Bantry Bay is located on the Atlantic coast of County Cork, Ireland. It is a deep, large and sheltered natural bay, with one of the longest inlets in the southwest of Ireland. For centuries fishing fleets from England, France and Spain visited its waters, which were rich with pilchards. In this view, the village of Bantry and a fortification can be seen in the foreground. Ships ply the waters beyond, navigating a cluster of islands, including Whiddy Island, towards the Ocean. As the Irish traveller Richard Pococke (1704–65) observed, the Bay appears more like a ‘long lake’, dotted with coves and surrounded by ‘small hills under corn’ and ‘very high rocky mountains’ (Tour in Ireland in 1752).
This King’s Topographical Collection view is part of a series produced by the military engineer Thomas Phillips from August 1684. Bantry Bay made history a few years later during the Williamite War of 1688–91, a conflict fought between the Jacobites, and the supporters of the Dutch Stadtholder William of Orange. In 1689 a French fleet landed there with thousands of soldiers, artillery and funds to fight at the bloody battles of Boyne and Derry in support of James II. The French returned over a hundred years later, this time with upwards of 40 ships and 15,000 men, as allies of the United Irishmen against the British.
Another less finished version of the same view is held in the King’s Topographical Collection at Maps K.Top.52.38.a.