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Youghal town harbour
Youghal is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Country Ireland
Province Munster
County County Cork
Local electoral area Midleton
Dáil Éireann Constituency Cork East
EU Parliament South
Elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Population (2006)
 • Urban 6,393
 • Rural 392
Irish Grid Reference X102781
Website .ie.youghalwww

Youghal ( ; Irish: Eochaill, meaning "yew wood") is a seaside resort town in County Cork, Ireland. Sitting on the estuary of the River Blackwater, in the past it was militarily and economically important. Being built on the edge of a steep riverbank, the town has a distinctive long and narrow layout. At the 2002 census the population was 6,597, but the population of its catchment area is about 10,000.

Since 2000 the town has experienced a strong decline in its former extensive industrial base, but there are plans for revitalisation taking advantage of the town's unique assets. As a historic walled seaport town on the coastline of east Cork, it has many historic buildings and monuments within its ancient town walls, and has been designated as an Irish Heritage Port by the Irish Tourist Board. It remains a popular tourist destination.


  • Name 1
  • History and architecture 2
    • Port and harbour 2.1
  • 21st century 3
  • Government and politics 4
  • Notable people 5
  • Tourism 6
  • Transport 7
  • Education 8
  • Photo Gallery 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


The name Youghal comes from the Irish Eochaill meaning "yew woods", which were once plentiful in the area. Older anglicisations of this name include Youghall, Yoghel and Yochil.[1]

An alternative history for the name is that it is the anglicized spelling for the name of Eochu Liathain, the ancestor of the Ui Liathain family who ruled this area from around 600 until the Norman invasion of the 1170s. The area of Youghal (Eochu) was part of the Ui Liathain domain and fell under control of the Ui Meic Caille.

The Anglo-Norman administration identified Youghal to Inchquin as the cantred Ui Glaissin (Glashan, Gleason, Gleeson) a family of the Ui Meic Caille and the area adjoining it as the Barony Imokilly (Ui Meic Caille).

Youghal is also the name of a townland in north County Tipperary, and may share the same derivation, as it is found in the Aradh Tire of this same ancient Ui Liathain territory.

History and architecture

Youghal received its charter of incorporation in 1209, but the history of settlement on the site is much longer, with Viking settlements dating back to the 11th century, the Church of Coran in the town's western suburbs dating from the 5th century, and evidence of Neolithic habitation at nearby Newport.

Notable buildings in the town include Sir Walter Raleigh's home Myrtle Grove and the St Mary's Collegiate Church, thought to have been founded by St. Declan around 450. The church was rebuilt in Irish Romanesque style in about 750, and a great Norman nave was erected in about 1220. It is one of the few remaining medieval churches in Ireland to have remained in continuous use as a place of worship. The Vikings used Youghal as a base for their raids on monastic sites along the south coast of Ireland, and a stone in St Mary's Collegiate Church bears the ancient etched outline of a longboat. Since the 16th-century Plantation of Munster it has been the place of worship of the Church of Ireland congregation of Youghal and its surrounding areas.

As the centre of English power in south Munster, the town was badly damaged on 13 November 1579, during the Second Desmond Rebellion, when it was sacked by the forces of Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond, who massacred the garrison, hanged the English officials and looted the townspeople's homes. Even so, the downtown area of Youghal is among the best-preserved in Ireland. The revenge killings that followed this included that a priest, Daniel O'Neilan, OSF, on 28 March 1580. He was fastened round the waist with a rope and thrown with weights tied to his feet from one of town-gates at Youghal, finally fastened to a mill-wheel and torn to pieces.[2]

The first record of the walls is a charter of 1275, granted by King Edward I, for their repair and extension.

The Clock Gate

Clock Gate Tower – In 1777, the town's Clock Gate Tower was built on the site of Trinity Castle, part of the town's fortifications. It was used as a prison during the rebellion of 1798. The military hanged suspects from a pole lashed from the lower windows to the corner of the first house on South Main Street (now Luigi's). Thomas Gallagher was one of those hanged for trying to seduce a soldier from allegiance to his regiment. Numerous forms of torture were conducted therein including thumb screws, pitch-cap, rack and flogging. A local priest, Peter O'Neill, was flogged 275 strokes with a cat-o'-nine-tails with pieces of tin knotted in, in an attempt to induce him to reveal the names of politically involved people heard in the confessional.

The Clock Gate served the town as gaol and public gallows until 1837 when it was considered "defective in several of the accommodations essential to the health of prisoners". It then became a family home until 1959 when the last family left.

