Ireland wasn’t always the best place to land if you were a Spanish sailor of the 16th century. The ships of the Spanish Armada which ended up on Irish shores received different sorts of welcomes. And sometimes the local people were more pleasant than the weather conditions.
Some chieftains killed the Spanish in order to obtain their gold. Other’s aided them. In 1588, Killybegs was the destination for the Spanish ship La Girona which arrived on the Irish coast during Spain’s war with England. With the support of a Killybegs chieftain, MacSweeney Bannagh, the Girona’s crew were fed, repairs done, and the the ship moved onto Scotland.
However, it never got that far – it was wrecked off the Antrim coast at Lacada Point on the night of 26 October 1588 with the loss of nearly 1,300 lives. There were nine survivors. The area later became known as the Spanish Rocks.
In 1967-68, off the coast of Portballintrae (Port-na Spaniagh bay), Belgian divers (including Robert Sténuit, the world’s first aquanaut), located the remains of the wreck and brought up the greatest find of Spanish Armada treasure ever salvaged. Gold and silver coins, jewelry, armaments, and utilitarian objects from the Girona, are on display at the Ulster Museum.