Bantry (Irish: Beanntraí, meaning '(place of) Beann's people') is a town in the civil parish of Kilmocomoge in the barony of Bantry on the southwest coast of County Cork, Ireland. It lies in West Cork at the head of Bantry Bay, a deep-water gulf extending for 30 km (19 mi) to the west. The Beara Peninsula is to the northwest, with Sheep's Head peninsula to the southwest.

Bantry from the southeast
Bantry from the southeast
Coat of arms of Bantry
Na Cluinter Claoitect Oraibh  (Irish)
"Never may defeat be told of you"
Bantry is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 51°40′47″N 9°27′12″W / 51.67972°N 9.45333°W / 51.67972; -9.45333
CountyCounty Cork
Time zoneUTC±0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (IST)
Eircode routing key
Telephone area code+353(0)27
Irish Grid ReferenceV997488

The focus of the town is a large square, formed partly by infilling of the shallow inner harbour. In former times, this accommodated regular cattle fairs; after modernising as an urban plaza, it now features a weekly market and occasional public functions. Two piers protect the harbour.

Bantry is in the Cork South-West Dáil constituency, which elects three members of Dáil Éireann (the national parliament).


As with other areas on Ireland's southwest coast, Bantry claims an ancient connection to the sixth-century saint Breandán (Naomh Bréanainn) the Navigator. In Irish lore, Saint Breandán was the first person to discover America. To the west of the town is the graveyard marking the site of a 15th-century Franciscan friary, of which nothing remains.[2]

In past centuries, Bantry was a base for major pilchard fisheries and was visited by fishing fleets from Spain, France and the Netherlands.[2] It was still a very small town in 1689 when it was described by the Jacobite army officer and future author John Stevens as "a miserable poor place, hardly worth the name of a town", consisting of "seven or eight small houses, and some mean little cottages". Wolfe Tone Square in the town commemorates Theobald Wolfe Tone, a leader during the 1798 rebellion. In the lead up to the rebellion, Dublin-born Tone led the republican United Irishmen in what he had hoped would be a local re-run of the recent French Revolution; this was to be achieved with the help of French Republicans in overthrowing British rule. The ill-fated French invasion fleet, known as the French expedition to Ireland, arrived in the area in 1796, but its purpose was frustrated by unfavourable winds.[3] For his efforts in preparing the local defences against the French, Richard White, a local landowner, was created Baron Bantry in 1797 by a grateful British administration.[4] A Viscountcy followed in 1800 and in 1816 he became the 1st Earl of Bantry. The mansion and gardens in the Bantry House demesne on the outskirts of the town testify to the family's status.[5]

Irish War of Independence commemorative plaque

During the Irish War of Independence, the 5th Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army was active in Bantry, and some members remained so during the Civil War that followed. Action by British forces included the punitive firebombing of several buildings in the town. The names of those who died between 1920 and 1923 "In Defence of the Republic" are listed on the wall of the former courthouse in Wolfe Tone Square.

Sheltering the head of the bay is Whiddy Island, site of a large oil terminal, originally owned by Gulf Oil. On 8 January 1979 the oil tanker Betelgeuse exploded, killing all 42 crew members, as well as seven employees at the terminal. The jetty was seriously damaged, but the storage tanks were not affected. Nevertheless, 250 employees at the terminal, one of the largest employers in the region, lost their jobs. There was also significant environmental impact and the local fishing industry was affected. Local interests subsequently initiated mussel-farming in the sheltered waters between Whiddy and the town.[citation needed]

In 1986, Gulf Oil surrendered its lease on the site to the Irish government. State investment in the 1990s restored part of the terminal and the Irish Government arranged for oil to be stored there during the First Gulf War in case of disruption to oil supplies; it currently holds one-third of the national strategic petroleum reserve. The facility passed from state ownership in 2001 with the proviso that it would remain operational for at least 15 years. It has since been owned and operated by US oil companies Tosco Corporation, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66 and Zenith Energy Partners. At the time of acquisition by Zenith Energy Partners, the facility employed 30 people and supported up to 100 contractors. It has a storage capacity of more than eight million barrels of crude oil and refined products. The terminal saw a 15% decrease in oil traffic during 2015, according to figures released by the Port of Cork which operates the Bantry Bay port.

Bantry made headlines in 2007 when the attempted landing of a cocaine shipment on the nearby coast was foiled,[6] and again in 2017 when a "cocaine factory" was discovered in the area.[7]

A statue of Theobald Wolfe Tone also stands in the town

Buildings of noteEdit

A commemorative plaque, presented to the citizens of Bantry by the Canadian Government for their kindness and compassion to the families of the victims of Air India Flight 182.

Bantry House is located west of the town and has been home to the White family since 1739 – sometimes Earls of Bantry. It contains a number of historic artefacts and paintings and is surrounded by formal gardens.[4]

Other landmarks include Bantry Market House, and the Catholic and Church of Ireland parish churches.[8][9] The public library and Garda (police) station are examples of modern architecture in the town.[10]


The town is a service centre for a large catchment area, including both the Beara and Sheep's Head peninsulas.[11] Livestock fairs were held in the square in the past. It is no longer a major fishing port, mussel-farming having replaced the traditional trawling. Tourism has been a major part of the economy since the 19th century, exploiting the coastal scenery of the region, and the town contains a number of hotels and guesthouses. There are small-scale local industries, including pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and building materials.[citation needed] Bantry became a Fairtrade Town in 2006.

