Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Take a Walk in Ballycotton

Take a Walk in Ballycotton

Crossroads in the sky

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Ballydehob's 12-Arched Viaduct

Ballydehob's 12-Arched Viaduct
The magnificent 12 arch bridge, which dominates the estuary of Ballydehob, was built in 1886 and was the major engineering achievement of the Skibbereen and Schull railway line. By the middle of the 20th century, the line was closed. 

Today, you may cross the bridge on foot as part of a part of a short looped walk. Coming on the road from Skibbereen and just before the existing road bridge, turn to your left into the car park. Read the info boards in the car park and off you go to enjoy the views out towards Ballydehob Bay and also towards the village itself. The local river is called Bawnaknockane.

I'm afraid there was no plaque on the wooden sculptures so I can't tell you anything about them.

Lots of info on the village on this local website here

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Beaches and Coves near Kinsale

September Beaches

On the way to West Cork on September 12th (2018), we made a detour to take in a few beaches in the general Kinsale area. The sun was out, we had a little lunch with us, so why not?

Roberts Cove

Roberts Cove is a pretty well-known area, with a sandy beach and a caravan park, plus a pub or two by the sand, probably best reached via Minane Bridge.

Rocky Bay

A little further west we came to Rocky Bay, a smaller beach. Here, we had a chat with a man from Wild Atlantic Seaweed Baths who was setting up his gear on a hard area above the beach. They operate all over West Cork and the weather is no problem. A hockey team had the facility booked for a late evening bath. Reckon that would have been fun.

Nohoval Cove
 Nohoval Cove, approached through a long narrow fuschia lined lane, has no beach. Almost no parking either. No sign of anyone swimming but there was a lone snorkeler. By the way, Nohoval is the home of the famous Stonewell Cider.


 Sandycove is a beautiful spot just west of Kinsale. You may swim here. Or just relax.

Further west, Garrettstown is the biggest and probably best known of these beaches. It is popular with swimmers and surfers. Lots of activity but easy to relax here also.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Clonakilty Model Railway Village. A Ticket To The Past

Clonakilty Model Railway Village
A Ticket To The Past

There were model boats flying around a relatively large pond. It was like the bumpers as they crashed into one another and, at least once or twice, seemed set to leave the arena. There was a notice nearby: Children Must Be Under the Supervision of a responsible Adult. I was wondering should it have been the other way around as the tourists enjoyed themselves in the Clonakilty Model Village. And not just with those sturdy remote control boats!

As Ireland's only Model Village, the West Cork Model Railway Village is a fully scaled handmade model of the old West Cork Railway Line with fully working trains and the towns that the railway served during the 1940s.

Choo Choo

For a long time, the model of the Clonakilty church was the largest single item in the village, Ireland’s only model village. But Kinsale has taken over in recent years and there is an impressively large model of Charles Fort (with those boats in the waters below).

We’ve been there a few times over the years but still found plenty to look at during the recent visit. Other West Cork towns in the village include Bandon and Dunmanway.


Groups and Coach tours are welcome here as are Birthday parties. There is wheelchair access, guide dogs are allowed and there is a gift shop in a real railway carriage which you see as you enter the full scale station.

And there is a café of course and free Wifi that works like a dream. Menu is limited but you may enjoy teas and coffees and pastries; sandwiches are listed but weren't available on the day we visited.

Bandon market

The indoor interpretive room tells the story of the railway towns and the people who lived and worked on the lines. Highlight perhaps is the film of the last days of the railway line before it was decommissioned in 1961. Showing most of the West Cork Railway from the engine room, this unique footage brings all who view it back to simpler times.

The Village is also the base for the Road Train Tours of the town itself. Step aboard the Choo Choo and take a 30 minute audio tour through Clonakilty. Quite an interesting commentary on the history of the place, including Michael Collins and the stone (in Asna Square) after which Clon is named.
Desmond Castle, Kinsale

To get more details, including seasonal opening times, check out the website here  or go to the Facebook page here.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

A Visit to the Michael Collins House in Clonakilty

The Big Fella
Michael Collins October 1890 - August 1922
Collins sculpture in Emmet Place

One of the newer attractions in West Cork is the Michael Collins House in Clonakilty. It is called after the Big Fella (he wasn’t that big actually, our guide told us) not because he lived here in Number 7 but because the people behind it wish to honour him and also because he did live in a house in the square from 1903 to 1905. But the records for Emmet Square were apparently destroyed during the Civil War and there is also some confusion as the house numbers may have been changed as well.

There is another square in the town, Asna Square, named after a 1798 rebel Tadgh an Asna O’Donovan. In the dining room at Number 7, we hear that O’Donovan led 300-400 rebels, armed with pikes, against the British “Westmeath Militia” in a bloody battle at nearby Shannonvale, the only action in Munster in that rebellion.
Freedom. Children's games in Asna Square during 2018 Street Carnival

O'Donovan Rossa
(at the Michael Collins House)
About 100 of the rebels were killed by the much better armed soldiers and their bodies disgracefully treated before being dumped on a local strand. The tales of bravery from what became known as the battle of The Big Cross inspired Collins.