Tynte's Castle – is a late 15th-century urban tower house. It is almost the only fortified relic of the era now in Youghal. It was built by the Walsh family in 1602 and leased by the corporation to the Tynte family towards the end of the reign of King James I. It is shown in a map of Youghal dated 1663 as one of the defences of the town. The building was passed down through the Tynte family and is now the property of the McCarthy family.

The Alms Houses

Alms Houses – the 17th-century almshouses were constructed by Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork in 1602 for widows. Each tenant received two shillings a week, enough to sustain her. Around the same time (1612), Sir Richard Boyle built a hospital and a free school. For his efforts in colonising Munster, Sir Richard Boyle was granted the title and dignity Lord Boyle in 1616. When a poll tax of two shillings was introduced in 1697, those living by alms were exempt. St Mary's Collegiate Church in the town still contains many monuments, including the tomb of Richard Boyle himself.

The Town Hall

Town Hall – A new Tholsel was erected in 1753 by the corporation, in lieu of that taken down in 1745. It contained an exchange, Council House, Custom House and Grand Jury room. It was situated outside the town walls beside the Water Gate. The town's Water Gate was built in the 13th century to provide access through the town walls to the docks. Also known as Cromwell's Arch, it was from here that Oliver Cromwell left Ireland in 1650, having overwintered in the town after his campaign in Ireland.

The Mall itself was used as a fashionable promenade and kept in excellent order by the mayor. A military band played there on summer evenings and a play was held every Thursday evening in a little theatre therein. Respectable inhabitants met on the Mall for social interaction every evening after the engagements of the day. The town was frequented by the leading gentry of Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Tipperary. Youghal, in addition to its own yeomanry, was garrisoned by a regiment of German troops and the Wexford militia in 1797. Every precaution was taken for the safety of the town causing for hilly areas to be scrapped and made impassable. Gates were erected at both ends of the town and the town hall was converted into occasional prisons and guard rooms. The outlying gentry for the most part came into the town as a place of safety. The Mall House is now used as Youghal's Town Hall.

Youghal was the first town in Ireland or Britain to have a Jewish mayor when William Annyas was elected to that position in 1555; and the town's small but significant Huguenot settlement provided a number of mayors such as Richard Paradise (1683), Edward Gillett (1721) and Joseph Labatte (1752)

The Benedictine Priory – In 1350, the monastery of St John the Evangelist was founded. It was an affiliated branch of the wealthy Benedictine Priory of St. John of Waterford. The main building is of amazing strength and appears to have been intended to combine a fortress with a religious retreat. Oliver Cromwell fixed his residence at the Priory of St. John’s on the main street in winter 1649.

Myrtle Grove – When Sir Walter Raleigh brought the first potatoes from Virginia to Ireland in 1585, he planted them at his home at Myrtle Grove, Youghal. For the following two years he was mayor of the town. Queen Elizabeth I granted him 42,000 acres (170 km2) of land in Youghal. He lived at Myrtle Grove, where he entertained the poet Spenser, who is said to have written part of the "Fairie Queen" there. In the gardens are four yew trees said to have been planted by Raleigh. Raleigh made his final trip from Cork to the West Indies in 1617.

Cannon Battery at Youghal
The Red House

The Red House – A rare example of an early 18th-century brick built townhouse. It was built for the Uniacke family, a merchant family in Youghal, and was completed in 1703.

Youghal lighthouse in the sunshine
Youghal Lighthouse

Youghal Lighthouse – In 1202, the Geraldine proprietors of the town built a lighthouse on the cliff at the west side of the mouth's harbour. The original tower was seven-and-a half metres tall and three metres in diameter. They also richly endowed a nunnery called the Chapel of St. Annes under the condition that the nuns should see that the light was regularly maintained. The nuns did so until the reformation in the 1530s, when the lighthouse and the convent were confiscated. The beacon was discontinued in about 1542. The current lighthouse, made from granite imported from Scotland, was designed by George Halpin and work began on its construction in 1848. It was not until February 1852 that the harbour light was first displayed. The lantern is 78 feet (24 m) above sea level.

Port and harbour

According to Geoffrey Keating (Seathrún Céitinn), in late March 830 there was a "great convulsion of nature" in the province of Munster. This changed the flow of the River Blackwater moving its mouth from Whiting Bay and forming the harbour of Youghal.[3] 1,010 people were lost by a fierce storm when the sea broke its banks. Soon afterwards in 853 a detachment from the Norman invasion built a fortress in Youghal and laid the foundation of a commercial seaport. In 1130, St Bernard writes of Lismore as the capital city of Munster and describes Youghal as the port of Lismore.

