Lough Hyne

Lough Hyne

Lough Hyne as viewed from the summit of Knockomagh Hill (Photo: R. McAllen)

Lough Hyne is a semi-enclosed marine lake situated 3 miles west of Skibereen and some 50 miles from Cork City in Southwest Ireland. It measures just 0.8 km by 0.6 km and it is believed that the Lough was a freshwater lake up to 4000 years ago, when a rise in sea levels joined it with the sea. It is now a highly sheltered, seawater basin connected to the North Atlantic Ocean via a narrow inlet called Barloge Creek.

At the northern end of Barloge Creek, there is a very narrow, shallow constriction known as the “Rapids”. The “Rapids” are no deeper than 5m at high tide and this highly restrictive sill leads to an asymmetrical tide with water flooding in for 4 hours and ebbing for 8.5 hours. Water flow within the Rapids can reach 3ms -1.

Lough Hyne was designated Europe’s first Marine Nature Reserve in 1981 in order to protect the rich biodiversity that occurs within its depths. The Lough supports many different marine habitats and environmental conditions (cliffs, beaches, boulders and saltmarshes in water movement ranging from still to very fast - 0.05 ms -1 to 3ms -1). The deepest part of the Lough is some 52m in the Western Trough. Whilst the rich fauna and flora of Lough Hyne have been protected for over 30 years (30th anniversary on June 3rd 2011), scientific research has been ongoing for well over 100 years.


Rapids at Lough Hynew The “Rapids” situated at the southeast entrance to the Lough leading into Barloge Creek. University College Cork’s Renouf lab is seen next to the rapids.(Photo: R. McAllen)

A Brief history of Scientific Research at Lough Hyne

Lough Hyne Rapids c.1950The wooden research huts alongside the Rapids – circa 1950

The first recorded biological study at Lough Hyne occurred in 1886 when the Rev. William Spottswood Green made the first recording of the Purple Sea-Urchin Paracentrotus lividus - a species that has become one of the most studied organisms in the Lough and is currently the subject of a long-running population survey by Dr Anne Crook (University of Reading).

The start of more regular biological studies began in 1923, when Prof Louis Renouf from University College Cork began visiting the Lough. In 1928 an ex-army hut was assembled beside the Rapids to act as the first on-site research laboratory. Although being destroyed by tidal surges and reassembled in 1942 and again in 1962, the hut acted as the starting point for regular marine research and led to the construction of two further wooden huts in the 1930’s which attracted the attention of overseas workers.

Among the first visitors to the Lough in the 1930’s were J.A. Kitching and F.J. Ebling. They were regular visitors until the onset of WWII, but the returned in 1946 to begin regular summertime work until 1986. Kitching and Ebling’s team would consist largely of undergraduates camping for the summer in large tents on the southern shore of Lough Hyne.

Lough Hyne Camp c. 1950Jack Kitching and John Ebling’s research camp at Glanafeen. – circa 1950

After visiting Lough Hyne for a number of years Prof. Kitching erected a further two laboratories. A small concrete building on the east side of the Rapids was completed in 1954 and was known as the Dromadoon laboratory. The other was built at Glanafeen on the southern shore of Lough Hyne between 1952 and 1957.  This led to the influx of visiting marine biologists especially from the U.K. Unfortunately during the 1960’s the condition of the labs owned by University College Cork deteriorated and were largely unused after 1967. There were few Irish biologists working at the Lough at this time and the remaining buildings beside the Rapids totally collapsed in 1976.

Kitching and Sloane at Lough HyneJack Kitching (Diving) and Jock Sloane collecting samples from near the Rapids.

However, in 1975 Dan Minchin from the Irish Department of Agriculture and Fisheries took an interest in the Lough to look at the biology of scallops and their predators using a caravan on the north shore as his lab. This renewed interest led to University College Cork staff and students beginning to conduct research at the Lough once more and in 1987, a new two level building known as the Renouf lab was opened alongside the Rapids. At the same time, Prof. Kitching donated his two labs at Glanafeen and Dromadoon to UCC. The Glanafeen lab was subsequently renamed the Kitching lab in recognition of Prof. Kitching’s services to biological research at Lough Hyne. In December 2001, the Dromadoon laboratory was renamed the John Bohane Laboratory in recognition of the role of John Bohane as Caretaker of Lough Hyne for over 60 years.