And that burgeoning patriotism was further reinforced by the story of another West Cork man Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa who, for decades, harried the British from Ireland and also from the USA. O’Donovan died in June 1915 and later his body was returned to Ireland where some 50,000 to 70,000 attended his burial and heard a rousing speech (the fools, the fools, the fools) by Patrick Pearse who six months later would be one of the leaders of 1916.

Ironically, these home-field influences were first turned into real serious steps not in Cork but in London where Collins was by now working with the British Post Office. Encouraged by the famous Sam Maguire, he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood there in 1909.

He returned to Ireland for the Rising and played a leading role in the War of Independence that followed. He was one of the leaders of the Irish delegation that negotiated the Treaty. It wasn't acceptable to all and a Civil War followed. Up to 4,000 Irish people died and Collins himself was one of the victims, killed in an ambush by anti-Treaty forces at Beal-na-Blath in August 1922. He was just 31 years old.

You can learn much more about Collins (about his romance with Kitty Kiernan for example and see footage of his funeral) on the guided tour which uses video, posters and informations boards and various artefacts. Check it all out, including opening hours, here  

7 Emmet Square
Cp. Cork
Tel: 023 8858676.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Carrigfadda Walk. Great views of West Cork Coast.

Carrigfadda Hill Walk.
Great views of West Cork Coast.

Upward Ho!
Carrigfadda is a hill near Rosscarbery with super views over the West Cork coast. If you are coming from the city, probably the surest way to get there, without going astray in narrow roads, is to drive through Rosscarbery towards Leap. On the way, at a place called Connonagh, the main road swings left at a right angle - this is where you turn right. Keep going up the hill until you reach St Peter’s Church in Carrigfadda. Carrigfadda may also be approached via Dunmanway and Clonakilty.

The churchyard is advertised as the start of the walk. But you can cut two kilometres off it by turning left about 500 metres before you reach the church and driving to another car park at the start of the forest. If you do start in the churchyard, as we did, you follow the red marked poles back the way you came and turn up the narrow road to your right. Follow the signs - they are few and far between but enough of them - until you come to the signposts at the start of the climb.

As you enter the forest, a pretty ragged forest at the moment with many of its trees harvested, you follow a set of grass covered steps for a short while. Then it gets a bit rougher as you zig zag your way up towards the viewing point at the cross. The walk is described on the boards as strenuous and so it is! 

But it is worth it. The highest point is over 313 metres. We got as far as the cross and from here you have magnificent 360 degrees views. But your eyes are invariably drawn towards the coastline  and, on a clear day, you can see from Old Head of Kinsale right around to the Mizen and Beara peninsulas. Magnificent. Even if the sun had more or less inconveniently withdrawn full service just as we started on the path! That’s nature

The Carrigfadda Hill Walk is 3.8 kilometres, including a 1.5 km looped section around the of the hill itself. The time is estimated at 2 hours (from the church). The wood itself is a Coillte property.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Gougane Barra. A Strenuous Walk in the Park

Gougane Barra.
A Strenuous Walk in the Park
Crossing the river
Hadn’t been in Gougane Barra in a good few years and decided to visit during a few days in West Cork recently. It costs a fiver per car to enter and for that you get roads, walks, toilets, information signs and access to over 137 hectares of wild and beautiful scenery, tucked in a lush valley at the edge of the Sheehy mountains, the ideal place to hike, get in touch with nature, picnic and inhale the fresh air. 
It was a lovely sunny day and, having driven from Cork city, we first had a bite to eat (not quite a picnic) and a drink of water. Some six trails here, all laid out for you. Of course we take the tough one: Slí an Easa (1.8kms, 1.5hrs) is strenuous, the sign says, and for the “more energetic”. It promises streams, a river to cross and waterfalls. So off up the hill we go.
New growth.
 And it is pretty strenuous. But don't let that put you off. There are quite a few steps along the way. Not all are easy, you’ll have to lift those legs. A walking stick makes it easier and you rise up surprisingly quickly even if you do have to lift those legs higher than you do when you take the dog out.

The streams tumble down through the trees and soon the views open out for you. Within minutes, that car park looks a long way down.

 On the left, new growth. A few years back, a fungal disease hit the larch trees in the park and many of them, not just the diseased ones, had to be taken out. So now there are some bare slopes. Not quite that bare as a multitude of newly planted Scots Pine and Oak, peeping hopefully out of their protective tubes, begin their long residency here.

And yes, there is a river to cross. A small one and there are stepping stones. Care is required though and here your stick will come in handy! Carry on upwards and soon you come to a terrific viewing point. Take a break here for a spell and take it all in, right down to the lake.

Time now to take go back, along the same route. Going down can sometimes be more dodgy than going up so take it handy! Slí an Easa is just one of six walks available. One or two stay down on the level, taking you on a leisurely walk through the forest floor.

We had enough of the walking but that didn’t mean the end of exploring the forest. There is a looped drive available from the first car park. So drive nice and slowly (part of it is one-way) and enjoy the views and stop where you see the An Laoi sign and have a look at the infant river as it starts its journey to Cork City and the sea.

See also:
Walking in Gougane Barra