Bull Rock Island: Entrance to Underworld

The Bull Rock is a rocky island in the open sea off County Cork. It is on the tip-end of the Beara Peninsula and just a few kilometers from Dursey Island. Unlike Dursey, the Bull Rock is not an inhabited island nor a big one. What makes it impressive is its shape.

the bull rock island lighthouse and the entrance
Henrique Telli

The natural shape of the island has an entrance-like space that pierces through the concrete rock. The space is big enough for boats to pass and people to take a look. Moreover, the fact that this space is natural and not human-made is all the more interesting and has allowed myths to come about.

calf rock island lighthouse

In Celtic mythology, the underworld is a land that is far beyond the sea. Therefore, an entrance in the middle of the sea under an island made people call this the “Entrance to the Underworld.” While of course, this is not true, it does not take away from the eeriness of Bull Rock Island.

bull rock island

The lighthouse on Bull Rock Island.

bull rock island lighthouse

Aside from the shape of the island, the old lighthouse on it and its keeper are also mysterious. In the second half of the 19th century, a lighthouse was requested on the island. The lighthouse was the work of Henry Grissell who finished it in 1866.

bull rock island entrance

The lightkeepers also built a two-story house on the rock so that they could live on the island without having the need to leave. However, disaster struck in 1881 as the storms destroyed the lighthouse. While the keepers were not in the lighthouse when the storm destroyed it, they were stranded on the island for days before anybody came to their rescue.

the entrance close up

The inside of the entrance is covered with green, probably because of iron staining. In Celtic mythology, green is a color associated with death and the underworld as well.

the bull rock island entrance inside

Although after the first lighthouse there was a second one, it was out of service in the following decades as well. Today, Bull Rock Island is completely abandoned except for the few still-standing structures. Also, there are a lot of tours taking people to the island to see the famous Entrance to the Underworld.

the exterior of the rocky island
Ger Heath