Part 1 - Route: (Cork Harbour to Innishannon)
Part 3 - Route: (Skibbereen to The Mizen)
Part 4 - Route: (Bantry & the Beara Peninsula)
Bandon - Ballineen - Enniskeane - Dunmanway - Drimoleague - Kilbrittan & Timoleague - Courtmacsherry - Clonakilty and Area - Lisnagun Ringfort - Rosscarbery - Castlefreke - Glandore & Union Hall.
Just 20 minutes from Cork on the Bandon River lies the flourishing town of Bandon, a gateway to the scenic beauties of West Cork. Bandon was a walled town founded in the time of Elizabeth I as a bulwark to protect the English conquest from the neighbouring Irish - a Protestant colony our 'outpost' in Gaelic terrain. In 1608 Richard Boyle received the lands of the expelled Gaelic Chiefs (the MacCarthys, O'Mahonys, O'Driscolls, Desmond Geraldines)and planted lands with English Protestant settlers. Over the town gate was written "Turk, Jew or Atheist may enter here, but not a Papist". A local wit is said to have added: "Whoever wrote this, wrote it well - for the same is written on the gates of hell".
Today the town boasts many gracious residences, hotels and guest houses, as well as fine public buildings. There are excellent shops and a flourishing pottery. Bandon offers a wide range of sporting activities including golf, salmon fishing, angling, horse-riding, bowling and cycling. The Bandon Weir project nearby is a beautiful white water weir and wildlife sanctuary, offering the visitor scenic views, leaping salmon, and includes a wild duck feeding area.
The West Cork Heritage Centre, located at Christchurch, Bandon, runs special exhibitions on themes relating to history, archaeology, nature, crafts and other subjects. Christchurch itself is of interest. Step back in time and see the craft of the wheelright and harness maker, or visit the country kitchen and dairy. Discover about ancient Ring Forts and Crannogs. It was built in 1610 on the site of a Danish fort, and is among the earliest churches erected in Ireland for Protestant worship. It was de-consecrated in 1973, having served the community for 363 years. The centre is open Monday-Saturday 10 - 18.00 hrs. Sundays 14 - 18.00 hrs.
Also worth a visit is a very unique Bandon Pottery, Gallery and Coffee Shop. This combines the best in Irish handicrafts, fine arts and home cooking in the traditional setting of an 18th century townhouse.
Kilbrogan Church (1610) was the first Protestant church built in Ireland. It contains the town stocks and other relics. The ruins of Downdaniel Castle, 4 miles East, was a 15th century stronghold of Barry Og. In 1612 the land was bought by the East India Company who established a settlement here for smelting iron ore. Nearby the parish of Ballinadee features a fine old church and rectory dating from 1759, with its tower, mosaic floor and marble chancel steps. A nearby forest walk is Duke's Wood, 5km (3 miles) North of Bandon on the R590, with picnic areas, forest and riverside walks.
BALLINEEN AND ENNISKEANE
The R586 road West takes you through Enniskeane and Ballineen, twin villages joined by a stone bridge over the Bandon River. 5km North is Kinneigh Round Tower (St. Mocholmowg) standing 21m high on a hexagonal base. This was the site of an early Christian Monastery. Cahervaglier Ring Fort to the North near Copeen features a massive stone-built terrace. To the West is Manch Bridge, an angling centre in the Bandon Valley. Ballinacarriga Castle (1585) was an Irish tower house of the Hurley family. Among the ruins are stone window carvings, emblems and geometric and human forms.
Dunmanway lies 60km West of Cork City on the N71, and is the gateway to the more rugged west. It rests amid tranquil hills, well stocked lakes and beautiful woodlands. Many of the key attractions in West Cork are within an hour's drive.
In 1747 there were 87 flax and 51 woollen wheels in Dunmanway. A Master Weaver was elected on 1st May each year. A tradition of cattle fairs and horse fairs continues today with the Agricultural Show in July and the famous Bailebuidhe Horse Fair show and races in early August. The Dunmanway Sports Complex comprises pitch and putt, tennis courts, childrens play area and swimming pool(s) with full facilities. Nearby Forest Walks include Cullenagh Lake (8km West), Coolkellure L. (2 km North), Clashnacrona L (5km SW on R586) and Aultagh Wood (6.5km on the R587). Gurranes Lake, 3 miles SW of Dunmanway (off the road to Drimoleague) contains native trout and is also regularly stocked to give very good angling results.
