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Lavender’s Blue + The Castle Castletownshend West Cork

Grand Tourism

A few years ago Frank Keohane gave a lecture to the Irish Georgian Society London based on his ongoing research which would later be published as the 2020 Pevsner Architecture Guide, The Buildings of Ireland: Cork City and County. A monumental achievement by any measure. “There are so many buildings at risk in Cork City and County,” he warned. “The southeast of England hasn’t enough country houses to go round. In contrast, Ireland has one of the lowest population densities in Europe. There’s plenty of talk but action is needed too.”

“There are 345 identified buildings at risk in County Cork of which 67 are country houses,” he added. “But there are good news stories too. Monkstown Castle has been restored and Jeremy Irons famously restored Kilcoe Castle near Ballydehob. Cork naturally has the biggest asylum in the country!” One country house that thankfully isn’t at risk (the owners restored it six years ago) is The Castle, Castletownshend.

Frank summarises it as, “A house of several parts, the seat of the Townshends. The earliest, described as ‘newly built’ in 1780 by the Complete Irish Traveller, is presumably the two storey five bay rubblestone centre block, with dormers over the upper windows and a two storey rectilinear porch. Taller three storey wings with battlements carried on corbelled cornices and twin and triple light timber mullioned windows. The east wing was perhaps built in the late 1820s; the west wing was added after a fire of 1852. Modest interior. Large low central hall with a beamed ceiling and walls lined with oak panelled and gilded embossed wallpaper. Taller dining room to the rear, with a compartmented ceiling, a neoclassical inlaid fireplace in the manner of Bossi, and a large Jacobean sideboard. 19th century staircase with barley twist type balusters.”

“Oh please don’t ask me what’s my favourite Irish country house. That’s such a weak question!” jested Min Hogg, Founding Editor of The World of Interiors, giving us her last interview. The Castle has to be in our own top 10 (and we get around). “We’re the 11th generation of the family to live here,” welcomes our hostess Sharon Townshend. Guest rooms are named after people or events connected to the house. On the ground floor is the Gun Room. On the first floor, Chavenage, Deans and Studio. On the top floor, Archbishops, Army, Navy and our party room, Abigail.

Dark panelling and glass fronted bookcases stretching up to the ceiling enhance the character of the interior. Books include The Poems and Plays of Robert Brown; The Early Romances of William Morris; The Poems of Alfred Tennyson; The Plays of Richard Brinsley Sheridan; Northanger Abbey and Persuasion by Jane Austen; Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, Nicholas Nickleby, Old Curiosity Shop and The Pickwick Papers. Keeping it local are Old Ireland Reminiscences of an Irish K C by Serjeant Sullivan and Last Memory of a Tenderfoot by R B Townshend.

The entrance front overlooks Castlehaven Bay, a spectacular setting by any standards. The northwest elevation backs onto the hillside. At its deepest part, the triple pile return wing almost touches the hillside. A 40 pane double height window adds natural light to the gallery-like staircase corridors and landings which line the north elevation.

Behind the ground floor Honesty Bar, a sepia tinted advertisement reads, “Castle Townshend, County Cork, has been the seat of the Townshend family for many generations, and is now run as a guesthouse by Mrs R M Salter-Townshend. It is situated on the borders of Castle Townshend Harbour. It certainly affords every variety of pleasure that guests could require. Mains electricity (A C current 220 volts).”

“Interior sprung mattresses and hot and cold running water in all bedrooms. Guests are welcomed to this castle as personal friends, and the old family portraits, historical associations etc, no less than the hospitality shown by all, are a delight to visitors. The climate in this part of Ireland compares very favourably with the south of England. The passage by sea from England is both cheap and luxurious. Director air service to Cork from Paris, London, Bristol, Cardiff, Dublin and Birmingham. Air car ferry Bristol to Cork and Liverpool, to Dublin.”

“There is never a dull moment at Castle Townshend, and one visit will convince you that this is just the place for a holiday that you have always been hoping to find. Also holiday cottages and maisonette flats to let. Fruit and vegetables from our own garden; and milk from our farm.”