Erosion at the Rapids Rapids erosion June 2006 (Photo: R.McAllen)

In 2006 after 50 years of concern, work to rebuild the collapsed western wall of the Rapids took place. Current speeds through the Rapids can reach 3 m/s and it had a dramatic effect on the Famine wall on the Rapids western side built in 1852. The rate of erosion and collapse of the Rapids wall has been a concern to Lough Hyne users for over 50 years and in recent times there had been an almost total collapse of the wall and subsequent large scale erosion of the land near one of UCC’s three on-site laboratories, the Renouf lab. With funding of €55,000 from a Heritage Council Biodiversity Fund 2006 award to Dr Rob McAllen as well as significant additional funding from University College Cork, Cork County Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), rebuilding work of the Rapids wall and reclamation of the eroded land took place during September and October 2006. The Lough Hyne Rapids is a piece of Irish Marine Heritage and is a very well-known and well-studied marine biological research area as well as a major tourist area. By succeeding in rebuilding the Rapids bordering wall structure and the surrounding area, UCC, The Heritage Council, NPWS and Cork County Council have played a major role in securing the future of Lough Hyne and its inhabitants for generations to come.

Reconstruction of the Rapids Rapids after construction  November 2006 (Photo: R.McAllen)

On June 3rd 2011, Lough Hyne celebrated the 30th anniversary on its designation as a Marine Reserve. To acknowledge this occasion, a 2 day conference and celebration took place at the West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen and at the Lough itself. 65 delegates attended the conference which had 15 presentations from past and present researchers.Lough Hyne @30Some of the delegates attending the Lough Hyne @30 conference 3rd June 2011  (Photo: R.McAllen)

Research at Lough Hyne

Stefanie Broszeit – PhD student on Soft sediment dynamics at Lough Hyne

Stefanie is currently looking at both environmental factors and faunal diversity in soft sediment areas of the Lough. This has included hydrodynamic and sedimentation measurements as well as time series grabs and ROV use to examine changes especially in relation to the formation of the thermocline in the Western Trough. 

Dr Mark Jessopp – EPA Postdoctoral Fellowship on Eutrophication in Lough Hyne

Mark recently completed this two year postdoctoral fellowship looking at eutrophication inside and outside of Lough Hyne as well as changes in plankton dynamics. His key finding was marked increase in nitrates in the last 15 years both inside and outside of Lough Hyne.
His full report is available here.  

The School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at University College Cork have had a number of PhD students complete their Lough Hyne studies in the last 6 years:

Amy Dale – The community ecology of seagrass beds around Southwest Ireland.

This project examined the diel, seasonal and inter-annual variation in the community structure of the infaunal and epifaunal macrofauna, inhabiting a variety of seagrass beds in Barloge Creek, Lough Hyne Marine Reserve and at Ventry Bay, Co. Kerry in SW Ireland. The project was co-supervised by Dr Rob McAllen and Dr Pat Whelan. 

Rob Thomas – Recruits in space: supply and patchiness on the seabed.

This project focussed on the recruitment of marine invertebrates at different spatial and temporal scales and examined how the themes of patchiness in larval supply and recruitment, affected the composition and structure of intertidal and shallow sublittoral marine communities. The project was co-supervised by Dr Rob McAllen and Dr David Barnes (British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge).

Mark Jessopp – The exchange of larvae between marine reserve and adjacent non-reserve areas. – Part of the MARDEM project partnership.

This project was funded by the HEA North-South Cross Borders initiative in collaboration with Dr Tasman Crowe,.University College Dublin and Dr Mark Johnson, Queen’s University, Belfast. The MARDEM project looked at the way in which marine reserves and SAC’s were designed and monitored. This particular project looked at the exchange of larvae between marine reserves and other adjacent coastal areas to assess the importance of larval transfer and to suggest criteria by which future marine reserves should be designated. The project was supervised by Dr Rob McAllen.

Dougie Watson – Recruitment variability in space and time by benthic invertebrates on Irish Shores.

This study focused on settlement and recruitment on machined slate panels over a monthly time scale.  Five sites were used (two within Lough Hyne) for this portion of the work.  Other studies included comparisons between recruitment to panels and naturally occurring boulder substrata, recruitment differences with regard to orientation of substrata, assemblage structural differences dependant on immersion date and how assemblage structure varied with increasing time of immersion.

Ian Davidson – Using marine benthic migrations to assess biodiversity.

