Ballycastle and Rathlin Island are frequent destinations for us. From the Mull of Kintyre, the closest landfall is Rathlin although crossing the North Channel, where tides run up to eight knots, requires care.
Ballycastle is a lively small town with good facilities and the opportunity to take a bus to visit the Giant’s Causeway and the Bushmills distillery. Rathlin, by contrast, is very quiet and one can walk from the village and harbour across to the northern cliffs with views across to Isla and Jura and the shipping passing through the North Channel.
On the Irish south-west coast we have used Kinsale, near Cork, and Cahersiveen, near Dingle, as crew change locations. The passage through the Irish Sea from to/ from Kinsale may involve stops at Bangor (including a visit into Belfast), Ardglass, Howth, Arklow, Kilmore Quay and Youghal. However, on a 450nm return passage north to Mingulay, with keen sailors and a strong crew, we pressed on to cover a couple of overnight watches.
Kinsale is a busy tourist town with excellent facilities. By contrast, Cahersiveen is much more low-key and relaxed, but any lack of facilities is compensated by super-helpful people.
The south coast of Ireland has many lovely towns and anchorages such as Glandaur, Bere Island, Ballinskellig and Baltimore. Scenery highlights include the Fastnet Rock (around which we just had to sail), Skellig Michael where there are monks’ cells atop a jagged island (as featured in the Star Wars films), the now-uninhabited Blasket Islands and the sail upriver to the very centre of Cork.
Overall, the area has great sailing, friendly towns and villages and plenty of sheltered anchorages.