Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Natural History of Ireland (Author: Gerard Boate)

chapter 2

Waterford Haven.

THE havens of Ireland are so many in number, and for the most part so fair and large, that in this particular hardly any land in the whole world may be compared with this, as will easily appear by the particular rehearsal thereof, which we are now to make, first of the best and chiefest in this chapter, and of the others in the next. We shall begin with Waterford haven, the which being situated on the confines of Leinster and Munster, runneth some seven or eight miles into the land, not winding or crooked, nor with any great nookes or inlets, but almost in a straight line, (extending in it self north and north by west) and in most parts of an equal breadth, all the way deep and clear, having no rocks or sands, but only two or three little ones, which lying not across nor in the midst, but by the sides, may be shunned very easily. Without the harbour it is eleven and twelve fathoms deep, in the mouth


seven and more, inwards six fathoms. Within the easterly corner is a good road, in four or five fathoms; and on the other or westerly side, five or six miles from the mouth, is another good road, very commodious as well for them who go forth, as those that will sail upward to Waterford. Upon the east side, about half way the length, lieth a very strong castle called Duncannon, which so commandeth this harbour, as no ships can go up or down against the will of those in the fort without running extreme hazard.

This haven in the end divideth it self into two arms, both a great deal inferior to the principal harbour in breadth and depth, but yet such as are capable of ships of good big port, especially the left, which runneth westward to the city of Waterford, whereof this whole haven beareth the name, being situated some four or five miles from that division, and a little below the place where the river Shure falleth into this harbour. The right arm being the mouth or the river Barrow, and extending it self straight along, goeth up to Ross, (a town in former times famous for trade) the which is much about the same distance from this division, as the division is from the mouth of the harbour.

Carlingford Haven.

ON the whole coast of Leinster there is not one fair large harbour, so as the next good haven from Waterford northwards is that of Carlingford, which two harbours, in sailing straight along the coast, are above an hundred miles distant.

This haven is some three or four miles long, and nigh of the same breadth, being every where very deep, so as the biggest ships may come there to an anchor, and so inviron'd with high land and mountains on all sides, that the ships do lye defended off all winds; so that this would be one of the best havens of the world, if it were not for the difficulty and danger of the entrance, the mouth being full of rocks, both blind ones and others, betwixt which the passages are very narrow, whereby it cometh that this harbour is very little frequented by any great ships, the rather because there is no traffick at all, nor any good town seated on this haven. For the town of Carlingford, whose name it beareth, is a very poor place, hardly worth the speaking of. About eight miles from the mouth of the harbour is the Newry, a fine little town, until in this late bloody rebellion it was for the greatest part destroyed by the Irish, by which town passeth a little river, called the Newry-water, which discharging it self into the harbour some four or five miles below the Newry, is not portable but of very little barks and boats, and that only when the tide is in.


Strangford Haven, and that of Knockfergus.

ABOUT thirty miles northwards from Carlingford haven is the haven of Strangford, the which in its entrance is almost as much incumbred with rocks or both kinds, as that of Carlingford. It is some five or six miles long, and beareth north westward, being the mouth of a great lough, called Lough Cone; the which being but two or three miles broad in most places, but some fifteen or sixteen long, doth ebb and flow until the utmost ends of it: so that there goeth a very strong tide in this harbour, which makes the same the unsafer, especially in great storms and high winds, for which there is no great defence here. On this haven, and on the neighbouring lough, there lyeth never a good town, Strangford being more inconsiderable yet than Carlingford.

The next great harbour upon this coast, and about twenty miles more to the North, is that of Knockfergus, being a great wide bay, the which in its mouth, betwixt the southern and the northern point, is no less than ten or twelve miles broad, growing narrower by degrees, the farther it goeth into the land, the which it doth for the space of fifteen miles, as far as to the town of Belfast, where a little river called Lagon (not portable but of small boats) falleth into this harbour. In this bay is a reasonable good road before the town of Knockfergus (seated about nine miles within the land) where it is good anchoring in three fathoms, and three and a half. On the north side of the bay, somewhat near the sea, under a castle called Mouse-hill, is a sand bay, where it is good anchoring for all sorts of ships, as well great as small ones, for the north and north west winds: but bad riding for the south west.

