The southwest corner of Ireland, specifically counties Cork and Kerry, epitomises romantic, rustic and rural Ireland, in my opinion. The southwest never fails to surprise and enchant those who travel through the twists, turns and inlets of the eroded coasts and the endless fields of green that are criss-crossed by stone walls and ancient monuments.
Earlier this week we enjoyed a whistle-stop tour of Cork City and today I’d like to leave the city behind and explore Cork county.
One of the most popular tourist stops in Ireland is Blarney Castle. The castle is open all year around and tourists flock here to kiss the legendary Blarney Stone which claims to bestow the “gift of the gab” on all who kiss it! The stone itself is perched at the top of the thirteenth century castle, which is reached by a steep climb up a slippery spiral staircase. .Once you reach the top you must bend backwards over a long drop in order to kiss the stone itself; only for the very brave!
Heading out of Cork City is the picture postcard town of Kinsale. I think it is the perfectly sized Irish coastal town, with its narrow winding streets, tiny houses and bobbing fishing boats and yachts. Its sheltered bay is is guarded by a huge and imposing fort which is situated just outside the town at Summer Cove. Charles Fort is one of the best-preserved seventeenth century star-shaped forts in Europe and is worth a visit for its spectacular views over Kinsale Harbour.
Kinsale enjoys a food reputation beyond its size and boasts numerous good restaurants and sea-food bistros. The Fishy Fishy Cafe is my favourite Kinsale eaterie and as the name might suggest is a superb place for fish. The setting is beautifully understated, with stark white walls splashed with bright art-work and a terrific decked terrace at the front. All the fish is caught locally. I can highly recommend the seafood platter which is a tasty spectacle and a concert of freshness and the scallops are dollops of goodness. I’m making myself hungry even thinking about it!
Heading further west bring us to the Beara Peninsula or “Ring of Beara.” The entire north side of the peninsula is a scenic highlight for most tourists. The town of Allihies is an “edge of the world” village with its wild, dramatic views and many walkways, where you can enjoy the bracing sea air.
Driving north and east from Allihies brings you to the stunningly beautiful coastal road which is lined with hedges of fuchsia and rhododendrons. The road twists and turns for about twelve kilometres before reaching the quiet village of Eyeries. The village is full of brightly coloured houses which overlook Coulagh Bay and the area is often used as a film set.
Join me next time when we will travel through the sublime countryside of County Kerry.