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A Tour of South Cork - Part 3

All information regarding these tours has been used with permission, M. O'Callaghan.

Part 1 - Route: (Cork Harbour to Innishannon)
Part 2 - Route: (Bandon to Union Hall)
Part 4 - Route: (Bantry & the Beara Peninsula)

Part 3 - Route:

Skibbereen - Castletownshend - Baltimore - Sherkin Island - Cape Clear Island - Fastnet Rock & Lighthouse - Ballydehob - Schull - Crookhaven - Durrus

Skibbereen, is a beautiful, lively market town and fishing port, also know as `Skibbereen of the Welcomes', just 8 miles S of Drimoleague on the coastal route. The Cathedral (1826) is a fine Grecian-style building. The local Museum in St. Fachtna's High School, open July and August, exhibits local folk material. In the Kilcoe Church there are beautiful stained glass windows designed by A. E. Child (1905). O'Donovan Rossa, the 19th c. Irish patriot, lived here, and is commemorated in the O'Donovan Rossa Memorial Park. The 14th c. ruins of Abbeystrewery Abbey (Cistercian) 1 mile W contain mass graves from the Great Famine, when Skibbereen suffered particularly harshly. The shadow of those days remained over the town for many decades. The West Cork Arts Centre in North Street, displays paintings & sculptures of the local artistic community, very international in its composition

The Romantic Creagh Gardens are based on a number of woodland glades and a serpentine mill-pond amid a scene reminiscent of the background of a Douanier Rousseau painting by which it was inspired. The walled garden dating from Regency times is divided into orchard and kitchen gardens. creagh Gardens are located 4 miles SW on the road to Baltimore, and are open daily from May to October 10am -6pm.

Shepperton Lake is located 3 miles east from Skibbereen, in a scenic woodland area beside the road to Leap. It is a well stocked with brown and rainbow trout, also eels, rudd and some pike. The lake is deep (to 40ft.) with narrow, shallow margins and attractive shore-angling sites at the eastern end.

Four miles SW is the lovely Lough Hyne (Ine), a land-locked sea noted for the clarity of its water and abundant marine life. It is the only inland sea lake of its kind in Europe, the result of rising ice-age sea waters flooding a once fresh-water lake. Its waters now ebb and flow with the rising and falling tides. A Cork University Marine Research Station is located on beautiful Castle Island. You can enjoy a lakeside walk here along a forest pathway with superb views of the bay and islands. A full descriptive account of this walk is given by Kevin Corcoran in his book - ``West Cork Walks.''

Castletownshend, 5mls SE (R596) of Skibbereen, is a charming, steeply sloping village on the W side of beautiful Castlehaven. Castletownshend Castle facing the sea has been the seat of the Townshend Family for many generations. Since 1965 the Castle has been converted into self-contained maisonettes and an attractive guest-house (see below). Castletownshend was the home of Edith Somerville (1859- 1949), joint author with Martin Ross of `Experiences of An Irish R.M.' and `The Real Charlotte'. Their novels formed the basis of the TV Series `An Irish RM', in which the Resident Magistrate fought a battle of wits with the native Irish.

The Church houses three stained glass windows by Harry Clarke as well as interesting memorials to the town's old families, particularly the Townshend family. Less than a mile to the NW is Knockdrum Ringfort, a fine restored ringfort, complete with guard-chamber and rampart, inscribed pillarstone and 3 souterrains. The `Three Fingers' (formally five) pillar stones lie nearby - pointing to sunrise on mid-summer day. Tragumna nearby is a secluded sandy beach nestled by rocks and furze. Castlehaven Castle, beside the sea, was built by the O'Driscolls and occupied by a Spanish force in 1601. 6 Spanish ships with 700 troops landed here to join the expeditionary force at Kinsale. Although they repelled the English forces, they had to withdraw after Kinsale fell.

Facing Roaringwater Bay and Carbery's Hundred Isles is the picturesque village of Baltimore , a fishing, sea-angling and famous sailing centre. Baltimore is the port for Sherkin and Clear Islands, with regular ferry sailings from the harbour. Visit one of the many islands for a picnic or swim from the sandy beaches hidden among the inlets of the man islands. In 1631 Baltimore was raided by Algerian pirates who carried off some 200 of the townsfolk as slaves to North Africa in an event known as the Sack of Baltimore. The ruins of the O'Driscoll Castle of Dunashad overlook the harbour. It is also well known for its boat building. In 1923 Conor O'Brien circumnavigated the world in the Baltimore-built Saoirse. Baltimore features local traditional music regularly in the pubs, and the village retains its rustic Irish quality. There are romantic cliff walks along this magnificent coastline. Creagh Gardens, 4 miles NE, are open in summer.