Seal from 1527, depicting a medieval ship

Youghal was incorporated in 1209 by King John and the town was colonised with men-at-arms, traffickers and other adventurers from Bristol. By 1223 Youghal had gained such importance as a commercial port that it merited a 'road highway'. In 1291 several Flemish merchants were recorded as trading to Youghal. For their encouragement King Edward I granted special privileges to continue until All Saints Day (1 November). Large quantities of silver coinage of the Youghal region from the 14th century have been found indicating the high levels of traffic in the region. On 14 February 1301 King Edward I, when going into battle with Scotland, required two boats from all Irish and English ports. But three boats were required from Youghal, further indicating its size and importance.

In 1353, the freeman of Youghal were allowed freedom in trade in different staples throughout England and Wales for wool, leather, woolfels and lead. In 1360 Writs signed by Almaricus de St Aland, Justiciary of Ireland, were directed to Sovereign and Bailiffs of Youghal, ordering them to prevent persons from going to foreign parts. In 1373 King Edward III commanded the Keeper of the port to press and detain ships in the port for the purposes of conveying James Le Botiller, Earl of Ormond, whenever the Earl may come to the port on the King’s services. In 1376 the same King granted the Mayor of Youghal privileges for services against rebels in Cork. In the same year the merchants and commons of Youghal complained to Edward about the dangers of having to go to Cork to pay customs, and succeeded in arranging a new customs system for paying in Youghal.

The Dublin Parliament passed an Act concerning the imports, customs and mines in 1585 which made Youghal one of the privileged ports. Wine could then be discharged at Youghal, Cork, Waterford, Dublin, Limerick, Drogheda and Galway. Discharge at any other location, unless occasioned by stress of weather, meant forfeiting half to Queen Elizabeth I and half to the seizer. In early 1600 Youghal was elevated to the rank of 'staple town', receiving the exclusive rights to carry on the wool trade with Bristol, Liverpool, Chester and Milford. During the 17th century Youghal was one of Ireland's main ports, far more important than Cork Harbour which was described as 'a port near Youghal.' In 1603 King James I made a visit and was proclaimed on the quay in Youghal. In 1631 pirates of all nations swarmed the seas entering Youghal on several occasions. The most notorious of them was Nutt, who had three ships under his command. Legend tells that he would bury kegs of gold on Capel Island and sacrifice at each location a black slave whose spirit is watching over the hoard.

By 1640 tobacco, originally introduced by Raleigh, had so fixed itself on the habits of the people, that it now formed one of the staples of trade at Youghal port. Oliver Cromwell, having regained Dublin, Wexford and Waterford for the English rule, arrived in Youghal on 6 December 1649. After resting for the winter in Youghal, Cromwell and his army crossed the Blackwater at Mallow and went on to yield Kilkenny and Clonmel before returning to Youghal and later England where Charles II had arrived. 1683 and 1684 saw great sickness and death in Youghal. In 1689 by order of King James II colonisers with a 'zealous attachment to the Protestant religion' were rounded up and detained in castles in Youghal where they were held for 12 months before being released to flee back to England. Many of these were Cromwell’s former invading soldiers, now grey and feeble. Such acts led to calls from Protestants for the demise of King James’ reign.

In 1695, having made an ingenious sundial, a schoolmaster was admitted as a freeman of Youghal. When Protestants of France were compelled to leave their own country by Louis XIV in 1697 many came to Ireland and settled in Youghal, bringing industry, intelligence and considerable wealth. By 1716 Youghal council began inserting covenants into leases of ground skirted by the waterside, binding the leases to build quays. Gradually great enclosures from the sea were made which doubled the area of the town.

In 1727 the Irish were permitted to trade in the town as scarcity and famine swept the country. There were riots in Youghal as people sought to prevent the export of corn to England and Northern Ireland. Great sickness and mortality continued through 1734. In 1736 and 1745 the town walls were extensively repaired and in 1745 the Sally-port was remade.

Trade in Youghal varied greatly. In 1753 no corn, meal salt or flour was imported into Youghal from March to November of that year. In 1754 exports were 65 quarters of beans. 1755 saw exports of 214 quarters of barley, and 70 quarters of beans. Exports in 1756 were 450 quarters of Barley, 45 barrels of Oatmeal and imports were 6 barrels of beer. In 1757 exports were 495 quarters of Oats, 20 barrels of Oatmeal and imports were 11.25 barrels of beer. Works had commenced at this time on improving navigation of the Blackwater (1755) and a petition had been sent to Parliament to open roads from Lismore, Cappoquin and Clogheen to Youghal.

