A West Cork Scrapbook

This collection of oddments was gathered on a week's vacation in West Cork, Ireland and contains our recommendations of places to stay and to eat, places to visit and to shop, along with a selection of things to do.


Irish Ferries' "Dublin Swift" service crosses the Irish Sea between Holyhead and Dublin in under 2 hours. Amply living up to its name, this vessel has comfortable lounges, a restaurant and bars, plus a shop. This Australian-built catamaran has a service speed of 39 knots and can carry up to 800 passengers and 200 cars. For more details and sailing times call 08705 171717 in the UK, 1890 313131 in the Republic of Ireland.

Jonathan Swift


Cúirt Mhic Shéafraidh - Court of the Son of Geoffrey

This fishing village became a favourite resort from late Victorian times for day trippers who came by the railway that ran along the water's edge. The railway closed in the 1960s but the village still attracts discerning holidaymakers. It also hosts the RNLI lifeboat station.

The Coastguard Cottages where we stayed are on the hill above the village (picture right).

Coastguard Cottages

Overlooking the quiet harbour, the Coastguard Cottages provide a very high standard of self-catering accommodation. Built in 1865 it was the heaviest-fortified coastguard station in Ireland. Burned out during the War of Independence in 1922 it lay derelict until the early 1970s when the eight cottages were renovated by the present owners. Each accommodates four persons in one double and one twin room. The upper floor consists of a well-equipped kitchen with a full range of domestic appliances, a dining area and a living room with TV. Contact Mr & Mrs Sammy Mearns on 023 46222.

Pubs: The Lifeboat Inn (023 46173) and Pier House Bar (023 46170) are comfortable village inns with much lifeboat and nautical memorabilia, restaurants and bar food (check availablility).

Supermarket: Literally in the middle of nowhere but well-signposted, Barryroe Co-op sells almost everything you'll need to live in this delightful area. In addition to a well-stocked supermarket there are electrical, plumbing, decorating, veterinary and many other goods under one roof. Those so inclined can also buy livestock equipment and medicines.

Barryroe Co-op
Ideal walking country

Books of walks around Courtmacsherry and district may be bought from many local shops and pubs. We drove to Narry's Cross Roads, parked the car and walked through Ballylangy to the almost deserted village of Shanagh, along the unpaved famine road down to the coast then on to Ballymacshoneen, Carrigeen and Butlerstown. There we rested for a while at O'Neills, a friendly pub in the middle of the brightly-painted row of houses. A ten-minute walk took us back to our car. The entire walk took under 4 hours including stops to admire the view and for refreshment.


Tigh Molaige - House of Molaga
Timoleague Abbey:
Timoleague Abbey by night

The remains of this 14th Century Franciscan abbey were built on the site of St. Molaga's, the founder of Timoleague, and are well worth seeing. Over the centuries the structure was added to by the Normans and later by the Irish. What remains is largely early 16th Century.

Lancet window, Timoleague Abbey

Ummera Smoked Products: At Inchybridge on the Argideen River (a couple of miles north of Timoleague) is the Ummera smokehouse where the Creswell family has been producing first-class smoked wild salmon since the early 1970s. There may also be other smoked products for sale, such as chickens. Lovers of gourmet food shouldn't miss Ummera. Contact Anthony Creswell on (023) 46644.


Cloich na Coillte - Castle of the Woods

A busy market town with a friendly West Cork ambiance, Clonakilty's origins date back to the Bronze Age. The town gained its first charter in 1588. It is a riot of colourful shop fronts and hand-painted signs that make prolific use of the Irish language. Many redundant buildings have been put to good use, including the former Presbyterian Church that now houses the Post Office. Once a centre of linen production Clonakilty is today probably best known for its quality black puddings, an essential ingredient of a full Irish breakfast.

Clonakilty Black Pudding

Horse Riding: Clonakilty Equestrian Centre at The Retreat, Inchydoney Road provides excellent indoor and outdoor riding facilities, tuition and accompanied hacks. Contact David O'Regan, telephone (023) 33533, fax (023) 35012.

