Charting interactions between dolphins and people
Irish Dolphins - Interactions between dolphins and people.  Including Fungie the Dingle Dolphin
Home page
More about
sociable, solitary dolphins
Pictures of the dolphins
Latest news
Interesting links
Subscribe to our newsletter

Location - Fanore

*NB This page refers to Dusty's location from 2001 to December 2004, and again from December 2009

Click here to go to the main Dusty location page

Derreen/Craggagh from the NE

Dusty has made her base in a scenic location in West Clare, 16km south of Ballyvaughan and 10km north of Doolin, where the spectacular limestone pavements of the Burren tumble down to meet the Atlantic coast and face out to Galway Bay and the Aran Islands. The rock formations in the lower tidal zone are battered by the winter storms into smooth, sculpted forms with miniature peaks and gullies and a myriad tiny pools and basins, which are home to anenomes, mussels and spiny sea urchins. Derreen is a small unmarked townland just south of the small, straggly village of Fanore with its popular sandy beaches. Small fields of rough pasture slope down to the rocky shoreline, and thanks to the low intensity cattle grazing which has continued on this hard-to-plough land for centuries, the unique flora of this limestone region has survived even until today. Luckily there is nowhere flat enough in Derreen to put a caravan park, and though you will see plenty of new bungalows here too, the fleet of JCBs and Hi-Macs which has laid waste other parts of Ireland in recent years has made relatively little impact here so far.

There is actually a Bus Eireann service here from Limerick and even Tralee, via Doolin. Ask the driver to let you off at Derreen.

Most people, though, travel by car. Approaching Fanore along the coast road from the south you come to a somewhat misleading road sign saying 'Fanore' (this is actually Derreen and there are still several miles to go to Fanore itself). About a kilometre further on, you pass a turn to the right (marked ‘Green Road’) and come to a dip in the road where it descends very close to the sea. Clare County Council have kindly pointed out the nearest section to the dolphin’s haunt by painting double yellow lines along the road. They have also removed most of what limited parking was available on the right hand side of the road here.

Access to the water
Dusty’s current location at Derreen is strange in that it has no distinguishing features – no estuary, no harbour, no caves. The shoreline within the dolphin's adopted range is a rocky section of a wide sweeping bay, and is scarcely interrupted by a small concrete slipway at a point where the sea comes within 50m of the road. The dolphin seems to appear out of nowhere soon after anyone gets into the water within a couple of hundred metres south of this spot. The sea-bed here, with kelp and other seaweed containing plenty of marine life immediately by the shore, quickly shelves away to deeper water.

The shoreline at Derreen is idyllic in calm conditions, but even when the sea does not look very choppy, a surging swell can develop surprisingly quickly. This is exacerbated by the lack of a gently shelving shore, except at low tide and the third cove (see below). There is also a strongish tidal current parallel to the shore at times but this is not normally a problem as swimmers don’t need to venture far from their entry points. The tricky part, when the swell is present, is getting in and out of the water safely without being knocked onto the rocks by the breaking waves.

Slipway at Derreen, 2001There are basically three possible points of entry into the water for a swimmer within the dolphin's range. The original main swimming and watching location in 2001 was from the slipway and small breakwater opposite the lowest point of the road and the turning to Janesville House B&B. The slipway was fine in calm weather but we felt that it gave a false sense of security when there was a swell and it became just as dangerous as any other solid object in the surf zone. However, the rocks around it are smooth and flat and easy to walk to through the field. Access to this field is through a gate which is now kept padlocked following various disputes between the landowner, the visitors and the council. If you stay at Janesville House you may get permission to use this access. However the owner lives opposite the field and does not take kindly to uninvited guests - you have been warned!

