Drombeg Stone Circle, Glandore

The Drombeg Stone Circle which is also known as ‘The Druid’s Altar’ is a recumbent stone circle consisting of 17 (of which only 13 remain) closely spaced stones situated near the village of Glandore. The circle is located on the edge of a rocky outcrop and has good views over the sea. Of all the megalithic sites in Ireland, Drombeg is the most visited. A layer of gravel has been laid to protect the site from the high volume of visitors to it.

Glandore Stone Circle

The Drombeg Stone Circle is flanked by a pair of 1.8m high axial portal stones, which provide a south-west axis and orientate Drombeg in the direction of the setting sun during the midwinter solstice. In 1958 the site was excavated and restored. During excavation a pot was found buried in the centre of the circle containing the cremated remains of a young adolescent wrapped with thick cloth. The remains were carbon dated and found to be from between 945 and 830 BC. The pot had been buried in the middle of the circle along with 80 other smashed shards, 4 bits of shale and some sweepings from a pyre.

Gifts at the center of the circle include coins, flowers and shells

A little to the west of the monument are two round stone-walled prehistoric huts and a fulacht fiadh (cooking place). The huts are conjoined which means they are connected by an inter-leading door. A causeway leads from the huts to the fulacht fiadh which features a hearth, a well and a trough in which water could be boiled by the addition of red-hot stones. According to http://www.stonepages.com/ireland, recent tests have shown that using this ‘boiling’ method, 70 or more gallons of water could be boiled for almost 3 hours.

Fulacht Fiadh at Drombeg

Given the presence of the prehistoric kitchen, the huts and the stone circle, it can be suggested that annual or seasonal gatherings took place at the sacred site down to the 5th century AD – which is what carbon dating reveals for the cooking place.

Information Board at Drombeg

Getting there: Turn left off the N71 from Clonakilty to Rosscarbery onto the R597 (just after you have crossed the causeway).  After about 4km, you will see a left turn signposted for Drombeg Stone Circle.  Keep driving along the narrow country road and you will come to a small car park for Drombeg.  The stone circle is just a short walk from there.

Glengarriff Woods – Esknamucky Trail

The Glengarriff Nature Reserve is home to over 300 hectares of oak woodland and is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year.  Each season shows a different aspect of the woods and it is equally as beautiful to visit in the first flush of spring as it is during the colourful palette of autumn.  There are several clearly marked walks in the woods so there is a trail for every age, ability and fitness level.  Depending on how much time you have and what your energy levels are, it is always rewarding to combine a few of the loops into a longer tailor-made walk.

Esknamucky Trail, Glengarriff Woods

The Esknamucky Trail, which is a loop walk of just under 3km, is the most rugged of the trails as it winds its way up steeply through the woods.

Starting off on the trail.

Also known as the High Walk, there are many steps along the trail as the path threads up towards the top of the climb.

Esknamucky gives a great cardio workout with plenty of ups and downs.

There are several scenic viewing points along the way which give panoramic views over the forest and to the mountains beyond. 

The Esknamucky Trail is often combined with the shorter, but gorgeous, Waterfall Walk.

The Ewe Experience, Glengarriff

The Ewe Experience, which is Ireland’s only interactive and interpretive sculpture garden,  is a must-visit for both adults and kids alike.

Beautiful Sculptures at the Ewe Experience

Aside from begin the most interactive and stimulating art gallery in Ireland, The Ewe Experience also boasts the best location as it is situated outdoors in a woodland clearing on a river bank complete with cascading waterfall and woodland trails. The gallery is owned and lovingly created by a duet of talent in the form of writer Kurt Lyndorff and artist Sheena Wood. Using all sorts of interesting materials ranging from textiles, mosaics, ceramics, steel, copper, concrete wood, glass and mixed media, Sheena takes her inspiration from the many animals and birds that inhabit the river and woodland around her home.

Music Makng at the Ewe Experience

As The Ewe Experience is nestled within a 280 acre nature reserve which extends right up to the Kerry border on the Esk Mountain, it is a haven for animals such as wild deer, foxes, badgers stoats and mink. The river is alive with otters, brown trout and frogs whilst all around songbirds, dragonflies and butterflies abound. Upon arrival, you will be given a list of interesting things to find and to look for in the garden where there is literally a surprise in every crevice. There is a section where children can participate in interactive art by using an array of natural material such as sticks, stone and feathers to compile interesting features of their own. In another section, an interactive game of noughts and crosses can be had just beyond the enormous snail with its mirror mosaic trail.

Peeping at the creatures in the woods, Glengarriff

The Ewe gallery certainly deserves a standing ovation when it comes to instilling an appreciation of art in its many and varied forms to children and certainly breaks the mould of thinking that art is restricted to a coloured or framed page. Before leaving, make sure you have a got at partaking in the edible art section. Here, children can design their own ice-cream by adding an assortment of different toppings and making it look as delicious and individual as possible. There are picnic benches and and outdoor seating area overlooking a lovely stretch of the river. Here you will discover that the longer you sit – the more you see!

Ewe Experience

For more information visit their website here.

