Wonderful West Cork

There is something magical about West Cork in Ireland’s southernmost county. It draws you in and once you’ve been there you’ll want to keep going back.

west cork map
Map of West Cork | Credit: Good Food Ireland

A landscape of contrasts

Perhaps it’s the contrast of colours in the landscape that make West Cork so appealing; the steel-blue sea, the grey rocks with patches of yellow lichen, the ever-changing skies – overcast one day, perfect blue the next – or the fields of every shade of green imaginable.

Parts of West Cork are quite rugged and not much grows on the rocky ground except bracken, pink heather and fragrant yellow gorse. Other parts are lush and green and you’ll find orange montbretia, red and purple fuchsia and scented honeysuckle there. Ancient standing stones, like Drombeg stone circle and Altar wedge tomb, dot the landscape.

View of Baltimore from Cape Clear Island | Credit: Harriet Empey
View of Carbery’s Hundred Isles from Rossbrin | Credit: Harriet Empey

On sunny days, the contrast of the blue sea, green countryside and blue sky is stunning.

Colla Pier | Credit: Harriet Empey
Schull Harbour | Credit: Harriet Empey

On grey days, everything can look grey, especially if it is drizzling or misty, but that’s a good time to visit the colourful towns with their brightly painted shops and houses. You could also find a snug in a small pub and while away a couple of hours with a pint of the black stuff. Make sure you try a pint of Murphy’s stout, the Cork equivalent of Guinness.

The changing colours of the landscape provide plenty of inspiration for the many artists and craftspeople living in West Cork.

A celebrity hideaway

Artists are not the only people who flock to West Cork. The area provides a retreat for many celebrities including TV chat show host Graham Norton (who grew up in my home town of Bandon), actor Jeremy Irons and film producer Sir David Puttnam. They love the area for its peacefulness and for the fact that they can go about their lives freely without being accosted by fans all the time.

A food lover’s heaven

West Cork is a well known destination for food lovers and is also home to a fantastic array of farm produce.

IMGP1634Some of the pioneers of Irish farmhouse cheeses are Veronica Steele of Milleens, Jeffa Gill of Durrus and Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen – all are based in West Cork. The Fergusons’ children are now grown up and Fingal uses the farm’s pigs to make Gubbeen sausages, chorizo and salami, while Clovisse supplies her market garden’s vegetables and herbs to local restaurants.

Most restaurant and pub menus feature West Cork produce. As well as cheeses and pork products you’ll find Union Hall strawberries and smoked fish, Ummera smoked products, Bantry Bay mussels and Clonakilty black pudding.

If you’re cooking at home, head to the nearest farmers’ market to buy fresh, local food. Regular markets are held in the West Cork towns of Bandon, Clonakilty, Skibbereen and Bantry, and smaller towns like Schull have summer markets.

The farmers’ market movement in Ireland was started about 20 years ago by Darina Allen. Darina is Ireland’s answer to Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer, and she runs the hugely successful Ballymaloe Cookery School in East Cork.

Bandon, the gateway to West Cork, where I grew up, has always been a market town and I used to go to the weekly country market with Mum. It’s still going strong and a weekly farmers’ market was started there in 2006.

…the area has hardly changed since I was little.

From the age of eight, I spent a couple of weeks of my summer holidays every single year at a house at Rossbrin Cove, in between Ballydehob and Schull. Since moving to Melbourne in 2003, I don’t go there nearly as much as I’d like, but I went back last September after a three-year absence and, honestly, the area has hardly changed since I was little. It’s my magic place where I love to be. Well, who wouldn’t with views like these?

View of Rossbrin Castle | Credit: Harriet Empey
Rossbrin Cove | Credit: Harriet Empey

Hungering to see more of Ireland’s wonderful West Cork? Maybe these aerial videos by Tom Vaughan of Oakwood Aerial Photography will whet your appetite.


12 thoughts on “Wonderful West Cork

  1. Hello Harriet. We must be neighbours! It would be lovely to meet you next time you’re here. Thanks for the link.
    Finola from Roaringwater Journal


    1. Hello Finola. Wish I was living at Rossbrin but I’m now based in Melbourne and I’ve been following your blog to keep in touch with Roaringwater Bay. We stay at the Buttanshaw’s house when we’re in Rossbrin. I used to work with your brother Fergus at Wilson Hartnell PR about 15 years ago. Harriet


      1. Ah – wheels within wheels! I will say hello to him from you. Rossbrin is looking particularly pretty these days. But you probably don’t want to hear that. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This part of Ireland sounds incredibly interesting and beautiful. I’m surprised how stunning the scenery looks, as do the buildings. The food looks scrumptious too. I enjoyed your colourful descriptions, and your images seem to be stirring up my inner desire to travel again. It’s the old ‘itchy feet’ syndrome starting up again.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Fond memories of a trip to Cork 20 years ago have come flooding back after reading this post. I was there for my brother’s wedding – maybe a post about Irish weddings next time Harriet? They are like no other!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah bother, I’m going to have to go back to Ireland aren’t I? I only got to Dublin and Glendalough in County Wicklow, and was entranced by both – the West Country looks every more amazing. Those photos of yours are spectacular. I especially like the one of Colla Pier – the white of the houses with their black roofs really sets off the sea, sky and grass a treat.
    Thanks for sharing, I think… (mentally calculates: how long til I can afford to go travelling again? Too long!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You certainly are Yvette. I’m happy to be your tour guide although I’ve said that to so many people that I think I’ll have to hire a bus to show them all around.


  5. Visited in 2005. Kinsale first night which was pretty good. Caught a heavy flu travelling Ryanair on the way over, kind of wrote the trip off… Remember seeing the statue of Bill Clinton playing golf in Ballybunion and the Phil Lynott statue in some town. Kissed the Blarney Stone…

    Liked by 1 person

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