Norman Kean finds complete seclusion in this unspoilt County Galway bay on the west coast
Four miles west of Clifden in Connemara, this beautiful, peaceful and unspoiled place is a perfect natural harbour, and reportedly – at least in recent years – has seen only one visiting yacht.
That yacht was ours, and shortly after we anchored our Warrior 40, Coire Uisge, in the pool in July 2019, a local boat came out to greet us. ‘What brought you in here?’ was the friendly and curious question, ‘We never had a yacht come in before. Do you know you can’t get out before the morning?’
Of course we knew, and that was the reason we were there.
I had spotted it on the chart, and it looked irresistible.
The entrance to Toberdenny Harbour dries right across, making it landlocked at low tide.
Sheltered from the south by the Ardmore peninsula and from the west by Turbot Island and Inishturk, the bay is skirted by a quiet road with a scatter of houses.
A dozen shellfish currachs occupy the south-east corner, and a little local sailing boat has a mooring in the pool.
The entrance is a quarter-mile wide, and dries up to 1.2 metres for a distance of a third of a mile.
The bottom in mid- channel is sand, but Carricknahollana reef extends west and north from Ardmore, and there is a drying rock off the north shore opposite.
At High Water Neaps there’s at least 2.2m of water over the bar, and the deep pool, two cables by one and a half, has almost 8m at LAT.
Landing is easy on any one of half a dozen little beaches around the shores, and there’s a small jetty in the south-east corner.
It is the kind of place where you might expect to find a fish farm or mussel rafts, but there are none.
It is pristine, unspoiled and achingly beautiful in the sunset.
The bar doesn’t quite dry at neaps, and low water springs occurs around midday and midnight, so capturing a photograph while landlocked means spending at least a day there, which is scarcely a hardship.
In the approach from the south, beware of Ship Rock, which dries 1.3 metres.
Near high water it is possible with great care to rock-hop inside Turbot and Inishturk to the anchorages between these two and to the east of Omey to the north.
All three islands are seasonally inhabited, but the last permanent inhabitant of Omey, the film stuntman Pascal Whelan, died in 2017.
Inishturk and Turbot ceased to be inhabited year-round from the 1970s.
The area was quite densely populated in the 19th century, but the thin soil and rock offered a meagre living, and the potato famine of the 1840s ravaged Connemara. Old ‘lazybeds’ – parallel ridges painstakingly built up from sand and seaweed to grow potatoes – cover the entire peninsula.
There are of course no yachting facilities here and you have to be self-sufficient, but that only adds to the remote charm of Toberdenny.