Malinbeg Harbour, Donegal (IRE) - where the penguin lives.

Malinbeg Harbour, Donegal
Dive Site: Malinbeg Harbour, Donegal (IE)

Dive Type: Shore Dive

Depth: 12m

Experience: Novice

Malinbeg harbour is one of my favourite dives. It’s not tech, it’s not deep, it’s not challenging, but it is a truly excellent experience if you like fish and things that swim in the sea. I don’t really have a lot more proper information to be honest. Boat traffic is minimal from what I have seen and there are always plenty of divers around. I’ll talk you through how wife buddy and I complete a good day out in Malinbeg.

Kerri and Frieda
The drive from the house where the cats live takes us roughly 3.5 hours in the motor home to reach the site. I would like to add that “Frieda” (the 1989 Dethleffs monster motor home) has a maximum speed of approx 50mph, provided we are going downhill with a tail wind, or slip streaming an articulated lorry. We did manage 59mph once but we had a breach as one of the windows exploded open scaring the absolute crap out of the pair of us. Since then we limit her to 50mph.

The drive is actually really pleasant, bar the drop to 14mph on some of the more hilly sections when the 1.9litre engine really struggles. The scenery is fantastic and if the notion were to take hold you could very easily find a delightful Irish pub to enjoy some lunch and some even more delightful Guiness. When we go, however, it’s normally get down as fast as possible, (relatively speaking) get into dry suits, get underwater. Lunch is optional as we tend to enjoy chicken satay on a stick and sausage rolls en route – it’s quite a ritual now.

Car Parking
When you reach the harbour there are plenty of parking spaces up top even for Frieda and the usual scattering of cars from all over Ireland. Then it’s onto the fun part, the steps. There are altogether far too many steps that lead down to the actual pier. Carrying kit down is both a challenge and an education as to how fit one is. The amount of steel I have been carrying up and down the steps of late is becoming a little ridiculous.

A few weeks ago wife buddy and I both brought our twin 7’s which would do us for two 50min dives. I carried both sets up and down said steps. This was hard work and I was glad I recently decided to stop my previously very dedicated tobacco habit. Our last trip involved a planned 4 dives, which meant Kerri using both sets of twin 7’s and me taking my twin 12’s. I wouldn’t say I recommend it, but it is possible and I am fitter than I realised.

On our last trip we arrived at the harbour late afternoon. We planned an early evening dive and then a night dive. As soon as we got there I carried the big twins down and wife buddy strapped on the 7’s and did her part – fair play. The rest of the gear followed and we kitted up and jumped in. Visibility was great at about the 8m mark, average for the time of year I think. The plan was to head to the far side of the cove as we hadn’t explored it properly before.

Big Plaice
Fish were everywhere; corkwing rasse, pollock, gobys, plaice, a dog fish and possibly, a swimming fish finger i.e. a cod. I don’t possess my PADI underwater naturalist so don’t quote me on any of those, but I think I’m close. Kerri is more into that stuff, I just like floating around.

40 mins into the dive we signalled our turn around and headed back the way we came. Kerri had spotted a superb giant spider crab on the way out which I wanted to check out on the return journey but was unable to find. I was very disappointed, I love spider crabs. Just as I had given up and was heading west to the pier wall I hit the jackpot. Two massive spider crabs were ‘getting it on’ right in front of me. I waved Kerri over and we both had a quick look at the crabs in the throes of passion, signalled that they were having a right old time and was then followed by some well controlled underwater thrusting simulations. I was well in the mood.

Practicing buoyancy!
With the peep show coming to a climax we headed into the sandy area in 3m of water and practiced some skills. Mask removal was first. Kerri performed brilliantly as usual, with me merely managing, as usual. OOG drills were next then we thumbed the dive. That was a lot of fun, a cracking dive.

