Ireland of today: A Regional perspective

25 July 2009

At the mouth of the River Lee, an ancient settlement was established by the Vikings in the tenth century on a low-lying marshy site on the valley floor. The City of Cork’s brave struggle for survival is documented throughout history leading to the flourishing cultural, industrial and important maritime position in Ireland of today.

The Region’s many famous sons and daughters have carried Cork’s history and reputation well beyond Ireland’s shores cementing the link between generations of natives at home and abroad. In 2005 Ireland’s third largest city and second city of the Republic celebrated its designation as European Capital of Culture. More than one million people attended official Cork events supported by various innovative and other activities.

A Regional perspective

West Cork remains one of the most isolated and little-known corners of Europe with a wonderful combination of people and scenery, music and food, nature and history and a general quietness of the place. The fuchsia is West Cork’s Regional Brand.

The Region offers a blend of modern and traditional with towns and villages, old stone buildings, rich archaeological heritage, ruined castles, ring forts and standing stones. An inventory of County Cork lists 3,650 monuments and 360 standing stones for West Cork alone. Some served as a marker for burials, some as boundary marks, more may mark the line of ancient roadways.

Gateway to the scenic area of West Cork, Clonakilty is on the southern tip of Ireland. The colourful and vibrant town traces its origins back in time to the Bronze Age settlements. The area is very rich in the remains of its early Celtic civilisation. The name Clonakilty first appears in writing in 1378 as Clogh na Kylte, meaning ‘Castle of the Woods’. Its history is set out in ‘A Historical Walk of Clonakilty’by Thomas Tuipear.

Within the heartland of West Cork on the coast, the town boasts prestigious awards from Irish and European institutions. Clonakilty District received the European Destinations of Excellence - Best Emerging Rural Tourism Destination 2007 in a competition funded and organised by Failte Ireland with support of the European Union. Clonakilty was also the first town in Ireland to receive the respectable Fair Trade status.

Michael Collins, the Irish leader and patriot, is perhaps Clonakilty’s most famous son. He was born in Woodfield, Clonakilty, in 1890 and died in 1922 at Beal na Bleath near Bandon during the Civil War. The buildings at Woodfield have been restored and now stand as a national monument along with a lifesize ambush trail and public tour.

West Cork offers sandy beaches and bays, coastal, wood and cliff walks. The breathtaking and rugged scenery includes historical sites with a wide variety of bird life, interesting flora and fauna which varies with the time of year. Havens of beauty in calm and tranquil settings unfold in a variety of coastal villages and towns along the way.

Ita Marguet

Note: Acknowledgement is given to all sources used in this text. It follows published texts on Ireland. The author is Irish and visited Cork in 2005 and West Cork in 2007 and 2009.