“What we do at Castle Townshend. Boating and fishing. Own rowing boats, free to guests. Individual rowing boats can be hired weekly by arrangement. Good facilities for sailing. Own yacht, including competent yachtsmen for hire for morning or afternoon 12/6. Whole day £1. Safe bathing from nearby coves. Picnics, teas and lunches made up to order. Riding: riding ponies available for hacking. 7/6 a ride. Golf: pleasant links in vicinity (nine hole). Shooting: woodcock, snipe and duck shooting over 300 acres private woodlands and estuary, in season. Salmon and white trout fishing in River Ilen, Skibbereen (£1 licence). Trout fishing in own lakes and streams free.”

“Hackney cars available to meet train or bus by arrangement, and for motor drives to Bantry, Glengarriff, Killarney, Berehaven Mountains, Healy Pass (1,500 feet), Pass of Keimaneigh, Glandore, Baltimore, Crookhaven, Lake of Swans and Mizen Head. Wireless, good library, books, billiards.”

“Open all the year round. April, May and June: 10 guineas a week. July, August and September: 12 guineas a week. Christmas week: 14 guineas. The remainder of the year: nine guineas a week. Per day for not less than three days: July, August and September 37/6. The remainder of the year except Christmas 32/6. Bed and breakfast (all year) 23/ a day. Garage 1/. Early tea 7/ per week. Meals served in bedrooms 1/ extra. Electric convector heaters with own meters in bedrooms, or if required, log fires at 8/ a day or 4/ per evening. No reductions made for long visits. Please pass this on to an interested friend. Dogs welcome but not allowed in the dining room or drawing room. Telegrams and phones: Castletownshend Five.”

Sharon and Justin Townshend provide plenty of their own up to date notes: “We welcome you to enjoy our home which is steeped in history and the charm of days gone by. Colonel Richard Townshend built The Castle (Castle Townshend) around 1650 and it was gradually expanded over time with the towers being added in the 1800s. The portraits, panelling and wallpaper in the Front Hall are all original and where possible, 11 generations on, we’ve tried to retain the character of The Castle.”

“Relax and enjoy the views, the village and the grounds. Take a walk to the two ruins up behind The Castle, Bryans Fort and Swifts Tower, named after the second generation Bryan Townshend and Dean Jonathan Swift who wrote Gulliver’s Travels. Swift was supposed to have stayed at The Castle. Visit the church on the hill up 52 steps (one for each weekend of the year) for the views. Open for services on Sundays, weekly in summer and first Sunday of the month in winter, catch a look at the Harry Clarke stained glass windows.”

“You’ll find warm Irish hospitality up at Mary Ann’s and Lil’s further up the hill. So take in the village as it really is like stepping back in time. The Castle is a wonderful and unique place, and we are lucky to have the opportunity to live in it and be the guardians until the next generation.”  We take their advice to heart and really take in the village and, as it turns out, the village really takes in us, including for midnight wine.

Even the breakfast menu in the Dining Room is imbued with history: “The Castle itself started off as a much smaller building and was gradually added onto over time with the castellated towers being added in the 1800s. Of the portraits of the Townshend family that you can see on the walls around you, Richard Townshend MP is the earliest portrait, the 4th generation here. He married Elizabeth Fitzgerald whose brother was the Knight of Kerry: a very prosperous family alliance. Their portraits can be seen in the Front Hall.”

“Above the 400 year old sideboard you’ll see Colonel John (6th generation) on the left and his brother Reverend Maurice on the right. Colonel John fought with the Duke of Wellington in the Spanish Peninsular War around 1810, and on the opposite wall is a portrait of the Dublin Duke himself, Arthur Wellesley.”

Reverend Maurice became the heir to the Townshend estate and wrote to the Townshends of Norfolk, England, where he requested that the whole Castletownshend family also incorporated the ‘h’ into their name. Therefore, it is speculated that, because the Norfolk Townshends have titles and can trace their heritage back further, the first Richard Townsend of Castletownshend was perhaps an illegitimate child who was sent off with the army.” This brings a whole meaning to “dropping you ‘h’!”