Lisnagun 1

Lios na gCon - The Ring Fort of the Hound - is a restored 10th Century defended farmstead, set in the grounds of the Clonakilty Agricultural College in the nearby village of Darrara. Phone to check the times of guided tours. The area is rich in ring forts but many have been damaged or destroyed by agricultural activity.

Lisnagun 2

Nearby, in the grounds of the college, is the Clonakilty Animal Park. This is an excellent attraction for children, being both educational and entertaining.

Model Village:

This attraction is an authentic representation of Clonakilty and five other West Cork towns that were served by the branch railway system which was closed and dismantled in the early 1960s. The 1:24 scale models are portrayed during the Emergency of 1939-45 (Second World War) and linked by an automated replica of the railway as it then operated. Lots of fun for boys and girls of all ages! There are also refreshments and a gift shop, both housed in vintage railway carriages.

Model Village
Mac Eoin's

Museum: Situated in Western Road, in the former Methodist National School of 1887, the West Cork Regional Museum is packed with exhibits from local history. Prominently featured is West Cork's part in the 1916 Rebellion, the War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War, especially regarding Clonakilty's most famous son, Michael Collins (1890-1922).

Pub: MacEoin's in McCurtain Hill is a welcoming house whose proprietor lent us the day's tabloids to help pass the time while we drank our Guinness.

Restaurant: We recommend Gearoidins, a friendly restaurant, café and wine bar. A wide-ranging menu is supplemented by specials on the blackboard. Whatever you choose, don't forget to leave room for one of the delicious range of desserts. On the day of our visit there was a choice of about a dozen!


Tourist Office: Well-stocked with local information, maps, guides and gifts. The assistant who served us was friendly and helpful, despite having to deal with a sudden influx of customers on her own.


Cionn tSáile - Head of the Sea

On the estuary of the Bandon River, Kinsale is regarded with some justification as one of the most picturesque small towns in Ireland. The sheltered harbour was once an important naval base and still houses a fishing fleet but most of its usage now comes from pleasure craft. In recent years Kinsale has acquired a reputation as the restaurant capital of the south and each October it hosts a Gourmet Festival that brings foodies flocking from the four corners of the globe.

Kinsale Harbour Charles Fort

Left: looking across Kinsale Harbour. Right: Charles Fort from the outer harbour.

Desmond Castle:
Desmond Castle

Built around 1500 for the powerful Desmond family this fortress became a prison in the 18th Century. Its usage for holding captives from the Napoleonic Wars accounts for its popular name of the French Prison. Conditions were bad but particularly so for the French inmates, causing much local indignation.

It fell into disrepair and came close to demolition but was restored by Dúchas, the Irish Heritage Service, in the 1990s. Today it also houses the fascinating International Museum of Wine.

Ghost Tour: The highlight of our visit to Kinsale and one of the funniest, wackiest evenings we've ever spent. Operated by two young actors, it's a scream from start to finish. Without giving the game away, remember the old forces motto - "never volunteer for anything"!

Ghost Tour
Harbour Cruise

Harbour Cruise: Several times a day, depending on the season, the "Spirit of Kinsale" cruises round the harbour, giving stunning views of Charles Fort, James Fort and the town.

Historic Stroll: Every morning at 11.15am Don Herlihy leads an easy-paced hour-long walking tour around the old town, pointing out all manner of interesting things. His enthusiasm for and love of the town is very much evident.


Restaurant: In Kinsale you're spoilt for choice of eating places but we recommend Janey Mac's at 38 Main Street. In what once may have been an old pub we found a warm welcome, friendly attentive service and an excellent Early Bird Special menu from 6.00pm. This is ideal for those going on to evening entertainment, such as the Ghost Tour. For reservations telephone (021) 4773179, fax (021) 4702029.

Janey Mac's

If you are calling any of the above telephone numbers from outside Ireland, use country code 353 then the number without the initial 0.