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Breakwater Fort - Courtesy of Luke Cooper-Berry

Kelp forest at Plymouth Breakwater

Scuba Diving Southwest Coast of England, UK, Europe

Reader Reviews:

Dive Site: Plymouth Breakwater

Location: Plymouth Sound

Description: Reef

Length: 1 nautical mile

Depth: 10 - 14 metres + (30 - 46 feet)

Visibility: 0 - 14 metres (0 - 46 feet)

Rating: ***

Plymouth Breakwater offers lots of opportunities for divers when other options look bleak due to weather or time constraints. Each part of the breakwater offers a completely different experience. The north is heavily protected from the open sea and has the typical sandy bottom found around the rest of Plymouth Sound. This offers the possibility of seeing dogfish, scallops on the move and plenty of spider crabs. However the seabed to the south is rocky and has plenty of kelp growth, meaning there are a large variety of fish to be seen as well as lots of pretty plant life.

If you fancy a drift dive, wait for the tide to go out and get the boat to drop you off on the north east end - you'll find that the current will rush you around to the south side pretty quickly, dropping off onto Tinkers Shoal. Perfect for beginners or the last dive of the day, somewhere close to the shore.

Luke Cooper-Berry, BSAC Open Water Instructor

This dive site is mainly used for backup dives by skippers running hardboats when the weather is bad outside of the breakwater.

Like the forts in the Solent, these were built in the 1850's to prevent attack from other countries. Victorians built them and as they were forward thinking, recognised that gun technology would develop so were built with this in mind allowing extra armour to be added on the outside. The magazine room was a dangerous circular place esp. in the days of open lights, like candles, so they designed an upside down candle. The glass dome went into the ceiling of the magazine room and the naked burning flame in an upper chamber away from the cordite. Many forts were used during WWII as AA platforms.

Viz here varies. The fort and its metal attractions of cylinders, washing machine and chamber/habitat provide the marine life with many places to colonise. The bottom composition is very silty and cruising around the main structure can lead to dark spots. A pier was erected nearby, but this has been moved. The habitat is a good starting place, covered in plumose anemones. Taking a 180° bearing will go over land occupied by hermit crabs and other scavengers such as spiny starfish. I spotted a huge one some 2m across, never seen one so big anywhere else!

Care should be exercised while circuiting the fort's lower walls. These are home to many outward facing PINK SEA FANS, which are rare globally. Look on these for the tiny nudibranch Tritonia nilsodneri which looks like the Eunicella fan, but is 1cm long.

At all times a delayed SMB should be used before surfacing, cos if your boat is there sheltering the chances are so are others! Be patient on surfacing as your boat may be around the other side of the fort.

Tony Gilbert

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