Reverend Maurice married Alice Shute who had inherited a property in Gloucestershire called Chavenage (that’s where our bedroom name comes from). Unfortunately, Chavenage was later sold to pay off inheritance taxes. Interestingly, the property is used in many period dramas, the most recent being the Warleggan family house in the television series Poldark.”

“To the right of the front window is a portrait of Reverend Maurice’s son, Henry. One of his uniforms, along with the original helmet, is displayed under the sideboard. The Castle has been welcoming guests for over 60 years. Rose Marie Salter Townshend from 1947 and then by her daughter Anne Cochrane Townshend from 1997. We took over in 2015 and were delighted to win the Georgina Campbell Bed and Breakfast of the Year Award in 2019.”

A sign at the foot of the hill beyond the Dining Room windows, just visible from our breakfast table, states: “The private grounds cover a total of 90 acres, much reduced from the 8,000 acres originally recorded. The woodland is open to the public for walks at set times during the year. Discover the ruins of Bryans Fort, the original castle before it was destroyed, and Swifts Tower named after Dean Jonathan Swift who wrote Gulliver’s Travels and travelled and wrote here. Follow the marked paths to discover the St Patrick’s Cross hidden deep in the woods, admiring the view down harbour along the way.”

Decisions, decisions. Union Hall smoked salmon and scrambled eggs? Or vegan breakfast? Thank goodness for multiple night stays. We’ll alternate. The latter includes Clonakilty vegan black pudding. It’s from down the road in the town made famous for meaty black pudding. But to channel our inner U2, the vegan variety is “Even better than the real thing”. Clonakilty is also known as the final earthly resting place of the late Damian O’Brien, Marketing Director of Bord Fáilte and country house enthusiast. While we’re enjoying breakfast, turndown of the Abigail Room takes place: beds remade and towels replenished.

To paraphrase the words of Mrs Salter-Townshend, Sharon’s predecessor back a generation or two, The Castle certainly affords every variety of high voltage pleasure that we could desire. The West Cork weather really does compare favourably with southern England. This weekend anyway. And yes, there’s never a dull moment at Castletownshend.

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Architecture Art Country Houses Design Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

Lavender’s Blue + Castletownshend West Cork

A Glorified Trance On The Irish Shore

We’re never stopped galivanting. Our latest destination is the village where table turning and ghost writing take on whole new meanings. The shadow of authors Edith Somerville and Martin Ross (her real name was Violet Martin) looms large over the village of Castletownshend on Ireland’s south coast. Frank Keohane comments in The Buildings of Ireland: Cork City and County (2020): “As the long time home of the writer, artist and Master of Fox Hounds Edith (1858 to 1949), Castletownsend is a highly evocative place, redolent of Anglo Irish society during its swansong. The village consists of two streets, of which the main street plunges downhill to the harbour. At the junction with the second street (The Mall) stand the ‘two trees’, a pair of sycamores, in what Edith described as a ‘barbaric stone flowerpot’. Castletownsend is also notable for the number of gentry houses built within the village rather than in the hinterland on small demesnes, in the more customary fashion.”

Maurice Collis writes in Somerville and Ross A Biography (1968), “Castletownshend was an unusual sort of place, because half a dozen families of the Cork landed gentry were settled there, instead of living, as the Irish landed gentry generally did, on estates dotted about the counties, miles apart from each other, as at Ross. Here their houses clustered round the village of Castletownshend, occupying a square mile of ground or less. The site was high ground which shelved steeply to the sea, a deep inlet or haven from the Atlantic like many others in western Cork. The view from the houses down to the haven and out to its mouth on the ocean was very fine. Near the west entrance to the village, a high point on the site, stood Drishane, the seat of the Somerville family.”

Gifford Lewis explains more about the authors in Somerville and Ross: The World of the Irish RM, (1985), “In childhood neither Edith nor Martin had recognised social and class barriers and both spoke naturally to those who in England would have been termed their ‘inferiors’. So that although they were from the privileged Anglo Irish gentry, they were at home in the native Irish world to the extent that their record of native speech in English is uniquely impressive. They knew that in their novels they were recording the death throes of their class – they made an unequalled portrait of the collapse of Anglo Ireland and the rise through it of the new Irish middle class.” Uniquely, Martin’s early demise didn’t stop them continuing to write in unison.

