Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

Kenmare

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Fastnet Line

Kenmare reached by the spectacular Caha Pass road from Glengarriff is the first major town in County Kerry as you cross over the county boundary.  Before arriving in Kenmare you pass through the hamlet of Bonane with its impressive Heritage Park giving a real insight into the archaeology of an area which has been inhabited for thousands of years. There is a wealth of information here and the park is open all year round.

Kenmare itself on the river estuary which bears its name is a town dating from 1670 and is a charming destination which has been loved by generations of visitors. It is surrounded on all sides by areas of outstanding natural beauty and the bay contains a multitude of aquatic wildlife including sea birds of all types, seal colonies and otters all to be seen from the highly recommended “Seafari” cruise around the bay. In common with so many towns there are a multitude of places to eat in Kenmare with the finest local produce available to suit all pockets. Outdoor activities of all types abound from the usual hill walking, golf, fishing, cycling to more organised sailing and kayaking and outdoor pursuits at the Star Outdoors Adventure centre.

Blackwater Valley

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Fastnet Line

Lying to the north and west of Cork city encompassing towns such as Mallow, Fermoy and Millstreet the Blackwater Valley tourism area taking its name from the world famous anglers paradise that is the Blackwater river, is a diverse area of commercial towns and rolling countryside amongst the most fertile in this region of Ireland. There is equine heritage here in abundance with the original steeplechase being a horse race first run from Buttevant church to St. Leger Church in the village of Doneraile in 1752. As well as fishing, golf, hillwalking and cycling the area has an abundance of natural beauty and Millstreet Country Park encompasses this beauty with an educational program, archaeological sites, managed wetlands and planned gardens not to mention a number of water features and a replica of a famous Belgian fountain the Mont Des Arts opened in 2009.

Macroom

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Fastnet Line

The ancient garrison town of Macroom in the heart of the Lee Valley is both the hub and gateway to a fascinating region which contains spectacular scenery and rural Gaelic speaking communities which are living breathing organisms of an ancient culture not preserved, but thriving. The town serves as the main commercial centre for a network of villages in its hinterland but is a worthwhile base for exploring at a more leisurely pace the surrounding countryside. Nearby Gougane Barra (the retreat of St. Finbarr) is one of Ireland’s gems with a lake surrounded by imposing forested hills giving great walking trails and unforgettable views. Further west along the N22 is Ballyvourney a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area and last village on the road before County Kerry. The area boasts outstanding natural beauty and walking and cycling trails as well as Ireland’s only toy soldier factory and visitor centre.

Dunmanway/Drimoleague

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Fastnet Line

Dunmanway is a planned town dating from the 17th Century and famous for being the birthplace of Sam Maguire who gave his name to the All-Ireland Football trophy competed for each year by the teams of the 32 counties of the island of Ireland. Activities of all sorts can be attempted from here with walking and cycling particularly well catered for. The annual horse fair and races in August each year is an ancient tradition dating back hundreds of years. The little village of Drimoleague just 14 kilometres ( 8 miles) down the road was an important railway junction up until the 1960s and in recent years the old railway yard has become the trailhead for a network of signposted walking trails taking the walker up into the hills surrounding the village and along ancient river paths with enough variety and levels of exertion to suit all abilities.

Castletownbere/Beara Peninsula

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Fastnet Line

Castletownbere is the main town on the Beara Peninsula, a working fishing port and focus of commercial activity of this region. It caters well for the traveller in search of sustenance or a place to stay and time spent in this area is rewarded by unforgettable memories. The ancient landscape bears the signs of human settlement from the earliest times and there is something elemental in the interaction of landscape, light, ocean and mountain. Once again the outdoors beckons at every turn, with fishing, hillwalking, cycling and sightseeing being key activities. The old copper mines at Allihies have a  fascinating story to tell dating back thousands of years and the museum there is well worth a visit. The first sight of the village itself from a distance is one never forgotten and on a sunny day the nearby beach is a hive of activity for young and old alike.

Glengarriff

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Fastnet Line

The town takes its name from the Gaelic An Gleann Garbh (the wild or rugged valley) and the visitor is left in no doubt as to why. This village is centred on a beautiful harbour studded with rock tree covered islands backed by bare rocky hills giving it a magnificent setting even by any standard. Everywhere you look there are scenes just begging to be photographed or just simply contemplated as well as walks and forest paths which yield their natural rewards at every turn of the trail. Garnish Island is worth a visit being just minutes by boat from the harbour but all around are samples of flora and fauna that make this area a naturalists paradise. The visitor is well catered for with a variety of places to stay, to eat and drink which is why Glengarriff has been a firm favourite for generations of visitors.