Sheep Haven, Lough Swilly, and Lough Foyle.

THE three forementioned havens of Carlingford, Strangford, Knockfergus, are all in the province of Ulster, on the east side thereof. The said province hath also three good havens on its northern coast, not very far distant the one from the other. viz. Sheep haven, Lough Swilly, and Lough Foyle. Every one of these is a Lough (which the very name of the second and third sufficiently testifieth) opening it self into the sea, of the which Sheep haven and Lough Swilly altho' they be fair large harbours, as well as Lough Foyle, and that ships may ride there defended off all winds, Lough Swilly being also of sufficient bigness to contain a thousand great vessels, yet they are very little frequented, because there is not any trade nor traffick, nor any good town placed upon or near them.


Lough Foyle is of a great bigness, at least twelve miles long, and in most places five or six miles broad, being almost every where of an equal breadth, except at the two ends, where it groweth narrow, being of an oval figure. For at the mouth, betwixt Magilligan's point and Greencastle, it is hardly a mile and a half broad and at the other end it is much narrower yet, running from thence with a long arm some miles into the country, being liker to a broad river, than to a lough. Upon this arm, three or four miles from the great lough, is the town of Londonderry, in place where that arm turneth and windeth it self in that manner, as it invironeth the town on three sides. It is nothing big, consisting only of two long streets, the which cut one another cross-ways in the midst; but it is very handsome, the streets being broad and well paved, the houses some stories high, and built for the most of freestone, with a handsome church, market place, and key and is inclosed with a thick and very strong wall, being one of the principal fortresses of Ireland. It is but few years old, having been built up from the ground by a company of London adventurers under the reign of king James. Before the mouth of this lough lieth a great sand, called the Touns (upon which it burneth greatly, when the wind bloweth from the sea) but so as a fair broad and deep channel remaineth betwixt the said sand and the west side of the land, where there is at all times fourteen and fifteen fathoms of water, as in the mouth it self some eight or ten. Entring into the lough, there are very great sands on the left hand, from the one end to the other, which are some miles broad from off the land, and of the right hand are some little sands or shelves here, lying close to the land. Betwixt these runneth a broad channel in most parts three and four fathoms deep and in that arm, whereon Londonderry standeth, it is deeper yet, in some places no less than ten or twelve, and before the town four and five fathoms: so as this is one of the best and most commodious harbours of all the land

Kilbeg and Dunnagall Haven.

THE country of Tirconnel, the which taketh up the whole west side of the province of Ulster, runneth a great way into the sea with its southern part, on the south side of which foreland there are two very fair havens, the one not far from the other, vix. Kilbeg and Dunnagall haven. Kilbeg is a fair round bay, where the greatest ships that go upon the seas, may at all times with their full lading enter and come to an anchor, being distant about twelve miles from Cape de Telling, the outmost or most western point of that forenamed foreland of Tirconnel. The entrance is very narrow, so as unto them who are coming to it, there seemeth to be no opening there, until they are very near, but it is very clean, as well in the mouth, as in the bay it self, and nothing that can hurt the ships either coming in or going forth, being entred, one may anchor where one will, in five, six, seven, eight fathoms, or more.


Three or four miles to the south from Kilbeg is a cape, call'd St. John's point, and six or seven miles eastward from the said cape is Dunnagall haven, wide and deep enough, but in the entrance greatly incumbred with shelves, sands, and rocks, so as great care and circumspection is requisite, to enter or go forth safely. These two havens have their names of villages seated on them, which are very small and no ways considerable.

Broad-haven, Achill Haven, and Galloway Haven.

THE province of Connaught, extending herself betwixt Ulster and Munster, taketh up the greatest part of the west side of Ireland, it hath also some good ports, as namely Broad-haven, another to the north of Achill head; and a third, situated between the main, and the north and east side of Achill island, in which one may ride in seven and eight fathoms, and be defended off all winds; although it be rather a sound, than an inclosed harbour for the ships which are come into it, need not go forth the same way again, but sailing on betwixt the main and the island, may at the south end of the isle come again to the open sea. These havens are nothing famous, being very seldom resorted unto by any great ships, except such as by tempests and foul weather, or some other accident, are necessitated to shelter themselves in the same.

