Farran // Crossbarry (Co. Cork / South)
Farran is a village and district south of the Inniscarra Dam Reservoir on the River Lee.
Farran House & Farran Woods
Farran House is an elegant Italianate mansion in the rolling hills of the Lee River valley, built “sometime before 1792” by the Penrose family, who extended and remodelled it in 1866.
It was bought in 1868 by a Cork tobacco merchant, William Clarke, who had made his fortune during the American Civil War obtaining shiploads of tobacco by daringly defying the Northern blockades of the Southern ports. The company of William Clarke & Sons was to grow to become one of the largest producers of pipe tobacco in the UK, and eventually part of the Imperial Tobacco Company.
William’s grandson Capt. Thomas Arthur Clark sold the house to his sister-in-law Amy Clarke in 1937 and bought the tiny Channel Island of Brecqhou, which he had to evacuate huriedly ahead of the 1940 German occupation, fortunately having a large yacht. He died on the Isle of Mull in 1944; the Irish Revenue Commissioners sued his estate, resulting in an important Supreme Court judgment on loss of domicile. Amy Clarke lived at Farran until she died aged 101 in 1970.
A German property developer later bought the property and converted it into holiday apartments, one of which was bought by the Wiese family in 1979. Patricia Wiese and her partner John Kehely took over the house in 1993, and restored it from scratch.
Set in 12 acres of mature beech woodland and landscaped gardens with beautiful views, it is now a very highly recommended Guesthouse (only for groups, up to 18), with an excellent reputation for superb dinners.
Farran Woods is a Coillte Forest Park; together with nearby Looney’s Wood, it used to be part of Farran Demesne, originally attached to Farran House.
The demesne was acquired by a Captain Matthews, who converted the pastureland to woodland and also planted carefully sited broom, laurel and rhododendron to provide cover and food for the game birds he released to hunt.
The diversity of tree species, the great vistas of surrounding mountains and the placid waters of the reservoir and artificial lake combine to form an area of great natural beauty. A large wildlife enclosure supports a variety of wildfowl and mammals including a herd of red deer. There is an ecology display housed in the restored hunting lodge.
Farran Woods is home to the National Rowing Centre, and is also very popular with other Corkonian outdoor types such as orienteers, mountain bikers and charity walkers.
Aglish is the site of a ruined medieval church and a graveyard, thought by some to be the burial place of Saint Finbarr.
Kilcrea (Cill Chre) means the Church or Cell of Saint Cere / Cera / Cyra, a holy woman who founded a nunnery in the area in the C6.
Kilcrea Castle & Friary
Kilcrea Castle and Friary in the Bride River valley were both founded c.1470 by Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, Lord of Muskerry, who also founded the Castles of Blarney and Carrignamuck, and was killed in the latter by his brother Owen and nephews in 1494.
The Castle is in reasonably good condition; the stairs in the West Tower are still usable, blocked only to prevent reoccurrence of an incident when a cow climbed up to the top floor to calve.
The Friary was dedicated by the Franciscan Observants to Saint Brigid of Kildare.
Buried near the High Altar is the founder, Cormac Láidir MacCarthy, along with several descendants, notably his son Cormac Ög (“the Younger”) (d.1537, aged 90), who avenged his death in 1497 and defeated the Earl of Desmond‘s troops at the celebrated 1521 Battle of Mourne Abbey; and the famously silver-tongued Cormac MacCarthy of Blarney (d.1611), the last MacCarthy chieftain laid to rest here.
King Henry VIII‘s 1540 Dissolution of the Monasteries had no immediate effect in the Cork region , and friars continued to live at Kilcrea under the protection of the MacCarthy clan. However, the Friary was sacked by English troops in 1584, and in 1599 English soldiers were stationed in Kilcrea Castle, directly overlooking the site, making it impossible for the friars to frequent their church.
Despite sporadic persecution, some friars continued to hold out in the vicinity until 1717. According to local sources a Friar O’Lonergan served as guardian of Kilcrea from 1782 until 1787, and that the last guardian was a Fr E. Hogan, who was still alive in 1882.
In 1892 the impressive ruins were taken over as a National Monument.
A late C15th manuscript from Kilcrea is on display in Rennes Cathedral in France.
Aherla (pop. 200), like many villages in County Cork, is built on a limestone shelf – but in this case over a complex network of underground caves, where the Roman Catholic population is said to have held secret Masses during Penal Law times. A legendary hero called David O’ Brien was famed for single-handedly “taking down” the local British, although whether he really existed is questionable.
Hickey’s Pub is famous for it’s lovely lunches and fine pints of the black stuff.
Farnanes is the location of The Thady Inn, a small pub set well back from the road, recommended as a good place to break a journey for its pleasant ambience and good plain cooking.
Crookstown (An Baile Gallda – town of the invader or foreigner), named for late C16th English planter Thomas Crook, is a small village.
Howard Mills is a long-established flour mill, where traditional stone millstones are still used.
Castlemore (formerly Carrigrohane Castle) was built by the de Cogan family in the early C13th. It is now a photogenic ivy-clad ruin.
Bealnablath / Beal na mBlath (“the Mouth of Flowers”) is where the IRA founder and Irish Free State leader Michael Collins was killed on 22nd August 1922. The perpetrators have never been officially identified, but the ambush is widely believed to have been masterminded by Collins’ former colleague Tom Hales (1892 – 1966). Free State reprisals included the execution of Hales’ childhood friend Dick Barrett. (Photo by Fr J Cremin, who provides links to several interesting wevsites on the subject.)
Garranes / Lisnacaheragh Ring Fort near the hamlet of Templemartin, at about 200m in diameter, is the largest Ring Fort in Ireland, and defended with an impressive series of banks and moats. Dating from the C2nd AD, it is thought to have been the ruling seat of a branch of the Eoganacht dynasty, and is also associated with the O’Mahony clan.
Crossbarry / Cross Barry is a small village on the Owenabue River.
The Crossbarry Ambush in March 1921 was a controversial incident during the War of Independence. On the principle that attack is the best form of defence, 100 IRA volunteers caught in an encircling manoeuvre by 1,200 British troops ambushed the soldiers as they advanced, killing between 10 and 30 soldiers. Three IRA men died; Charles Hurley is commemorated by a monument in the village.