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.
Archive for the ‘West Cork’ Category
Glandore and Union Hall are another of the out of the way delights of West Cork. These two small villages at either side of the harbour reflect back at each other the beauty and peace to be found in small communities. Union Hall is still a working fishing port and the brightly painted shop fronts in the town make it seem a film set which in fact it was, being one of the locations for the 1994 film “The War of the Buttons”. Food and drink are needs never to be ignored while in this part of the world and you won’t go far wrong if fish is your food of choice. A selection of places to stay nearby means you never have to leave. Glandore has a big reputation for such a small place and the list of its cosmopolitan inhabitants year round is testimony to its beguiling qualities. Its small harbour is frequented by the sailing and cruising fraternity and there are no lack of activities should you wish to pursue them locally but in truth most people seem to like to “hang out” and enjoy the food, wine and conversation which is the social currency here. Nearby Drombeg Stone Circle is a place which though describable, is best felt – the small circle of stones and remains of the living quarters of our ancient ancestors set on a plateau overlooking the sea is an atmospheric reminder of life three millennia ago.
Travelling further on the N71from Clonakilty, the causeway at Rosscarbery is a landmark unmissable to the traveller heading West separating on one side a lagoon from the shallow bay on the other when during low tide can be seen hundreds of birds feeding on the mud flats. On the hill overlooking the sea is the village of Rosscarbery born alongside a monastic settlement from the 6th Century founded by St. Fachtna. The Church of Ireland Cathedral is on a site from the 10th Century when the town was important enough to have been the seat of a Bishop. The pretty town square with its colourful shop fronts boasts a number of fine pubs and restaurants and the area is especially noted for its fine sandy beaches at The Warren and Owenahincha just a few miles away. A vibrant local community puts on an arts festival each year and sporting highlights include pitch and putt, Gaelic football and road trotting, a particular West Cork equine sport which just has to be experienced.
Further along the R600 road brings you to Clonakilty, Ireland’s first Fairtrade town and winner of the European Destination of Excellence Award (EDEN) as the Best Emerging Rural Tourism Destination in 2007. Clonakilty is both a vibrant commercial centre and a tourism hub for an entire region. The town has a reputation for innovation and its model village (a scale replica of Clonakilty and other local towns) and tourist road train are just two of the ways in which Clonakilty draws visitors into the story of its past. Clonakilty is surrounded by fantastic beaches such as those at Inchydoney where the traditional games of beach football, sandcastle building and kite flying mingle with the more modern surf schools. Golfers are well catered for at the Lisselan Estate on the outskirts of the town although few rounds of golf elsewhere in the world include a tram and a raft in the round!
The quaint streets are packed with places to eat and drink and the live music tradition is particularly strong. Again throughout the year there are many activities organised locally from the International Car Rally, The West Cork Rally (20th and 21st March 2010), the Arts festival and the International Guitar festival. It is also internationally famous for being the birthplace of Michael Collins immortalised by the actor Liam Neeson in Neil Jordan’s 1996 eponymous film. A statue to the “Big Fella” can be seen at Emmet Square in the town which also boasts a local black pudding delicacy amongst its culinary delights.
Along the coast road from Kinsale is the atmospheric village of Timoleague dominated by the ruins of the 13th Century Franciscan Abbey which itself is built on the site of a 6th century monastic settlement of Saint Molaga. The name Timoleague is based on the Gaelic name of Tigh Molaga or House of Molaga. The neighbouring fishing village of Courtmacsherry is a little gem of a village just five minutes off the main Kinsale to Clonakilty road the R600. It has been a weekend hideaway for many decades for those fleeing the pressures of city life and has evolved into a tourist destination in its own right. A vibrant local community organises events throughout the year from the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade to the not to be missed horse racing on sand at low tide in July each year (Sunday 18th July in 2010).