The Southwestern Peninsulas

The Mizen Peninsula

The Mizen Peninsula, formerly known as the Ivagha Peninsula, was described by Edith Somerville as “a boar’s tusk thrusting out from the lower lip of Ireland”. Sparsely populated and ruggedly beautiful, it is remarkable for its geology, wildlife, pre-Christian and historical heritage.

Many charming walks and cycle routes touch the coastline in this area, offering stunning views of the islands and the distant Fastnet Rock. There is good fishing from chartered boats, with a large variety of fish including several types of shark being caught

A tour of the Mizen Ring is highly recommended.

Ballydehob on ByRoute 1 is an ideal place to start or end a tour of this peninsula.

Schull Harbour is a natural sheltered inlet that is nowadays exceptionally busy for its size, with trawlers and other fishing boats, ferries, yachts, cruisers, dinghies, power boats, canoes and kayaks, and also anglers, swimmers and scuba divers  all competing to use the space available. The situation becomes acute during the Fastnet International Schools and Calves Week Regattas. (Photo by Ceiniog)

Schull (Co. Cork / Southwest)

Schull (Scoill Mhuire – “St Mary’s school”, referring to a medieval monastic foundation of which no trace remains) (pop. 700) is a very attractive, colourful town on Schull Harbour, known internationally as a sailing destination and charming crafts centre with great atmosphere (and no golf course!).

Schull has its own fishing fleet, and depending on the time of year, diners can enjoy fresh crab, lobster, crayfish, prawns, squid, salmon, mackerel, scallops, and whitefish caught locally.

The two ruined medieval castles formerly belonged to the O’Mahony and O’Driscoll clans.

The ruins of C16th St Mary’s church, closed by the Church of Ireland authorities in 1845, stand in the local cemetery on the Colla road, dramatically overlooking the bay. This old section of the cemetery contains the Famine Graveyard, which doubled in size in a single year when the Great Famine devastated the entire peninsula. At one stage an average of 25 people a day were dying in Schull alone, while at nearby Cove the population fell from 254 to 53.

The old Workhouse at the east end of Schull, now in ruins, was built in 1850 to accommodate the destitute of the post-famine years.

St Mary’s church (RC) dates from 1827.

Holy Trinity church (CoI) was completed in 1853.

The old Train Station, opened in 1886 by the Schull & Skibbereen Railway Co. for their narrow gauge system, was finally closed in 1953 and is now a residential building, beautifully preserving aspects of its former incarnation.

Another fine building, now the AIB Bank, was built in the 1930s using stone from a dismantled church on Cape Clear Island known as Teampall Gallda.

Schull Planetarium, the only planetarium in the Republic of Ireland, was gifted to the local Community College by the late Herr Josef Menke, an eccentric German industrialist interested in astronomy, whose family were frequent visitors to the area. The Starshow consists of guided tours of the heavens given by different lecturers, based on the constellations visible at any given time and accompanied by anecdotes, folklore and mythology.

Schull Watersport Centre is realy a boatbuilding yard and chandler’s, with mooring for yachts, and hires out sailing boats, motor boats and kayaks.

There are some beautiful walks in the area, including some circular routes taking in both countryside and coastal scenery.

Schull Reservoir, overlooked by Mount Gabriel, is a particularly pleasant place for a stroll, with abundant birdlife and lovely views.

There are several equestrian centres in the vicinity. Bicycles can also be hired.

Ferries connect Schull with Cape Clear Island and Sherkin Island in summer.

Boats can be hired to visit Castle Island, Long Island or any other of  Carbery’s 100 Isles in Roaringwater Bay / Long Island Bay or for sea angling, dolphin / whale watching etc, while scuba divers can explore some spectacular wrecks and underwater scenery.

Grove House Restaurant / B&B, run by Katerina Runske and her son Rico, is a great place for breakfast (guests only), lunch or dinner. 

The Harbour View Hotel is highly recommended.

Stanley House B&B is a modern residence with wonderful views and a herd of deer.

TJ Newman’s is probably the most popular pub in the village, and Newman’s West café / winebar / art gallery serves top class meals.

