An Emperor’s secret visit to the Giants Causeway

An Emperor’s secret visit to the Giants Causeway

There are a few people who know of Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro’s unofficial visit to Ireland in 1877.

Dom Pedro was a ‘super tourist’ of his time, a frequent traveller who was referred to by some in his home country as ‘Pedro da Mala’ (Pedro of the suitcase). Dom Pedro was an educated and academically minded person; he had a keen interest in history and science, and he was a great lover of geology.

There was one spot that the Brazilian Emperor made sure to visit during his trip to Ireland- the Giants Causeway. Even in the 19th century the Giants Causeway and the spectacular Causeway coast were renowned for their outstanding world class geology.

On Monday 9th July 1877, Dom Pedro and his entourage arrived in Belfast on the SS Antrim, where a small delegation greeted them. The emperor’s trip was not publicised, and details were to be kept private. It is likely that the secretive nature of his visit was because Dom Pedro was accompanied on the trip by not only his wife, but also his suspected lover, the Countess of Barral!

After arriving in Belfast, the royal party travelled to the Causeway Coast in the first-class carriages of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway. The train was bedecked at the front with Union and Brazilian flags to mark the occasion. Once the train arrived at Portrush, Dom Pedro and his entourage were escorted straight to the Giants Causeway via carriage.

Once at the Causeway, the distinguished guests found themselves at Mr Francis Kane’s little hotel at Causeway Head, where the emperor enjoyed a cup of coffee presented by Mrs Kane, before being led down to inspect the Causeway Stones.  Once there the emperor walked as far as the Lord Antrim’s Parlour admiring the impressive geological formations before him. Eventually he met a photographer Mr Daniel Mc Kinlay who requested that he sit for a photograph of the stones. The emperor happily agreed and later Mr Mc Kinlay received a request for one hundred copies of the photograph from Dom Pedro’s personal secretary.

At the conclusion of their visit the Royal party purchased souvenirs including, rock specimens from vendors along the coast before heading back to Portrush train station. At Portrush the word had spread about the royal party’s visit and many locals crowded the station to get a glimpse of the Emperor and Empress, thus giving the royals a warm send off and cheering as their train departed.

This was kindly contributed to the project by John Logan.


Dom Pedro Emperor Brazil at Causeway

This record was collected as part of Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust’s Uncharted Histories of the Causeway Coast Project. Please click here to learn more about this project.