Goleen/Mizen

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Fastnet Line

The Mizen peninsula is the most southerly part of Ireland and the lighthouse and visitor centre at Mizen Head are a must see when in the area. Along the way you will marvel at the breathtaking beauty of this rugged landscape and perhaps wonder at the strength and resilience of a local population who have survived for generations farming and fishing this difficult terrain and at times, wild seas. The village of Goleen is for many a refreshment stop on the way to Mizen but many visitors bewitched by the landscape choose it as their “get away from it all” piece of heaven.

The rocky coastline and sheer promontories give way to a number of spectacular sandy beaches, most notably at Barley Cove.  The combination of high rocky cliffs and sandy beach backed by high sand dunes make it an unforgettable sight.  The little fishing village of Crookhaven at the end of a little promontory has its own end of the world atmosphere and with the sun shining and the boats bobbing at anchor in this sliver of a bay the noise and hubbub of the outside world seems a very long way away.

Ballydehob/Schull

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Fastnet Line

Leaving Skibbereen as you continue west towards the Mizen peninsula the terrain becomes increasingly rugged and barren with Mount Gabriel and its instantly recognisable radar domes as your landmark. The quirkily named Ballydehob is a village instantly recognisable by its twelve arch railway viaduct a relic of the past but now incorporated into a unique walk at the entrance to the village. As with most villages in West Cork it hosts its own annual festival in August each year has ample accommodation and restaurants and bars for the weary and hungry traveller and an enquiry about the story behind the statue of Danno Mahony, world champion wrestler, which is on the main street will tell you all you need to know about that essential pride of place a mainstay of irish character not yet lost to modernity. Schull another fishing port further west along the road is yet another village which sustains a multitude of activities throughout the year. Sailing of course is a major part of the lifestyle here and the local sailing club has a busy schedule of races and classes year round including the entertainingly named “Calves Week” a derivation from Cowes Week one assumes. In addition there are any number of walks or for those who like to combine several forms of exercise at once you can join the local triathletes for one of the many events they run throughout the year. Recently the ambitious locals have also started a very successful short film festival sure to become a rival to the great film festivals of the world. Such is the enterprise of small villages in this part of Ireland – one might say a “Cannes do” attitude. In addition there is the successful Sunday Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. well worth a visit for good food and crafts made locally, a planetarium and enough breathtaking scenery to make you want to return every year or simply give in as many do and settle here permanently.

Baltimore/The Islands

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Fastnet Line

Baltimore is a beautifully situated village built around the twin pursuits of fishing and sailing. Overlooked by the 17th Century castle of the O’Driscolls the harbour is a hive of activity year round with fishing trawlers vying for space with pleasure yachts, ocean going cruiser yachts for hire and ferries to the outlying islands of Sherkin, Cape Clear and Heir Island. The village has been a must visit for sailors cruising around the coast of southwest Ireland but also hosts sea anglers, divers and snorkelers, bird watchers, walkers and whale watchers. Throughout the year Baltimore hosts a variety of festivals including the annual Fiddle Fair (traditional folk music based around the violin or “fiddle” 6th - 9th May 2010), the Wooden Boat festival (28th – 30th May 2010), the regatta (1st -2nd August 2010) to name but a few.

As gateway to the islands, Baltimore is where you leave dry land to experience the different sights and sounds of Sherkin Island with its Franciscan Abbey and castle. With a variety of places to stay the population of 100 is bolstered by summer visitors eager for the peace and quiet and slower pace of life which an island brings. Cape Clear is a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) community which has accommodation, a pub and restaurant as well as hosting a storytelling festival on the first weekend of September each year. It is Ireland’s most southerly island and three miles to its west is the Fastnet Lighthouse perched on top of Fastnet Rock an iconic image of Ireland known throughout the world.  The island is a naturalists paradise with birdwatchers being spoiled for choice as well as attracting those who regularly spot leatherback turtle, sun fish, shark, dolphin and whale. Heir (or Hare) Island is the smallest of the three inhabited islands and boasts wonderful sandy beaches and is home to a sailing school for those wishing to be initiated in the ways of the sea in a safe, relaxed and professional manner in idyllic surroundings.

Skibbereen/Castletownshend

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Fastnet Line

Skibbereen on the Ilen river is a pleasant town bustling town with a thriving local community bolstered in the summer months by a regular influx of visitors. It hosts an annual arts festival including an outdoor music concert and hosts regular art exhibitions, plays and sporting events including the Fastnet International Car Rally (24th October 2010) throughout the year. The town gained international notoriety in the 1840s when the potato famine which afflicted large parts of Ireland had a particularly devastating effect on the local population. The reporting internationally of the famine in Skibbereen focused attention on the town and its surrounding areas and the Heritage Centre in the town movingly tells the story of those troubled times.  Castletownshend is a small village about six miles from Skibbereen made up of well built sylish homes dating from the 18th Century along a steeply sloping main street ending at the harbour overlooked by the lovely St. Barrahane’s church and the Castle owned by the Townshend family which gives the village its name. Sailing, fishing and a music festival annually in the aforementioned church are just some of the delights awaiting those who make the effort to seek out this haven of tranquillity.