But the famousest port of this province is that of Galloway, being a very great bay, some miles broad, and many more long, having in the mouth three islands, named the isles of Aran the which lye north and south by the side one of the other, there remaining three channels for to come out of the sea into this bay. One channel runneth betwixt the land and the northern island, called therefore north sound; the second between the same northern island and the middlemost, which channel, being the most usual of the three, is commonly stiled St. Gregory's sound and the third between the southernmost island and the main, named south sound, the channel betwixt the southern and the middlemost island not being passable by reason of the sands and shelves, wherefore the name of false sound hath been given to it.

The whole north side of this bay is very foul with sands and rocks, so as one may not approach the shore in a great way at the end of which sand, and in the innermost part of the bay, lieth a little island, called in English, Mutton-island, and by the Irish, Enis Kerrigh, which hath the same signification; at the east side whereof one may anchor in five or fix fathoms of water; but from thence northwards until the city of Galloway, which is the space of two or three miles, none but little vessels and barks can go, the city standing not on the bay it self, but on a broad water like a river, the which not far above Galloway coming out of a great lake, called Lough Corbes, dischargeth it self into the bay a little above Mutton isle.


The Havens of Limerick, Smirwick, Dingle-bay, Ventry, and Dingle-Icoush.

THE next great haven on the west side of Ireland, to the south of Galloway, is that of Limerick, which haven divideth the province of Connaught from Munster, being of a huge length, no less than fifty miles: for so far it is from the mouth of the haven until the city of Limerick, to whose walls great vessels may go up, without meeting with any thing else in all that way, save a many little isles, but not any foul places, rocks, or sands. This harbour is nothing else but a great lough (half way its length growing somewhat narrow, but immediately inlarging it self again into a great breadth) whereinto the river Shannon, (upon whose bank Limerick is situated) dischargeth it self a little way below the said city, although the English and the Irish both call it the Shannon all the way until the sea, as it were not a lough into which the river falleth, but the river it self thus inlarged.

Coming out of this harbour, the land on the left hand shooteth a huge way westwards into the sea, on the side of which foreland, ten or twelve miles at this side of the uttermost point (betwixt which and the isle of Blasques passeth the sound of the same name) is the haven of Smirwick, not very great, deep, but clean, and well inclosed.

At the other side of this foreland, and to the northeast from the Blasques, is a fair and very large bay called Dingle-bay, the which goeth very many miles into the land, having in it divers good havens, one whereof, called Ventry, is four or five miles from the found of Blasques eastwards, and three or four miles further is Dingle-Icoush, before the mouth of which harbour, and at the west side of it, lieth a rock, called the Crow, round about which one may sail without danger, it being always above water, but at spring tides, at which time the sea doth overflow it.

Maire, Bantry, and Beer-haven.

AGAINST the southeast corner of Dingle-bay lieth a great island, called Valentia, betwixt which and the main is a very fair and safe road. And a little way beyond that island goeth in another huge bay, called Maire, which mooteth into the land a great deal farther than Dingle-bay and somewhat farther is a third bay, called Bantry, which equalleth Maire both in breadth and length in both which, as well as in Dingle-bay, there be several good harbours and roads.


Maire hath in the mouth some fifty or five and forty fathoms of water; entring in further, there be six and twenty, twenty, and eighteen, afterwards you come to ten, and to six, and in the innermost parts to three and two fathoms; being throughout very clean, and free from all kind of rocks and sands, except in very few places.

As you enter into Bantry, sideward upon the left hand lieth a reasonable big isle, called the island of Beer haven, betwixt which and the main there goeth in a fair sound, being a great musket shot broad, the which in its whole length, from where it beginneth until the place where it endeth at the further part of the island, being the space of some miles, serveth for a very good and safe port, wherefore also it beareth the name of a haven, being called Beer haven. A good way within the mouth lye some rocks in the midst of the channel, the which at high water are overflown, and you may sail of either side of them and at the other side of this sound, where the same cometh out into the Bantry, there lye two great rocks just in the mouth, betwixt which the ships may pass, as also betwixt the same and the land of either side. All the rest of this harbour or sound is everywhere very clean and clear, and very good anchor ground, ten, twelve, and thirteen fathoms deep.

Whiddy Haven and Langerf.

