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

chapter 5

Of the Sands or Grounds, blind Rocks, and other Rocks in the Irish Sea.

Of the Grounds before the Coast betwixt Dublin and Wexford.

THE sea which invironeth Ireland, is as free from shelves, sands, or grounds, as any in all the world, not alone upon the other sides, where the same is wide and open, far distant from all other lands, but upon the east side where the same is inclosed betwixt Ireland and Great Britain, in which whole space it hath not any other sands than those situated along the coast between Dublin and Wexford. These indeed are of a huge extent, but not turning and winding as most part of the grounds in other places, but in a straight line, NNE, and SSW, being farthest from land with their north end; and as they go southward, so they do come nearer to the land; and near the Tuskard, a rock right against the point of Greenore, in which place they end, they are not much more than two miles distant from the land, whereas the distance betwixt the north end, near the island Dalkee (which island, as before we have shewed, lieth at the entrance of Dublin bay, about threescore miles from the Tuskard) is above eight miles. They are all of a stony ground, in some places but one fathom deep, and a fathom and a half; but in the north end two fathoms and a half, and three fathoms.

Betwixt these grounds and the land lye two or three little sands, besides those which lye in, and before the mouth of the bay of Wexford one betwixt the south end and Greenore; another to the south of the head of Glascarick, a good mile from the land, called Ross and Ram, and a third one mile to the south of Arklow head, called Glaskermen, somewhat more than half a mile from the land, and about two miles long.


Of the Channel betwixt the land and the forenamed Grounds.

THE channel betwixt the great grounds and the land is very deep all over, so that the biggest vessels may pass through it from Dublin to Wexford, and from Wexford to Dublin, taking care only that they do not come too near the grounds, the which being very steep on the inside (as they are also without, or on the east side, where ships may not come nearer to them than in twenty four and twenty five fathoms, because that in twenty fathoms one is close by them) it is requisite not to go further off from the land, than in seven or eight fathoms, in which depth ships may within a cable's length sail all along the coast, the which here everywhere is very clean, and free from all danger. And even between the land and the forenamed small grounds, Glaskermen and Ross and Ram, the sea is very clean and deep, so as most ships do pass betwixt them and the land, and not about by the outside of them.

These sands in four several places are cut thorough with fair, broad and deep channels, whereof the one is over against the bay of Wexford, the other against Glascarick, being no less than fifteen or sixteen fathoms deep, the third right against Arklow, in which channel it is about seven or eight fathoms deep; and the fourth is directly against Wicklow.

Blind Rocks upon the Coast of Ireland from the Saltees unto Wicklow.

THERE are some blind rocks in this sea, but lye for the most part close under the land, or near some of the little islands or high rocks, so as they may easily be shunned, the rather because most of them do at low water appear either in part or altogether. To speak a little of these in order: the Saltees, two little islands situated half way between the haven of Waterford and the head of Carnesore (of the which hath been spoken heretofore) have both at the north side some blind rocks, whereof those which lye near the bigger and southernmost island, fall dry at low water. About three miles to the south of the same bigger island lieth a blind rock called Kingmore, of the bigness of a ship, at half ebb it cometh above water, and is so steep, that with the side of a ship one may lye close against it, and have fourteen fathoms of water, so as without any danger one may sail very close by it. To the southeast of the forenamed bigger island doth also lye some blind rocks, called the Furlas, the which may be seen at low water, and ships may pass thro' the midst of them. About half a mile from blackrock (a noted rock whereof shall be spoken anon) lieth a blind rock, called the Barrel, of the which one must take heed very carefully.


A little to the west of Carnesore lieth a small rocky foul, close under the land. Betwixt Carnesore and St. Margaret's bay it is foul and rocky, but the foul grounds do not reach far into the sea.

SSE from St. Margaret's bay lieth a blind rock, called Caliogh, the which at low water falleth dry. From the point of Greenore a riffe of blind rocks and stones runneth almost the length of a mile into the sea, the which at low water falleth dry a good way from the land. At the northside of the head of Arklow lieth a little stony row, the which is shunned very carefully by the ships, not daring to come nearer to it than in five fathoms of water.

The rest of the blind Rocks upon the Coast of Ireland

JUST to the south of the head of Wicklow, a little way from the land, lieth a rocky sand called Horse shoe; betwixt which and the land ships may sail thorough, if need be but that being full of danger, it is done very seldom, and a little further to the south lieth a little blind rock close by the land, called the Wolf, the which at half ebb cometh above water, betwixt which and the land fishers boats do pass.