In 1762 a French privateer took six ships near the harbour. The commander landed 24 passengers on the Island of Ballycotton and took the remainder with him as recruits for Colonel Owen's regiment. The cutter Expedition was sent in pursuit but did not come up with them. By 1780 wool combining business was carried on with great spirit in Youghal, where the Annals tell us "great fortunes were realised". Exports from Youghal were extensive in 1781, with more oats being exported than from any other port in Ireland. Nealson’s Quay was built and commenced the following year. Grattan Street was opened along the quay that had been embanked.

In 1833, nine ships and 440 colliers entered the harbour. In 1834, there were 250 fishing boats in the harbour employing 2,500 men. Salmon was plentiful and was sold for 1½d per pound weight. After many years of discussion and feasibility testing, the steamer The Star commenced plying on the Blackwater in June 1843. It was hoped that opening the Blackwater would reduce trade costs with Lismore, Fermoy, Mitchelstown and Mallow. On an objection from the Duke of Devonshire – who owned the weir at Lismore – and some other gentlemen, the river was not opened beyond Lismore, and so the steamer service ceased in 1850. The following year the Youghal Fisheries District had 574 registered vessels employing 2,786 men. This was a decrease of 112 boats and 532 men since 1845.

From the 18th century onwards, Youghal suffered much the same fate as nearby Ardmore: as ships became larger, they were unable to get into Youghal Harbour because of a shallow sandbar at its mouth.

A cross-river passenger ferry continued from Youghal to the opposite side of the harbour. The ferry capsized on 30 September 1876 and 14 people died. In 1882 a decision of the House of Lords established the claim of the Duke of Devonshire to exclusive fishery rights to the river Blackwater and Youghal Bay out to Capel Island. The duke's claim was founded on a grant given to Sir Walter Raleigh by Elizabeth I, which he sold shortly afterward to the Boyle family.

21st century

Youghal was formerly a strong manufacturing town, but Ireland's economic success since the mid-1990s to a large extent bypassed the town, and the infrastructural deficit is a major constraint to its growth.[4] In April 2011 it was reported that all the town’s large factories had closed over the past decade, leaving at least 2,000 people jobless, and with unemployment approaching 20%, young people were leaving in search of work and workers commuting long distances from Youghal to Cork and Waterford.[5] taking revenue and service jobs away from town centre shops.[6]

The focus of the voluntary, business and statutory bodies in the town has switched to promoting Youghal as a tourist destination, with emphasis on its three sandy Blue Flag beaches, its history and its natural amenities,[4] which make it a beloved place for family holidays.

Youghal was declared Cork's tidiest town in the 2011 IBAL anti-litter league (run in conjunction with the Department of the Environment) and the 7th cleanest town in Ireland.[7]

Government and politics

The town is governed by the nine-member Youghal Town Council. As of the 2009 elections, the council had three members from Fianna Fáil, two each from Sinn Féin and Fine Gael and one each from the Labour Party and the Green Party. The current mayor is Eoin Coyne from Fianna Fáil. The town forms part of the Midleton electoral district on Cork County Council and is part of the Cork East constituency for Dáil Éireann elections.

Notable people

Walter Raleigh, Mayor of Youghal, by Nicholas Hilliard, c.1585.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh was Mayor of Youghal in 1588 and 1599 and lived at Myrtle Grove, the Warden's Residence of the Collegiate Church. "As part of a group of entrepreneurial soldiers and administrators to form the new English government in Munster. These men were arriving in Ireland at a time when English Royal administration was reasserting its power in Munster following the Desmond Rebellion. A great sea change was taking place with the replacement of the Gaelic lordship economy with a market style English economy."[8]
  • Sir Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork, 1st Viscount Dungarvan, 1st Baron Boyle of Youghal, Lord High Treasurer of the Kingdom of Ireland (although simply known as The Great Earl of Cork). (1566–1643) "Boyle is closely associated with the history of Youghal, buying the town as part of his acquisition of the Munster estate of Sir Walter Raleigh"[8] had a substantial residence at Youghal, known today as "The College", close to St Mary's Collegiate Church.
  • The Countess of Desmond (died 1604), who lived in nearby Finisk Castle is reputed to have fallen to her death at the age of 140 while harvesting cherries from a tree. She is said to be buried, with her husband, in a Franciscan Friary at Youghal.
  • Florence Newton (fl. 1661) was an alleged witch, known as the "Witch of Youghal". Her trial is described as one of the most important examples of Irish witch trials.
  • William Cooke Taylor (16 April 1800 – 12 September 1849), writer, journalist, historian and anti-Corn Law propagandist. Born in Youghal, died at 20 Herbert Street, Dublin.
  • Abraham Dowdney (1841–1886), a United States Representative from New York, as well as an officer in the Union army during the American Civil War was born in Youghal.
  • William Spotswood Green (1847–1919), naturalist.
  • Journalist Claud Cockburn and his wife Patricia, artist, conchologist and traveller, lived in Raleigh's house in the town, Myrtle Grove, for many years. He described Youghal memorably as "standing at a slight angle to the universe".
  • Novelist William Trevor spent some of his early years in Youghal, and featured the town in his short story Memories of Youghal.
  • In 1954, film director John Huston filmed part of Moby-Dick there, with the town standing in for New Bedford. A pub in the town bears the name of the movie.[9]
  • George Hook in the early 1990s, and returned there as Head Coach in 2008.
  • Christy Cooney was appointed chair of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in 2009.
  • Davy Russell - National Hunt racing jockey.
  • Will Hanafin - journalist,radio personality.


