Heading South in West Cork

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Roaringwater Bay with Kilcoe Castle, owned and restored by actor Jeremy Irons, in the middle distance

Bantry

A busy coastal town at the head of Bantry Bay built around a large town square. The town holds regular Fair Days for street traders every Friday, with the first Friday of the month being traditionally notable as a much bigger and busier street market than those at other times. Bantry also has a brand new 3 screen cinema showing all the latest films, just in case you get a rainy afternoon.


Bantry House

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A fine example of an Irish country house, built in 1740 and added to in 1765.

 Having been in the same family since the 18th century the house has some wonderful paintings, tapestries and decoration yet retains all the atmosphere of the family home it still is.

You will find this a place that is very welcoming to visitors and with fine views of the Bay from the refurbished and replanted gardens.

Bantry House is also home to a whole series of excellent music concerts throughout the year, a programme of concerts that has achieved national status.


Schull

soutwestcorkA busy West Cork fishing port with an established community of artists and craft workers who stage a variety of exhibitions during the summer. Schull can also offer windsurfing, scuba diving, tennis, squash, walks and a planetarium. There are many sailing events including Calves Week which comprises seven days of competitive racing.

 


If you are determined to learn to sail, then the Fastnet Marine Outdoor Education Centre offers 5 day sailing courses throughout the holiday season. There are also regular boat trips out to the islands and to view the ruggedly impressive Fastnet Lighthouse, the present lighthouse has been in service now for over 100 years. The rocky island it stands on was sometimes known as 'Ireland's Teardrop', as it was the last piece of Irish land that 19th century emigrants saw as they sailed for America.

From Schull the Mizen Ring gives you the chance to immerse yourself in the various strands that make the Mizen Peninsula unique, geology, natural history and the influence of man on the landscape from fortifications to farms, stone cabins to copper mines.


Crookhaven

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A picturesque village next to a large and sheltered harbour.

The journey to Crookhaven will take you not only through some of West Cork's loveliest scenery but also past numerous Bronze Age remains and the old roadstone quarry which provided metalling for the roads of Wales until 1945.

Crookhaven was the last port of call for ships going to and from America and all the shipping lines had agents here.

100 years ago it was said that you could cross the harbour on the decks of the moored boats and 700 people lived and worked in the village compared with the 29 permanent residents today.

Marconi came to Crookhaven to set up a testing station for sending the first radio messages across the Atlantic and also fitted the first telegraphic communication equipment in the Fastnet Lighthouse.


Barleycove

soutwestcork2Barleycove is a magnificent sweep of wide beach backed by sand dunes which were thrown up by the tidal wave which swept Europe after the Lisbon earthquake in 1755. The dunes are protected now as a European Designated Special Area of Conservation. This is a great place to relax beside the sea in the sun but do take note of the warnings to swimmers when they are posted near the beach as the Atlantic rollers can be both impressive and powerful.

 

Mizen Head

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Ireland's most southwesterly point with a signal station and lighthouse built at its tip in 1905 to protect shipping from the rocky cliffs in foggy weather.

The station is built on an island and linked to the mainland by a fine example of a suspension bridge. There is also a visitor centre and a cafe here which you can visit before crossing the bridge to see the old signal station itself.

Fine views of the Fastnet Lighthouse.

 

 

For the serious walker:

Sheep's Head Way

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This 55 mile Long Distance Walk has been dubbed by Walking Magazine as one of the best walks in Ireland. It is laid out as a loop walk so that you can start and finish anywhere you like or else simply walk chosen sections of it.

The walk encompasses the Sheep's Head Peninsula with some magnificent views out over Bantry Bay and Dunmanus Bay and passes through the charming villages of Kilcrohane, Ahakista and Durrus. A guide and map are available locally giving much valuable information on such topics as the history of the area, natural history, prehistoric remains, deserted villages, copper mining, farming and folklore.

 

If you like islands:

Cape Clear Island

Ireland's southernmost inhabited island and 45 minutes from Schull by regular ferry service. Cape's wild, romantic scenery, its sparkling harbours, its cliffs, bogs and lakes, all contribute to the island's unspoilt charm. Heather, gorse and wild flowers cover the rugged hills which are made into a patchwork by the myriad stone walls. There is small heritage centre for you to learn more about life on this island 3 miles long and 1 mile wide that was home to 1200 people before the Great Famine of 1847. Most of the island's present 140 inhabitants speak both English and Irish, so if you would like to practice your linguistic skills they will be glad to help you.


Sherkin Island

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Sherkin Island can to be reached by ferry from Schull or from the lively fishing village of Baltimore which is further along the coast.

The Island is located in a very beautiful area of Roaring Water Bay and is one of the famed Carbery's Hundred Isles.

Three miles long and one and a half miles wide it's a very easy place to explore and a favourite destination for bird watchers.

Sherkin also boasts several sandy beaches. The island has the remains of a 15th century Franciscan Friary and Dun-na-Long, one of the ruined O'Driscoll Castles which are to be found in many locations in this area. There is an active community of artists and craft workers here whose work is often for sale locally.


Skibbereen Heritage Centre

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The Heritage Centre is located in the award winning, beautifully restored Old Gasworks Building in the busy West Cork town of Skibbereen. The Centre concentrates on two themes:

The Great Famine Commemoration Exhibition commemorates the tragic period in the 1840s that is known in Irish History as the Great Hunger. Skibbereen was one of the worst affected areas, and the events of the period are depicted using local characters and happenings.

The Lough Hyne Visitor Centre explains the unique nature of this beautiful saltwater marine lake, Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve, which is located between Skibbereen and Baltimore. Well worth a visit for its own natural beauty and for the forest walks leading to observation points at the top of one of the nearby hills which provide panoramic views of the surrounding sea and landscape.

Other features include an archaeology trail of the Skibbereen area, the history of the Old Gasworks Building and the 1901 Census available in printed form for Skibbereen town and district. Escorted evening Historical Walking Tours of Skibbereen town are often arranged on Tuesday and Saturday at 6.30PM from the Centre but please telephone the Centre for details and to guarantee a place.

 

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Seamus Heaney's words from his poem, The Peninsula, set in stone on the Goat's Path on the Sheep's Head Peninsula

 

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