In early June we plan to visit the coastal town of Bantry, Ireland via a 14-day Celtic Kingdoms cruise. Since it is a new destination for us, we investigated this part of West County Cork.

Preparing to visit, Bantry, IrelandThe town of Bantry – with a population of less than 3,500 — is located at the head of Bantry Bay, a deep water, wind-sheltered harbor on the Atlantic Ocean. This bay has attracted fishermen, merchant ships and warriors for centuries.

A view overlooking part of Bantry, Ireland. Photo by Pam Brophy.

A view overlooking part of Bantry, Ireland. Photo by Pam Brophy.

Bantry is a tender port for cruise ships. While researching this port, I learned that our cruise ship — Holland America’s ms Prinsendam —  will anchor off Glengarriff Harbor, and the ship’s tender boats will deliver us into the town on Glengarriff rather than into the town of Bantry. While this is a common situation, normally the port call would be marketed as Glengarriff (Bantry), Ireland, rather than simply as Bantry, Ireland.

Google map of Glengarriff HarborAccording to Google Maps, it is a 10-mile, 16-minute drive from Glengarriff Harbor to the town of Bantry. We will have to figure out how to get to Bantry from where our ship’s tenders drop us off. We downloaded the Journey Planner travel app for Ireland to check public transportation between Glengarriff Harbor and Bantry. (The TFI Journey Planner is free, and available from the Apple App store, Google Play or the Windows store. The public bus service between the towns appears to be infrequent on the day of our visit, and it doesn’t appear that Uber has made it to Glengarriff or Bantry.

Once we arrive in Bantry, we will most likely stop by the Bantry Tourist Office for maps, directions and a few questions best asked from a local. It’s located in the Old Courthouse by the Wolf Tone Square (the main square in central Bantry.)

Based on our pre-trip research, these are the things around the town of Bantry and Bantry Bay that we’d like to explore.

8 Things to Do While Visiting Bantry, Ireland

A statue of Theobald Wolfe Tone also stands in the main square of Bantry, Ireland.

A statue of Theobald Wolfe Tone also stands in the main square of Bantry, Ireland.

1.  Stop by the Theobald Wolfe Tone statute in Bantry’s main square. The square commemorates Dublin-born Theobald Wolfe Tone. Tone led the United Irishmen in an uprising against British rule in Ireland. The United Irishmen, a republican revolutionary group influenced by the ideas of the American and French revolutions, were the main organization behind the Irish Rebellion May to September 1798.

2. Get a latte and a scone or a sausage roll at the Box of Frogs Coffeehouse & Bakery. This highly-rated cafe is located at Bridewell Lane in Bantry. Who can resist a latte dusted with chocolate in the outline of a frog?

map of the Heritage Loop Walks in Bantry, Ireland. Map from Explore West Cork /West Cork People.

map of the Heritage Loop Walks in Bantry, Ireland. Map from Explore West Cork /West Cork People.

3. Take one or all of Bantry’s Heritage Loop Walks – perhaps starting with the Béicín Loop – described as “a short walk on a concrete pathway by the sea, easily accessible from the town center. Wonderful views of Bantry Bay, mountains, and islands in the bay.”  Trail descriptions and map can be accessed at Explore West Cork.

The Bantry House is located on the south side of Bantry Bay near the town of Bantry, Ireland. Photo by Jörg Bittner Unna.

The Bantry House is located on the south side of Bantry Bay near the town of Bantry, Ireland. Photo by Jörg Bittner Unna.

4. Visit the Bantry House and Gardens – the ancestral home of the White family who became the Earls of Bantry. While still owned by  descendants of the White family who still live on the property, tourists can visit the estate.  The house has a collection of artworks gathered by the second Earl of Bantry and his wife Mary as they traveled across Europe. Their travels also inspired the Bantry House gardens.

The house has been open to tourism since 1946, and offers tours of the house and gardens, a tea shop and bed and breakfast accommodations.

5. Check out the 1796 Bantry French Armada Center  – next to the Bantry House. This center recounts the story of Theobald Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen’s attempt to land a 50-ship French Armada in Bantry Bay in order to expel the British and establish an Irish Republic. Due to bad weather and other factors, the attack failed. The Armada Center recounts the attempted French landing and contains items excavated from the wreck in Bantry Bay as well as a 1-to-6 scale model of ‘The Surveillante‘.

