Although the Giant’s Causeway may well look attractive, the reality is that this seemingly picture-perfect coastline is far from tranquil. Shipwrecks are common on the Northern Irish shores, largely due to the treacherous rocks lying in wait beneath the waves.

Our Northern Ireland tours will take you past the sites of many shipwrecks, yet with most remains hidden underwater on the seabed, the chances are that you won’t even know the wrecks are there – let alone the stories that accompany them.

Background History

One of the most famous shipwrecks lying beneath the surface of the Northern Irish waters is that of La Girona. A galleass (large merchant galley ships developed for military purposes) of the Spanish Armada, La Girona was at her prime in a time when Elizabeth I sat upon the English throne and tensions between Spain and England had reached their height.

To this day, the Spanish Armada remains famous throughout Europe and to have seen a ship from the Armada at her best must have been quite a sight.

One Fateful Night

In October 1588, La Girona landed in Killybegs Harbour, Donegal, for essential maintenance work to be completed on her rudder. Once the repairs were finished, she set sail for Scotland on 25th October. 1300 men were on board for the journey.

On 28th October, not long into the trip, a fierce gale blew up and the men struggled to keep control of their ship. In the chaos that ensued, La Girona was blown off course and onto the rocks at Lacada Point near Dunluce.

Of the 1300 men on board the ship, just nine survived.

A Tragedy Remembered

Today, the disaster is commemorated by the presence of the Northern Irish coastline and the Spanish Armada on the Northern Irish First Trust Bank’s sterling banknotes.

In 1993, the site of La Girona’s wreckage was also named and designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, meaning that interfering with the shipwreck became a criminal offence.

Salvage Efforts

Divers and explorers have attempted to salvage what they can from the ship’s wreckage ever since the tragedy occurred. Thanks to advances in technology in recent years, modern-day divers have had much more success than their earlier counterparts.

In the 1960s, a team of divers recovered what has since been named as the greatest ever haul of treasure salvaged from a wrecked Spanish Armada ship. Featuring awe-inspiring treasure including coins and gold jewellery, much of the haul is now on display in the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

Looking out to sea on a calm day, who would have guessed at the rich history hidden in the depths of the turbulent waters?

The story of La Girona is just one incredible tale that this fascinating coastline has to offer. Find out more on one of our Northern Ireland tours – from shipwrecks to mythology to ancient historical monuments, there is always something new to discover!