On a more direct route from Bandon, mid-way between Dunmanway and Bantry on the R586 Road, lies the country village of Drimoleage, conveniently placed where the main Bantry road also branches off to Skibbereen and Schull. Here the historic Old Corn Mills (for many years the home of Beamish's Brewery) have been harmoniously renovated into a thriving Craft Centre, where a visit to Methuselah Stained Glass is worthwhile. Described as an 'Aladdin's Cave', the studio makes and sells anything from small gifts such as earrings, necklaces and mirrors, through Art Deco lighted fans and Tiffany lamps up to full-scale stained glass windows. Visitors are under no obligation to buy, but may freely visit the studios and observe how the creations are made.
Three miles SE from Drimoleague Village Driminidy Lake offers attractive shore angling sites and good catches of brown and rainbow trout.
10k South East of Clonakilty, Timoleague takes its name from the Gaelic Tigh Mo-Lage, or the House of Saint Mo-Laga, who founded a monastic settlement here in the 6th century. There are 2 churches on interest: the Parish Church (RC) is a fine hiberno-Romanesque structure which commands panoramic views of the Timoleague Estuary. It features one of Harry Clarke's beautiful windows with a series of Biblical themes (1929). Nearby, the Church of the Ascension (Protestant) erected in 1812 by the Maharaja of Gwalior has its interior covered in Mosaics.
Nearby are the ruins of Timoleague Abbey, a Franciscan Friary (1240 AD) built by the sea on the site of St. Molaga's cell. The plain style reflects the simple way of life and strict observance of the Franciscan Order. The abbey was later extended by Donal Glas McCarthy in 1312, and by Irish and Norman patrons in the 16th century. The monks were dispersed by Reformation, but returned in 1604. In 1642 the Abbey was burned by Lord Forbes. Today it is a graveyard for local people.
Within walking distance from the old friary is Abbeycraft Gallery and Craft Centre where artists Phillipe Orsatti and Gillian Nunan exhibit a most innovative 3-dimensional impression of the abbey and its surroundings. As well as their own works, you will also admire limited editions from some of the best Irish artists and craft workers, including miniature houses and porcelain figures.
TIMOLEAGUE CASTLE GARDENS
"... gardens where the peacock strays
With delicate feet upon old terraces,
Where slippered Contemplation finds his ease
And Childhood a delight for every sense..."
The Gardens are on the site of a demolished 13th century castle and later mansion on the North side of the town. Following the Battle of Waterloo, Robert Travers planted the Walled Garden. The Lawn and Terraces were laid out in the 1870's. The coast road SE to Courtmacsherry (R601) is an attractive and well signposted route.
Kilbrittan nestles quietly in coastal woodlands south of Bandon. The main beaches in the area are Harbour View, Coolmain, Howe Strand and Burren. Kilbrittan Castle (c. 1035 AD) is romantically located amid wooded hills, glens and beaches, overlooking Kilbrittan Bay. The Castle is privately owned.
In 1500 one of the great Irish manuscripts The Book of the McCarthy Reigh or The Book of Lismore was written here by the monk O'Cleary, one of 'The Four Masters'. This is now in the national museum in Dublin.
Courtmacsherry village and bay is a charming fishing and seaside resort on the Adrigeen Estuary, 11 miles South of Bandon and 9 miles East of Clonakilty. Many local artists and crafts people live here, who sell their work both locally and internationally. Tim Severin, adventurer, historian and writer of 'The Brendan Voyage', 'The Sinbad Voyage and 'Crusaders' lives here. Courtmacsherry was formerly the summer home of The Earl of Shannon who planted many exotic trees, shrubs and woods around the village. The coastal walks are a birdwatcher's paradise. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded between Courtmacsherry and Rosscarbery, including a colony of herons in Clonakilty Bay. Near Courtmacsherry there is excellent swimming at Broadstrand and Dunworley. Between Clonakilty and Courtmacsherry are The Seven Heads - a rugged peninsula with seven headlands and many fine coves and beaches.
You'll feel at home here among the attractive traditional shop fronts and hand painted signs in English and Irish. Clonakilty is the principal town of this region, and is the administrative Capital of West Cork.
