Ballydehob (Co. Cork / Southwest)
Ballydehob (Béal Átha an dá Chab – “Mouth of the Ford of Two River Jaws”), reached over three stone bridges, is a very attractive and colourful village on the Ballydehob River estuary opening into Roaringwater Bay.
Ballydehob street (Photo by Benjamin Speedy)
Once a busy market town, it was almost moribund when it was “discovered” by (mainly Continental) hippies and arty folk in the 1970s. Nowadays it is home to writers, artists, sculptors and craft workers in a variety of media, with top class restaurants, antique and craft shops, a book shop and an interesting art gallery, while cafés and pubs host traditional, jazz and contemporary music and poetry recitals.
A string of 12 castles along the coastline bear testament to the strength of the O’Mahony clan in the area until the C17th, when there was an influx of settlers, mainly from England, but also including a significant number of Huguenot Protestants fleeing persecution in France.
The Swanton family from Norfolk emerged as the most prominent in the area, and by the late C18th they had succeeded in changing the name of Ballydehob to Swanton’s Town, last used in the census of 1821.
In the 1820s copper mining, practised nearby since the Bronze Age, was elevated to a contemporary industrial scale. (The 20-metre chimney of Lord Audley‘s Cappagh mine was destroyed by a lightning strike in 2002).
By the 1840s nearly 20,000 people lived locally. The Great Famine devastated Ballydehob; thousands died and thousands more emigrated, reducing the population by 42%.
In the 1880s, amid growing agitation over land reform, the Ballydehob branch of the Irish National Land League hosted a visit by Charles Stewart Parnell`s sister Anna to address a public meeting on the subject, which was held in the field where St. Brigit’s school now stands.
The narrow-gauge Schull & Skibbereen Railway opened Ballydehob train station in 1886; the 12-arch viaduct over the estuary was the most important engineering feat of the line. The last train ran in 1947 and the station closed for good in 1963.
A local bank manager told me in 1980 that whenever “long haired foreign weirdos” came into his branch to ask for loans, he gave it to them immediately! His reasonng was that (a) they were all “from good families” and (b) they were “doing wonders for the area!“, He was right: the unlikely German and Dutch hippy-led rejuvenation of Ballydehob proved its salvation.
Gurtnagrough Folk Museum exhibits agricultual implememts and domestic equipment from the region, some dating as far back as 1700.
The walkway over the elegant old 12 arch railway viaduct, built in 1886 for the Schull & Skibbereen Railway Co. narrow gauge system, was in use until 1943, and is still an excellent vantage point for viewing the wildfowl on the estuary. (Photo by Benjamin Speedy)
Staball Hill is said to take its name from an incident in 1642, when “Black-hearted Bob” Swanton‘s attempt to impose his will by force on the locals met with fierce resistance; an excitable Huguenot called Pierre Carnier knifed the landlord and cried “I’ve killed the yellow duck!” (a pejorative term for a coward in French), The natives, thus heartened, shouted “stab ’em all!”, slaughtering Swanton’s armed thugs to a man, and the battle is thus commemorated, while the spot where Swanton fell dead is still known as Laca Bhuí (“Yellow Duck”).
Saint Brigid’s church (RC) was built in 1828.
Saint Mathias’s church (CoI) dates from 1829.
The Methodist church has recently been put up for sale.
The village’s most famous former inhabitant was the wrestler Danno Mahony, known as the “Irish Whip” in celebration of his famous throwing technique. He won the NWA World title from Jim Londos in Boston on 30th June 1935. The Irish Whip is the name of a pub in the centre of Ballydehob, and a bronze statue was erected in his honour in 2000.
The Levis Sisters have been runing their traditional style family pub for over 25 years. Diners at the highly regarded Annie’s Restaurant across the road can peruse the menu and enjoy a drink in the bar until their hostess Annie Barry informs them that their meal awaits.
Ballydehob hosts an annual traditional music festival called Féile Átha Dha Chab every April, an International Jazz Festival in May, a Summer Fest in August and an Old Time Threshing & Vintage Weekend in October.
Ballydehob is within easy reach of the southwestern terminal of ByRoute 3, and not far from Schull, the best place to begin a (highly recommended) tour of the Mizen Peninsula. From Ballydehob, a scenic inland road passes Mount Gabriel to Drishane Bridge on Dunmanus Bay.
Barnageehy (Windy Gap) is the location of Glenlough, a picturesque woodland with mixed. conifer and broadleaf trees, predominantly sycamore, and a pretty lake. There are also ponies and organic suckler cows including Scottish Highlanders. This is rough mountain land – wellies are a good idea.
Dunmanus Bay is large, and so well sheltered by the surrounding mountains and the outstretching headlands that it has all the appearance of an extensive lake when viewed from several points on the shore.
