Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Caherlag-Glounthaune: A Walk in the "old country"

Little Island seems packed with housing and industry.

Last Saturday morning, I walked from Caherlag, by the graveyard, to Glounthaune and from there up to Rougrane and then back to Caherlag. It is a circular route and  encompasses much of the ground I would have covered in the 15 or so years I spent growing up in the area when I lived in the family home in Rougrane.

That was in the 50s and 60s. I have, of course, been back there many times, and still have a sister living there. So there would be no great surprises and there weren’t. Still, walking (rather than driving) gives one a much different perspective.

One of the most striking changes, and there are many, is the way Little Island has become “full” of houses and industrial buildings. I remember the building and opening up of St Lappan's Terrace, the first housing estate anywhere in the parish, and going into the island when it mainly consisted of farmland and bogs. There are excellent views of the Island and the harbour from the Caherlag–Glounthaune Road on which I started the walk.
Memories too came back of short-cuts across fields, including one big one where, one night, I got lost in the fog. And then the shortcut to the Railway station through a farm which now looks overgrown and far from its best days. Memories too of the families who lived in a small terrace of houses there and who moved on, some of them to Little Island.
Then passed fields where I hunted and caught rabbits and where there was a wrecked cottage (I think we knew it as Hegarty’s). There is a fine house there now and indeed many big houses on the way down.

New houses, old cottage

 As I got nearer Glounthaune, I saw the old cottage at my left towards the bottom of the hill and that, still looking good, well kept with lots of flowers, is totally dominated by the many large scale dwellings around it.

The Dry Bridge, once the 1st piddle stop for late drinkers from Donnelly's in the village!
Now I came to the bridge, known as the Dry Bridge. This has been regularly damaged by careless truck drivers over the years. The area around it had been tidied up and the patch of green, where many a schooldays scrap took place, has vanished.

Moving north now and saw that all, or most, of the roadside streams have been covered. As kids we often delayed our trip home from school to explore the tiny life in the little pools but most kids don’t even walk now.

Came then to the familiar four cross roads. Here, the final “fights” of the day (not every day!) took place, the arguments now between the group from Windsor Hill and the group from Rougrane with the few from Carberytown/Lackenroe direction reinforcing one or the other or just going home as the fancy took them.
The pump stood on the right hand corner

Up towards Rougrane now on what we used to call Twomey's Hill. Mrs Twomey's old railway carriages, in which she used to house her noisy flock of free range (before we knew the term) turkeys have long since vanished but great to see the family still farming the old lands.

Our communal water-pump used to stand at the next cross roads. Quite a meeting place, especially for the younger folks as it was we who generally had the job of drawing the water until the local scheme came in. The pump has long since vanished.

Relatively new sign in the area!

What remains of the Ross house and yard

No sign either of the house of the Ross family. A rusted barn is all that remains in the yard. I used to do a bit of summer work for Mr Ross and the highlight of the day was the desserts prepared by his sisters. Main courses weren't bad either! Rusted roofs too in the next farmyard.

Here I pass a familiar wall, made with “Fair-faced” concrete blocks that I sold to the farmer himself (Mr O’Mahony), probably about 1970! Still standing.

Still standing

I remember lots of funerals coming to the graveyard. And I must say, it seems to be looking better now that it did then.
Changes a plenty but I can’t complain as I moved away from the area before it moved away from what it had been. C’est la vie!

My Glounthaune days are covered, in some detail,here  and there is a set of photos, mostly from the early 80s here 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Visting? Day-tripping? Five Cork places I like

Visiting Cork: Five Lesser Known Places I Like
St Mary's Youghal
The major attractions for visitors in the County Cork, the largest county in Ireland, are well known. From the fishing village of Ballycotton and its island lighthouse in the east to the spectacular Sheep’s Head peninsula in the west, with the child friendly Fota Wildlife Park and the Clonakilty’s Model Railway Village in between, there is no shortage of places to visit.
But with such a richness, some little gems are overlooked and I have a few here for your consideration if you are thinking of visiting or indeed if you are going for a drive out of the city. And I’m sure there are more stars hidden away.

No 1: Let us start in the east, in Youghal, where you’ll find the historic Collegiatechurch of St Mary. This ancient place has been a site of continuous Christian witness, worship and prayer for over 1300 years, since the time of St. Declan.
It is impressive to see the full list of clergy that have officiated here since the early 13th century! The present church dates from the early 13th century. There is a great sense of history in this place, still in use by the Anglican community and now a National Monument of Ireland.
Youghal itself is a lovely place to visit or indeed to spend a few days in as you have the beaches and the mountains nearby and a host of other attractions, including terrific eating places in the town and in nearby Ballymaloe and West Waterford. There is the well known clock gate and, in the grounds of St Mary’s, the remains of the medieval walls.
Game carousel in Fota House
No 2: There is a fine dual carriageway linking Youghal and our next stop, which is Fota Island. No, not to visit the Wildlife Park or play golf at Fota Island Resort but to see the lovely Fota House Gardens and Arboretums.
And again, like St Mary’s, this is a free visit, no charge except for the 3 euro parking fee. Magnificent specimens of trees and shrubs from distant places, well laid walled gardens, a water garden, even an orangery, are some of the attractions here.
There is a cafe in the house and indeed, for a small fee, you may enjoy an excellent guided tour of the house   itself. Cobh of course, with the emphasis this year very much on the Titanic commemorations, is an attractive visit and you may even find a liner in the port. Much to do in this area.
Now we are back on the road. We have a choice of routes though as our next destination is Crosshaven. You may take the main Cork road and then turn left under the tunnel or why not try the cross river ferry that will save you a few miles.