The two streets of Castletownshend are perpendicular to one another, meeting at the ‘two trees’ (to circumnavigate this pretty obstacle by car means mounting the pavement). Main Street is beautifully bookended by Drishane House at the top and The Castle at the bottom. The Mall heads out towards the coastline, ending with The Rocket House. Both streets are lined with beautiful townhouses, mainly Georgian. We last visited Drishane House in 1992. Little has changed, except the heavy Atlantic mist of that day 30 years ago has been replaced with serene unclouded skies on this visit. Jane and Tom Somerville are the present incumbents of Edith’s former home. Martin’s family home was Ross House, County Galway, but she was a frequent visitor to Castletownshend.

Frank comments on Drishane House, “A handsome six bay weather slated house built about 1790, the seat of the Somervilles. In the Edwardian period a new entrance was created on the more sheltered side elevation. This has an unusual rock-faced limestone doorcase with a scrolled pediment of vaguely Chinese appearance. The original wide tripartite limestone doorcase, with Tuscan demi-columns, now serves as a garden entrance.”

 

We interviewed Captain Paul Chavasse, owner of The Rocket House, two years before he died in 1994 aged 86. “Cousin Edith and Violet Martin were two energetic, lively, independent young women who were keen hunters,” he recalled. His parting shot was, “Don’t believe any rumours about the girls’ relationship. There’s no substance to them.” The Captain converted a row of coastguard cottages into his seven bedroom home. The cut stone building was designed by architect William Atkins in 1841. It takes its name from the rocket launchers that were used to fire ropes to assist ships in danger. The ropes were then used to haul sailors and passengers to safety. The Stag Rocks in Castlehaven Bay were notoriously treacherous. The Chavasse family home was Seafield, a few metres away from The Rocket House, on The Mall. Captain Paul’s wife was Elizabeth Somerville, Edith’s niece.

Crowning the hilltop high above The Castle is St Barrahane Castlehaven Parish Church and graveyard. Frank Keohane describes it well: “Delightfully picturesque, with glorious views over the harbour and many fine monuments.” The Somerville and Ross graves are simply marked: Martin’s is a simple squarish gravestone; Edith’s is an uncarved boulder like a menhir from the neighbouring hills. There are unusual metal – now elegantly rusted – graves too.

“Everyone goes to Mary Ann’s!” smiles Sharon Townshend of The Castle. A roll of owners was unveiled in 1996 by then Taoiseach Charlie Haughey. 1988 to the present Patricia and Fergus O’Mahony. 1983 to 1988 William and Ann Hosford. 1970 to 1983 Norman and Leonore Davis. 1963 to 1970 Prudence Sykes. 1947 to 1963 Mary Ann Hayes. 1930 to 1947 Mary Ann and Willie Casey. 1846 to 1930 Hennessy Family. So it’s named after two Mary Anns. Fergus recently celebrated his 60 and a half birthday and hosted a show in the Warren Art Gallery on the first floor of the pub. It included works by Irish artists Aidan Bradley, Susan Cairns, William Crozier, Felim Egan, Mat Grogan, Matt Lamb, Patrick McCarthy, John Minihan, Yvonne Moore and Cara Nagle.

Fergus joins us for an after dinner pint. “I was the manager at Blooms Hotel in Dublin,” he says, “before coming to Castletownshend.” The Chefs join us as well, having cooked dinner to perfection. Our starter was pan seared tiger prawns with fresh ginger, garlic and chilli followed by a main course of locally caught fresh scallops in a classic mornay sauce. Nights are long in West Cork. Next stop, the historian John Collins who has lived a few doors down from Mary Ann’s on Main Street for 40 years.

“The inspiration and aspirations of a community are in their architecture,” he believes. “There are 146 people living in the village.” John restored the three storey Quay Stores overlooking Castlehaven Bay and converted them to residential use. He also helped save the vintage petrol pump and telephone box facing one another further up the hill. “The police station in Graham Norton’s Holding is actually a house on Main Street,” he points out. “That cranky old diva Brenda Fricker appears in the television series.”