Dunmanus Bay seen from Three Castle Head (Photo by AF Borchert)
The principal islands in the Bay are Carbery (large seal population and private holiday residence for wealthy humans), Cold Island (home to many seals and Sandwich Terns) and Horse Island (with a big Sally tree).
Dunmanus Bay has been in the news in recent years as a preferred point for smugglers to land large consignments of drugs.
Durrus (Co. Cork / Southwest)
Durrus (pop. 850), on the lower slopes of wooded Bally Commanel at the head of Dunmanus Bay, is among the most beautiful spots in the region, with great views of the surrounding land and sea.
Durrus village has several good pubs (notably The Long Boat) and friendly B&Bs. (Photo – www.cork_guide.ie)
Known until the mid-C19th as Four Mile Water (after the nearby river), it also answers to Carrigboy (from Carraig Bhuí-“Yellow Rock”), technically one of several local townlands. There is some dispute about the proper form of the village’s name in Irish, with both Dubh Ros (“Black / Dark Headland”), and Dúras / Dúrras in use on local road signs.
Cul na Long Castle
Cul na Long (“nook of the ships”) Castle was built between 1610 and 1640 in a transitional Irish-Jacobean style by The Teige na Muclagh MacCarthy, but confiscated after the 1641 Rebellion; his last direct descendant died in a cottage in Dunbeacon in 1795. There is still a headland near Dunbeacon Castle known as Muckla Point.
A cousin, Fr Daniel MacCarthy, PP Durrus 1793, a classical scholar (he acted as interpreter between General Dalrymple and French Officer Prosseau in 1796), married his ward, a Miss Blair of Blair’s Cove. One of their descendants was Welbore McCarthy (1841-1925), appointed Anglican Archdeacon of Calcutta in 1892.
It is believed that Lieutenant Nathaniel Evanson of Castle Donovan moved to Cul na Long after 1660, as Four Mile Water Castle. It came into the control of Lord Bandon by purchase from the Evansons before 1731.
The castle is now a ruinous condition, despite the heroic efforts to have it taken into State care made by the late Bantry antiquarian Paddy O’Keeffe, author of an extremely detailed micro-history of the district.
St James church (CoI) was built in 1792, and later rebuilt following a collapse; the south aisle was added in 1867.
Durrus Court was known as Brookfield in 1823 when it was the residence of a local Magistrate called Evanson, whose family are also associated with nearby Friendly Cove.
The Methodist church was constructed in 1827 as Four Mile Water church hall.
The Rectory Glebe, erected by Rev. Edward Jones Alcock in 1831, was rebuilt in 1965.
Members of the Attridge, Baker, Dukelow, Gay, Gosnell, Shannon, Skuse, Swanton and Whitley families from the Durrus area emigrated to the USA in the early 1840s; they settled in Rochester, New York, and as “the 99 Cousins” became influential in Republican politics and city administration.
Most of the current village was laid out by the Earl of Bandon‘s estate in 1854, upon the expiration of a lease due to the death of the Rev. Alleyn Evanson.
The Victorian courthouse, fomerly the scene of fortnightly petty sessions, is still standing.
The Sacred Heart church (RC), an impressive edifice, was completed in 1902 to replace a previous slated structure dating from 1820.
The Good Things Café is rather special!
The Durrus Carnival, a jolly regional street party, takes place every July.
The Durrus Fete, the largest church fete in the Republic of Ireland outside Dublin, is held by Kilmocomogue parish annually in the 2-acre garden of the CoI Rectory in early August.
Two notable people from Durrus died in 1961; they were Sinologist Sean Hurley, the first Irish person to hold a Chinese passport, and poet Charles Dennis.
Carraig Abhainn Gardens, splendidly set beside the waterfalls, pools and rapids of the Durrus River, feature islands of trees, flowers and shrubs accessible only by unique bridges, a wet garden, woodland and a natural rock garden, all dotted with curious figures and masks. The owners, Malcolm & Phemie Rose, run the adjacent Wisemans Emporium, which stocks almost everything imaginable.
Dunbeacon Pottery has since 2000 produced a full range of attractive hand painted tableware made from stoneware clay, and also runs holiday workshops.
Durrus Cheese is manufatured on the nearby Sheep’s Head Peninsula.
Blair’s Cove / Blairscove House, a Georgian manor on promontory jutting into Dunmanus Bay, has a splendid church-like barn, restored and converted by Philippe and Sabine de Mey into a very fine restaurant; the cuisine receives rave reviews from the international press, and we can also personally recommend it very highly indeed. B&B and self-catering accommodation is also available in suites around the beautiful 250-year-old courtyard.
Durrus is a convenient point of access to both the Mizen Peninsula and the Sheep’s Head / Muntervary Peninsula (both highly recommended).
Ardrah is the location of an alignment of four Standing Stones; the tallest (2m) is called the Drombeg Stone (not to be confused with the Drombeg Stone Circle near Roscarbery).