Bantry House and Gardens, Bantry

Bantry House is a warm and friendly family home owned and run by the Shelswell-White family.  It was built in 1700, and overlooks the waters of Bantry Bay and to the Caha Mountain range beyond. From the house, Bantry Bay looks like a private lake which in summer is dotted with sailboats.

Bantry House

The house is open to the public and self-guided tours of the 3 floors including the drawing rooms, dining rooms and library are available.  Complimentary information sheets are available at the house reception.  Guided tours are daily at 2pm included in admission prices or can be booked with the owners in advance for an extra fee.

Bantry House with view of Whiddy Island in the distance

Bantry House is very forward thinking in their approach and host a  number of stimulating cultural events throughout the year. The annual  West Cork Chamber Music Festival, a world renowned event, is hosted  by Bantry House each year.  A number of readings and gatherings for the West Cork Literary Festival are also held at Bantry House which makes a beautiful venue for a literary event. A wing of the house has been converted into guest accommodation of the highest standard. It is also possible to hire Bantry House for a private party or independent music events and concerts, civil weddings, corporate events or special birthday parties.

Bantry House and Gardens

Interesting History:

It is interesting to note that in 1920 during the civil war, the Bantry Hospital which was run by the nuns from the Convent of Mercy, was burnt to the ground. At that time, the then owner, Edward Leigh-White had passed away and his wife Arethusa generously offered Bantry House as a  temporary substitute hospital which offer was greatly appreciated. The nuns moved the patients in and a chapel was sanctified in the library. For the next five years, Bantry House served as a hospital for the local community.

Testing the cannon at Bantry House

Bantry House Gardens: Bantry House gardens, which extend to 45 acres, are home to many subtropical plants and shrubs which all thrive in the warm gulf-stream climate. Features in the gardens are a wonderful blend of both formal and informal creating a space of expansion and enjoyment. In our opinion the most amazing feature in the gardens has to be the ancient Wisteria Circle which circles a water fountain. There are always children kneeling at the waterside inspecting the water for frogs or tadpoles. Benches are available to sit and soak up the atmosphere or to simply rest before attempting the climb of the famed 100 steps.

At the foot of the famous flight of stone stairs

From the top of the steps:

There are stunning views over the house and gardens, across Bantry Bay and out to the Caha mountains which form the border of Co. Kerry.The garden, which is arranged over 7 terraces, has gone from creation by Richard White, the 2nd Earl of Bantry, through neglect (from the 1930s–1970s) to restoration which began in 1997. There are several loop walks within the grounds making them perfect for exploration with children.

Bantry House

There is a nominal fee or a once-off annual ticket purchase permitting re-entry for the entire season for sale at the main entrance.

For more information visit www.bantryhouse.

Bamboo Park, Glengarriff

The Bamboo Park in Glengarriff is a charming place to visit.  Families love it for two main reasons, it is safe and it has a policy of FREE entry to all children.  This makes it an affordable and popular destination especially for anyone travelling with lots of children.   It is also easy to find and well signposted on the N71 as you leave Glengarriff and head towards Bantry.

The Bamboo Park in Glengarriff has stunning colours during summer

The little romantic pathways take you past bamboo plantations and through exotic gardens where palm trees, ferns, hydrangea, fuschia, cosmos and woodlands thrive.   The pathways wind their way down from the entrance at the main road right down to the shoreline where there are many beautiful spots to stop and admire the view of Glengarriff Harbour.

Bamboo Park

The Bamboo Park is now open for the season from 9am-6pm.  Bring a picnic for a truly tropical experience or indulge yourself with homemade cakes and refreshments in the coffee shop.

Tranquil Sea views from Bamboo Park

Mystery:  On the waterfront are 13 stone pillars which are of unknown origin.  Some say they are ancient and their religious significance can only be guessed at.   However you decide to spend your time at the Bamboo Park, you will have a memorable day. For more information, follow Bamboo Park on facebook, here.

The Beacon, Baltimore

On a clear day, a walk to the Beacon of Baltimore is a great leg-stretcher which will reward you with exquisite views over Baltimore Harbour and out to Sherkin Island and beyond.

Park near the strand and extend your walk

You can park just out of the village near the brown sign for the Beacon and then walk up to the top car park (which has limited parking).

The little road leading up towards the Beacon.

From there, there is a steep scramble to reach the top and so the walk is not buggy friendly and parents should be cautious of allowing their children to race ahead as there are unguarded cliffs.

Unguarded cliffs – beware of vertigo!

The Beacon of Baltimore is one of the most iconic maritime landmarks in the area and was built as a series of warning systems all along the coast after the 1798 rebellion.

The Beacon

Baltimore’s history has been shaped by the sea and was once ransacked by Pirates in an attack known as the Sack of Baltimore. White and circular in shape and standing about 15m high,the beacon is known locally as ‘Lot’s Wife’.

Enjoying the view at the Beacon, Baltimore

Saint Gobnait of Ballyvourney

Saint Gobnait of Ballyvourney

Saint Gobnait is one of Ireland’s early saints who can be dated back to the 6th century.   Her memory, as a healer and helper of the innocent, has been kept alive and many devout believers still visit her shrine to this day.  Gobnait’s shrine is near the site where she first built her nunnery on the outskirts of Ballyvourney (Town of the Beloved) and is easily accessible by road – or by a short woodland walk.

