Every second Sunday a group of people joint to walk around the West Cork country side. Newcomers are very welcome. I have found it a great way to see more of the beautiful landscape and make friends at the same time. It is a lovely way to get to know West Corks highways and byways, of which there are many. The walks usually take about 2 to 3 hours, not too difficult and always interesting. Hill walks are also organised by this group.
This was our last stop before heading back for Cork. The place looked really pretty with its colourful houses lining the streets but we only had enough time to take a few pictures and have a snack at a local restaurant. If you wanted to learn about its past, which strongly reflects Ireland's history from pre-Christian period to the present, you could join one of Skibbereen Historical Walks starting from the Skibbereen Heritage Centre twice weekly on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 6.30 pm. One of the things you would learn from the guide is that this charming town, sometimes called the capital of West Cork, suffered greatly during the Great Famine of the 1840's, when thousands of its inhabitants starved to death. Visit the Great Famine Commemoration Exhibition at the Skibbereen Heritage Centre to hear the tragic stories and follow the Skibbereen Famine Trail to see the buildings dating from that time.
The town is also known for having been at the forefront of the struggle for independence for Ireland and fostering the use of the Gaelic language.
The beauty of Cape Clear Island cannot be described in words, except by a poet. There is something so romantic in the rugged coastline, the hills covered with heather, gorse and wild flowers and the blue of the omnipresent ocean appearing at every turn you take. It's a heaven for hikers, birdwatchers, scuba divers, anglers, windsurfers, canoeists and anybody who loves closeness to nature, peace and breathtaking scenery.
We only stayed there for about two hours, so did not have time to explore the island fully. Our boat was moored in the northern harbour and we crossed the island to see its southern coast and admired the scenery from the cliff there. I wish we had had time to go to the lake, to see the Megalithic standing stones, the 5000 year-old passage grave, the 12th century church ruin and the 14th century O'Driscoll castle. There was a notice advertising a bus tour leaving the harbour every hour, but there was no bus waiting and anyway, taking pictures from a bus would have been awkward. It would be nice to return there and stay on the island for a longer time, visit the local pubs with their live music, watch the regattae and even see a winter storm. One day perhaps....
The boat trip to Cape Clear Island was for me the nicest part of our day trip. Roaringwater Bay is not named this for no reason. The boat was rolling and it was hard to keep your balance without holding on to something. At one moment I got up to get a better view of one of the islands we were passing and instantly almost sat down on the lap of an elderly lady sitting next to me. But it was great fun riding the waves of the Atlantic, and listening to the commentary and even a live 'sing song' by a tour guide. The weather was gorgeous so we all sat on deck, took masses of pictures, admired the islands we were passing, waved to the people on the passing boats and watched out for dolphins which are said to sometimes accompany the ferry. We didn't see any but Katherine did notice a sea creature while we were still in the harbour - probably a seal.
The trip on the Karycraft lasted about 45 minutes one way and cost 11 EUR return. This was a special reduced rate for groups I think because a normal return ticket costs 13 EUR adult, 5 EUR child. The are three cruises a day in the summer but only one out of season so you'd better check their website.
Schull (pronounced like 'skull') is situated on the Roaringwater Bay of the Atlantic and commands a great view of the sea and the marina. It's a very pretty place with colourful houses and hotels gathered along the coast and with many palms and exotic plants reminiscent of the Mediterranean.
If you didn't want to go on the boat trip you could stay there and walk around but all of us wanted to ride the waves of the Atlantic, especially that the weather was very inviting. Driving the coach down to the harbour would have been a little tricky so we walked to the boat. I wish we could have done more sightseeing in Schull itself but the boat was already waiting. You can't have everything.
There are many attractions in Schull in addition to boat trips - you can climb Mount Gabriel for a great view of the area, attend a Star Show at the Planetarium, go fishing, windsurfing, golfing, diving or horse-riding. Or watch the Schull Regatta if you happen to be there in the week following the August Bank Holiday weekend. And in the evening pop into one of their pubs for a pint accompanied by live music.
The tiny island on which St Finbarr set up his monastery in the 6th century is situated on a lake in the midst of the National Park. It can be reached by a causeway and, as you approach the island, you can see the ruined walls which were once part not of St Finbarr's monastery - nothing had been left of that - but of a later settlement built on the same site around 1700 by Rev. Denis O'Mahony. This beautiful isolated spot in the midst of the mountains used to be the object of pilgrimage for people from far and wide who came here to attend Mass. Even now, on the Sunday after the Feast of St Finbarr (25th September) a pilgrimage is held to the Holy Island. The present Oratory was built there in modern times and has interesting stained glass windows representing County Cork's saints. The remains of the former construction include a square court with cells, the Holy Well and Father O'Mahony's tomb nearby.
It's a magical place, the magic being spoilt a little by the constant flow of tourists, all eager to see it.
Bantry is a colourful lively port on Bantry Bay. Beautifully situated, it commands great views of the bay and the mountains. The only thing that we saw there though was the very centre with its market square. It was Saturday, not a market day, but there were still some street vendors trying to sell various knicknacks to the passers-by. But on the whole the place wasn't crowded and we were able to sit by the monument to Theobald Wolfe Tone and eat our lunch. It was only later that I discovered who he was. A Dubliner by birth, Wolfe Tone led the United Irishmen in the uprising of 1796, the aim of which was to put an end to the British rule in Ireland. The uprising might have ended in their victory, as the French Armada of 50 warships carrying 15,000 soldiers was coming to their aid. Unfortunately, a violent storm in which many of the ships sank, thwarted their plans.
