of BANTRY is
located at the northern end of the bay to which it gives its
name. In olden times called Kilgoban after its patron, St.
Goban, the present name Bantry is said to derive from
Beant-Mac-Farriola, a descendant of the O’Donovans and
O'Mahonys, chieftains of the area.Today Bantry is a market
town, port and tourist centre.
Bantry House is situated on the
verge of Bantry town and overlooks Bantry Bay. The original
house was built in 1750 and was once the seat of the Earls of
Bantry Bay is a long inlet of the
area of outstanding natural beauty. The bay is 48 km long,
16km at its broadest point and
is one of the largest and deepest natural bays in
Ireland and in Europe.
Bantry Bay is surrounded by mountains and separates the Beara
Peninsula to the north from the Sheep’s Head Peninsula to
the south. The bay gives good shelter to yachts and ships in
Bantry Bay featured prominently twice in
the naval history of Ireland; in 1689 when a French fleet
entered the bay to aid James II, and again in 1796 to assist
the rebellion by the United Irishtmen.
In the late 1700s
the Irish patriot Theobold Wolfe Tone of the United Irishmen,
enlisted French assistance to overthrow British rule in
Ireland. In December 1796 a French Armada with 15,000 troops
left Brest in France for Bantry Bay. However, severe winter
weather conditions scattered the fleet and only 19 ships with
6,500 troops arrived in the bay off Bere Island. Fierce
easterly gales prevented a landing and blew the ships out to
sea. By New Year’s Day 1797, 12 ships with 4,500 troops were
anchored off Whiddy Island. After many attempts and failing to
land in Ireland, the fleet returned to France. One old
frigate, 'La Surveillante' was left behind because of storm
damage and was scuttled off Whiddy Island on January 2nd 1797.
The story of this ship and the
unsuccessful French invasion is related in an exhibition at
The main commercial fishing
fleet in Bantrv Bay is based at the port of Castletownbere.
With a smaller fleet at Bantry, Castletownbere is one of the
chief commercial fishing centres in Ireland. Fish species
regularly landed include cod, haddock, herring, mackerel,
plaice, whiting and shellfish such as lobster, prawn, shrimp
BAY MUSSEL FARMING
In recent years Bantry Bay
has become the most important area in Ireland for the
production of mussels, which are grown on rope rafts in
sheltered sections of the bay. Processing for sale takes place
in local factories.
OF BANTRY BAY
Within the vast open
Bantry Bay there are a number of islands. The largest, Bere
Island, is inhabited and has a long and interesting history.
For many years it was an important British military and naval
base. It is used today by the Irish army for training.
Garinish Island lies within Glengarriff Bay. It is famous for
its Italian gardens, and is well worth a visit by boat
from Glengarriff. A low rock, Roancarrig, is the site of the
only lighthouse in Bantry Bay.
Whiddy Island is the location of a large
oil terminal and is home to several families who farm the
SIGHTSEEING of BANTRY BAY
Because of its vast size, it is difficult to view the whole of
Bantry Bay at once, except perhaps from the air. Bantry Bay is
surrounded by scenic mountains and magnificent views of the
bay can be had from a number of good vantage points:
ISLAND OIL TERMINAL
Vaughan’s Pass (named after a County Councillor from the
1950s) is east of Bantry town off the Cork/ Drimoleague
road (R586) and provides magnificent views of inner Bantry
Bay and the islands.
- GLENGARRIFF ROAD LAYBY
On the road between Bantry town and Glengarriff (N71)
there are a number of viewing points overlooking Bantry
Bay where the visitor can enjoy wonderful views of the
area. Viewing points between Bantry and Adrigole offer
views of the Whiddy Island oil terminal and jetty. A point
on the road west of Castletownbere also presents excellent
views of the outer area of Bantry Bay and Castletownbere.
- SHEEP’S READ HEAD PENINSULA
The visitor travelling the narrow road on the north side
of the Sheep’s Head Peninsula will also encounter
spectacular land and seascapes. From the tip of the
peninsula at Sheep’s Head, here are some impressive
vistas of outer Bantry Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
The oil terminal on Whiddy Island was constructed in 1969 by
Gulf Oil. It was established at a time when the Suez canal was
closed to shipping. Large crude-oil tankers known as
supertankers, sailed from the Middle East via the Cape of Good
Hope to the Whiddy terminal to discharge their cargo. With
large size and deep draft, many of these tankers could not
enter most world ports. However, Bantry Bay could accommodate
The first oil tanker to discharge at the terminal was the
supertanker Universe Ireland. In 1979, the Betelgeuse
was the last to discharge its cargo.
BETELGEUSE OIL TANKER
The French oil tanker Betelgeuse exploded on January
8th 1979 while unloading a cargo of crude oil at the terminal
with the unfortunate loss of fifty French and Irish lives. An
inscribed memorial high-cross stands in the cemetery near
A single-point mooring buoy for loading and off-loading has
been installed since.