North Mayo

Doonbristy

Doonbristy, a sea stack, starts at 3–4m on the inland edge, a flat, kelpy plateau with plenty of swell. In the immediate area of Doonbristy there are four or five superb dives, generally the cliffs are covered with anemones.

Dive 1
Start at the seaside of the head and work your way in towards the land, compass SW, depth 35m+. At the start of the dive go down the head wall, keeping the wall to your right which will bring you to a split in the cliff. The wall continues for another 100m. The height of the walls varies between 10m and 24m and there are gullies and ridges.

Dive 2
This dive is on the inner side of Downpatrick Head. Start on the second finger and again go in a SW
direction to a max. 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.

Dive 3
Start at the beginning of the third finger, which is a good sheltered place for kiting 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 its beautiful smooth rock, it is as if someone designed it (God?). As you exit keep to your left, which will bring you along another ridge. This is a suitable dive for advanced trainees. Behind Doonbristy there are a number of caves that go right through the cliff and come out up to 200m away, however they are very shallow and boulder filled so they are not suitable for diving. Immediately to the east of Doonbristy there is a series of headlands with deep cut bays. These cliffs offer spectacular diving, the biggest wall has a window through from the bay to the sea at 18m. At the point nearest Doonbristy this large wall has a number of caves with very large boulders at 12m through which it is possible to dive. The depth is in the 20–25m range but the point of Doonbristy goes down to 40m+. Just around the corner from Doonbristy in the bay there is a dive which can be reached by car (the only one along the whole coast). It goes down by a series of large steps to a depth of 25m. As this area gets the full brunt of all the NW storms, there is not much marine life but there are always plenty of fish.

Benaderren Head

Just 3km to the west is Benaderren Head, one of the best dives in the area. A cliff rises 60m straight
out of the water, is 300–400m long, and drops vertically to a sandy bottom at 20–25m. This cliff has many deep horizontal cracks with abundant plant and fish life. As you head out to sea, the bottom is covered with large boulders. One sea cave through the cliff terminates in a huge open pool and in another the water appears to flow up hill. Visibility here is generally good, it is possible to see a boat on the surface from 20m.

Horse Island

Leaving Ballycastle on the Belmullet road the next hamlet is Belderg, a crossroads with an inn, a grocery shop and telephone. Just after the inn a road on the right leads down to Belderg Harbour, which is a small pier with crowded parking. Heading out of the harbour Horse Island, to the west, has good diving on more stepped terrain. Plenty of seals around here and a sea cave large enough to hold a few trawlers. From here to Porturlin the coast is only accessible by boat (large). The road out of Beklerg swings inland along the beautiful, barren valley of the Glenamoy River.
Turning off at Glenamoy you cross Annie Brady Bridge after a few miles and then you are in one of
the remotest parts of Ireland (or Europe for that matter). Follow the road to Carrowteige and turn for Portacloy. A beautiful fjord like bay about 1km deep, a silver beach, two piers, loads of parking and camping and the best diving in Ireland. Up to a few years ago this place was deserted, except for the odd lost tourist. Since British and N. Ireland divers discovered Portacloy in 1990 it is seldom free of divers. Fortunately there is enough diving foreveryone but there is now a certain lack of
shellfish!

The Stags of Broadhaven

Go straight out of Portacloy and the Stags of Broadhaven rise majestically about 1 mile offshore, a group of seven rocks rising more than 100m above sea-level. Any of the seaward sides of the Stags provides superb diving. As you approach from Portacloy a large white quartzite patch on one face is a landmark for a 40m plus dive. On the eastern-most reef there is a spectacular canyon dive 10m deep going for 200m or more but it is very hard to find the entrance, you are usually so overawed by the rest of the reef that you miss the entrance. The western most stag has a face which is looking towards Portacloy, which has a most spectacular display of jewel anemones, whose profusion and colour are breathtaking. To the wes,t out of Portacloy, as far as Bendee Head, offers a huge choice of dives, none of which will disappoint. However, at the mouth of Portacloy under spectacular 600m high cliffs, is the only disappointing dive of the area – 12m of kelp that just goes on and on.

Benwee Head

The terrain towards Benwee Head is very varied. The cliffs and bottoms have deep gullies 5–6m with crests 2–3m apart. When the weather blows in from the N or NW it is worth going to Porturlin, several kilometres to the east, from where dives on Pig Island may be made. Here the bottom is stepped at 20–30m with a profusion of Devon cup coral. As always there are lots of fish and plant life.

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