When this original access became difficult, people simply started climbing over the fence and wall further back along the road, which gives access to another field owned by a different farmer. This is more dangerous as there is a drop on the field side, and the wall and supporting bank has inevitably become damaged at that point. Nevertheless this became the most popular way to get to the shore during 2002. This second entrance gives most immediate access to another rocky cove 100m to the south of the pier (labelled swim spot 2 on the picture). Here the rocks are rather jagged and it is quite a scramble to get into the water, especially at low tide or in bad weather. However, it is a nice place to sit and watch. Conflict has now arisen over this access too, at least with one member of the family which owns this land, and during 2003 a particularly unpleasant notice appeared warning people against entering. This seems however to have been largely ignored.

Pollenawatch cove as you approach from the 2nd cove to the north Finally we come to the third and best entry point to the water another few hundred metres south, totally hidden from the road by a small promontory. This cove, known as Pollenawatch or Poul na Baid locally, may actually have been the original location favoured by the dolphin herself and certainly seems to be her favourite spot now, other things being equal. You can get here either by continuing on round from the second cove, or from some way further south along the road (uphill) by going through one of a number of gateways. At high tide the third cove is similar to the other access points, but at mid tide it is much safer as the rocks are smoothly rounded instead of sharp and angular. At low tide it is incomparable, with a sandy beach providing the easiest of access. It has another huge advantage in that it is invisible from the road and so does not draw crowds of passers-by.

Pollenawatch cove at mid tide In Ireland, the land right down to the high water mark is nearly always in private ownership, although the shore itself is state property and theoretically open to anybody. Access to the shore can therefore be a grey area and is subject to several legal difficulties, not the least of which is the matter of public liability in the case of accidents. It is always better to ask the landowner’s permission to cross his land, but we realise that this may not always be practical. In light of this and the tricky nature of this general location for people not used to rocky Atlantic shorelines, we would be foolish to endorse or recommend any swimming activity here, especially with small children in tow. However if you are determined to swim anyway, we would suggest the third cove at Pollenawatch is least likely to be dangerous. We also suggest you plan your exit route carefully before you try to get out, and keep a constant eye on changing sea conditions. Don’t try to fight the surges, but when you are ready, use one to bring you up onto a rock with good handholds, hold on while the wave goes out again, then move quickly up and out of the splash zone.

Pollenawatch cove at low tide

Please note that the information above, whilst accurate to the best of our knowledge and belief, is given without prejudice and is not intended as an endorsement or encouragement to anyone to attempt to swim with the dolphin at Derreen.

Travellers’ tips

From Limerick, allow an hour and a half, but add on half an hour to get through Ennis at rush hours, i.e. 08:00 – 10:00 and 16:00 – 19:00.
If coming from Kerry you can avoid the busiest roads and save a good few miles by taking the Tarbert-Killimer ferry. Sadly they will charge you an extraordinary rate for the short trip (€18 one-way, €28 return in 2011) and you don’t actually save time, what with lengthy queuing to get on and off. However you do have a good chance of spotting some of the resident Shannon dolphins as you cross. They are usually to be seen nearer the Kerry side, but don’t expect the crew to point them out – get up on the deck and start scanning yourself straight away!

There are a number of B&B's in the Derreen-Fanore area and several hostels in nearby Doolin. There is a campsite at Fanore 2km north of Derreen.

Eating NB 2003 information!
Swimming in the sea and all that fresh air makes you hungry and we have enjoyed very good food and service at the Doolin Craft Gallery restaurant (really a café) on the Fanore/Lisdoonvarna side of Doolin. For evening meals the Doolin Café (really a restaurant) is good, first on your left as you come into Doolin from the coast road, and for a real gourmet dinner the Lazy Lobster comes highly recommended (on the right hand side, 30m off the main road). All the pubs in Doolin also serve bar meals at reasonable prices. Heading north from Fanore you enter a gastronomic desert until you get to Ballyvaughan, where you will be well fed at either the Ballyvaughan Tea Rooms or the Tea Junction cafe.
*Don't miss the Holywell Italian Cafe, newly opened near Ballvaughan in 2003! Superb food at great prices. Wish we had one like this in Dingle!*
Date Posted: 13/10/2005
Date Edited: 21/03/2012

Powered by WebPilot

© 2001-2007