Something that isn’t all that well known is that Ireland has a beautiful reef system off the west coast. It’s odd in a way that it’s not better known because it was off Ireland that deep water coral reefs were first studied properly in the late seventies and we’ve known about the Porcupine Bank reef for about a hundred and fifty years. Some scholars back then thought it might be Hy Brasil, the Irish version of Atlantis which was believed to be visible only once every seven years, like an even damper version of Brigadoon. In 2009 a newly discovered reef off Porcupine Bank was found to be 200 square kilometres, made up of forty coral hills some a hundred meters high.
Deep water reefs take specialized equipment to reach and as spectacular as they are not many of us will ever get to visit but that’s not the end of the story. There are plenty of shallow water reefs off the coast too and a lot of them are easier to visit.
At Bothar na Buí in Connemara you can scuba-dive straight off the beach and swim out to a reef that is home to some huge conger eels and is famous for being a great night diving spot. Around the base of the Skellig Rocks off Kerry the pinnacles blend seamlessly into some lovely reefs though I’d have thought that they’re harder to get to in the rough Atlantic coastal waters, you can walk off the beach here and be in a rose coral reef in about a minute.
When you start to Google reef dives in Ireland it’s actually pretty astonishing how many there are and how beautiful some of them are. If I was to try one out it would probably be Roskeeda where, after a boat trip that you might want a professional to navigate for you, you drop off the boat into a thirty-five meter hole which is so sheltered that you can dive it in virtually any weather.
Ireland has seen a huge up-surge of scuba-diving over the last couple of decades and there are sub-aqua clubs all over the country, even inland ones that dive lakes as well as the sea. While not every one can afford to buy the gear there are a number of companies that will provide instruction, equipment and will even take you out on a half day guided tour with an instructor and it looks like great way of spending a weekend.