The like blind rocks and rocky sands lye upon the coast betwixt Tredagh and Dundalk, as also betwixt Dundalk and Carlingford, in both places close under the land at both the points of the havens of Carlingford and Strangford under St. John's point, situated half way between those two havens: on both sides of those two great rocks, a little way beyond Strangford haven, called Southrock and Northrock between the islands of Copland isles and the land, at the south point of the bay of Knockfergus, round about those great rocks over against Oldfleet, called the Nine Maids, to the west of the little island called Sheeps island betwixt Port Belletree and Skires Portrush, which rocks are called the Chickens, half way betwixt Lough Swilly and Sheep Haven, a mile or two from the land, which rocks the flood doth cover, but at ebb they come above water; and in several other places upon the west coast and the south coast the which it would be tedious all to particularize wherefore we will conclude this rehearsal of the blind rocks with that which to the west of St. John's point (a point situated three or four miles southward from Kilbeg haven) doth lye somewhat more than a mile off from the land, upon which the sea breaketh with great noise, and nevertheless one may freely and without any danger sail between the same and the land.


Rocks in the Irish Sea, upon the east side and the north Side of the Coast.

THERE be also divers rocks that always stand above water, the which as they are dangerous in the dark night, and in misty weather, so at other times they are rather profitable than hurtful, forasmuch as they serve the sea-faring men for sea marks, and help them to discern the situation and distances of the coasts; wherefore also the most part of them have received peculiar and proper names. The principal of this whole number is the Tuskard, a great black smooth rock, of fashion like unto a ship turned the upside downwards, but as big again, lying south eastwards from the point of Greenore the space of three miles. To the southwest of the Tuskard a great way, and about a mile and a half from the bigger of the Saltees, is the rock Kingbeg. To the north east of the Saltees stand two rocks not far the one from the other, of which the one of its situation is called Northrock, and the southernmost the Tuns. To the east of these two, and about three miles from the point of Carnesore, lieth Blackrock, being clean of all sides, so as ships may freely sail round about it without any fear or danger.

A mile or two to the north of Lambay lieth a great rock called rock Abill, about which ships may sail of all sides.

Two miles beyond the north point of the haven of Strangford are two great rocks, the one called Northrock, and the other, distant two miles from it to the south, Southrock; the Northrock is a number of rocks lying close together, divers whereof are covered at high water. From the end of these two shoot out riffs of foul and rocky ground, but betwixt them goeth a broad, clean, and deep channel, through which all manner of ships, even the biggest, may pass.

Six or seven miles to the north of the bay of Knockfergus, and three miles from the land, are the Nine Maids, being great rocks that lye but a little above the water, or low rocky isles, with a great number of blind rocks about the same, so as ships may come no nearer to them than within five or six miles.

Of the same kind of low rocks, or little rocky islands, are also those who are called Enesterhull islands, being situated before the most northerly point of Ireland, betwixt Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly.

Rocks in the Irish Sea, upon the western and the southern Coast.

NEAR the islands of Aran upon the north west coast of Ireland, lye several high rocks, called the Stags of Aran, and such other rocks, called the Stags of Broad haven, lye three or four miles from the northern point of Broad haven.


Three miles to the north west of Achil head lieth Blackrock, a great, high and black rock, with several other rocks near unto it.

On the north side and west side of the islands Blasques, lying over against the most westerly point of lreland, are several great rocks, some whereof are called the Horses, and others the Bucks.

Seven or eight leagues to the south of Blasques lye three great rocks, called the Skellighs, the easterliest about three miles, and the westerliest six or seven miles from the land, the which, to those that come from the south, when first they begin to see them, resemble the sails of ships.

Without the head of Dorses lye three other great rocks, whereof the uttermost, or the most westerly, is called the Bull, the middlemost the Cow, and the third the Calf, being clean round about, so as without any danger one may sail between them.

Five or six miles west and by south of the head of Clare lieth a high steep rock alone in the sea, called Fastney, the which at the first appearing looketh like the sail of a ship.

Two or three miles to the east of Baltimore, and a mile or two from the land, lye five or six high steep rocks called the Stags, as those of Aran and Broad haven, to those that come from the east along the land, when first they begin to have them in sight, they resemble some spires or pointed steeples standing together.

Two miles eastwards from the mouth of the haven of Kinsale, lye two great black rocks, the one somewhat farther from the land than the other.

There lye also several rocks near the little islands of Dalkee and Ireland's-eye, the one situated before the north point, and the other before the south point of the bay of Dublin, as heretofore we have shewed. Likewise on both ends of the isle of Lambay, half way betwixt the same island and Tredagh haven, close by the land, near the island Raghlin, near Skires Portrush, and in several other places, but the principal and most considerable are those whereof we have spoken.