Sherkin Island
Just over a mile out to sea lies Sherkin Island (3 miles X 2 miles in size) on the fringe of Roaringwater Bay. It is an ideal day trip, with its unspoiled strands, cliffs, bays and views. Sights include a ruined 15th c. castle and a Franciscan Abbey, founded by the O'Driscolls. On the NW of the island is Sherkin Island Marine Station, which has an exhibition hall and aquaria containing sea mammals, fish, starfish, sea anemones and shrimps. There are displays of butterflies, moths, beetles, spiders and a herbarium of plants and seaweeds.

Cape Clear Island
Six miles SW off Baltimore lies Cape Clear Island, (3 miles X 1 miles), the most southernly inhabited Irish island. There is a regular ferry service from Baltimore Pier and a seasonal ferry service from Schull. About 50 families or 140 people live here, many of them Irish speaking. There are small grocery stores, craft shops, bars, a Church and a post office, and a range of accommodation. The An Oige Youth Hostel at the South Harbour sleeps 48 people. Cape Clear has a Bird Observatory and a Folk Museum near the harbour. Up the steep narrow lanes you will find a Heritage Centre, an old lighthouse (1818), a Napoleonic signal tower (1848), Neolithic standing stones and the ruins of a 5000 year old passage tomb with a summer solstice sunrise alignment (making it among the oldest astronomical sites in the world). On the western end on a broken away promontory you will see Dun An Oir, the ruins of an O'Driscoll fort. The 13th c. St Kieran's Church by North Harbour attracts pilgrims on the 15th March (St. Kieran's day), who still draw water from Tobair Chiarain, the holy well here. Whales, dolphins and leathery turtles are spotted from the cliffs. The island has facilities for canoeing, diving and deep-sea angling.

Every summer Cape holds a festive lifeboat day, a canoeing regatta, the Cape Clear Regatta; in early September it hosts an international storytelling festival and over the October bank holiday an arts festival and a storytelling workshop. Details may be had weekdays through the Island Co-operative, (028) 39119.
4.5 miles (7km) from Cape Clear is ...

Fastnet Rock
Its name in Irish, `Carrig Aonor' or lonely rock, is a fitting description, but the departing emigrants called it the `Teardrop of Ireland'. Fastnet Rock Lighthouse here is the most important and largest of Irish lighthouses. It took 24 years to build (see below), which is understandable when you consider the fierce oceans of the Atlantic. The original tower of steel (1854) was prompted by the wreck of an American ship the `Stephen Whitney', with the loss of 100 lives. But the tower was abandoned when storms split the rock underneath. The present lighthouse tower was begun in 1879, completed 24 years later. It is built of 2,074 blocks of Cornwall granite, some of the stones weighing over 5 tons, rising to a height of 176 feet. There are eight floors, including 2 bedrooms. The light is a combination of vaporised paraffin, gas mantles and lenses to give a brilliant dazzling light - a million candle power!

``As you drive down from Skibbereen into Ballydehob the village nestles against a fold of the hills, Mount Gabriel in the West providing a sheltering backdrop. With a bonus of morning sun over your shoulder, the colourful tumble of brightly-painted gables and shop fronts rise out of the shimmering estuary. Crossing the 3 stone bridges, you are reminded that it was reached in ancient times only by fording the river. This explains the original Gaelic name for Ballydehob - `Estuary of the Ford of Two Rivers'. Towards the sea, the imposing 12-arch Railway Viaduct reminds us of the days (1940's) when Ballydehob was a busy market town with its own railway station.

``Visible through the arches of the bridge the old Quay berthed many a coal- and sand boat, and landed cattle and market produce from the once-inhabited islands in Carbery's Hundred Isles in picturesque Roaringwater Bar. In town the number of shop and pub fronts is a further reminder of past commerce, with some of the bar stools today occupied by artists, writers, crafts people and the occasional celebrity who have found peace, inspiration and a homecoming here.

``Ballydehob enjoys a strategic location on the `Fuchsia' tourist route to the Southwest. It is the main gateway to the rugged beauty of the Mizen Peninsula, where Schull, Crookhaven and Barley Cove beckon the historian and sightseer alike to take the R592 as far as Mizen Head, the Irish `Land's End'.

