Baltimore is known as the ‘Water Sports Capital of West Cork’ and offers diving, sea kayaking, yacht trips, canoeing on Lough Hyne and whale watching trips for the adventurous visitor. It is a vibrant fishing village, home to several excellent restaurants and pubs. The Joile Brise pizzas are unrivaled; for a romantic meal choose Rolf’s Restaurant; there’s seafood at Casey’s and the Lookout Restaurant; generous portions at the Sibin Bar; for lunch Glebe gardens and the Life Boat Cafe are a treat. There are several pubs ranging from the traditional, Bushes Bar to the modern Jacob’s Bar on the waterfront. From Baltimore ferries sail to Cape Clear, a Gaeltacht Island (Irish speaking) and bird sanctuary; and Sherkin Island, with its secluded coves and numerous white sand beaches. Baltimore has had a fascinating history dominated by the newly restored Dún na Séad castle. In 1611 Baltimore was raided by Algerian pirates, known as the Sack of Baltimore. Over 100 locals were taken into slavery, the biggest ever raid by Barbary pirates in Ireland or Britain. The Pirate Festival will be held in Baltimore on the weekend of 29th June 2012.
Lough Hyne is an inland salt water lake connected to the sea by tidal rapids. Located 3 miles from Baltimore and within walking distance of Ballymacrown Homestead, it is Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve and home to a variety of marine species many of which are not found elsewhere in Ireland. It is visited by marine mammals such as seals and otters and in 2011 a young dolphin was spotted, possibly sheltering from a winter storm. The Lough lies in a basin formed during the last ice age and above it rises Knockomagh Wood Nature Reserve. There is a signposted route to the top of the wood from where there are spectacular views of the peninsula. The Lough has a mystical quality. On the island in the middle there are the ruins of the O’Driscoll’ Clohane Castle, which according to Irish legend is where the King with donkey’s ears lived. On the north side of the wood there is a spring, St. Bridget’s well, which visitors have adorned with ribbons and tokens - a magical place.
Skibbereen is a vibrant West Cork market town, with farmers markets on Fridays and Saturdays. It offers a range of cafes, restaurants and bars, including the Church Restaurant, an elegantly restored building offering an excellent menu and the Riverside, a stylish cafe in a Georgian house overlooking the River Ilen, which was awarded a Georgina Campbell award in 2011. During the Great Famine, which began in 1845, Skibbereen was one of the worst affected areas. The population of Ireland was above 8 million pre famine and with mass emigration and the Famine the population has never recovered, now standing at just over 4 million. The history of the Famine is commemorated at the Skibbereen Heritage Centre, which also contains an exhibition on Lough Hyne.
homepages.iol.ie/~spm/riverside/ (website doesn’t do justice to the restaurant)
Glandore is a small village overlooking Glandore Harbour, a favourite spot for visitors to relax on a sunny day overlooking the waterfront. It is reached from Union Hall, a busy fishing village, via a narrow road bridge across the estuary or by turning off the N71 at Leap. There are a number of beautiful properties in the area to be admired.
The West Cork Coastal Route takes you across the sandy inlet at Rosscarbery, home to large numbers of wading birds. The narrow road that runs along the inlet leads to Warren Strand a blue flag beach flanked by sand dunes, where a pitch and putt golf range is located. The village located just off the main road contains a craft shop, restaurants and an excellent traditional fish and chip shop ‘Rocs’.
Clonakilty is a colourful West Cork town, with a busy main street full of interesting shops and cafes. Clonakilty has some of the most extensive beaches along the West Cork Coastal Route. Favourite of surfers is the blue flag beach at Inchydoney Island just outside the village. On the outskirts of the town are the romantic gardens of the Lisselan Estate, here the Henry Ford Ancestral site is located. The gardens and golf range are open all year. Clonakilty prides itself as the birth place of Michael Collins. At the Michael Collins Centre you can meet Tim Crowley who describes the childhood of Michael Collins; sites in Clonakilty of historical importance and the history of the 1916 rebellion, War of Independence, Treaty Talks and the resulting Civil War.
