An Irish Adventure

Last week we explored new territory when we visited Southern Ireland. There was so much to see and do and we reckon that we have probably only covered about 1% of this wonderful country!

We travelled from Pembroke Dock to Rosslare and then drove to Cork where we stayed for two days.

First stop was the English Market for breakfast. The ground floor accomodates stall holders selling a glorious array of meats, cheeses, fish, vegetables etc. and the upper balcony has a wonderful cafe which serves food all day. Breakfast gave us our first taste of Clonakilty’s black and white pudding!

After breakfast we explored the City with visits to St Finn Barre’s Cathedral, the oldest parish church in the City. built in 1766 when Father Daniel O’Brien PP was parish priest.

Nana Nagles Museum….
Against the odds and in defiance of the penal laws Nano Nagle set up seven schools for poor Catholic children in Cork City and worked tirelessly to aid those living in poverty. By the time of her death she had brought the Ursuline Sisters to Cork and founded thePresentation congregation who continue her work around the word today.

The Butter Museum documents the history of butter production and sale in County Cork, and is housed in the former Cork Butter Market.

Oh, and not forgetting the watering holes we tried out on our travels – some Irish pubs of great character – our local owned by a Russian who moved to Ireland from the USSR 20 years ago and another playing great Irish music from early opening till late in the evening.

From Cork we drove West stopping at Kinsale, which is a lovely colourful town with a beautiful harbour. We stopped for breakfast at the White House Guest House which houses a permanent exhibition that pays tribute to the 343 fireman who died at Twin Towers, New York on 11 September 2001. One of the firefighters was the cousin of the owner of the guest house.

This was closely followed by a visit to Old Kinsale Head, which was where the Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine on 7 May 1915. There is a museum dedicated to the event in the Old Signal Tower and a memorial garden by the side of it. Thirty four flags fly to commemorate all the nationalities who lost their lives in the tragedy.

The art work below is also situated close to the museum. It is made of aluminium and comprises of 34,513 perforations of various hole sizes which give shading and depth to the piece.

Our final stop before heading off to Skibbereen was Clonakilty where we visited the Michael Collins Museum. This gave us our first taste of 20th Century history related to Ireland’s fight for independence. My book of choice for the holiday was ‘Wounds’ by Fergal Keane.

On arriving in Skibbeeen we caught the tale end of the annual food festival which gave us the opportunity to buy Irish cheeses which were rather yummy! I particularly enjoyed the straw smoked Scamorza from Toons Bridge Dairy.

And then we found our house by a beach in Talespein – which was amazing – nestled in the hills with views out to sea.

Skibbereen is a small town packed with history as it was one of the areas that was particularly hard hit by the great potato famine of the 1840s

We visited the Heritage centre to learn about the famine. It also has a great exhiibition about Lough Hyne which is Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve and unique sea-water lake.

And, we visited the Skibbereen Arts Centre where there is currently an art exhibition focused on the great famine. The work on display is from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipac University. This museum is the home of the world’s largest collection of art relating to the great catastrophe and as well as being exhibited in Skibbereen the work will also be on show in Dublin Castle and Culturiannn Ui Chanain in Derry. The art, from the 1830’s until today, represents and remembers the loss of life, the emigration, the economic devastation, and the erosions of language and culture.

We also passed through the Eldon hotel which was one of the last places visited by Michael Collins before his death, and indeed it is widely thought to be the location where he had his last meal. There were some interesting old photographs on display featuring Michael Collins.

From reading around the history we were surprised to find the following poster related to Aberthaw

The Irish began arriving in Wales in the 1840s. They were the largest single group of immigrants to play a part in the story of Wales. Those who arrived were fleeing the Irish potato famine, and often arrived in a very desperate state. The Wanderer docked in Newport in 1847 and deposited 113 destitute men, women and children in the town, with 20 of them said to be close to death. From 1841, the Irish kept coming to Wales, to reach a high point of almost 30,000 people by 1861 – a 344% increase. They settled primarily in the four largest South Wales towns – Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Merthyr.

But not all Irish immigrants to Wales were poor and unskilled. Among the new arrivals were also doctors, businessmen and other members of the professional classes. As the population dwindled at home, they too had to look for opportunities elsewhere.

Various jaunts around the locality uncovered some beautiful villages and some fabulous food!

The food at the Church restaurant in Skibbereen was rather yummy!

And then there was Baltimore with its lovely castle and port with ferries to Sherkin Ireland and Cape Clear. And, a pub with a similar name to the one in our village of St Hilary.

Union Hall was a special place too. Numerous fishing boats in the harbour and delicious fishy dishes to be had at Dinty’s bar

Castletownsend has a wonderful harbour and two local pubs, which were amazing – Lil McCarthy’s and Mary Anne’s which, as well as having great charater, served fabulous food. Plus, A unique feature of Castletownshend is the two sycamore trees growing in the roundabout in the centre of the village. The present sycamores replace two trees planted in the 1800s.

Walking in the area is great with wonderful coastal paths. On our last day before driving back to Rosslare we went to Sheeps Head which is situated between Bantry Bay and Dunmanus Bay. On our way we stopped to view some standing stones and then completed a blustery walk along the coast. A shame that the cafe at the end was closed but we did find a lovely cafe in Bantry to recharge our batteries.

Our adventure nearly over we started our drive back to Rosslare stopping at Cobh (formerly Queenstown) on the way. This gave us the chance to further increase our knowledge. The Cobh Heritage Centre focuses on Irish emigration and stories about the Lusitania and the Titanic. It is situated within Cobh’s beautifully restored Victorian railway station.

There is a quilt in the heritage centre that commemorates all those who boarded the Titanic at Cobh. It was made by members of the Cobh Active Retirement Craft Group.

Down the road is the Titanic experience, an exhibition which is situated in the original White Star Line Ticket Office. The guided tour takes you onto the balcony where first and second class passengers waited for their journey across the harbour to board the Titanic. The 150 year old pier (named Heartbreak Pier) can be viewed from the balcony.

Last stop was Kilmore Quay for an overnight stay before catching the ferry home. A lovely village with lots of thatched cottages and a substantial fishing industry. We just had to have a fish for tea once again – at Kehoe’s pub on the main street.

A wonderful week spent with our dear friends Tim and Caroline – who not only planned the trip but also chauffered us around. We reckon that we now know more about Irish history than we do about English or Welsh history! We certainly need to return for another adventure!