Bantry Bay is a beautiful location. A breathtaking view of green mountains, warm blue seas fed by the Gulf Stream.
The French first arrived in Bantry Bay in 1689 with a large fleet full of 7,000 men, guns, ammunition and gold, to help James 11 in his efforts to regain the English throne. After accomplishing their assignment of landing their cargo, the French turned for home but found themselves trapped by an English squadron commanded by Admiral Herbert. The French succeeded in fighting their way out, but there were many casualties on both sides, and a number of ships were sunk.
Undismayed 100 years later in 1796 the French returned, this time under General Hoche. They arrived with 15,000 men and 43 ships. Their plans were to support the planned uprising of the United Irishmen, led by Wolfe Tone, who was board one of the French ships. After leaving Brest they were hit by squalls, and only 19 ships, including Tone's reached Ireland to ride out the storm. The French did not know that only 400 men were there at Bantry Bay to oppose them for a babbling, talkative Bantry trader, who had rowed out to the ships to sell provisions, talked enthusiasticly of thousands of British troops swarming through the town. The French, tired, weary and disheartened, sailed away after deliberately sinking one of their ships the La Surveillante, which was too badly damaged to make it home. In or around 1979 an industrial accident occured in Bantry Bay, a fire on the oil tanker 'Betelgeuse' killed 51 people. While salvaging the Betelgeuse two years later, divers came across the wreck of 'La Surveillante', now an official Irish National Monument.