Sheep's Head near Bantry, County Cork, Ireland. Photo by Petra15.

Sheep’s Head near Bantry, County Cork, Ireland. Photo by Petra15.

6. Explore Sheep’s Head Peninsula – via a hike or renting a car to drive on the narrow 1-way road. This is a guide to the Sheep’s Head Looped Walks. The 4 kilometer or about 2.5 mile long Lighthouse Loop is rated moderate and might be interesting on a nice day. Other trails offer stunning scenery, but may be too adventurous for a day in port unless we hire a knowledgeable local guide and pack hiking boots.

7. Enjoy some local seafood. While the vast shoals of Pilchards found in the bay drew the English to Bantry in the 1600’s, today the area in known for mussel farming. We’d like a chance to sample the seafood at either The Fish Kitchen (above a fish shop, features locally sourced seafood, known for its daily specials) or O’Connor’s Seafood Restaurant where we’d have to try the Mussels in a Thai coconut curry sauce.

8. Drink a pint in a local pub. The more unique the name, the better. These pubs are on our list to check out while in Bantry: The SnugThe Quay’s Bar and Ma Murphy’s.

During our planning, we are using these two guidebooks:

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Ireland

Rick Steves Best of Ireland

Have you visited Bantry, Ireland? What activities do you recommend?

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15 Interesting Facts About Bantry, Ireland

by Janis on April 18, 2017

In June we plan to visit the coastal town of Bantry, located in West Cork County, Ireland. Our first visit to this part of Ireland will be via a 14-day Celtic Kingdoms cruise.

15 interesting facts about Bantry, IrelandThe town of Bantry, we learned, has a population of less than 3,500 people. It’s located at the head of Bantry Bay, a deep water, wind-sheltered harbor on the Atlantic Ocean with an interesting history.

15 Interesting Facts About Bantry, Ireland

The European pilchard (Sardina pilchardus)

The European pilchard (Sardina pilchardus)

1. Bantry was a small, self-sufficient hamlet of farmers and fishermen until the start of the 17th century when significant numbers of English settlers began arriving, drawn to the area by reports of vast shoals of pilchards in the bay. (Pilchards are also known as “sardines that are more than six inches long.”)

2. With the financial success of fishing, Bantry expanded rapidly with numerous ‘Fish Palaces’ around the harbor by 1725.

3. Meanwhile, the Earl of Anglesey and Cromwellian soldiers received land grants more than 96,000 acres in the Bantry area as a reward for their role in defeating the 1641 Rising. Disenchanted with farming, however, many of the newcomers sold their granted land to the White family. The White family, in turn, prospered by clearing forests, farming and running iron ore smelting operations.

This hand-colored etching by James Gillray, called 'End of the Irish Invasion' or 'the Destruction of the French Armada' depicts the French expedition to Bantry Bay, at the end of 1796.

This hand-colored etching by James Gillray, called ‘End of the Irish Invasion’ or ‘the Destruction of the French Armada’ depicts the French expedition to Bantry Bay, at the end of 1796. Pitt, Dundas, Grenville, and Windham are the four winds which blow up the storm to destroy the invaders. Charles Fox, as the carved figure at the head of the Revolution, is represented as influencing the United Irishmen. The crew of the jolly-boat are Sheridan, Liberty Hall, Erskine, M. A. Taylor, and Thelwall, who, it is insinuated, were all approvers of the Irish rebellion.

4. On December 15th, 1796, a 50-ship French Armada headed to Bantry from Brest with thousands of men in support of the Irish patriot, Wolfe Tone. Tone, a founder member of the United Irishmen, was determined to establish an Irish Republic free of British rule in Ireland.

5. Local landowner Richard White — who was loyal to the British crown — had heard about the planned invasion, and had trained a militia to oppose the landing. He provided storage for British munitions at his Bantry House estate.

6. Thanks to storms off the Irish coast, the French Armada never had a chance of landing in Bantry. As many as 10 ships sank. One of these, the ‘Surveillante‘ remained on the bottom of Bantry Bay for almost 200 years. The French mission failed and the remaining seaworthy ships returned to France.

Anchor from the French frigate "La Surveillante," part of the French Armada force in 1796, which sank near Bantry, Ireland. The anchor was discovered and recovered in 1981.

Anchor from the French frigate “La Surveillante,” part of the French Armada force in 1796, which sank near Bantry, Ireland. The anchor was discovered and recovered in 1981.

