Ballybunion is a lively coastal village situated at the mouth of the river Shannon estuary in North County Kerry Ireland.
Ballybunion Castle ruins stand high on a cliff facing out into the Atlantic Sea. All that remains of the castle is a single wall, but it gives the visitor a good impression of what the castle might have been like when it was whole.
Ballybunion’s beaches are popular in the summer with families and the town’s amusements and arcades contribute to the sea side holiday town appeal.
There are tall picturesque cliffs along the beaches that provide a home for many varieties of cliff nesting sea birds. Occasionally dolphins are seen frolicking in the sheltered part of the bay.
Ballybunion is also a popular destination for surfers with the best waves being caught at the cliffs off the beach area.
The town is particularly popular with families as it offers lots of fast food, pubs and amusement arcades making it a fun place to visit.
Ballybunion boasts two quality golf courses. Many sporting people rent houses in the area for weeks in the summer so they can enjoy the great golf courses in this natural clean environment of Kerry. Ballybunion also has the Ballybunion Leisure Gym and Pool which gives the sporty visitor an alternative if the weather turns against them.
Ballybunion Trivia – Did you know?
Ballybunion was the site of the first transatlantic telephone transmission in 1919 made by engineer W.T. Ditchan. The call was make from the Marconi wireless station to Louisbourg in Cape Breton Nova Scotia.
The river Shannon that Ballybunion is situated on is the largest estuary in Europe.
Ballybunion golf course is ranked the number 10 golf club in the world. Bill Clinton enjoyed the course and there is a statue of Bill in the town centre!
Staying on golf; Ballybunion’s famous links golf course was host to the Murphy’s Irish Open in 2000 and the Palmer Cup in 2004.
Ballybunion’s beautiful natural environment is little affected by pollution as the region it is free from industrial works. It’s clear unpolluted waters have been awarded the coveted European Blue Flag for cleanliness.
Ballybunion Folklore – The Legend Of The Seven Sisters
Source: Choice Notes from “Notes and Queries”: Folklore
The scene of the tragedy from which the following legend has sprung is the little village of Ballybunion situated within a few miles of Kerry Head.
The scenery around is of the wildest and most striking description. Frowning rugged cliffs rising abruptly out of the water to the height of over one hundred feet and perforated with numerous caves into which the ocean rushes with fearful fury in winter for it is a stormy coast and rarely does a month pass without beholding some dead putrefied body washed ashore while inland a barren uncultivated plain consisting mostly of bog stretches away to nearly the foot of the Reeks which looming in the distance seem to rear their giant masses even to the sky and form as it were an impenetrable barrier between the coast and the interior.
On the brink of one of those precipices we have mentioned there stands the ruins of a castle seemingly of great antiquity. Nothing now remains but the basement story and that seems as if it would be able to withstand the war of winds and waves for hundreds of years longer. According to the legend this castle was inhabited by a gallant chieftain at the period of the incursions of the Danes and who was the father of seven blooming daughters. He was himself a brave warrior animated with the greatest hatred against the Ostmen, who, at that period were laying every part of Erin waste. His sword never rested in its sheath and day and night his light gallies cruised about the coast on the watch for any piratical marauder who might turn his prow thither.
One day a sail was observed on the horizon it came nearer and nearer and the pirate standard was distinguished waving from its masthead. Immediately surrounded by the Irish ships it was captured after a desperate resistance. Those that remained of the crew were slaughtered and thrown into the sea with the exception of the captain and his six brothers who were reserved for a more painful death. Conveyed to the fortress their wounds were dressed and they were allowed the free range of the castle.
Here gradually a love sprung between them and the seven Irish maidens who yielded to their ardent protestations and agreed to fly with them to Denmark. Everything was arranged for the voyage and one fearfully stormy night in winter was chosen for the attempt. Not a single star shone in the sky the cold blast came sweeping from the ocean the rain fell in torrents and the water roared and raged with terrific violence amid the rocky caverns. Escaping down from the battlement by a rope ladder they discovered to their horror that on reaching the ground they were surrounded by armed men. Not a word was uttered but they well knew into whose hands they had fallen.
Conducted again within the fortress they found themselves face to face with their injured father. One deadly glance of hatred he cast on the prisoners and muttering some few words to one of his attendants he pointed towards his daughters. The man on receiving the command recoiled a few paces transfixed with horror and then he advanced nearer and seemed as if remonstrating with him. But the parent’s face assumed an absolutely demoniac expression and more peremptorily repeating his order he stalked out of the room.
And now commenced a fearful scene. The lovers were torn from each other’s arms and the women were brought forth again. The storm had grown more violent and the spray was dashing far over the cliff whilst the vivid flashes of lightning afforded a horrible illumination to the dreary scene. Proceeding along the brink of the precipice they at length came to a chasm which resembled somewhat the crater of a volcano as it was completely closed with the exception of the opening at the top and one small aperture below through which the sea rushed with terrible violence. The rolling of the waters sounded fearfully on the ear of those around and now at length the sisters divined their fate. One by one they were hurled into the boiling flood one wild shriek the billows closed again and all was over.
What the fate of their lovers was the legend says not. The old castle has crumbled into ruins, the chieftain sleeps in an unknown grave his very name forgotten, but still the sad ending of the maidens is remembered and even unto this day the cavern is denominated the Cave of the Seven Sisters.
Things To Do In Ballybunion
Activities For Families and Children
There is lots of activities for children to enjoy when staying in Ballybunion.
There are seven miles of beaches on the coastline of Ballybunion, so for good days a visit to the beach with buckets and spades is a must. Don’t forget to bring plenty of drinking water and sun block!
Ballybunion has a well kept fenced in playground. This is great for children of all ages and for parents too who might finally have a chance to catch their breathe while the kids play in the safe environment. There’s bound to be the occasional victim of a fall but the soft padded ground will minimise the risk and the tears.
There are plenty of places to treat children to ice-creams and snacks in the main street of the town, only about 100 meters from the playground.
For younger children (4/5 years) there is the Ballybunion pre-school drop in centre which is run buy a local charity. The staff are all highly trained and qualified and there are lots of fun activities daily for little guests.
South of Ballybunion is Rattoo Round Tower which will inspire the imaginations of children and adults alike. And there is always Ballybunion theatre with shows on every week that can be enjoyed by the entire family.
If the weather turns wet there’s always the indoor pool at Ballybunion leisure centre or for older kids maybe a short trip to one of the many arcades in the town will amuse them for a while. Watch the budget though!
Ballybunion For Adults
Again the beach is a must. There are also lots of pubs and fast food joints in Ballybunion town. If you want to eat in a more up market establishment, rach ti Conor and McMunns are supposed to be the better establishments for eating out in Ballybunion.
There was a tradition of seaweed baths in Ballybunion that is carried on today in the new leisure centre, it’s oddly refreshing and worth the experience.
Last but not least there is of course… Ballybunion golf courses. A must for anyone that way inclined!
Listen To What This Visitor Thinks Of Ballybunion Golf Course
Surfing And Kayaking
Ballybunion is a popular surfing spot for both beginners and experienced surfers. The beach breaks are suitable for those new to the sport while the cliff breaks offer more of a challenge for the seasoned surfter. For those who want to dip their toes into the sport for the first time there is the Ballybunion surf school who also run kids summercamps from June through August. Check out www.ballybunionsurf.com. Ballybunion is also popular for kayaking.