Schull has several other good pubs / eateries and restaurants, B&Bs and numerous self-catering holiday homes.

Schull’s Sunday Farmers’ Market is famous throughout the region.

The Schull Agricultural Show takes place in late July every year.

Other community events usually include  Arts / Film / Drama / Music Festivals programmed at different times throughout the year.

Schull is proud of its record-breaking citizen Derek Bennet, who  allegedly carried three fully-grown male pigs over a distance of 1km in 1988.

Schull is within easy reach of Ballydehob on ByRoute 1.

From Schull a scenic inland route passes Mount Gabriel to Drishane Bridge on Dunmanway Bay, near Durrus on ByRoute 1, an ideal spot to begin a tour of the Sheep’s Head Peninsula.

Toormore (Co. Cork West)

Toormore (An Tuar Mór – “the big sign”) is a pretty crossroads community beside a sheltered inlet off Toormore Bay.

Toormore is the location of a 4000-year-old cromlech / wedge tomb, locally known as the Altar, which features in the name of several local establishments. (Photo by dougf)

Altar church

 

Altar church (CoI), aka Teampol na mBocht (“church of the poor”) – the only Anglican church to have an Irish Gaelic name, has a controversial history.

 

It was built in 1847 (“Black ’47”),  at the height of the Great Famine,  when the Rev. William Allen Fisher, a scholarly Irish language enthusiast, contracted numerous unemployed locals as manual labourers on the construction project.

 

Many Roman Catholics regarded this as blatant “souperism” – an underhand attempt to convert locals to Protestantism – while others considered the vicar a veritable saint.

 

Toormore certainly suffered far fewer deaths from starvation or disease than neighbouring communities, but the Rev Fisher himself died of “famine fever”.

 

The attractively situated  church  contains some interesting interior furnishings.

Goleen (Co. Cork / Southwest)

Goleen (An Goilin – “the little inlet”) started as a crossroads where a cattle fair was regularly held; all the houses along the unusually wide main street were originally built as shops.

Although the harbour dries at low tide, giving great feeding for a variety of wildlife including fox and pheasant, there is a deepwater quay at the entrance to accommodate fishing boats and yachts.

The parish church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and Saint Patrick (RC) dates from 1854.

The village is noted for its self-catering accommodation facilities, pubs and restaurants. It makes an attractive base for exploring the beautiful coastline of this part of West Cork.

Heron’s Cove is the name of a particularly highly rated Restaurant / B&B.

Crookhaven (Co. Cork / Southwest)

Crookhaven, located on its own little `crooked finger’ near the end of the Mizen Peninsula, has a large sheltered harbour where for centuries ships stocked up with provisions before crossing the Atlantic, and vessels from America found out from agents where their cargo was to be delivered. (Photo by Ceiniog)

At the beginning of the C20th it was said that you could cross Crookhaven Harbour on the decks of boats, and 700 people lived and worked locally, compared to some 30 permanent residents today.

Saint Brendan the Navigator is supposed to have set sail from this harbour on his voyage to the “Isles of the Blessed” (possibly America).

The church of Saint Brendan the Navigator (CoI), built on the site of a ruin in 1717 by Bishop Peter Browne, whose Episcopal Arms are engraved on the west wall, is open for worship on special occasions.

Visitors can relax by the quayside and watch the yachts or the fishing boats bringing in lobsters for export to France.

Barley Cove / Barleycove, said to be the best beach in West Cork, is a long sheltered sandy bay backed by sand dunes, reputedly thrown up in the tidal wave that swept Europe after the Lisbon earthquake in 1755. Today the dunes have been partially eroded, but are protected like much of the coastal area here as European-designated Special Areas of Conservation. (Photo by Ceiniog)

The road goes to the east of the beach across a causeway bisecting a lagoon called Lissagriffin Lakes to the tiny hamlet of Dough. Flocks of oystercatchers and other wading birds wander the mudflats here at low tide, and the lagoon is fringed with tall rushes that are blown nearly flat by winter gales.