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Ardmore Bay

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Ardmore Bay is situated on Ireland’s south coast midway between Dungarvan and Youghal, in Co. Waterford. It is an open bay that offers an anchorage as well as moorings, with good landing at a small pier and a slip at its head.

Ardmore Bay is situated on Ireland’s south coast midway between Dungarvan and Youghal, in Co. Waterford. It is an open bay that offers an anchorage as well as moorings, with good landing at a small pier and a slip at its head.

This is a tolerable location in anything south round to northwest or in settled conditions. However the bay is entirely exposed to any wind that has the slightest easterly component. Access is straightforward at any state of the tide as the bay is open, clear of danger and shoals gradually to the shore.

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Keyfacts for Ardmore Bay

Aerial overview of Ardmore Bay

About Ardmore Bay

Ardmore derives its name from the Irish Aird Mhor meaning the ‘great height’ that describes the bay’s western end. The village is historically significant for being the birthplace of Irish Christianity.

The monastery was founded here as early as 316 AD by St. Declan who was born in Ireland and educated in Wales. This was nearly a century before the coming of St. Patrick who was born in Scotland and lived 390 – 461 AD. The ruins of the small church of St. Declan's Oratory is overlooked by the villages' signature landmark 30-metre high 12th century Round Tower. Standing over the village and bay, and highly conspicuous on the latter stages of an easterly approach, this tower is believed to mark the burial place of St. Declan.

St. Declan is little spoken of but nonetheless is seen as being very important. It has often been proposed, because he formed the first Christian church and being a native Irishman, that St. Declan should be the patron saint of Ireland in preference to St. Patrick. What is certain is his Ardmore archaeological legacy is truly magnificent. The west gable wall within the ruins of the 12th-century Cathedral is of particular historical note. It features well preserved Romanesque stone carvings in a series of arcades. These depict scenes from the old and new testaments that are thought to have been retrieved from an earlier 9th-century building. Many believe the stone Round Tower was a bell tower, but it certainly was a place of refuge for the Monks and important ecclesiastical documents and treasures. The entrance doorway of the tower is some four metres above ground level and would have offered a short-term bolthole from a seaborne raid. It can be visited today via a short ascent from the village where St. Declan's Well will be passed in the vicinity of the footpath commencing to the east of the pier.

What cannot be seen today is any trace of Ardmore Castle or more appropriately castles. There is no visible trace of these today but this was not so in the past. Smith writing in 1746, records “Ardmore is now no more than a village, there appears at present, the stump of a castle; and not long since, was a much larger one there, which was taken down.” In 1844 Mr O’Flanagan wrote in his “Historical and Picturesque Guide to the Blackwater in Munster’ “There are also traces of two ancient castles, but neither history nor tradition throws any light on the persons by whom or the purposes for which they were erected’’. They had evidently completely vanished in 1860 when Hayman’s ‘Guide to Youghal, Ardmore and The Blackwater’ appeared, as he has no mention of them. One castle stood just below the Oratory immediately outside the cathedral grounds. It was laid siege to in 1642 and capitulated within a day.

The tale of the siege has a sparse account in historical documents; writers on the civil war in Ireland are very sparing in their notices of the subject. It is thought that the brutal treatment extended to defenders, after they capitulated with a request for mercy, was unpalatable and it was a story best left untold. The best account to be found is in Edmund Borlase’s 1743 ‘The History of the Irish Rebellion’ where he provides a detailed military description of how Lord Dungarvan and the Lord Broghill, summoning the Castle of Ardmore in the County of Waterford, belonging to the Bishop of Waterford, [and] after some petty boasts to withstand the utmost hazard it was yielded 26 of August 1642, on mercy’.