Timoleague is a picturesque village on the West Cork coastal route defined by the ruins of a 13th Century Abbey which was founded on the site of a 6th Century monastic settlement of Saint Molaga. Hence the name House of Molaga in Irish Tigh Molaga.
Kinsale prides itself on the quality of its seafood and is known as the ‘Gourmet Capital of West Cork’. Whether it’s a sit down meal, fish to take home and cook or good old fish and chips the ‘Fishy Fishy Restaurant’ offers it all. Or for traditional pub food take the road up to the Old Head at Kinsale to the Speckled Door Pub, where you can enjoy views out to sea. The most famous of Kinsale’s historic sites is Charles Fort a 17th Century star-shaped fort with high bastions overlooking the estuary. Much of the original fort remains and was in use until 1922.
A day in Cork City
In 2005 Cork was voted the European Capital of Culture. The Lewis Glucksman Gallery of Contemporary Art is located just inside the beautiful riverside grounds of University College Cork. The design of this contemporary building has won many architectural awards, including being short listed for the 2005 Stirling prize and is one of the ‘1001 buildings you must see before you die’. From the gallery you can walk on through the grounds of UCC to Fitzgerald Park, which has open-air sculptures and is the location for the Cork Public Museum, where the history of Cork is recorded.
Lunch Out in Cork City
West Cork is famous for its artisan food producers and for a traditional Irish breakfast or lunch menu based on fresh local produce the Farmgate Café at Cork’s English Market is not to be missed. You can choose self-service or waitress service in the Café, which is located on the mezzanine floor overlooking the colourful market. For a gourmet menu vegetarians can enjoy the Café Paradiso at 16 Lancaster Quay.
Retail Therapy in Cork
Cork’s main thorough fare, St. Patrick’s Street, includes all the usual high street names, but explore any of the vibrant side streets and you will find a host of interesting, individual shops, bars and restaurants. The old shop facades remain ensuring that Cork retains its character and charm. The most prestigious shop on Patrick Street is Brown Thomas. Since its inception in 1849 in Dublin, it has had a number of owners and is now under the same group of companies as Selfridges. It offers luxury boutiques, accessories and homewares.
Outskirts of Cork City
Blarney Castle – The Stone of Eloquence
Blarney Castle is located just north of Cork City and it has long been associated with the gift of eloquence. For over 200 years visitors have climbed the steps of the narrow tower and leant out backwards from the battlements of the 15th-century fortress to kiss the Blarney Stone. The landscaped gardens around Blarney Castle include fern, poison and rock gardens.
The Jameson Heritage Centre is located in Midleton, just outside Cork City. The Jameson Experience tour is led by a tour guide, who takes visitors through the Old Distillery Trail exploring the various processes and buildings involved in the production of whisky. The origin of its unique taste is its triple distillation and the oak barrels in which the spirit matures for years, which had previously contained sherry, port and bourbon. The highlight of the tour is the visit to the Jameson Bar where participants are sort for the whiskey tasting and everyone gathers round to learn more about the characteristics of various whiskeys. There is also a restaurant on site and a gift shop. It’s a great place to visit on a rainy day and they even provide raincoats for the tour of the outhouses.
Ballymaloe is located in Shanagarry, a 40 min drive from Cork City. From here, Darina Allen runs her world famous cookery school. The gardens surrounding the school are open to visitors all year. There is an impressive herb garden, ornamental orchard and potager garden, as well as a cafe which serves wonderful homemade pizzas and a little gift shop, selling eggs from her chickens. Throughout the year there are daily afternoon cookery demonstrations.
Let the train take the strain and sit back and enjoy the scenic route from Cork’s Railway Station to Cobh, just 12 km away. The pretty town of Cobh is a must for all historians. It is located on Great Island in Cork Harbour, one of the largest natural harbours in the world, and was the departure point for more than 2.5 million Irish emigrants to America. Cobh was also the final port of call for the ill-fated RMS Titanic and 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the tragedy. For 2012 Cobh is running a yearlong Centenary Commemoration to the Titanic and the people of her time. The history of Cobh can be explored further at the Cobh Heritage Centre. Perched above the town is Cobh Cathedral also worth a visit.