It’s now midnight and the wine and conversation are flowing. John is a born raconteur, never better when talking about Somerville and Ross’s table turning and ghost writing. We’re getting that end of the line vibe. The village terminates at The Castle gates. Castletownshend goes nowhere and is going nowhere and everyone is proud of that. We’re back in Savannah again, in another world.

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Architects Architecture Luxury Restaurants Town Houses

Lavender’s Blue + Kinsale West Cork

Apples of Gold in Settings of Silver

“The town of Kinsale is a large stinking filthy hole… I was glad to leave so vile a place…” So complained the Reverend Richard Allyn in his 1691 journal. Clearly not a fan. Things have somewhat improved in the intervening centuries. In fact Kinsale is the poster girl for West Cork – it’s bigger, brighter, busier and (running out of alliteration) richer than the stiff competition. There are three independent book shops: Bookstór, Write On and Kinsale Bookshop.

Kinsale’s architecture breathes colour. Every other building is brightly painted – no Farrow and Ball Elephant’s Breath here. It’s pointless being subtle against a usually grey sky. Burnt terracotta, highlighter pen pink, ochre yellow, pig’s blood, salmon pink, swamp green, turquoise sea blue, or “Duck egg blue” or “Tuscan yellow” as Mrs O’Driscoll (formerly Mrs Doyle of Father Ted) observes in Graham Norton’s new television detective series Holding set in West Cork. Bruno’s Italian Eatery (with scarlet red doors and window frames) wears its heart on its (unusually white) walls. A Christopher Morley quote “No man is lonely while eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention,” joins one from Sophia Loren, “Everything you see I owe to Spaghetti.” The tiniest dormers imaginable peep out from the slate roof above.

Frank Keohane notes in his 2020 Pevsner series architectural guide The Buildings of Cork City and County, “Kinsale has a large number of high quality houses, many featuring 18th century first floor oriel windows… the medieval street pattern very much survives, with streets creeping along the hillside at different levels.” He comments on one of the most historic buildings in the town, “Market and court house (former). Market Square. Completed by 1707, perhaps to the designs of Edward Bridges, architect and burgess of Kinsale, and possibly incorporating the remains of a market built circa 1610…” ‘Dutch Billy’ gables are hung with Cornish style weather slates.

Another impressive public building is positioned high up overlooking the marina. According to Walter’s Way 2015, “The Municipal Hall was rebuilt in the late 1920s having been burnt during the Civil War in 1922. Prior to that it was The Kinsale Club, the social hub for the British Soldiers stationed in Kinsale. In front is a lovely bowling green, with a magnificent view over the harbour. The Municipal Hall later became the offices of Kinsale Town Council.”

Frank states, “Municipal Hall (formerly Assembly Rooms). The Mall. A pretty affair in pasteboard Gothick, described as ‘recently built’ in 1837. Two storeyed. Four bay front, the outer bays advanced and raised above the centre to give the impression of towers. Big pointed windows look out over the harbour. Coursed rubble sandstone, articulated by string courses and tall shallow arched recesses to the end windows. Burnt in 1922, interior reconstructed in 1928 in a nondescript manner – adjoining bowling green laid out before 1656.” It bears more than a passing resemblance to Hillsborough Fort in County Down.

Founded in the 12th century by Anglo Normans, Kinsale soon became established as an important port trading in wine and salt, a taste (pun) of things to come. It’s now as famous for its restaurants as for being the starting point of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500 kilometre touring route of oceanic coastline. Cherry blossom floating down the pavements in the spring breeze, like yesterday’s confetti, adds to the colour of the town. Kinsale is like a snow cooled drink at harvest time – it’s refreshing.

On a peninsula south of Kinsale, high on a hill across the River Bandon, lies Castlelands Graveyard. Collins, Keohane and White are popular surnames on the gravestones. One inscription reads, “Here lyeth the body of Cornelius Raily who departed this life August 15 1801 aged 42 years. God rest his soul.”