Exiting is pretty simple as there are steps that lead right into the water, although in low tide you have to propel yourself onto the bottom step to get started. I tend to take a good swim at it and ‘rocket out.’ Kerri explained I was like a penguin gliding out of the water onto my knees, flicking off my fin straps and walking up the steps. A trick I learned shore diving in Malta I might add whilst watching a hefty Russian prancing around in twin 12’s like they were washing up liquid bottles.

On one of our previous dives I had managed to get up the steps, walk to the ledge that runs around the pier, dekit before Kerri had even appeared. I got myself sorted and walked back to the steps to hear a tiny muffled voice, “help.” Wife buddy was face down on the bottom step in 6 inches of water, cursing through her reg and apparently going nowhere. It was quickly deduced that kit removal was the best option and, having watched many other divers that day do the same, it appeared to be the best way to exit. I can’t be arsed taking my kit off and hauling it out so I will continue to be the penguin.

Surface interval guarding the twinsets form children

We took an hour as a surface interval to catch our breath, devour some sausage rolls, drink some juice and eat some chocolate. At this stage some locals had appeared, the young kids very keen to play with all our kit and ask why we were getting into the sea. We pleaded our case, the kids relented and we dived in for our second bimble. It wasn’t really a night dive due to the fact that the weather was tremendous and we couldn’t wait any longer for the light to fade. This was to be an “evening dive.” Quite romantic I figured, what with the spider crabs action and all that.

Kerri investigating the stack
30 seconds into the dive it was blatantly clear i had a problem. My left hand felt a bit cold, then very cold, then very, very cold and very, very wet. Turned out my dry glove wasn’t dry. Balls. I surfaced, signalled I had a problem, fixed my glove ring and we continued with our dive. I didn’t fix it. Somehow I ended up with a continuous stream of water into my glove for the next 35 mins.

I struggled on as I knew Kerri was having fun, eventually she took pity on me and signalled she too was cold. Time to go. I was rather freezing by this point. It was a great pity, we had headed out to the stack for the dive and the life again was brilliant, but I just couldn’t go on.

Steps to hell
We managed to exit with little drama and headed back to Frieda for a hot cup of tea. Not before I tackled the steps again though. Going down was rough enough, after 2 dives it simply got a little more exhausting. I took my twinset straight up once I exited and unceremoniously dumped it near the motor home. I got my breath back and staggered back down to get more kit. I met Kerri “taking a break” half way up with the weight belts dripping from her tiny little arms. She explained she wouldn’t be carrying her twin 7’s up today and they were waiting for me down below.

Dutifully I managed them back up the steps and to the van. Wife buddy got the peripherals and we stowed our gear in the well configured scuba storage compartments dotted around the motor home probably designed for clothes, pots and the like.

We simply drove round the corner from the harbour to the Silver Strand car park and set Frieda up for the night. Tea and a light dinner was the agenda along with some scuba podcasts, courtesy of Rich Synowiec at Diver Sync, to continue with the day’s theme. Sleep was beckoning. Sleep was had. Sleep was sporadic at best.

The weather in Malinbeg can change in a heartbeat, and often does. A few hours into our slumber the winds began to howl and the van began to shake. Well, apparently. To be honest I only knew this as Kerri told me. I woke up in our bed over the cab alone, with wife buddy cowering down below in the living area shivering in a blanket.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m scared. Do you think Frieda could blow over?”

“Don’t think so.”



Morning came too quickly and we were more or less blown out for the days diving. On top of this rather disappointing revelation I was beginning to feel a bit ill. The motor home was packed up and we dragged Frieda back home against a head wind suffering terribly and scraping 40mph at best.

It was a great weekend overall even though we did lose a few planned dives but we also learned some more of life’s diving lessons.

  • We learned that you can dive Malinbeg in twinsets of all sizes, but it makes you tired. 
  • Penguins can get out more easily than elephant seals. 
  • It’s best to dive as soon as you can because the weather is as predictable as, well, the weather.
  • Motor homes don’t blow over, even when parked on a cliff face.


  1. Great blog, both funny and informative. Do you think it would be possible to snorkel in a wetsuit in this area?


Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

Safe diving buddy.