Innishannon (Co. Cork / South)
Innishannon (Inis Eonáin) (pop. 700) is scenically situated among wooded hills beside a curve on the River Bandon, at the head of the long tidal estuary into the Atlantic. It has experienced rapid growth in recent years, and has become primarily a dormitory community for commuters to Cork City.
The Innishannon bridge spanning the River Bandon was originally built c.1665. It was swept away by the tidal wave that hit the Irish coast after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, killing thousands in the area, and permanently reducing the river’s water level. (Photo by Tomasz Bukowski)
As this was the first point at which the river could be forded to give access to West Cork, it was long regarded as an important point of commerce, and also became a signifant port. The trading post was ransacked by Viking raiders in 837 AD.
In 1240 King Henry III granted the town and ferry of Innshannon to Philip De Barry. The town was burned in 1262 by Finian MacCarthy of Ringrone.
In 1291 Pope Nicholas IV’s Taxatio Ecclesiastica valuation of parishes and prebends in the British Isles rated Innishannon at fifteen marks, while Kinsale was assessed at three (and Cork was mentioned in a contemporary document as a little town near Kinsale).
In a 1412 charter granted by King Henry VI to the De Barrys, Innishannon is described as a large walled town with a wharf and several castles.
The construction upriver of Bandon Bridge in 1610 caused a major decline in the importance of Innishannon, as the ford was no longer vital to local and western commerce.
In 1642, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Inishannon and the strongholds of Dundaniel and Shippool were forcibly seized by the Bandon garrison in order to keep communication open with Kinsale and the eastern parts of the county. The soldiers were led by local settler Thomas Adderly, who was later rewarded with land stretching from Bandon to Ballinhassig.
His descendants were hugely influential in the area. One, known to local schoolchildren today as Thomas The Industrialist (d.1791), set up a linen industry, opening a Charter School to train apprentices, and also experimented less successfully with cotton and silk, importing French Huguenot artisans to cultivate mulberry bushes on what is still known as Colony Hill.
His son Edward Hale Adderley (b.1770) became so hugely indebted that he refused to leave his private property for twelve years, other than via an underground tunnel he used to reach church on Sundays without fear of arrest. He mortgaged the estate for £40,000 to Thomas Frewen, and finally left under cover of darkness to live in London, where he died about forty years later, aged almost 100, leaving no legitimate offspring.
The estate passed to Moreton Frewen (1853 – 1924), a charming and eccentric international traveller, Irish nationalist / Federal Home Rule MP for North Cork (1911 – 1914, when he resigned in favour of Tim Healy) and serial failure as a venture capitalist; his American wife Clara (née Jerome) was an aunt of Winston Churchill, who spent childhood holidays with the family. The lodge where they lived was burnt down during the Troubles (as were five neighbouring Big Houses), their Scottish gamekeeper murdered and their salmon hatchery destroyed for no apparent reason.
The tower at the eastern end of the village, currently in a state of collapse, is all that remains of old St Mary’s church, used for CoI worship since the mid-C16th, rebuilt in 1761 and replaced by the current Christ church in 1856. The churchyard contains several interesting old graves.
St Mary’s church (RC) was commenced in 1826 on a hillside location ceded some years earlier by Edward Hale Adderley; the story goes that Thomas Frewen wanted to reverse the concession, until the parish priest buried dead parishioners at each corner of the site.
Inishannon House Hotel is a lovely old building (1720) with exceptionally pretty gardens, making it very popular for weddings. The hotel, a three star establishment, receives rave reviews for its Frankfort Restaurant. (Photo by snosalik)
Sheppo’s pub serves good food, notably a great plate of liver and bacon on oniony champ mash, unfortunately labelled the “The Rare Auld Times“.
Dundaniel / Downdaniel Castle at the junction of the Rivers Bandon and Brinny, now an atmospheric ruin, was built to defend Inishannon from the neighbouring MacCarthy clans c.1465 by Barry Óg, whose daughter gave her name to a tragic romantic legend and poem called Aileen Barry Oge. By 1642 the castle was in the hands of Daniel MacCarthy Reigh.
Shippool Castle, aka Poolnalong, a Tower House overlooking the estuary, was built by the Roche Clan in 1496. It was granted to the Herrick family, who lived there from 1654 to 1784, when they moved to Shippool House. The little that is left is not unimpressive.
Cor Castle, overlooking the bridge, was originally erected by John Freeman (d.c.1690), whose family lived here for almost 200 years, and was also occupied in the C19th by Chambre Corker. The grounds contain the remnants of a medieval castle and of a C13th Cistercian monastery, near a deep cavern where according to legend an ancient sorcerer used gold chains to tether an evil Prince in the form of a large black cat, unleashed to hunt for an hour at midnight. The castle has recently been restored, complete with a helipad for easy commuting.
Dromkeen Wood, all that is left of a much larger forest felled in 1893, is a pleasant place to stroll.
Ballinadee church (CoI), dating from 1759; has a fine tower, mosaic floor and marble chancel steps.
Glebe Country House is a friendly family run Guesthouse with beautiful gardens, an atmospheric old dining room where guests share a long table for dinner and breakfast, and also an attractive old coach house converted into self-catering apartments.
Ballymountain House, set on a cattle and tillage farm, is a spacious and comfortable period residence offering good B&B facilities.
Innishannon is home to Alice Taylor, author of Irish bestselling memoirs To School Through the Fields and other works of biography, fiction and poetry. She has been called “Ireland’s Laurie Lee”.
The Inishannon Steam & Vintage Rally is held every June Bank Holiday weekend. (Photo by VKeane)