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Lavender’s Blue + Restaurant Chestnut Ballydehob West Cork

All That Is And Was And Is To Come

Skipping the light fantastic – those southern sunsets – we zoom past the healthily rude sounding Ballinspittle and gourmet rattling Deelish to our destination. Frank Keohane writes in The Buildings of Ireland: Cork City and County (2020), “At the head of Ballydehob Bay, a small village of 19th century origin at a crossing on the Rathruane River.” In West Cork A Sort of History (1997) Tony Brehony dips in, “Ballydehob, a charming little village nestling among the hills of West Cork, lies to the east of brooding Mount Gabriel… The village itself has become the focus of the recent literary and artistic revival in West Cork and artists, writers and poets from all over the world intermingle freely with the native fishing and farming community.”

Hiding behind an unassuming Irish shopfront, the ground floor windows clad with Murphy’s Stout blinds, lies a world class restaurant. ‘Chestnut Tree’ spells the sign above the rendered ground floor and below the pebble dashed upper storeys. Welcome to 21st century rural Ireland. This is how we live – and dine – now. It’s our discovery, albeit one we’re happy to share with a Michelin inspector. We’re here for the pescatarian tasting menu. And yes you guessed it, this used to be a pub (again, welcome to Ireland). In a while we will be told, “We tried to keep the character of the old pub. The landlady of 20 years Agnes was well known for sweeping out rowdy guests with her broom!”

We dodge the entry level wines and head straight for hedonism in a bottle or three. Sparkling? That’ll be us. Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Blanc de Blanc Extra Brut from New Zealand. Red? Why not. Pierre-Jean Villa, Côte-Rôtie Carmina, Syrah, Rhône Valley, 2018. White? Oh please, we’re being spoiled. Domaine Sylvain Langoureau Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru, Le Garenne, 2019. “Restaurant Chestnut is all about seasonal food and punchy flavours,” believes Sharon Townshend of The Castle, Castletownshend. “It’s a distinction restaurant of 100 percent West Cork fine dining. Justin and I made the trip last Saturday and loved it!” And sure enough, it is punchily on season with buckets full of distinction.

We unseal the menu: “Inspired by nature, Rob’s menus are designed around the finest ingredients that are seasonably best, from the West Cork larder, and from the island of Ireland. Rob grew up in West Cork. His father’s Polish heritage and family traditions have influenced his cooking. West Cork’s spectacular rich larder is what has drawn Rob home, home to his roots, to open a restaurant in the heart of this beautiful area.” Owner Chef Rob Krawczyk comes out from the kitchen: “We pride ourselves on provenance.”

Providence on plates. Jeden. Wheaten bread with Mila’s Fancy Cheese from Newtownards. Dwa. Grilled asparagus on a stone. Trzy. Day cheese with frozen young buck on toast. Cztery. Union Hall mackerel, Kristal caviar with buttermilk and parsley. “Rob’s dad taught him how to pickle food and use capers and vinegar. Pięć. Fizzy clove and whiskey foam palate cleanser. Sześć. Union Hall monkfish with Irish truffle and fennel pollen with brown butter. Siedem. Aubergine cooked over embers with asparagus, wild garlic bulbs and beetroot jus. It looks for all the world like sparkling quartz and melting ruby on a shimmering emerald sea. And the meatiest aubergine imaginable. Osiem. Bay leaf sherbet and dill oil with Velvet Cloud Sheep’s Yoghurt, bay leaf and wood sorrel. Dziewięć. Mead sabayon of West Cork honey, bee pollen and meadowsweet. Dziesięć. Sweets in edible rice paper and proper drip coffee.

There are just eight covers in the rear ground floor area where we dine. “We have 22 covers at peak times. We have only one sitting starting between 6pm and 8.30pm and there is no turn.”

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Architects Architecture Art

Lavender’s Blue + Timoleague West Cork

Good Optics

Frank Keohane writes in The Buildings of Ireland: Cork City and County (2020), “A small, charming village at the junction of two rivers at the head of Courtmacsherry Bay, in a landscape of gentle rolling hills. St Molaga founded a monastery here in the 7th century. Timoleague derives from ‘Teach Molaga’ – Molaga’s House.” Timoleague Friary merits two pages coverage starting with, “One of the most impressive and picturesque monastic establishments in County Cork.” The low winding coast road is memorable for being almost level with the sea.

