trip in 2019.
We don’t usually bring boats to St John’s Point. The lure of hassle free good-shore diving is always too great. However, there are some sites that need a boat so if you need to launch a RIB you can at
- Killybegs (nice good wide slip)
- The Beach (4 x 4 required)
There is also a slip about half way along the point but the road down to it is very bad. There is a petrol station on the Killybegs road about 5 mintutes from Dunkineely where you can fill up for the compressors as well.
There’s a map of the area on the Dive Ireland guide to St John’s Point.
This is the most popular of the dive sites. When standing on the pier looking out towards Mullaghmore you can see water breaking over a rock at about 11 o clock (i.e. slightly left of centre). This marks the nearest corner of the wall. The wall is about 20m and runs east – west. You can follow the base of the wall along finding many nooks and crannies in with all manner of life. The wall goes on for about 200-300m before taking a turn southwards. The wall more or less ends at this point though it is possible to continue on for a while but there is not as much to see. There are more nooks and crannies to explore than is possible to visit in one dive, in a sea full of life with great visibility. There are no horrible currents to pull you all over the place and an easy dive path up and down the wall. The local fish are very friendly too and will flock to you, if you bang two rocks together, looking for an easy meal. Please don’t feed them though! Out from the wall itself is a field of boulders and rubble which itself is well worth a dive, though here the depth can drop away to 30m if you go looking for it. A nice way to try and cover everything on this site is to go straight out from the pier (even head slightly right as you head out) and drop down. Head East over the field of boulders for a few hundred metres before heading North until you reach the wall again and head back West along it. When you reach the end of the wall on your return (it suddenly swings from going West to Going North/North East) its time to strike out for home. Take a bearing NNW. Follow this bearing and you will end up near enough to the steps used for entry.
When heading out to the wall fin on the surface. As you’ll probably want to save your air for the dive itself bring a snorkel for the fin out or, like the rest of us, you hold your reg in your hand rather than in your mouth. The fin out is over shallows of about 6-8m. Its well worth using a snorkel during this as there is plenty of life in the kelp below. When coming back in try and stay under the water for as long as possible. If it is any way rough, it is much easier that way.
Points of note: 200bar SHOULD be enough to get you right to the end of the wall and back again at any sort of reasonable pace. If you find you are running low on air you can start to work your way up along the wall, gradually getting shallower. If you head off from the pier at about 1 o clock, drop onto the field of boulders and find 21m (roughly) you can find a small swim through (using the term liberally). If you want to try moving away from the wall but are afraid of not being able to find it again there is a section along the wall where you will find your way blocked by boulders along the bottom of the wall. It’s fairly distinctive. At this stage if you follow these boulders away from the wall they form a slight ridge down to slightly deeper depths. When you want you can follow the ridge back up to the wall and continue or turn back.
Recommendation: Dive it as a night dive if you have the chance. AMAZING does not do it justice.
Looking out from the beach described below you can see water breaking over a set of rocks straight out. Black rock is a shelf running beside these rocks. It goes to about 25m and is riddled in life. Pretty much the same sort of life and dive as the wall described above but because it is harder to access there tends to be more of it. The rocks look like it might be possible to shore dive them but this line of thinking is not safe as there can be quite a current around them. Only dive this site with boat cover. This is an absolutely great site.
On the road to John’s Point you pass a beach on the left hand side. This can be dived in all weather conditions but does not offer good diving. Plenty of hermit crabs is about it. This is only to be dived for the purposes of getting wet.
On the road to John’s Point, before you reach the beach, there is a turn to the left down a narrow unsurfaced road with grass in the middle (careful of your oil sump). This leads down to a little harbour that can often be dived when the wall is too rough.
From the slip, heading roughly towards the sea, you should find narrow gully (about 2m wide) which can be followed. There is a decent amount of life here, including plenty of worm pipefish, although max depth here is about 8m.
On the road to John’s point there is one long up hill slope. If you can find parking along the side you can enter the water and fin out to a set of shallow reefs. The club has never dived it to my knowledge so going on second-hand information here, supposed to be a nice dive but not great.
The stack is on the opposite side of the inlet used to dive the wall. It provides a far more challenging dive than the wall and requires substantially more air. The club rarely dives this site but it’s supposed to be a tight thing getting around it on one bottle. Need calm weather for it.
You need the following safety equipment for shore diving: O2, 1st Aid Kit. A watch and dive marshalling slate is also essential for keeping track of which divers are in the water. Also make note of the following:
- Glen Head Coastguard
- VHF Channels 24, 16, 67, DSC 70
- Emergency services
- 112 (or 999) on land
- Recompression chamber
- 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
Dominic has a compressor for air fills at the Blue Moon hostel. There is a dive centre nearby: H2O (073 31169 / 087 2392899) and it is also possible to rent hard boats out of Killybegs and Teelin. The numbers we have for these are: Paddy Byrne (Teelin) 087 6284688, and Michael McGettican (Killybegs) home: 073 31401.
Our standard accommodation is the Blue Moon Hotel, +353 (0)749 737 264, run by Dominic. This hostel has a compressor and two kitchens for self-catering. The hostel is about seven miles from the dive site and generally holds twenty. However, with many prepared to camp in the grounds, the numbers can expand radically.
The closest ATM is in Killybegs so bring cash! The hostel is self-catering so we often rustle up something for ourselves there. The supermarket in Dunkineely is small enough but adequate. There’s also chinese take-aways in Killybegs which often get a visit as well as a chipper/take-away in Dunkineely. Bring lunches with you if you’re diving on the point as it’s too long a drive to be going home for lunch!
The locals are used to our annual pilgrimage and the pub across the road and they are extremely welcoming. The locals also welcome the varied musical skills (or lack thereof) that our members display. Ask Paul Hickey about the traditional ‘Heads or Tails’ game!
Killybegs, with its super-tankers, is a sight to see and further along the coast lie the Slieve League cliffs, the highest sea cliffs in Europe. There are viewing points along the way and they’re spectacular. MalinBeg also has a pretty little beach, the Silver Strand, but that’s for another dive guide I suppose! There’s plenty of walking in the area and around the point and there’s also a lovely little sandy beach about two thirds of the way down the point.
You can get more information about the area from the following sources:
- Underwater Ireland book
- Dive Ireland guide
- 2702 (Donegal Bay)/2715 (Donegal/Killala)
- Chart 5011 (book explaining admiralty chart symbols)
- Discovery Series Maps 10 and 11
From college, go down Pearse St. and cross Butt Bridge. Continue on straight up Gardiner St. until you come to the junction with Dorset St. You want to be in the left lane here, turn right and take the next left, signposted N3. Continue up this road through Cabra, onto the Navan road, across the M50, past Blanchardstown etc. It’s a straight run up through Navan, Kells, Virginia, Cavan and across the border. The road changes designation here but keep heading for Ballyshannon and you’ll be fine. Once you’re in Ballyshannon follow the signs for Donegal town and then Killybegs. The road will go right through Dunkineely. Hostel’s on the right at the opposite end of the town! There’s space for cars to park around the back of the hostel.
You can also drive north of Lough Erne after Enniskillen through Kesh, Pettigo and Laghy and from there on into Donegal town. Its probably a little quicker but also a little bumpier!
You can also take the N4 up to Sligo and then continue on to Ballyshannon. With the recent road upgrades it’s just as quick!
To get to the dive sites, follow the road out of Dunkineely village and it drops into a dip where there is a left hand turn, take this. Follow it along to a T-junction (about half a mile), turn left here and follow the road until it ends. There is a lighthouse at the end of the road and a parking area.
If you’re taking the Sligo road up, Roosky is a nice place to stop.