``Ballydehob goes festive each year with `Water larks' on July 9th and 10th; a gala festival from August 13th to 21st and a Vintage harvest Festival from 29th to 31st October."

Schull (or Skull) on an inlet of Roaring Water Bay is sheltered from the north winds by the foothills of Mount Gabriel. This attractive, colourful town is an internationally known sailing centre, a busy fishing harbour and charming crafts centre. Depending on the time of year, you may enjoy fresh crab, lobster, crayfish, prawns, salmon, mackerel, scallops, and whitefish caught by the local fishing fleet.

If you are looking for ceramics or batiks, antiquarian books, pictures, handcrafted silver and jewellry, rare gifts and unique items of clothing or ornamentation, Schull offers the very best in local and Irish made goods and crafts, and you will enjoy browsing.

Schull is very popular with visiting yachtsmen. Schull Harbour Regatta (since 1884) is a major annual event. There is a Sailing Club which runs weekend races for all classes. The Fastnet International Schools Regatta held in early July attracts young sailors from all over Europe. It is possible to charter a boat for sea angling, and diving trips will take you to some spectacular wrecks and underwater scenery. As well as the picnic areas around the harbour, there are some beautiful walks in the area, circular routes taking in countryside, coastal scenery, hill walks and returning to Schull, from 3km to 12/15 Km. Ordnance Survey maps are available from the local bookshop.

Schull Planetarium is located in a special building in the grounds of the Community College. Sitting under a hemispherical dome in a darkened auditorium, spectators can see a realistic reproduction of the starry night on the clearest night, complete with planets, all accurate in their size, brightness and relative positions. Star shows are `The Summer Night Sky' (Tues), `Tour of the Planets' (Thurs) and `A Journey into the Universe' (Sat). OPENING TIMES: April, May, June open Wed, Fri & Sat, 11am, 1pm, 2pm 5pm. Star show Sat 4pm. July & August, open Tues to Sat, 11am, 1pm, 2pm and 8pm. Star shows Tues, Thurs, Sat at 7pm. September open Wed & sat 11am, 1pm, 2pm 5pm; Star show Sat 4pm. October Sat only. Closed November thru February. Tel 028-28552 /28315 for bookings.

A Ferry to Cape Clear Island operates from Schull 2 or 3 times daily in the summer from Schull Harbour, on board the "Kraycraft". (Sailing times are subject to sea and weather conditions.) The road North from Schull to Bantry will take you through a wild pass on east side of Mount Gabriel (1,339 ft). The two white globes on the summit of Mount Gabriel are aircraft tracking stations. On the hillsides in the valley to the North are Bronze Age Copper Mines. Be careful, as they are unprotected! Spear heads, ornaments and axes discovered here are now housed in the National Museum in Dublin. 7 mls SW is the sleepy village of Goleen. Nearby there are many sheltered, sandy beaches, including Ballyrisode at Toormore, and Barley Cove, a popular holiday resort for Irish families.

Crookhaven / Mizen
Crookhaven village is located on the safest harbour on the South coast, on the `crook' of the peninsula. The visitor can relax here by the quayside and watch the yachts or the fishing boats bringing in lobsters for export to France. There is an annual sailing Regatta. St Brendan the Navigator is said to have set sail from this harbour. Marconi sent his first message to America from here. Nearby is the beautiful Barley Cove area with several glorious beaches. It is only a short trip to Mizen Head where the cliffs rise to 700ft. While Mizen Head is popular with rock climbers, it is better known for its clear waters, its rich flora & fauna, and magnificent views.

The Mizen Vision At the tip of the Mizen peninsula, the Fog/Signal Station (built 1909) on Cloghane Island is newly opened as a unique visitor centre, featuring the Keeper's House and Engine Room, the famous suspension bridge and the 99 steps. Here you witness the lives of lighthouse keepers, or the brilliant engineering feat of building the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse. The ocean views are breathtaking. The centre is +Open Daily June - Sept 11-1730H; Oct-May 028-35225/35253; Tel 028-35115

Ireland ends here, and there is nothing between you and America except the dramatic views of soaring cliffs and sea birds.

At the head of Dunmanus Bay the little village of Durrus is among the most beautiful spots in the region, with beautiful views overlooking the peninsula. Perfectly located for trips to either Sheep's Head or Mizen Head peninsulas, Durrus nestles in the foothills of wooded Bally Commanel, supplying many walks and views. NEXT

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