7. For his efforts in helping repelled the French Invasion of 1796 at Bantry Bay, Richard White was made Baron of Bantry in 1797, Viscount Bantry in 1800 and the 1st Earl of Bantry in January 1816.

The Bantry House is the ancestral home of the White family who became the Earls of Bantry. Photo by Jörg Bittner Unna.

The Bantry House is the ancestral home of the White family who became the Earls of Bantry. The home has been open to visitors since 1946. Photo by Jörg Bittner Unna.

8. Bantry prospered in the early 1800’s as the 1803–1815 Napoleonic Wars created a huge demand for fish and other agricultural products. By 1831, the population of Bantry had grown to 4,275 people, with many involved in fishing.

A Curtiss H-16 flying boat of the US Navy, used at the U.S. Naval Air Station Whiddy Island near Bantry, Ireland during the final months of World War I.

A Curtiss H-16 flying boat of the US Navy, used at the U.S. Naval Air Station Whiddy Island near Bantry, Ireland during the final months of World War I.

9. Whiddy Island, near the town on Bantry, became the site of U.S. Naval Air Station Whiddy Island during the last months of World War I. Bantry Bay Station was used for anti-submarine patrols by Curtiss Model H flying boats. These air crews patrolled shipping lanes for submarine activity south of Kinsale, Ireland.  (This area where the RMS Lusitania had been sunk by German submarine in May, 1915.) The aircraft took off and landed in Bantry Bay; they were pulled up a concrete ramp for servicing and storage. The short-lived seaplane base became operational on September 25,  1918 and closed in February 1919 after the war ended.

10. Following the Irish Potato Famine between 1845 and 1852 — during which more than a million people in Ireland died and another million left the country for the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — the population of Bantry dropped drastically to about 1200.

11. The 5th Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army was active in Bantry during the 1919 -1921 Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War.

Names of those who died “In Defense of the Republic” between 1920 and 1923 are listed in Wolfe Tone Square, Bantry, Ireland12. Names of those who died “In Defense of the Republic” between 1920 and 1923 are listed in Wolfe Tone Square in Bantry.

Whiddy Island viewed from the south shore of Bantry Bay, Ireland. Photo by Pam Brophy.

Whiddy Island viewed from the south shore of Bantry Bay, Ireland. Photo by Pam Brophy.

13. In 1969, the Gulf Oil Company established a crude oil tank farm on Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay. A fleet of giant oil tankers brought the crude oil from Kuwait to Bantry via the Cape of Good Hope for re-shipment to refineries throughout Europe. Bantry became a boom town, but this revival was short lived.

14. On January 8, 1979,  the oil tanker Betelgeuse exploded in Bantry Bay. The explosion and resulting fire claimed the lives of 50 people. The Oil Terminal closed, costing Bantry economic hardship and the the loss of more than 250 jobs. During the use of sonar sweeps during the cleanup effort, the French frigate “La Surveillante,” part of the French Armada force in 1796, which sank near Bantry was discovered and recovered in 1981.

15. In more recent years, Bantry has become Ireland’s leading area for mussel-farming.  Fishing remains a key industry with herring, hake, whitefish, salmon, lobster and crab. The town is also a popular destination for tourists and surfers.

Learn more about the history of Bantry and Ireland with these resources:


A Bay of Destiny: A History of Bantry Bay and Bantry


The French Are in the Bay: The Expedition to Bantry Bay, 1796


The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone 1763-98: Volume II: America, France, and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (Volume 2)

Have you visited Bantry, Ireland? What interesting fact can you add?

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22 Fun Facts About Milford Haven, Wales

April 11, 2017

We will be visiting Milford Haven, Wales, in the United Kingdom for the first time in June. In anticipation of our first visit via a cruise ship, we did a little research. 1. The town of Milford Haven (population 13,900) is part of Pembrokeshire County in western Wales. One can reach the town by driving […]

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Exploring Chicago’s Chinatown via a Food Walking Tour

April 8, 2017

On a recent rainy Sunday in Chicago, we walked and tasted our way through the city’s Chinatown neighborhood. To learn about this “new-to-us” area of Chicago, we booked the Chinatown Adventure with Chicago Food Planet Food Tours. It was easy to reach Chinatown from the Wit, our downtown Chicago Loop hotel. We took the Red Line […]

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