The Front Strand with the tide in

Youghal adjoins a number of fine beaches including the famous 5 km beach to the west of the town. In 2011 Youghal's three beaches, Front Strand, Claycastle and Redbarn, were awarded blue flags for water cleanliness and availability of amenities.[10] Ballyvergan Marsh, the largest freshwater coastal marsh in County Cork which accommodates important plant and bird species, stretches along Claycastle Beach and on towards Redbarn Beach.

In the 1950s and 1960s Youghal was a popular seaside resort, with thousands taking the train to the beach. Many tourists are attracted by its historic buildings and natural surroundings. The town is steeped in history and was once one of the busiest ports in the country, even more important than Cork and Dublin at one time. With the closing of the railway line in the 1970s (see Irish railway history), Youghal went into a period of decline, reinforced by the difficulties encountered by its textile industry. Since the 1990s, aided by favourable property tax concessions, there has been considerable reinvestment and construction to restore Youghal's facilities and popularity.

Amenities available in Youghal include an 18-hole golf course, floodlit tennis courts, GAA pitches, soccer pitches, 18-hole pitch and putt course, rugby pitches, greyhound racing, an indoor family entertainment centre with bowling, laser and a soft play area for children, squash and badminton courts, a leisure centre with a swimming pool, gyms, art galleries, a snooker club, a birdwatching hide at Ballyvergan Marsh, and a museum.

According to An A to Z of Youghal: The history and people of Eochaill, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle vacationed in Youghal with his wife and created the character of Inspector Youghal of the CID for The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone.[11]


  • Cork Airport is the nearest airport in the region and is located 54 km from Youghal.
  • Bus Eireann operate a regular service from Youghal to Cork and Cork to Youghal (timetable at Bus Eireann – Youghal – Cork – Youghal timetable)
  • Youghal railway station opened on 1 May 1860, and closed for passenger services on 4 February 1963 and for goods on 30 August 1982.[12]


Youghal International College is located in Youghal.

Photo Gallery

See also


  1. ^ Placenames Database of Ireland (see archival records)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Flood, William H. Grattan (1899). "The University of Lismore" (PDF). Journal of the Waterford and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society (Waterford) V: 12. Retrieved 26 October 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "An Integrated Development Strategy for Youghal 2008–2012". Youghal Socio-Economic Development Group Ltd. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 October 2011. 
  5. ^ Carl O'Brien (2 April 2011). "How do you fix a broken town?".  
  6. ^ Siobhan Tanner (3 June 2008). "Youghal struggles with Globalisation". Archived from the original on 25 October 2011. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b "The Families of Tynte's Castle". Daniel McCarthy and Family. Retrieved 26 October 2011. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Youghal of the CID"
  12. ^ "Youghal station" (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways. Retrieved 25 November 2007. 


External links

  • Aquatrek, Youghals' Marine Training Service
  • Tourism website on Youghal by the Youghal 4 All Group
  • Town Out Of Time is a short Documentary film on the Social Changes to Youghal Town during the Boom Years.
  • Youghal Town Council
  • Youghal 4 All - Voluntary body working to promote Youghal for all
  • Youghal Chamber of Tourism and Commerce: Youghal
  • Community Radio Youghal
  • Youghal Irish Traditional Music and Dance
  • St.Mary's Collegiate Church Youghal – dating from 1170
  • The College of Clerks Choral of the Collegiate Church Youghal – a professional choir dating from 1464 and revived after a period of disuse in 2005
  • Team Youghal Cycling Team – a group of leisure cyclists from Youghal who promote the Emer Casey Foundation
  • [4]
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