Bantry hosts two cultural events each summer – the West Cork Chamber Music Festival and the West Cork Literary Festival. These feature musicians and writers of international stature, with performances at various venues in the town.[12]

Bantry held the Atlantic Challenge International Contest of Seamanship in July 2012, in which 15 nations competed.[13]

The inner harbour contains a marina comprising 40 berths and associated facilities, opened in 2017.[14]


Bantry is accessed by the N71 national secondary road. Scheduled bus services connect the town with Cork city, Killarney, Castletownbere via Glengarriff (17 km north of Bantry) and some smaller local centres.[citation needed]

In the early 20th century, there was a regular steamship service from Bantry to Castletowbere on the Beara Peninsula. The also serving Glengarriff and Adrigole.[15] Improvements to the roads and land transport eventually made this uneconomic.[citation needed]

As of the early 21st century, Bantry has been a port of call for smaller cruise liners, which anchor between the town and Whiddy Island.[16][17]

Bantry has its own small privately-owned airfield called Bantry Aerodrome, though the nearest large international airport is Cork Airport. Cork Airport is served by direct Bus Éireann buses from Bantry in the summer tourist season.

Bantry Town railway station, the western terminus of the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway, opened on 22 October 1892, but finally closed on 1 April 1961, and was subsequently demolished.[18]



The local Gaelic Athletic Association are the Bantry Blues. The area also has a golf club (Bantry Bay Golf Club), a sailing club (Bantry Bay Sailing Club), an association football club (Bantry Bay Rovers A.F.C.), rugby union and rowing clubs.

This historic mill-wheel beside Bantry library overlooks the town's main street.

International relationsEdit

Bantry is twinned with:[27]

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

This anchor from the French Armada force in 1796 was discovered off the northeast point of Whiddy island, Bantry Bay, in 1980 by the Dutch salvage company Smit Tak
  • Bantry Bay : Ireland in the days of Napoleon and Wolfe Tone. P. Brendan Bradley, 1931.
  • Bantry in Olden Days: Richard S. Harrison (Published by Author)
  • J. Kevin Hourihane, Town Growth in West Cork: Bantry 1600–1900 in JCHAS (1977), LXXXii, no 236, 83–97.
  • Wild Gardens: The Lost Demesnes of Bantry Bay Nigel Everett, Hafod Press.
  • An Irish Arcadia: The Historic Gardens of Bantry House Nigel Everett, Hafod Press 1999 ISBN 0-9535995-0-7
  • Reminiscences and recipes of Bantry : A century in the life of a town, its people and their food Denis Cotter, (Editor), 1999.
  • It might have been but yesterday : a Bantry anthology Denis Cotter (editor), 2000.
  • What the doctor ordered, a third Bantry anthology, compiled by Denis Cotter, Pooky Paw Press Bantry, 2000.
  • Speaking Volumes, Edith Newman Devlin, Blackstaff Press 2000 ISBN 0-85640-672-4, Bantry in early 1920s.
  • The Memoirs of John M. Regan, a Catholic Officer in the RIC and RUC, 1909–48, Joost Augusteijn, editor, District Inspector, Bantry, 1919, ISBN 978-1-84682-069-4.
  • Picturesque Bantry : a century in photographs, Denis Cotter. 2005.


  1. ^ "Sapmap Area: Settlements: Bantry". Census 2016. CSO. 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b W. O'Halloran (1916). Early Irish History and Antiquities and the History of West Cork. Sealy, Bryers and Walker – via
  3. ^ Samuel Lewis (1837). Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. Lewis – via
  4. ^ a b "The Story of Bantry House By Geoffrey Shelswell-White" (PDF). Irish Tatler and Sketch. May 1951. Retrieved 30 June 2019 – via
  5. ^ "Bantry House – A Snapshot of History". Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  6. ^ "€105m cocaine seizure after boat capsizes is biggest ever". The Irish Times. 3 July 2007. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  7. ^ "Three men and woman charged after Bantry cocaine factory find are refused bail". Irish Examiner. 29 November 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  8. ^ "St. Finbarr's Roman Catholic Church, Chapel Street, Bantry". National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  9. ^ "St. Brendan The Navigator Church of Ireland Church, Wolfe Tone Square, Bantry". National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Building of the Month – September 2012 – Bantry Library". National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  11. ^ Bantry & Castletownbere Catchment (PDF). Cork County Development Plan – West Cork (Report). Cork County Council. 1986. p. 109.
  12. ^ "2018/19 Concert Series Announced". West Cork Music. 17 September 2018. Archived from the original on 30 June 2019.
  13. ^ "Atlantic Challenge International – Past Events". Archived from the original on 11 August 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Bantry Harbour Marina Officially Opened, 40 Boats Visit New Irish Coastal Facility". Afloat Magazine. 12 August 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  15. ^ "Record B623 – Bantry Bay Steamship Company Ltd" (PDF). Cork City and County Archives. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  16. ^ "Cruise Liner Schedule". Bantry Bay Port Company DAC. Archived from the original on 16 March 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  17. ^ "Cruise Ships". Bantry Development and Tourism Association. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  18. ^ "Bantry Town station" (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  19. ^ "History". Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  20. ^ McElligott, A. J. (1981). "Desmond, Anna Maria (1839–1921)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  21. ^ "A nice surprise for Marlene Enright to be recognised for doing what she loves". 5 March 2018.
  22. ^ T.M. Healy at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  23. ^ "Century Ireland – Murphy, William Martin" (PDF). RTÉ. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  24. ^ "History". Francis O'Neill Memorial Committee. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  25. ^ "An Irish Poet in Paris". Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  26. ^ "John Sullivan VC, CGM". Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  27. ^ "Twinning must be better used to promote region". Irish Examiner. 17 January 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2019.

External linksEdit