The purpose of this research was to investigate intertidal and shallow subtidal epifaunal diversity and assess the influence that small scale (spatial and temporal) migrations has on biodiversity measurement.  In particular, the biodiversity along gradients of substratum, immersion, depth, and flow and determining the relative influence of mobile and sessile taxa in the assemblages was studied.  The study was carried out primarily at Lough Hyne because of the variability in physical conditions in such a small area.  Overall, this study should contribute to a better understanding of community patterns and processes in shallow marine systems.

Kate Rawlinson – Using marine migrations to assess pelagic biodiversity.

This project was an ecological study of the spatial and temporal variation in zooplankton composition and diversity of a semi-isolated community. The study paid particular attention to the influence of environmental parameters on zooplankton vertical migration, and the effect of local and regional factors on community composition and diversity.

Other Institutions using Lough Hyne research facilities:

  • Lough Ine Ltd (Aberdeen) – Prof. Tony Hawkins

  • Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom – Dr David Sims & Group

  • Royal Holloway – University of London – Dr David Morritt

  • University College Dublin – Dr Tasman Crowe / Dr Eoin O’ Gorman

  • Queen’s University Belfast – Drs Mark Johnson & Louise Allcock

  • British Antarctic Survey – Dr David Barnes

  • National Parks and Wildlife Service of Ireland –Dr Liz Sides and colleagues

  • Bristol University -Dr Colin Little 

  • Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, USA - Dr Cynthia Trowbridge 

  • University of Aberdeen – Dr Stuart Piertney

UCC Research Facilities at Lough Hyne

Renouf Lab at Lough HyneThe Renouf lab (Photo: R.McAllen)

The Renouf laboratory – The main research lab containing two accommodation rooms upstairs for 10-15 people and is equipped with a kitchen (cooker, fridge, microwave, kettle) and a small communal area. It also houses the UCC dive equipment store. It also has its own boat pontoon and there is access to the rapids and a sheltered bay close by.

Bohane Lab, Lough HyneThe John Bohane lab adjacent to the Rapids (Photo: R.McAllen)

The John Bohane Laboratory – Situated on the eastern shore of the rapids with access from the Lough itself or via a path down the Dromadoon hill. The lab contains bench space for four workers and there is a 12-tank water flow through system next to the lab for specimen storage and on-site experimental setups. There is electric on-site.
Kitching Lab, Lough HyneKitching lab ((Photo: R.McAllen)

The Kitching Laboratory – Situated in the southwestern corner of the Lough at Glanafeen. Access is currently via boat only. This lab has ample bench space for experimental work and is very suitable for day teaching. There is a large grass area attached to the lab suitable for camping, but a months advanced notice is required to prepare the site.  There is no electric on-site but battery operated lamps are available with recharging by solar panels.


We have just received a new 5m Tornado RIB with a 40hp 4-stroke Yamaha engine for work inside and outside of the marine reserve. In addition there is a 2.5m inflatable. We also have our own compressor and diving research facilities on site at the Renouf lab.

  • Bench Fees (as of 1/1 2011)

  • Undergraduate or Postgraduate student - €10 per day

  • Researcher / Academic staff – €20 per day

  • RIB useage charge – €20 per day up to a maximum of €200 for the duration of your trip.

  • Boat deposit (returnable) – €500

Lough Hyne Research permits

Before commencing any research activity (including diving) or specimen collections at Lough Hyne, workers must have obtained a permit from the National Parks and Wildlife Service Marine Reserve Ranger Mr Patrick Graham. Application forms for permits and contact details of the Ranger are available from the UCC Lough Hyne coordinator Dr Rob McAllen on request.

Our Policy

Priority of lab space and facilities goes to the staff and students of University College Cork. However, because we have ample research space available we will always be as accommodating as possible to interested visiting parties and have successfully accommodated several groups simultaneously in the past. We urge potential users of the facilities at Lough Hyne to contact the Lough Hyne co-ordinator, Dr Rob McAllen as early as possible to discuss requirements and dates of proposed future visits.

Accommodation booking form for Lough Hyne research facilities

Please fill out the form below and return to Dr Rob McAllen (address below) at least 4-6 weeks prior to your intended stay.

Accommodation booking form for Lough Hyne research facilities 

Contact Details:

Dr Rob McAllen
Lough Hyne Co-ordinator
School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, 
University College Cork
Enterprise Centre
Distillery Fields
North Mall
Cork City
Tel: 00 353 21 4904647
Fax: 00 353 21 4904664
E-mail: r.mcallen@ucc.ie

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

An Scoil Eolaíochtaí Bitheolaíocha, Domhaneolaíocha agus Comhshaoil

University College Cork, Distillery Fields, North Mall, Cork, Ireland T23 N73K