A walk through the .Nursery Way to get to Saint Gobnait’s Shrine

Legend has it that Naomh Gobnait chose Ballyvourney as she was told by an angel that she was to travel until she came to a place where there were nine white deer grazing together.  Her quest eventually led her to cross the River Sullane and to climb up the wooded hillside before her.  There, at the top, she came across nine white deer grazing and she knelt down, thanked God and began to establish her nunnery in faith.

Pilgrimage Threshold

Saint Gobnait is known as the patron saint of bees and had a remarkable relationship with them.   She was aware of the healing properties of honey and used it to treat a range of illnesses and wounds. In some regards, she truly was a woman way ahead of her time.

Her saint day is celebrated on the 11 February.

Glenview Gardens and Hobbit House, Enniskeane

Just when you think you have discovered every gem that West Cork has to offer, you will be pleasantly surprised to know that the Glenview Gardens are worth their weight in gold to visit. Children – and parents – will be enthralled by the garden which is just ‘bursting’ with personality. Owned and lovingly tended by David and Mary Tanner of Desert, Enniskeane, the gardens are a complete credit to them for originality and charm.

The Wishing Well at Glenview Gardens.

Bursting with colour and beautiful objects to discover, the gardens spread over 3 acres and include a fairy-house trail, Ireland’s only Hobbit House and a bird aviary full of exotic birds. It was so surreal on a warm summer afternoon to come across a beautiful wildflower meadow with the aroma of wood-smoke from the Hobbit’s fire drifting gently on the breeze.

Discovering Bilbo’s home

The Hobbit House is a joy to visit and even has a tiny Hobbit bed and bedroom in a little tunnel underground. The lounge has a cheerful fire and a table with the Hobbit’s tobacco pipes and tea-sets and it does not take a huge stretch of imagination to expect Bilbo Baggins himself to walk in at any minute.

Waking the Hobbit

Aside from the Hobbit house and the beautiful flowers which are a riot of colour, there is a beautiful sunken white garden, an Italianate canal, a bog garden, a woodland area as well as a Japanese, Chinese and Mediterranean garden. There is also a walled garden with seasonal vegetables.

Investigating the Fairy Trail

The Fairy Trail is accessed via a beautiful Pergola walk and there are so many fairy houses to discover (as well as two mean looking trolls).

The Bug House

We took about 500 photos of us having fun visiting the ponds which are dripping with Koi, having our biscuits in the Glenview Self Service Cafe (a clean, wonderful facility) and running on the huge circular lawn, but cant post them all on here. The best thing is to visit it when you are passing Enniskeane and savour the experience first hand.

Glenview Self Service tea room.

Directions: From Bandon. Follow the R856 Dunmanway road west for 10km. Turn left at Murragh. Continue for 1km until you reach a crossroad. Turn right and continue to the 4th house on the left.

From Clonakilty: Follow the N71 Bandon Road east and take the 2nd left hand turn 1km after Ballinascarthy. Continue for 7km to the 3rd crossroad. Turn left and continue to the 4th house on the left.

Admission: Adults €6 and children €3. Children under 5 go free. For further information and for opening times phone 023-8847230 or visit their website at https://www.glenviewgardenswestcork.com/

The Amazing Clerke sisters from Skibbereen.

 

The Clerke Sisters, Ellen and Agnes, are two very fascinating women who were streaks ahead of their time.  Born in Skibbereen in 1840 and 1842 respectively, they became very respected astronomers and writers during their lifespan.    In an era where women traditionally received little education, these two sisters, who were entirely home-schooled, went on to write several acclaimed articles and essays, an accomplishment that any parent would be proud of.

Ellen and Agnes Clerke

Agnes was interested in astronomy from an early age and had begun to write essays on the topic before she turned 15.  In 1861, her family moved to Dublin and then onwards to Italy where Agnes remained until 1877 when she moved to London.  By 1885, she had achieved worldwide recognition for her writings, especially a piece called ‘Popular History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century.’  By 1892, she was awarded the ‘Actonian Prize’ by the Royal Institution and in 1903 was elected as an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society.

statue 2

Ellen, also wrote about astronomy and was considered a gifted and accomplished writer.  For many years she was an editorial writers for the London ‘Tablet’.  From her seven year stay in Italy, she had gathered remarkable insight and understanding of the religious and political problems of continental Europe at the time.  She contributed regularly to periodicals in Florence and was fluent in Italian.  Her writings on ‘Jupiter and His System’ and ‘The Planet Venus’ were valuable additions to the literature of popular astronomy.  In 1899, Ellen published ‘Fable and Song in Italy’ which was a well-received collection of essays and studies translated in original metre into English.  The novel ‘Flowers of Fire’ published in 1902 was her last work of fiction.

statue 3

What an outstanding achievement and credit to Skibbereen by two young girls born on the brink of the onset of the potato famine of 1845 to lead their lives in such a shining way that the lunar crater, Clerke, is named after them.