The Bright Tunnel in Fort Camden
No 3: The destination is Fort Camden. There is an admission fee to see this almost fully intact classic coastal artillery site. More of it is being opened to the public all the time as the local committee see the results of their hard work being enjoyed by more and more visitors. 
Not alone do you see the impressive site, especially the fantastic tunnels (much of the place is underground), but you will have great views over Cork Harbour and you may also visit regular art exhibitions. 

AE by CorkBilly
Entrance to EWE 
No 4: Westward ho from here, almost all the way to the Kerry border where our destination is the fantastic Ewe Experience, a few miles west of Glengarriff on the Kenmare Road. You won’t miss the sculptured signs near the entrance. Lots of my photos from this enjoyable trip may be seen here.
There is a modest entrance fee to this strange site on the wooded side of a mountain. All kinds of quirky sculptures await you: a loo under a tree with a telephone at hand, a fish pedalling uphill, dinosaurs, a crowned baby on a rock, even games to play with shaped stones on a rock board. So much more, such skill and humour combined. This will bring out the child in you and you’ll all enjoy it.
Much else to visit in the area if you stay for a while. West Cork (and those magnificent sea views are at hand) and so too is South Kerry. If you like the big house, there is a brilliant example in Bantry House (photos here).

The Gearagh
No 5: If you are heading home, don’t forget to stop in Macroom and visit the incredible Gearagh. It is the remains of the only ancient post glacial alluvial forest in Western Europe and here hundreds of tree stumps stand like sentries in a watery landscape.

Surreal, like the Ewe, and both are, to varying degrees, manmade. The area of the Gearagh was flooded during the 50s when the Inniscarra Dam was being constructed. It is easy now to walk across this strange landscape and I highly recommend it as I think this is one of Cork’s most under-rated treasures. Great for walking, for bird-watching, for photography.

But if you are not heading home and have some more time on your hands or are looking for a few more day trips, here are a few to add to your list. Let’s start with two castles, both in the care of the OPW. Barryscourt, near Carrigtwohill, is a favourite. Lovely gardens, including an orchard with really old apple varieties, a herb garden and, of course a free guided tour of the restored rooms.

The other castle is in Kinsale and that is the Desmond. Not as big as Barryscourt but an interesting visit nonetheless, not least because it holds a fantastic Wine Museum that details the involvement of many Irish people in the wine trade over the centuries.
Lots to do in Kinsale but why not continue in the historic vein and take the car, or maybe take a harbourside walk, up the hill to the magnificent Charlesfort. This star shaped fort is being restored. There is a tour and you will enjoy the stories and also the fantastic views over the town and the harbour.
I could go on and on... the lovely gardens at the Ballymaloe Cookery Schools, the Mizen Head Experience, Ballycotton and its cliffs, the Jameson Experience in Midleton...and I haven’t even mentioned the city!
So much to see and do. Now you’ll understand why I find it so hard to leave this county and see the undoubted attractions in the other counties! But I do have plans! Or at least a plan.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Macroom is the Centre


 Macroom may not be the centre of the universe but it can certainly be regarded as a great centre from which to visit the attractions of North and West Cork and Kerry. Besides, you won’t have crowds of tourists on your door step, the people are extremely friendly and there is at least one great place to stay: the Castle Hotel, as I found out recently.

Must admit, I’m more used to passing through Macroom but this time I stayed and I’m glad I did. There are some lovely walks in the area, the nearest being the town park. Here you may walk along the banks of the Sullane. The sun came out as I was there but it will get even better as the weather warms up and the flowers come into bloom.
The Castle walls, well the remains, are a feature as you drive through the main street. Behind the walls, you have this lovely park and good use has been made of the former demesne as a multitude of outdoors sports, including golf, are catered for in the spacious grounds.
But, you’ll no doubt ask, is Macroom that central? Yes it is. I usually use viaMichelin when I’m checking out places to stay when in Europe and I used it again for this exercise. Cork city is 37 minutes away, Killarney 40, Millstreet just 25, Bandon is at 31 minutes while Bantry takes 61.
Back to the town itself and its attractions. If you like your walks, there are many around here, many of them easy going. Perhaps the most intriguing is the Gearagh (right) where you pick your way through the flooded remnants of alluvial forests, a strange landscape. I did this walk recently, or at least a bit of it, and you may read about it here. I reckon this should be a national attraction, much better known that is the case currently.
 Fed up of walking? Then get into the car and pick from trips to the legendary Gougane Barra, the Michael Collins memorial at Beal-na-Blath, the site of the 1920 Kilmichael Ambush, the ruins of KIlcrea Abbey, the Gaeltacht area of Cuil Aodha (home of Sean O’Riada) and much more. These are all in the Lee Valley, all pretty close to the town.

And that’s not all. The town website  suggests:
For a rewarding day out, try some of these attractions -
  • A visit to Ireland's only Toy Soldier Factory at Kilnamartyra
  • A round of golf at Macroom Golf Club
  • Fishing on the River Lee (salmon and trout) and in Lough Allua (pike and coarse fishing)
  • Lowland and mountain walking with an experienced guide
  • Waterskiing and wakeboarding at Iniscarra Lake.

I think you can see now what I mean by central. So next time, don’t just pass through. Take a break, for a few days, relax and enjoy.