Clonakilty has been designated as West Cork's Heritage Town by Bord Failte, and a visit to the town soon shows why. The Post Office is housed in an old Presbyterian church and the Town Council and Library are housed in a converted Corn Mill with the river flowing beneath. Narrow streets and lanes open into elegant squares. It is a town of tall spires, towers and historic buildings - the brewery building, the mills and the quayside warehouses, telling of the town's busy trading and industrial past. Currently undergoing completion is the first phase of a historic Model Village built to scale, located off the Inchydonny Road outside Clonakilty, and including a miniature working railway and interpretative centre. Call and see the developments taking place! Back in 1986 Clonakilty was twinned with the Breton town of Chateaulin, so if you come from there, don't keep it a secret!
Clonakilty town was founded in 1588 by Sir Richard Boyle (of Boyle's Law fame) as an English outpost in Gaelic territory. At one time some 10,000 persons were employed in the production of linen here. A visit to Clonakilty Museum will supply a glimpse of the town's colourful history. The Museum is situated in the Old Methodist National School at the Western Road. Displays include the Corporation Minute Book of 1675, industrial history, a specially re-created classroom, the West Cork railway, local brewing, GAA history, local lace and crochet. Clonakilty Museum is open May to September. Off-season November to April - Sundays only.
BEACHES. Ichydoney Strand (inis an Duine), formally a sandy island, is now a stretch of panoramic unspoiled beaches divided by a promontory, offering excellent swimming and sunning facilities. Other nearby beaches include Duneen, Sandscove, Red Strand, Long Strand, Owenahincha, and many more. Leisure craft and wind-surfing equipment are available for hire locally.
Coppingers Court, on the old Rosscarbery-Glandore Road is an old 17th century fortified Elizabethan House whose pointed gables and octagonal chimney are still visible. Fearing attack from the dispossessed Clan O'Driscoll, Coppinger built for comfort and defence, and included a gallows in his design. Folklore tells that it has a window for every day of the year, a chimney for every week, and a door for every month.
The Michael Collins Memorial at Sam's Cross, 5.5 km from Clonakilty, stands in memory to a great patriot, soldier and statesman of the 1916-22 period, born in nearby Woodfield in 1890. The memorial is the work of the late Cork sculptor Seamus Murphy, and was unveiled by Tom Barry, another maverick hero of those troubled times.
Lisnagun Ringfort (and Animal Park) at Darrara, very near Clonakilty is a reconstructed Early Christian Ringfort or defended farm dwelling, on the original site, following intensive archaeological discovery and excavation. You can see the circular ringfort behind its raised earthwork defences, its clay and wattle circular house cooking areas, outhouses, souterrains (underground passages for safety and food storage), and replicas of household utensils, weapons, and farm implements. The Ringfort community was self-sufficient in meat, cereals and vegetables, cloths and implements. In early Christian times there were some 30,000 similar dwellings in Ireland. Here you get a keen sense of in late Iron-age times.
At Lisnagun Animal Park visitors can see a wide range of farm animals and birds as well as some wildlife, in pleasant surroundings. A path winds its way around the park, over bridges, around waterfalls, under shady trees, and along the banks of streams, beyond every corner, there's something new and exciting to be seen. All creatures, great and small, have their own special areas or houses. The pigs live in a cottage, the fowl in a log cabin, the pheasants in an alpine lodge, the deer in a paddock sheltered by trees. The park also has a "Noah's Ark" picnic area.
Lisnagus is open daily and in the summertime there are guided tours every hour, on the hour.
3.2 km north of Clonakilty, near the village of Shannonvale, in the ancient churchyard of Templebryan, lies Templebryan Stone Circle, originally 9 stones (now 4 standing) measuring 10m in diameter and centred on a 2m white pillar of quartzite.
3 km West of Clonakilty, off the Rosscarbery to Glandore Road is Droumbeg Stone Circle, a well preserved example of a recumbent stone circle with a unique winter solstice sun-set alignment. To the east are some round enclosures called hut sites, one of which encloses a Fulach Fian or old cooking site. Descriptive plaques on site explain its features.
13 km South West of Clonakilty on the N71 lies the picturesque resort of Rosscarbery, a cathedral town of serene beauty. Nearby is a beach and an enclosed Lagoon; ideal for angling and sheltered water sports. There is a leisure sailing centre here with craft for hire. There are also restaurants here, an 18-hole pitch and putt course, a childrens playground and tennis and basketball courts. There are walks and picnic areas at Castlefreke Woods, Dromillihy Wood and Rineen Wood; the Long Strand at Owenahincha is nearby.