Borlace’s account of the battle is militaristic, triumphant and to be entirely objective the surrender of the castle was the only reasonable outcome. Moreover, the defenders fought a stalwart battle throughout the day. It was only after the church and tower had been taken, situated on the higher ground above the castle and eliminating more than a quarter of the defending forces, that the castle was surrendered ‘’on mercy’’. ‘Mercy’ was however scarce that day as Borlace continues ‘women and children being spared, but a hundred and forty men were put to the sword’. Objectively the taking of the castle was very much less the brave feat that colours Borlace’s narrative. The Garrison that took the castle was one of several operating in the area and sizeable; as Borlace describes in the advance to the castle Our forces were about 400. All muskets, besides 60 horse, part of the two Lords troops. This vastly outnumbered the 140 defending men that had only two muskets to hold the church and castle from the advancing garrison of professional soldiers.

‘ Oh! sadly shines the morning sun,
On leaguer’d castle wall,
When bastion, tower and battlement,
Seem nodding to their fall.

Re castle, 1642. by James Buckley.

Today Ardmore is a quaint little seaside resort and fishing village. The level of fishing activity is however small, and declining due to a lack of harbour investment. Only a limited number of open boat fishermen are active from the village. As a tourist resort Ardmore is thriving and this is largely driven by its beautiful protected beaches. Fronting Ardmore Bay is the mile long blue flag beach known locally as the ‘Main Beach’, and the adjacent Curragh, Ballyquin, Whiting Bay and Goat Island are four equally stunning beaches.

The village itself has an art gallery, pottery and craft shops, plus a choice of fine hotels, restaurants and pubs for that most important meal. It has the added enchantment of being part of the Gaelic speaking ‘Coastal Gaeltacht’ district of the ‘Ring’ An Rinn. Signposts, shop names and businesses of the community are all conducted in Gaelic. This makes for a unique visitor experience, as the love of Irish music, song and dance, together with the language is very special.

Those who like to stride out should not miss the highly rewarding ‘Cliff Walk’ out along the Ram’s Head peninsula, This begins near the Cliff House Hotel and ends back in the village main street and is well marked by posts along the route. It provides breath-taking scenery and views over the extent of Ardmore Bay from the 64-metre high rocky headland. There are several historic features of interest en route.

The Gothic style watchtower, a seamark that readily identifies Ram’s Head, was built in the 1860s as part of the Irish coastlines defences during the Napoleonic wars. The smaller more easterly watch station was used to monitor passing sea and air traffic during World War 2. The notable Samson wreck, on the inner shore of the peninsula, was a crane barge. During a December storm in 1987, it was being towed from Liverpool to Malta and was cut loose from its two tugboats off the Welsh coast. The crew members were subsequently rescued and the Samson blew a couple of hundred miles to its final resting point on the rocks of Ardmore Bay. Here it has been rusting away ever since cast in the new role as a tourist attraction and popular wreck for divers.

There are many other older wrecks in the bay area including the Marechal de Noailles, Bandon, Peri, Scotland, Sextusa and Peg Tranton, and more recently Anne Sophie and Fee des Ondes. The remaining keel of the latter wreck may still be seen at low tide on the main beach. Four miles out to the south of Rams Head lies the wreck of Cunard lines SS Folia that draws a lot of attention for both local and visiting divers.

The well-kept family resort and the small quaint fishing village has plenty to offer the passing cruiser. It may not be the best anchorage in the world but is perfectly serviceable for a short stay. Moreover, access is direct and easy plus there is a very good landing area. Once inside, the village is charming and it comes with beautiful sweeps of beach, wonderful and interesting cliff walks, and offers a superb archaeological site to explore.

Other options in this area

Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Alternatively here are the ten nearest havens available in picture view:
Coastal clockwise:
Youghal - 2.9 miles W
Knockadoon Harbour - 4.1 miles SW
Ballycotton - 7.9 miles SW
White Bay - 13.5 miles WSW
Aghada - 12 miles WSW
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Helvick - 5.5 miles NE
Dungarvan Town Quay - 5.7 miles NNE
Ballynacourty (The Pool) - 6 miles NNE
Stradbally Cove - 8.6 miles NE
Dunabrattin (Boatstrand) - 11.8 miles NE

Navigational pictures

These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Ardmore Bay.

Aerial overview of Ardmore Bay

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