West Cork

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August 23, 2009 by Evin

With parents visiting us last summer, we had the treat of visiting West Cork for a long weekend. Though in the midst of a rainy spell, we enjoyed fairly lovely weather. At the time, I described our days’ adventures in separate posts, but for those who are looking for ideas on West Cork vacation itineraries, having the information in one post is definitely easier, so here is a complete summary in one post to help you learn about and plan your visit to West Cork.

West Cork is famed for its stunning coastline, scenic vantage points, and Irish hospitality. Who can resist a visit when such things are on offer?! There are so many places to enjoy on the Republic’s southwest coast that it only makes sense to stay for several days and choose a centrally-located home base. For our holiday, we chose Skibbereen (aka Skibb) to seek accommodations and sought out a self-catering holiday home since eating out three meals a day can add up (and fill up) quite quickly. Our days were chosen to pass in the nearby areas of Baltimore, Sherkin Island, Castletownsend, Lough Hyne, Skibb, and Clonakilty.

Nestled in west County Cork is the town of Baltimore. It is older than and unrelated to the Baltimore in Maryland (USA), but does feel a kinship with the American city of the same name. Bushe Bar has Baltimore Orioles baseball hats hanging behind the bar and when an American is detected a common question seems to be whether you hail from the other Baltimore. A delightful shop rests by the Baltimore docks and has work by local artists. Beautiful sweaters, pottery, jewelry, leather goods, and other hand-crafted items grace the small shop.

The ferry ride to Sherkin Island is rather short and pleasant. Tickets cost about 10 Euro per person round-trip. Even the beer delivery truck must take a ferry over. There are beautiful coves, beaches, and fields on the island. It almost reminded me of Chincoteague Island (VA)… almost. We walked from the ferry dock straight along the road (taking the left fork just after the ruins) then passing the little food/beverage stand and going past the coves and fields to reach an ocean beach. Beautiful and there are rocks encrusted in a mussel community.

We set out to explore Castletownsend and wherever else we passed along the way. Our lunchtime destination was Mary Ann’s of which we had heard wonderful things. We stopped by ruins on the way and enjoyed the 40 shades of green that enjoyed the rain. Lunch itself was good, though not mind-blowing. I had the tandori chicken. The chips (French fries) were too big without the outer crisp and inner soft I prefer. The entire lunch for four of us cost a whopping 83 Euros. Ouch. My favorite part of Castletownsend was actually the small church cemetery. The history of the town was created by those buried there – the names Townsend, Sommerville, and Ross were prevalent. Sommerville and Ross as a duo were writers who are known for their book The Real Charlotte.

We hiked up the rocky hill beside Lough Hyne. The lough itself is charming and peaceful, but the hike up to the top of the hill is favored by fell runners the county over. The narrow, muddy, slippery, sometimes obstructed, uphill path challenged us, but at the top the view rewarded us. It was a clear day so we could see beyond Baltimore!

Afterward, we had lunch in Skibb at The Fields market cafe. It is just inside the main entrance to the left and you go through the line to choose what you want then find a table. I opted for the egg salad sandwich and what appeared to be a donut (less icky sweet than the American donut though). They even provide tap water so it was a budget-minded and quick alternative to a sit-down meal. My sandwich cost less than three euros. There were some cute shops in Skibb. Most notably is a little place just off the main street. It carries handbags, wallets, stylish jewelry, and canes. The entire shop seemed like it had my favorite goodies – no Orla Kiely or Jasper Conran though.

We visited Clonakilty. Thankfully, we were there at lunchtime! We found Emmet Square and O’Keeffe’s Cafe within a hotel there. It was an amazing meal. The soup of the day was broccoli and cheese and a bowl was ample and served with a slice of moist, delicious brown bread. I opted for the smoked salmon salad. I thought it had potatoes in it, but they weren’t on the plate. I meant to ask, but we had a side of chips (French fries) so I really didn’t care much. The smoked salmon was not fishy or oily. The capers on the plate were the size of caper berries! The salad had a refreshing house-made vinaigrette. My salad was just under ten Euros. Well worth it if you happen through Clonakilty.

View at Loch Hyne in West Cork, ©2008 Evin O'Keeffe

View at Loch Hyne in West Cork, ©2008 Evin O'Keeffe

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