IRELAND — Did you know the world’s oldest standing yacht club was initially housed inside a castle? Royal Cork Yacht Club, located on Ireland’s southern coast, opened its doors in 1720 and welcomed its guests and members to a castle on Hawlbowline Island, which was just beyond the mouth of River Lee.
The establishment of a yacht club in Ireland came at a time when recreational boating and sailing were relatively new activities. Boating or sailing for pleasure, by Royal Cork YC’s account, picked up in the Netherlands during the early 1600s. Pleasure sailing apparently picked up steam in the 1660s, when King Charles II of England returned to the throne and sailed a yacht gifted to him by the Dutch on the River Thames.
Royal Cork YC’s home – be it at Hawlbowline Island or its later locations – was always on the far outskirts of Cork, which was named after the Irish phrase for “Great Marsh of Munster.” (Cork is located in the Irish province of Muster.)
The earliest recorded settlement of Cork actually reaches as far back as the sixth or seventh century, more than 1,000 years before the founding of Royal Cork YC.
Cork itself was a maritime and naval hub during the American War of Independence. In fact the British military’s presence in Cork eventually forced Royal Cork YC to move out of its Hawlbowline Island castle and into new digs elsewhere.
“A History of the Royal Cork Yacht Club” recounts the club’s past in book format. The 480-page book was released in 2005 and features 770 color images – about 285 years after the club organized.
The club, after merging with Royal Munster Yacht Club in the 1960s, found its current home on the southern shore of Owenabue River and a short distance from Crosshaven Boatyard. Even a bus station in the area is referred to as “Yacht Club southbound.”