Youghal (pronouced "yawl") is a harbour town at the east edge of County Cork in Ireland. It preserves many remnants of its medieval and early modern heyday, when it was a walled city and major port. In 2016 it had a population of 7963.
In 830 AD an earthquake struck Munster. The River Blackwater had flowed further east to the sea at Whiting Bay near Ardmore, but in the upheaval it broke through the shingle bank now called Ferrypoint and carved a direct channel. The river was navigable up to Cappoquin and Lismore, so this new estuary was soon colonised, and called Eochaill meaning yew woods. It was hemmed in by a slope, a good defensible position, so in Norman times it grew into a long narrow walled city. The Desmond kings of Munster resisted Anglo-Norman rule and destroyed Youghal in 1579, but were defeated by the Tudors, who awarded the lands to their loyal Protestant followers. One major beneficiary was Sir Walter Raleigh, who gained a great swathe of territory along the river valley, and was mayor of Youghal 1588-89.
For the next 200 years Youghal was a more important port than Cork, trading with England, the continent and North America. In 1649 / 50 Oliver Cromwell and his army over-wintered here, before capturing Kilkenny and Clonmel then hurrying back to England to see off the young King Charles II. The river meanwhile shifted a little way east, creating a strip of land beyond the city's seaward wall, and this developed into the present Market Square and harbour. 19th century shipping outgrew the channel and harbour, and trade shifted to Cork. Youghal continued as a manufacturing centre and seaside resort, but these businesses withered in the 20th century and the railway was axed in the 1970s. This blighted Youghal but the upside for visitors is that much of its old town landscape has been preserved.
The TIC is Youghal Visitor Centre in Market Square by the harbour, open daily 09:00-15:30.
See Cork for long-distance routes by air, sea, bus and rail.
Expressway Bus 40 takes 50 min from Cork via Midleton (for Jameson Distillery) to Youghal. It continues east to Dungarvan, Waterford, Wexford and Rosslare, for ferries to Wales and the Continent. It runs M-Sa hourly and every couple of hours on Sunday. There isn't a main bus station, buses stop along the main streets, which are one-way.
By car from Dublin take M7 and M8 to Fermoy then N72 to Tallow, then R638 into Youghal. N25 is the coast road between Cork and Waterford.
For centuries a little ferry puttered across the channel to Ferrypoint on the Waterford side. It was axed in the 1950s; there's occasionally talk of trying to restart it.
Youghal is a small town and easy to walk around. You need wheels to explore the coat, such as Knockadoon Head.
The former railway track between Midleton and Youghal is being converted into a Greenway. It might be completed by summer 2022.
- 1 North Abbey or Priory of Our Lady of Graces is the ruin of a Dominican monastery founded in 1268.
- Watergate, opposite the TIC, was the riverside gate in the city walls leading to the harbour, which has the town hall and is now Market Square. It became known as Cromwell's Arch when he left Ireland by this route in 1650.
- 2 Tynte's Castle on Main St was built in the 15th C to guard the riverbank, but the river changed course in the 17th. It's now a private residence.
- Almhouses next to the castle were built in the 17th century by Robert Boyle for army widows.
- Red House nearby is a elegant Dutch Renaissance building from 1706.
- 3 St Mary's Collegiate Church, Emmett Place. M-Sa 09:30-17:00, Su 1:30-17:00. Founded by St Declan in 450, parts of this church go back to 1220. It became a collegiate church in 1464, meaning it didn't have a permanent priest, but the staff of the religious seminary took turns. The Catholics were ejected in the Reformation and the land passed to Sir Walter Raleigh, who sold it to Robert Boyle. Most of what's there now reflects Boyle's rebuilding in the 17th C. He was the father of Boyle the physicist and lived at Lismore castle; he's buried in the graveyard here. Part of the town wall flanks the graveyard. The church remains C of I, Anglican.
- Myrtle Grove next to the collegiate church was the home of Sir Walter Raleigh. You can't go in. The legend goes that he first smoked tobacco here and was doused by an alarmed servant. A similar legend attaches to his various other properties so he must have been a serial dousee.
