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This article is about the island in Cork Harbour. For the island in Carlingford Lough, see Haulbowline Island (Carlingford Lough).
Haulbowline Island
Native name: Inis Sionnach
Aerial view with Naval Base to west (right), industrial site to east (left) & dockyard (centre)
Aerial view with Naval Base to west (right), industrial site to east (left) & dockyard (centre)
Haulbowline is located in island of Ireland
Haulbowline in Ireland
Location County Cork, Ireland
Coordinates 51°50.5′N 8°18′W / 51.8417°N 8.300°W / 51.8417; -8.300
Area 35 ha (86 acres)
Province Munster
County Cork
Water body Cork Harbour

Haulbowline (Irish: Inis Sionnach), is the name of an island in Cork Harbour off the coast of Ireland. The western side of the island is the main naval base and headquarters for the Irish Naval Service, with the eastern side previously used for heavy industry. The island is connected to the mainland by roadbridge.


The island's name may derive from Old Norse ál-boling or similar = "eel dwelling" ("area where there are conger eels"). The 17th and 18th-century spellings end in "-ing"; there may have been nautical influence on the spelling later. The Irish language name for the island, Inis Sionnach, translates to "island of the fox".

Naval history[edit]

LÉ Niamh (P52) docked at Haulbowline

At a strategic and deepwater position in the harbour, the island has long been a military base. The island was first fortified in 1602, and initially an important base for the British Army. In 1603 the Cork city fathers were accused of attempting to demolish it, and William Meade, the Recorder of Cork, was charged with treason as a result. Later, the British Army moved to nearby Spike Island, and the fortifications were handed over to the Royal Navy. The Navy established a large arsenal on the island, and a Martello tower and naval dockyard were built during the Napoleonic Wars.

The world's first yacht club was founded in Haulbowline in 1720.[1]

Unlike the other fortifications in Cork Harbour, which formed part of the treaty ports, the dockyard was handed over to the Irish Free State in 1923, and remains the main naval base and headquarters for the Irish Naval Service. The majority of the Naval Service campus is on the west of the Island – save for the service's football pitch which was reclaimed from land on the eastern side in the 1980s.[2] In September 2014, the Minister for Defence Simon Coveney announced plans for a €50m upgrade of the naval base with improved quays to cater for the Naval Service's new ships and the construction of a runway to enable the Naval Service to operate UAV drones.[3]

In March 2008, one of the historic 19th century industrial storehouses on Haulbowline Island was destroyed by fire.[4]

Industry and development[edit]

Plan of lower harbour showing Naval Base relative to other installations: (A) Haulbowline Naval Base, (B) Fort Mitchel/Westmoreland, (C) Fort Meagher/Camden, (D) Fort Davis/Carlisle, (E) Fort Templebreedy

Irish Steel (later known as Irish Ispat) was based on the east of the island between 1938 and 2002.[5] During this time, waste products from the steel making process were dumped or stored on the site, and radioactive and Chromium 6 contamination remained in the soil after the plant closed.[6] The contamination from this period of industrial use has been cited as a potential impact to the future development of the island,[7] and campaigners, including Erin Brockovich,[8] had requested government action on the contamination issue.[9]

In July 2006, it was announced that the former steel plant site would be developed with apartments, offices, a hotel and a marina.[10] However, no definitive use for the site was confirmed for some years,[11] until plans publicised by the Department of Agriculture and the Marine in 2014 anticipated the upgrading of the island's road bridge,[12] to facilitate the clean-up of the site,[13] for possible redevelopment as a park.[14]


Coordinates: 51°50.5′N 8°18′W / 51.8417°N 8.300°W / 51.8417; -8.300