Dingle Bay, Smerwick and Brandon Bay

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter IV-22 | Start of chapter

The Bay of Dingle is excelled by few places on the coast in magnificent marine scenery. Ranges of mountains, whose fantastic summits pierce the clouds, rise boldly from the shores, and form a singularly picturesque screen to the noble haven which they overhang. At the northern entrance of this bay lie the Blasquets, a group of islets twelve in number, but four of them are mere rocks. They formerly belonged to the great Earl of Desmond, who gave them to the family of Ferriter, whence they have derived a second name.

Doubling round Sybil Head we come upon a place of melancholy notoriety, Smerwick. Here it was that a body of Spaniards, which had landed and taken possession of the town for the Earl of Desmond (then in rebellion against Queen Elizabeth), were slaughtered in cold blood, after their surrender, by the commander of the English forces. This act was afterwards brought against Sir Walter Raleigh as one of the charges on his trial. He exculpated himself by pleading his subordinate station, which obliged him to obey the commands of his superior officer; but he was unable fully to exculpate himself from a participation in this foul transaction, which must ever remain a dark blot upon the character of this ill-fated man.

We next reach Brandon Bay, situated on the northern shoulder of that bold peninsula which runs westward from Tralee to the Atlantic. It is twenty-six miles in length, and not more than six miles in width near the main-land, and consists altogether of craggy mountains heaped together in the wildest confusion, rising, in some places, to a considerable height. The lofty Brandon and Connor Hill are conspicuous amongst their lofty brethren for their superior altitude and picturesque forms. The channel up to the town of Tralee, which lies at the head of the bay of that name, is fit only for small craft. The town itself is inconveniently situated for commercial purposes; but a ship canal, which was completed a few years ago, has done much to remedy the defective navigation of the channel, and will in time bring to Tralee the shipping business, hitherto carried on at Blennerville, a small port a mile below the town. The scenery around Tralee is remarkably fine; the view of the wide-spreading bay which faces the town, the wild and rugged mountains of Brandon peninsula stretching away to the westward, and the softer beauties of the rich vale that extends on the other side towards Castle Island, form a panorama of surpassing and varied beauty. Ballyheigh Bay is only an inlet on the northern boundary of that great indenture in the coast which is known as Tralee Bay. It affords no shelter for ships, and has often proved fatal to homeward-bound West Indian and American vessels, from its having been mistaken for the mouth of the Shannon, in consequence of an error of latitude in many of the charts.