- Town walls are best preserved south from the collegiate church. Follow them to Drew's Tower, where the coffin hole in the wall held a paupers' re-usable coffin. There's a sally port and an entrance to college gardens. Continue past Half Moon Tower and Montmorenci Tower. The Jail Steps lead down east to Banshee Tower, crossing Ashe St to the Clock Tower.
- St Mary's Parish Church is RC, on Ashe St. The interior is attractive.
- 4 Clock Gate, Main Street. Four-storey tower built over Main Street in 1777 on the site of Trinity Castle. It was used as a prison until 1837, and rebels were hung from its windows. It then became a private residence and is now a museum.
- 5 The Lighthouse is squat, just a harbour light. It was built in Scottish granite and lit in 1852; the first lighthouse here was built in 1202. The keeper's cottage may be available for self-catering lets.
- 6 Youghal Beach is sandy and 5 km long. It starts by the lighthouse: there's an amusement arcade on Upper Strand. The beach passes the outflow of Ballyvergan marsh, then the hamlet of Redbarns (where there's a pub) to the River Dissour estuary.
- 7 Knockadoon Head is a headland south of Youghal which together with Capel Island is a nature reserve. Boat trips sometimes come this way, but you may only land on the island by permit.
- Regal Cinema is on Friar St.
- Mall Arts Centre on The Mall just south of the harbour has various live events.
- Blackwater Cruises sail up the river.
- Aura Leisure Centre on the beach has a gym and swimming pool. It's next to Claycastle Pitch and Putt.
- Youghal Golf Club is south of town centre. The Old Course is 5640 m, par 70 and the New Course (blue tees) is 5976 m, par 71.
- Go to the dogs at Youghal Greyhound Stadium, near the amusement arcade on Upper Strand. Racing is M W from 18:30, with trials other nights. Adult admission €10.
- Ironman Triathlon is held between Youghal and Cork on 20 Aug 2023. The event offers 40 qualifying slots for the world championships in Hawaii.
Aldi is in town centre, Tesco and Lidl are north edge of town.
- Priory Coffee on 56 North Main St do drinks, light bites and deli, open daily 08:00-18:00. They also have outlets in Cork city, Mallow, Fermoy and Riverstick.
- Aherne's gets great reviews for their seafood, see Sleep.
- Others along the main strip include Old Imperial Hotel, Roma Grill, Luigi's, Doyle's Chip Shop and Ho Inn.
- Clancy's is an Irish restaurant on Front Strand.
- Moby Dick's Pub, Market Square, ☏ +353 24 92746. John Huston's 1956 film Moby Dick used Youghal to represent New Bedford, Mass, and Huston worked from the pub, then called Linehans. You'll spot it by the gable-end mural depicting the whale. It has good local food.
- The Nook Bar aka Treacey's at 20 North Main Street is Youghal's oldest pub. They often have live music.
- Others along the main street are Anchor Bar, Bertie's, The Quays, JDS Bar and Hennessey's.
- No brewery or distillery in town, but Jameson whiskey is distilled at Midleton, on the bus route to Cork.
- 1 Avonmore House, South Abbey, ☏ +353 24 92617. Bright friendly B&B, great cooking including vegan choices.
- 2 Roseville House, New Catherine St P36 DP22, ☏ +353 21 201 9637. Stylish B&B in 1838 mansion towards north end of town. B&B double €120.
- 3 Walter Raleigh Hotel, O'Brien's Place, ☏ +353 24 92011. 18th C building on waterfront, rooms small but clean. Has conference facilities and a seafood restaurant. Two nights minimum stay July-Sept. B&B double €150.
- 4 Aherne's, 163 North Main St, ☏ +353 24 92424. Smart Townhouse hotel with seafood restaurant. B&B double €160.
- See Lismore for Ballyvolane House, way out in the countryside towards Fermoy.
As of March 2023, Youghal and its approach roads have 4G from Eir and Three, and 5G from Vodafone.
- Cork is the lively historic city to the west.
- East across the river is County Waterford, see the mansions and gardens of Lismore.