old head of kinsale

This spit that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean is called the Old Head of Kinsale. (Sounds like the name of a beer, doesn’t it?) It’s in County Cork, Ireland, near the town of Kinsale. Just beyond this old stone structure the property becomes private, the road leading down to an exclusive golf course. This is a fairly recent development; the golf course opened in 1997. There’s also a small lighthouse on the end of the spit which is much older.

One May afternoon nearly a century ago–in fact, 99 years ago today, May 7, 1915–if you happened to be walking along the Old Head of Kinsale you would have seen a horrific sight. The Cunard passenger liner Lusitania, then the largest liner still in commercial service in the world, was torpedoed by a German U-boat at about 2PM that day. The ship sank in 18 minutes in one of the most awful and horrifying maritime disasters of all time. Observers on the shore watched it happen from this place. I’ll be doing an article later today about the sinking of the Lusitania, and I hope it conveys the magnitude of the tragedy; but imagine looking at it far off in the distance, a speck on the sunlit horizon, while standing here in what is otherwise a peaceful and serene locale.

The fact that the Old Head of Kinsale is now closed to the public, due to the golf course, is controversial. Various protest campaigns have targeted this area in an effort to get it opened back up. Hopefully it will be someday. Below is a photo of the lighthouse at the end of the spit, which was standing here in 1915. Survivors of the Lusitania disaster could see it as the ship sank.

kinsale lighthouse