Saint Finian’s Bay

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St. Finian’s Bay or known locally as The Glen, is nestled between the villages of Portmagee and Ballinskelligs on the Skellig Ring Drive. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and each entry point to The Glen offers stunning vistas and winding mountain passes.

The Glen is without doubt Kerry’s hidden gem. Overflowing with sublime beauty, the ever-changing moods of the Majestic Skellig Islands could never be exaggerated. No matter where one stands the view is spectacular. An area of rarely matched outstanding natural beauty, each entry point to the Glen offers stunning vistas and winding mountain passes. Obviously the area is perfect for Stargazing and astro-photography.

St. Finian’s Bay commonly called the Glen, stretches from Duchalla head in the south to Puffin Island in the North encompassing Skellig Rocks and the Lemon Rock. From Portmagee travelling east on the R567 taking in spectacular views from the top of Coomanaspig (1,080 ft/330m) out onto the Skelligs Rock and Puffin Islandand on a clear day you can see the Dingle and Beara Peninsulas.

Why not stop and enjoy the view here before descending to the Glen? The pier in St.Finians bay is a popular launch pad for divers exploring the underwater world of wonder that surrounds the Skelligs Rock.

Left off the road at St.Finians Bay is the Kilaboona Oratory. It is an exceptionally interesting early Christian site, which pilgrims still visit today. There is a Gallarus type Oratory with clochans, crosses and graves. To the west of the settlement is a well that is dedicated to Naomh Buaine (St.Buaine).

Near by is Killemlagh Church ruins which was originally built in the 12th or 13th Century on the site of St. Finians original monastery. The old church was an Irish Romanesque structure and attached to it is a latter parish church. South of the church is the “Pagan’s Grave”, an unusual enclosure of standing stones, 18ft x 11ft. Killemlagh Church has more recently been replaced by the Glen Church that currently stands there.

On the side of the road, one will find the Coomanaspig Well / Tobar Chúm an Easpaig. The well is defined by two side slabs and a covering lintel, on the upper surface of which is a faintly incised linear cross. A short paved path leads to the well, with one of its slabs featuring a deeply incised cross.

An upright slab in front of the well, measuring .6m X .35m, is similarly incised. The site is also known as St. John’s Well and is referred to by An Seabhac(1954) as the Well of the Nine Bishops (Tobar na Naoi nEaspag). Rounds were formerly made here on the 29th September as part of the turas or pilgrimage which commenced at the pattern held at St. Michael’s well Dungeagan [E. of Ballinskelligs], and which also involved visits to St. Buonia’s Well and St. Finan’s Well, both in the Glen [at St. Finan's Bay].

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The area got its name from St. Finian, a man who lived in the 10th century and travelled from Skelligs to Keel frequently to say mass. St. Finian had a monastery at Keel but the area is much older than that era. There is evidence of habitation from the bronze age and there are many souterrains, galtans and the remains of an earthen fort at Rathkerin. St Finan, Finian or Fionan (one of at least six of that name) was a follower of St Brendan, and is is attributed with founding the monastery on Skellig Michael dedicated to him. He is also credited with being the founder abbot of a monastery in Kinitty, Offaly.

The bay is a wonder for surfers. Saint Finan's Bay is a wonderful little beach where the Kerry mountains fade into the Atlantic Ocean. At high tide, the sand here is almost entirely covered by the sea but at low tide a fair sized beach is uncovered. Quite popular in summer, but always friendly. Crystal clear water and the magnificent profile of the Skellig Islands between waves. Scenic Ireland at its very best. 

In terms of wind, waves and weather St. Finan's is an exceptionally exposed location, open to the full force of a SW gale when the surf must get immense, but also offering a wave in West or even big wrapping NW, as well as occasional south swells from Biscay lows. Also, it is located so far west that like Coomenoole, it must even be exposed to south Atlantic swells in the Irish summer, at about the 20-30cm height and 20 second or longer periods. 

This all goes to make this little beach very consistent in terms of surf, but very prone to being blown out and extremely prone to being cloudy and wet. A good spot to head in summer when all else if flat but in all probability, in winter it will more often be too big than too small. 

In the prevailing west swell conditions, expect two or three foot here when Ballinskelligs and Derrynane are just an unsurfable foot (which is why the local surf schools tend to come here in summer). Peaky lefts and especially rights are the specialty. Best at mid tide. It can be very good up to head high in light/offshore N or NE winds. 

It would be interesting to know how much swell it can handle before it closes out.

Its all very good trekking in Celtic history and in ornithology and its wonderful surfing. It remains to note that St.Finian's Bay has one of the best chocolate shops in Ireland.

The Skelligs Chocolate Co. promote themselves as the most westerly chocolate company in Europe and they have been producing their award winning chocolates for more than 10 years but they still have the same passion now as when they first started.

The tiny factory is situated in St. Finian’s Bay, The Glen, Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry or more poetically in An Gleann, Baile an Scéilg, Co. Chiarraí, Éire. The factory is after all in the heart of the Gaeltacht; the Irish speaking area of Co. Kerry. From the factory windows are some of the most spectacular views in the country, looking directly over the Skellig Rocks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The company has won over 20 ‘Great Taste Awards’ over the years for their creations, including for their Baby Figs, Brandy Plums and Apricot Amaretto’s. It takes about 5 days to produce each batch of truffles and the company is still proud to create them in the same handmade fashion as they have always done.

The factory welcomes visitors, to watch the process and enjoy some sampling and new this year is a small cafe for teas and coffees and the house speciality ‘HOT CHOCOLATE’.

The company makes more than 60 different varieties of truffles and rotates their flavors with the seasons; e.g. Violet & Champagne for spring, Raspberry & Coconut for summer and Hot Toddy (Whiskey & Chili) in winter.

All are available to buy from the factory and are also available from a number of stores in Co. Kerry. They are also available further a field in Ireland but at the moment they are restricted to Harvey Nicks stores only in the U.K.

Also new is the Skelligs Chocolate Cafe in Killarney where all their chocolates are available and you can enjoy a freshly made sandwich or salad while you sip a Rainforest Alliance coffee specially blended for them by Badger & Dodo of Cork.

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