IN the innermost of the Bantry lieth an island about three miles long, called Whiddy, betwixt which and the main is a very fair wide bay, (being the uttermost end of the great bay Bantry) where you may everywhere come to an anchor in three, four, five, or six fathoms, in as much or as little water as you will, according as you have a mind to ride near the shore or further from it, being every where clean ground. Ships may enter into this bay or sound in two several places, at both ends of the island. But the entrance at the south end is very dangerous, because that there betwixt the island Whiddy and the main land it is in most places foul and rocky but in the other entrance, at the northern end of the island, is both room and depth enough, it being much broader than that at the south end, and eight and nine fathoms deep, and there is nothing that can do hurt, except only a row of rocks a little musket shot from the shore, the which being covered at high water, do not begin to appear but at half-ebb.

Right against this island, at the other side of Bantry, is a haven called Langerf, in which is every where good anchoring and good ground, only at the one side, on the right hand close to the mouth, lye some foul grounds, the which fall dry at the ebb of a spring tide.

From Beer haven to the northern corner of the island Whiddy, the Bantry tendeth east north east and north east, eighteen or twenty miles in length. Over against Beer haven, in the midst of the fair water, it is deep forty, six and thirty, and thirty fathoms; beyond the island fifteen and sixteen, but further


in, approaching the isle of Whiddy, it is again twenty and five and twenty fathoms deep.

Downams Bay, Baltimore Bay, and Baltimore Haven.

Next to the Bantry, and only by a narrow neck of land divided from it, is Downams bay, being great and wide (although no ways comparable to any of those three already described) a very commodious road to save ships in, and good anchor ground every where.

The land to the east of this bay shooteth out very far to the seaward, the uttermost point thereof, called Messan-head, being the southernmost cape of all Ireland. For Cape de Clare, being about twenty miles further to the east, and somewhat more southerly, is not on the main, but in an island.

Beyond Messan-head is another bay, far greater than any of those three forenamed, but nothing like the same in shape, nor in the same manner running with a long arm a huge way into the land, but rather approaching to the figure of a half moon. In this bay is Crook haven, School haven, and several other great havens, not only on the main land, but also in some of the islands, whereof there is a great number in this bay. The most easterly of all these islands is Baltimore, the which surpassing all the others in bigness, giveth its name unto the bay.

That part of the bay which lieth betwixt this island and the main, having a narrow entrance, but within of a great largeness, is a marvellous good road, where ships may come to an anchor on either side, and lye defended off all winds. It is five and six fathoms deep on the sides, and six and seven in the midst. In the mouth of the harbour, next to the east side, lieth a blind rock, and in the midst of it another rock, which appeareth at low water. There is nothing else that can do hurt. This haven, being far the principallest of all this bay, hath its name, as well as the bay it self, of the island, being called Baltimore haven. To the north of that island lieth another island, called Spain island, where one may pass betwixt these two islands to the west, and so out of Baltimore haven go into the sea. But only with smaller vessels, because half flood there is not above twelve or thirteen feet of water in all that channel.

Castle Haven, Rosse Haven, Clandore Haven, with the Havens of Kinsale and Cork.

SOME miles beyond Baltimore bay is Castle haven, where ships may come to an anchor in twelve fathoms of water, being of a reasonable bigness, and very clear and clean, as well in the entrance as within.


Between Castle haven and Kinsale are two other good havens, to wit that of Rosse, and of Clandore, in which there is water enough and very clean ground.

The haven of Kinsale is one of the famousest of all Ireland, ships may sail into it, keeping in the midst of the channel, without any danger either without or in the mouth of the harbour, except a blind rock close to the east point. Within the haven, on the west side, lieth a great shelf, which shooteth a great way off from the land, but leaving a very large passage along by the side of it, in which, as in all the rest of the harbour, it is many fathoms deep. This haven for some miles goeth in N N E, but afterwards turneth westward until the key of Kinsale, where ships may ride in eight or nine fathoms of water, being defended of all winds.

Ten or twelve miles to the east of Kinsale is Cork haven, the which goeth in N NE, being within large and wide, running a great way into the land for the town of Cork, until whose key this haven is very clean and deep, is seated many miles from the sea, and from the mouth of the harbour.