Unlike most towns, Bantry has two and not just one statue in the main square. The other is that of St Brendan the Navigator, the sixth century saint and patron of many Irish towns.
Walk around the square and admire the colourful houses. And, if, unlike us, you have time to spare, go and visit Bantry House, beautifully situated on the Bay and full of treasures collected by many generations of the Earls of Bantry. In the courtyard of the House you will find the French Armada Exhibition Centre, which tries to reconstruct the life on the French warships at the end of the 18th century. Unfortunately, we had no time to get there so I cannot recommend it. I hope that you manage to see more of this lovely town than we did, including the great views of the Bay.
Gougane Barra Lake fills a rock basin created by the iceberg and it is here from this lake that the River Lee takes its beginnings. As our coach went around the forest park we could see glimpses of the river meandering among the trees. There were some meadows with sheep and goats grazing but generally the forest looked pretty wild and unspoilt. You would never guess that the area of the park used to be practically treeless until 1938 when the park was set up and afforestation began. It's a rather unusual National Park which you can tour in your car taking the ring road. But there are also some signposted trails from really short - under 1 km to longer ones with great views of the valley and the surrounding mountains.
The most interesting building in Macroom is the Castle Arch - the gateway to the once powerful Castle. Burnt out five times, the Castle itself, formerly the property of Sir William Peun, whose son founded Pennsylvania, is no longer there and some parts of the fortifications are in ruins as well. Last time the Castle was burnt out was during the Irish War of Independence on 18 August 1922 by the anti-treaty forces, who set fire to it before leaving.
The gateway still stands proudly though, inviting the public to visit the Castle parklands going down to the river, with some old oak and beech trees. I did go for a short walk there but had to go back to the coach soon. In front of the gateway you can see two cannons presented together with the whole estate to the town of Macroom by their last owner, Lady Olive Ardilaun.
On my trip to the Ring of Kerry our first stop was in Macroom, a small historic town about 48 km from Cork, situated in the valley of the Sullane River, a tributary of the River Lee. An old market town, it still has its market place, with the Town Hall and colourful houses all around it.
We stayed there only long enough to see the remains of the castle just opposite the Town Hall. More about it in my next tip. On leaving the town I took a picture of the church from the coach window - I thought it was really lovely.
Bantry House is a stately house that also functions as a B&B (quite expensive but very atmospheric). You can visit it during the day and enjoy an audio guide tour around the open rooms. Its still owned and run by the same family and, while never one of the truly grand country house in Ireland, give a wonderful sense of what it must have been like to live in such a house in its heyday. To me it has a great sense of comfort and I particularly liked the twisty staircase that seems to snake its way to various different landings and the library.
It has lovely gardens, nice walks, a very interesting exhibition on the attempted French landings at Bantry in the 1790's - when Lord Bantry organised the local militia! It also has a teahouse that serves really nice brown bread and soup.
Bantry House also often hosts classical concerts, which are open to the public. See www.westcorkmusic.ie for details.
Spectacular Nohoval Cove is famous for The Turrets, a private estate where claybird shooting is available all year round. But it's much more than that – it offers a truly breathtaking experience – the Atlantic Ocean, rugged coast, ruins from 14th century... all at one place...
Roberts Cove is a small quiet village, just about 20-30km from Cork (don't know exactly). It is situated in one of the most scenic bays, with only one hotel and pub which overlooks the bay... Such a perfect place to go for a pint of Guinness... Take your drink outside, sit on the wall and enjoy the view!
The name Gougane Barra comes from St Finbarr (the founder and 1st Bishop of Cork) who has built a monastery on an island in the lake in the 6th century. Today, there is a chapel from the 19th century, and some ruins which are not part of St.Finbar’s original monastery but were built in 17th century by a priest Dennis O’Mahony who retreated to the island to live in isolation. The cross which is in the centre of the ruins is said to stand where St. Finbarr’s cell was in the 6th century. In the latter part of 17th century, Gougane Barra became a place of pilgrimage for the celebration of the Roman Catholic Mass.
Today, the Gougane Barra Forest Park covers 1,5 square kilometers of mountains around the lake, with numerous bird species.
The tranquility of Gougane Barra is impressive - I think it’s the most quite and peaceful place I’ve ever seen!
Crookheaven is a small but extremely charming and peaceful fishing village on the Mizen Peninsula. 100 years ago it was very important harbor known as the last stop for ships to and from America.
It's a perfect place to have a lunch after visiting Mizen Head or swimming at Barely Cove Beach! If you're lucky (as we were!) and the weather's nice, you'll be able to seat outside, on a quay and enjoy the sunset while having lunch...
While the Hayfield Manor was a tad bit more expensive than we like to spend, one gets what one pays...more
I stayed here this past weekend and it was a great experience. The hotel is just across the room...more
Yacht Club Quay, Cobh, County Cork, Ireland
Good for: Couples