I blame the wicked Algerian Pirates!
If Morat Rais and his band of Barbery Pirates had not sacked Baltimore in 1631 and forced the survivors to row up the Ilen River and establish the town of Skibereen, Éire Óg might well have been crowned All Ireland Club Champions in 1992!! Of course I jest but I found myself, accompanied by my good wife Mary in ‘Dear Old Skibereen’ at the weekend for a beautiful wedding of a lovely Carlow couple, Maeve and John. We had a few great days in the home town of the O Donovan Rossa Club, the team that beat us in that epic All Ireland Final, over two glorious games, in March 1993. Two games that really launched the Club Championship, drawing massive crowds to Croke Park and The Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.
Of course Skibereen, not being content to ‘keep its eye on the Czar of Russia’, has truly been placed on the World Map thanks to the exploits of its rowers especially the O Donovan brothers who really captured the heart of the nation.
It’s a great place to visit and, like a number of other west Cork towns, it has retained its charm. The town centre remains an historic busy market town. We’ve stayed in some lovely places up and down the country but I don’t think any come near to our three nights in the wonderful Bridge House B&B, run by hostess supreme, Mona Best! Her home is indescribable – a Victorian film set with every room uniquely furnished and decorated. You see something different every time you open a door. It is eccentric, exotic and quirky and it’s obviously a labour of love for Mona. Her beautiful organic breakfasts were the perfect start to the day. Words fail to do it justice, so here’s a few photos that may!
If you are ever in Skib, be sure to give Mona a call and she will look after you better than your own mother! With all those fine breakfasts and the beautiful food in the lovely West Cork Hotel, we needed to get out and about for a bit of exercise and exploring. The farmers markets of West Cork are famous – Skibereen has a great one every Saturday. West Cork is home to a lot of ‘blow ins’ who crave an alternative lifestyle and many of them are into organic food, art and crafts. It’s all there in the market!
I love the multi coloured shop fronts and houses in West Cork, local shops with local produce, local book stores; Skibereen has its fair share of them, these caught my eye:
No weekend away would be complete without a cycle or a walk and doing it in West Cork is as good as it gets. We had a couple of walks out by Lough Hyne, one of them accompanied by our good friends Declan and Áine. What an incredible body of water! I have to go back in season to do the night kayaking. Lough Hyne is just 1km long and 3/4km wide, it is one of the most important marine habitats in Europe and was made Ireland’s first Marine Nature Conservation Reserve.
In the centre of the lake is Castle Island on which stand the ancient ruins of Cloghan Castle, once a stronghold of the O’Driscolls. According to local folklore here lived King Labhra Loinseach, who had asses ears, a story we learned in primary school and it was great to visit the area!
We did a beautiful looped walk, we thought it would circle the lake but it actually turns west in the direction of Baltimore and it’s a lovely scenic 5kms of road walking. There’s a few nice hills on it and we ‘had to pull like dogs’ to get up them! I mentioned the sacking of Baltimore earlier; that was areal event that occurred when Barbery pirates attacked the village and captured over 100 locals which they brought back to North Africa and sold into slavery. It’s an astonishing little known piece of our unique history which I read about about a few years ago in a terrific book, ‘The Stolen Village’ by Des Ekin;
All in all a great weekend in ‘Dear Old Skibereen’.