We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Shutterstock/J.A. Ross
Culture Magazine

Discover the 'Entrance of the Underworld', located off the coast of West Cork

The fascinating history of Bull Rock Island and the remarkable remains of the home to generations of Lighthouse keepers in West Cork.

OF ALL THE beautiful sites to visit around Ireland, there is one that is particularly spectacular to see, not only for the stunning surroundings but for its incomprehensible setting (by today’s standards) as a former place of dwelling. 

Bull Rock Island, located in the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, is a magnificent (and lesser known) site that needs to be seen to be believed. Burrowed in the face of the rugged rocky mound is a ghost-like grand structure which was once the home of the island’s lighthouse keeper. Enveloped by the rock, the two-storey house emanates an eeriness, it seems impossible to conceive how it was ever possible for this site to have been liveable.

bullrocktunnelandlighthousewestcorkireland Shutterstock / Corey Macri Shutterstock / Corey Macri / Corey Macri

Beneath the precarious setting of the abandoned and derelict structure, is an archway which can be passed through, allowing visitors to the extraordinary attraction to pass through the island. The archway, created naturally over its long life, has been described as an ‘Entrance to the Underworld’.

bullrocksouthwestofdurseyislandincountycork Shutterstock / J.A. Ross Shutterstock / J.A. Ross / J.A. Ross

Neighbouring the more popular Dursey Island, the history of Bull Rock Island goes back to the mid-nineteenth century. The island’s lighthouse was built in 1864, constructed by Henry Grissell – known as ‘Iron Henry’ – who was responsible for the development of several infrastructures in his motherland of England as well as Russia, Egypt, and of course, off Ireland’s southern coast. 

Unfortunately, the lighthouse was met with a terrible end after a relatively brief tenure. In 1881, on a stormy night, the lighthouse was significantly damaged during the treacherous weather. The structure remained untouched for almost a decade before it was repaired and became functional again in 1889.

For a century – minus the period when the lighthouse lay dormant in the wake of its weather-induced destruction – the Bull Rock Island lighthouse continued to be operational in the traditional sense, with physical keepers maintaining its service, until 1991 when an automated technology took over.

bullrocktunnelandlighthousewestcorkireland Shutterstock / Corey Macri Shutterstock / Corey Macri / Corey Macri

Today, it is possible to visit the incredible Bull Rock Island, although it is not possible to access its land. Take a boat trip to see the island, which stands at 93 metres in height, and the surrounding sites such as Dursey Island, Cow Rock and Calf Rock. On a clear day, when out on a boat tour of Bull Rock Island, in the distance you can see the Skelligs.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel