West Cork Holiday 2019
On the 29thlast members of Stoneyford, Danesfort, Callan and Thomastown Active Retirements Groups went on a much-anticipated holiday to West Cork. The holiday was based in Bantry in West Cork where we stayed in the Maritime Hotel.
The weather up to this time had been excellent and we had high hopes of getting a ‘sun holiday’ in Ireland. However the morning of the 29thdawned dull and misty and this put a damper on our spirits. Our first port of call was to be Youghal in County Cork. The journey to Youghal is very scenic but unfortunately, due to the misty weather we were denied this pleasure. The visit to Youghal itself was not very successful and we were quite happy to put that experience behind us.
Some of the group visited Youghal Clock Gate House and found it quite interesting. It is a landmark on the way through the town of Youghal and always piques ones interest, one wonders what it is like on the inside. For this reason alone it is worth a visit. The guide was excellent and the restoration was tastefully done. It was a pity that the original clock from the tower was disposed of and we had to be satisfied with a replacement one.
Other members of the group visited The Collegiate Church of St. Mary. This is a very interesting building and should not be missed. The Collegiate Church of Saint Mary can claim to be the oldest church in Ireland that has had continuous worship in it since the 13th century. The guide was knowledgeable and presented the church very well.
After a tasty lunch at the Quay Bar we continued on our journey. The bus was comfortable and Martin the tour driver was excellent and extremely obliging.
We arrived at our destination, tired and hungry, at about 16.30 hrs and were shown to our rooms. The hotel is well appointed and situated as close to Bantry town as one would wish. The rooms, food, facilities and staff in the hotel were excellent and we relaxed in the knowledge that we were going to be well looked after for the next few days.
Day Two dawned bright and sunny and we knew that the holiday was back on track again. We had a nice day planned with a visit to Garnish Island followed by a trip over the Caha Mountains to Neidín or Kenmare in County Kerry.
If you are in this area Garnish Island should be a must on your itinerary. To get there go to Glengarriff Pier and take a ferry to visit this amazing island garden. The very sheltered ferry trip includes a wonderful view of seal island where you will see the very tame seal colony.
The Gardens are the result of the creative partnership of Annan Bryce and Harold Peto, architect and garden designer. The island was bequeathed to the Irish people in 1953, and was subsequently entrusted to the care of the Commissioners of Public Works.
For history buffs the Island also boasts a Martello tower on its southern shores, which has been restored by the OPW. There is an amazing view of the bay from the battlements of the tower. We had a wonderful visit there.
For the second part of the day Martin, our driver, took us on what can only be described as a ‘white knuckle ride’ over the Caha Mountains to the lovely town of Kenmare. For those of us who were brave enough to look out the windows of the bus the scenery was breathtaking but the many precipices were scary. As we arrived at Kenmare the sun shone even brighter and we took the opportunity to walk around, do some shopping, replendish our food reserves and just relax in that beautiful town.
We had to repeat the Caha Mountain trip on our way back to the hotel and this time, a bit more relaxed, we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery that surrounded us. On our return to Bantry some of the more energetic members visited Bantry House and gardens, they were suitably impressed.
On day Three we had planned to visit Mizen Head, why you may ask, well we’d been to Malin Head previously and felt Mizen deserved a visit. We were not prepared for what we were to experience. Martin did a small detour to make our journey more interesting and he took us to the memorial site of the Air India disaster. This was a good idea as we got time to break the journey to Mizen
Mizen Head is spectacular beyond expectation. There is evidence of huge amounts of state money being spent here to make the area accessible and suitable for tourists. While our little state often squanders money for no apparent reason, Mizen is an example of state money being well spent and Mizen is presented in a truly spectacular and befitting manner.
Mizen Head is an award-winning Maritime Museum and Heritage Attraction, this authentic all-weather experience is a must-see with its spectacular location on high cliffs with swirling Atlantic Ocean tides. From the Car park and Visitor Centre, the Signal Station is a ten minute walk along the path, down the 99 steps and across the Arched Bridge.
South, the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse, Ireland’s Teardrop, was the last landfall seen by many emigrants to America and one of Marconi’s first telegraph stations. Mizen Signal Station had the first Radio Beacon in Ireland, 1931. For those who felt the walk out to the Head was too strenuous they were able to sit down and relax with a light lunch as they luxuriated in the magnificent scenery in the beautiful sunshine.
Our next port of call was to be Schull Planetarium. On the way we visited Ballydehob and Goleen. The planetarium proved to be an interesting experience. Our presenter was a student at the local secondary school and we were in awe of his knowledge and the ease in which he presented it. Some members of the group availed of the opportunity to have a short nap under the night sky as presented in the planetarium.
Day Four took us to Skibereen and Clonakilty. The weather was overcast, but we did not allow this to interfere with our enjoyment of the day. In Sibereen we visited the Famine Heritage Centre. Again evidence of money well spent. The centre was well laid out and our guide was truly excellent and he managed to bring the reality of the famine, as experienced in Skibereen, to life.
The Skibbereen area lost over a third of its people during the Great Famine, one of the biggest losses of any area in the country.
Horrific reports from the Skibbereen area featured in the media of the time as it became infamous for the suffering endured by its people. Skibbereen quickly became a byword for famine and is still synonymous world-wide with the Great Hunger today.
The effects of the Famine also lingered on in Skibbereen long after conditions improved in other parts of the country. Skibbereen is the most important and significant town in Ireland in terms of its Famine heritage and many of the sites in the town have direct links with this tragic time.
We did a quick walk around the town to help rid our minds of the horrors of the Famine as had just been described to us.
Our next port of call was Clonakilty, where we visited the model village and took the ‘train ride ’ through the town. Clonakilty has strong associations with Michael Collins and on our way back to the hotel for our evening meal Martin brought us to the Collin’s homestead. Here we can see the ruins of the Collin’s house, which was burned to the ground by the Essex Regiment in 1921.
Day Five, our return journey home. The weather again was splendid and we finished our tour of West Cork in great style. First we visited Guagán Barra, the home of St. Finbarr, the patron saint of Cork. It is also the source of the River Lee. We took our time to imbibe the beauty and tranquillity of Guagán Barra. Our next stop was Kilmichael, the memorial the Flying Columns of Cork who under the command of Tom Barry, inflicted the first major defeat on the British army in the fight for Irish independence. This gave the Irish people the inspiration to continue with the struggle for independence and we all know the outcome!
We finished off the morning with a visit to Béal na Bláth. This was a more sombre occasion, as it is the place where we commemorate the tragic death of Michael Collins – one of the terrible tragedies of this period in Irish history.
Before the final leg of the journey was undertaken we stopped off in Cork City for a quick lunch and shopping expedition. The journey home was relaxing and uneventful. We chatted and swapped stories of the highlights of our trip, some were even temorous enough to suggest we should do it all again in 2020.