Baltimore Bay, Cape Clear and Dunmanus

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter IV-19 | Start of chapter

Leaving the Stags of Castlehaven behind us, we next pass Baltimore Bay, a safe asylum for inward and outward-bound American vessels. I shall not, however, delay to enumerate the endless bays and islands that are clustered along this coast, but hasten at once to the romantic island of Cape Clear, well known since Ireland was first visited by mariners, and now more conspicuous by a bright, revolving light, announcing to the mariner, long tossed on the "storm-vexed" Atlantic, the cheering tidings of his approach to home. This land was once thought to be the most southern point of Ireland; incorrectly, though, as it is now generally known to be an island, and the honour of being the extreme southern termination of the beautiful "gem of the sea," has been generally transferred to Mizen Head. But this is also geographically incorrect, for the more accurate observations of modern days have ascertained that the neighbouring promontory of Brow Head, next to it eastward, is by a few seconds more south than Mizen Head, and therefore entitled to the distinction of being named the most southern point of Ireland. Cape Clear is, indeed, a curious place. It is scarcely three miles long, and not more than one and a half wide; high, rugged and precipitous, accessible only by two coves on opposite sides of the island, which, trenching deep into the land, nearly divide it into two, giving it an appearance somewhat similar to that of an immense wasp.

Dunmanus Bay is the first harbour of any note we meet after doubling Mizen Head; but though both large and safe, it is little frequented by vessels. So well is it sheltered by the surrounding mountains and the outstretching headlands, that it has all the appearance of an extensive lake when viewed from several points on the shore. On the eastern shore of the bay are the ruins of a fortress, called Dunmanus Castle. It was built by the O'Mahony sept, and was formerly a place of some strength. Dunmanus Bay is separated from that of Bantry by a narrow, rugged peninsula, of which Sheep Head forms the extreme headland.