Rosscarbery was originally a monastic settlement (St. Fachtna) as important as Glendalough and Clonmacnoise, and since 1162 the centre of a separate diocese. On the East side of the village is the little St. Fachtna's Cathedral, originating in pre-reformation times, with continual renovations and additions until the 19th century. The entrance hall inside the Romanesque doorway contains a life size statue of the 9th Lord of Carbery. The small museum housed here contains the relics of two faiths. Two miles East is Bohonagh Stone Circle, including a displaced stone with cup marks, a low tomb, a well and a portal tomb. It is not easy to reach, and you are advised to have a good 6" map with you! Two miles South East is Inch Strand sheltered by Cloghna Head. Cleena's Rock here is said to be haunted by the goddess Cleena, one of the three magic waves of Irish Mythology. The noise of the sea entering the sea-caves adds drama to this belief.
Castle Salem - This 15th century castle is one of the best preserved castles in Ireland. 70 feet high with massive walls and loopholes, and the usual spiral stairway. The original castle dates from about 1470. After the rebellion of 1641 the castle passed from the Carbery family to a Major Apollo Morris, whose son William was a close friend of William Penn. There is an interesting old Quaker graveyard here. The present house built at right angles to the castle, dates from 1682. The Daly family acquired it about 100 years ago, and it is now a charming and unique guesthouse. Open daily.
From Rosscarbery Bay there is a pleasant walk to Castle Freke, where you may enjoy the magnificent cliff scenery or walk through the state-owned Castlefreke Woods. This was the ancestral home of Lord Carbery, the last in the line, who was noted not only for his three wives, but for his dramatic aeroplane displays over the village. However he renounced his peerage and set off for Kenya, never to return. The large Celtic Cross on a hill overlooking the sea sates from the last century and stands in memory to the 9th Lord of Carbery. Castle Freke Castle built by Arthur Freke in 1641 is a Gothic ruin, destroyed by Cromwellian forces in 1648.
GLANDORE AND UNION HALL
Glandore and Union Hall are beautifully old world villages overlooking unspoiled Glandore Harbour. Sheltered from the North and West winds, this is an excellent harbour for boating and fishing. The mild winters here encourage luxuriant foliage and Mediterranean shrubs, making possible the commercial cultivation of winter flowers such as violets and anemones. Myross Woods adds to the scenery. The area has been called the 'Garden of Carbery', and the description by the Rev. Murray in the last century remains true today:
"Cloudless sky and sparkling sea,
Cliff and shore and forest tree,
Glen and stream and mountain blue,
Burst at once upon the view.
The gay the beautiful, the grand
Blending over wave and land
'Till the eye can see no more
Than it hath is sweet Glandore"
The longest established regatta in West Cork takes place here annually. The two islands you can see in Glandore Harbour are known as Adam and Eve. The advice given to boatmen entering the harbour is "to avoid Adam and hug Eve" - sensible advice! A model of the very early Bronze Age Ringfort at nearby Carrigillihy is on display in the Cork Civic Museum. Poets and writers have found peace and tranquillity here, among them Sean O'Coileain, 'The Silver Tongue of Munster'.
The long narrow bridge at the head of the inlet leads to the colourfully painted village of Union Hall, which derives its name from the passing of the Act of Union in 1801. Union Hall (pop. 750) is a thriving fishing village. There are many sheltered coves, beaches and woodland walks. Ceim Hill Museum (signposted) is a private collection of ancient stones and folk material in a hilltop farmhouse.
Across the bay is the village of Leap or O'Donovan's Leap at the head of Glandore Harbour. The name derives from a leap by a legendary bandit Donovan across a deep ravine in the vicinity. This is a "land of unspoiled beauty, heather-clad hills and sheltered valleys,sparkling streams and peaceful lakes, steep cliffs and shingly strands". The River Rowry here is good for trout. Shepperton Lakes, 2 miles West are stocked with trout. Other lakes include Ballinlough, Corran, Adereen, Knockskeagh and Clounties.
The road to Dunworley will take you through Butlarstown and around to Coolum Cliffs, the highest cliffs on the South coast. Dunworley is quite spectacular and has two beautiful swimming beaches. The coast road takes in Ballinglanna, Simon's Cove and views over Clonakilty Bay with its great variety of birdlife. The swans are raised at Gullane lake and since they cannot yet fly, the parents lead their cygnets on foot down the main road to the water at Ring.