Porth Castell Dive Report

16 July 2013
Sunday 7th July 2013 and on one of my very precious days off work my alarm was blaring out at stomach churning 5:45am, we divers must be mad! As the saying goes though tide and time waits for no man - especially not one who fancies a lie in after a tough week at work.

On the plus side the sun was out with the mercury already hitting 22 degrees and it felt a little bit like I had woken up in Sharm El Shiekh rather than the usually overcast outskirts of Manchester.

The week of hot weather and virtually no wind which had the country gripped in a welcome heat wave meant that diving conditions were likely to be fantastic anywhere in the country which is happen well given our diving destination for the day was North Wales, with its highly temperamental visibility.

Sausage butties munched, dive gear packed and a/c in over drive we hit the road - destination North Wales.

Being that North Wales/Anglesey offers some of the best shore diving near to Manchester we were no stranger to a few of the sites in the area so were confident of a good days diving, but as the journey neared its end a solitary grey cloud was spotted and anxiety began to creep in. Having made several of the 2-3hr trips to this part of the country only to get in the water at places like Porth Ysgaden, Criccieth and Trefor Pier and find them undiveable due to zero visibility had us wary of yet another disappointing day out, but with weather conditions as they were surely even North Wales would be diveable today!

En route we had made the decision to dive out of Trearrdur Bay on Holyhead which is home to a site known locally as both Porth Castell and Ravenspoint Gulley depending on who you speak to. We had dived this site once before but visibility was less than 3m and we never felt like we got the full experience of what this site had to offer.

On arrival this time though things looked promising with the water looking uncharacteristically clear and the sun hovering high in the cloudless sky.

We parked around the corner from the Dive Anglesy shop on Ravenspoint Rd where there is handy, free, on street parking, and as we kitted up more divers arrived all hoping like us that the conditions were rife for a dive.

With High Tide at 10:00am we trudged down the road in our heavy dive gear to the beach, completed our checks and descended into 2m at the inner mouth of the gully which runs east to west and takes you from the protected bay into open water.

My fool hardy decision to not wear a hood, which was based more on the sweltering sun than actual water temperature was immediately regretted when the cold water began drilling my temples, which come to think of it it always does, but I'll never learn. Thankfully the pain was brief and once it had dissipated the lack of hood gave a nice sense of freedom.

I am pleased to report that despite initial concerns the visibility was awesome (a good 10m) and light penetration was great.

The dive then;

The entry gulley is fairly narrow and steep sided but there is plenty of room for two divers finning shoulder to shoulder. Heading west through the gulley there are some large boulders to circumnavigate as the depth increases to 5m but don't rush your way out of this gully as careful exploration will yield nice results, we spotted a large Spider Crab, a Tom Pot Blennie, Wrasse aplenty and Anemones, and due to the excellent light penetration and a good selection of stabilising hand holds this is also a great place to take photos.

At the mouth of the gulley the kelp forest begins and we finned out over it heading seaward and deeper to about 10m. In the kelp forest we spotted Nudibrachs grazing, more Wrasse darting in and out of the fronds, more Spider Crabs doing....well whatever it is spider crabs do and a solitary Pollack sailing by.

We headed South a small way and found a fantastic swim through which was 2m wide (narrowing at the top) with 3m high walls on either side and kelp fronds fringing the top like party streamers - we headed through in single file, and though the shingle bed offered little in the way of marine life the topography was quite marvelous.

Out of the swim through we headed back North in order to attempt to circumnavigate the rocky island which forms one side of the entry gully. Above the surface it doesn't seem too large but it does stretch out a fair way under the water and with gulleys a plenty cutting back into it, it's quite easy to use up your air before completing the circuit, which is exactly what we did. At a 100 bar and less than half the way around we decided to head back to the entry gully rather than trying to complete the circuit.

By the time we got back to the entry gully we had spotted several more Spider Crab, some even bigger Wrasse, Moon jellies, and a Lobster. The tide was beginning to run and with the entry gully acting as a funnel there were strong currents out to open water so we dropped to sea bed level and pulled ourselves along the rocks until the current eased off half way back up the gulley. We made another brief exploration of the now current swept gulley and then back into the bay where we eventually surfaced after an hour underwater and an extremely enjoyable dive.

This site is certainly one to attempt again as it has so much to offer with gulleys a plenty yet to be explored. Check out our Porth Castell Dive Guide for more information about this dive site.