“Timoleague, formerly spelt Tagumlag, Tymulagy or Tymoleague, derives its name from Tig Molaga (the house of Molaga,) an Irish saint who lived in 655 AD and to whom the abbey, built in the beginning of the 14th century was dedicated,” explains Tony Brehony in West Cork A Sort of History (1997). “St Molaga was a native of Fermoy and his principal monastery there was called Tulach Min Molaga… The town of Timoleague, and most of the adjoining countryside, belonged to the Hodnetts, an English family who came to Ireland from Shropshire. According to Charles Smith, ‘The family degenerated into the Irish customs and assumed the name of McSherry from whence came the name of the village of Courtmacsherry.’”

The first landmark that springs into vision along the coast road is the exquisite designed and exquisitely sited Timoleague House. Frank Keohane again, “The seat of the Travers family. Original house built circa 1818 and burnt in 1920. New house built in 1924 to designs by William H Hill Junior on a site closer to the castle. Exposed rubblestone walls. Hipped roof. Five bay garden front with a one-three-one rhythm and French windows.” Mark Bence-Jones provides some more detail in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1996) “A square late Georgian house, built circa 1830 by Colonel Robert Travers. Burnt 1920; a new house built on a different site 1924 by S E Travers, to the design of W Henry Hill, of Cork. The new house is of stone, with a high eaved roof and a five bay symmetrical front, with modern casement windows; the ground floor windows having pleasantly cambered heads. Ruins of old Barry castle in grounds. Gardens with notable collection of trees and shrubs from all over the world.”

Continuing along the coast road, the next intriguing landmark is a church with a recently whitewashed tower. An Introduction to the Architectural Heritage of West Cork by Environment by Heritage and Local Government (2011) states, “The Church of the Ascension in Timoleague was built from the ruins of a medieval church in the first years of the 19th century and refitted in 1863 by Welland and Gillespie. It is in typical Gothic Revival style with a pinnacled two stage bell tower with additions of transepts and chancels occurring from 1863 to 1890.”

This is Anglo Irish country; West Britain to some. Tony Brehony lists the names of English settlers planted in West Cork. These surnames continue to be popular in the area: “Abbott, Adderly, Alcock, Atkins, Austen, Baldwin, Beamish, Bennett, Bernard, Berry, Birde, Blacknell, Blofield, Booll, Bramlet, Brayly, Brooke, Burwood, Cable, Cadlopp, Carey, Cecill, Chambers, Chipstow, Christmas, Churchill, Clark, Clear, Cleather, Coomes, Cooper, Corkwell, Cotterall, Cox, Crofte, Dashwood, Daunte, Davis, Deane, Dolbers, Downs, Drake, Dun, Dunkin, Elliot, Ellwell, Elms, Evans, Farre, Fenten, Flemming, Flewellan, Fondwell, Franck, Franklin, French, Frost, Fryher, Fuller, Gamon, Gardiner, Giles, Glenfoild, Grant, Greatrakes, Green, Greenway, Grenville, Griffith, Grimes, Grimstead, Grimster, Hales, Hammett, Hardinge, Harris, Harvie, Hewitt, Hill, Hitchcock, Hodder, Holbedyr, Howard, Hussey, Jackson, Jifford, Jones, Joyce, Jumper, Kent, Kerall, Kingston, Kite, Lake, Lambe, Lane, Langford, Lapp, Law, Light, Linscombe, Lissone, Little, Lucas, Margets, Martyn, Meldon, Moaks, Monoarke, Mowberry, Nelson, Newce, Newman, Osmond, Perrott, Peyton, Pitt, Poole, Popham, Porter, Preston, Radley, Rake, Rashleigh, Richmond, Saunders, Savage, Scott, Seymour, Shephard, Skence, Skinner, Skipwith, Smith, Snookes, Spenser, Spratt, Stanley, Sugar, Sweete, Symons, Synoger, Tanner, Taylor, Thomas, Thompson, Tickner, Tobye, Travers, Tucker, Turner, Valley, Vane, Vick, Wade, Ware, Warren, Watkins, Whaley, Wheatley, Wheeler, White, Wight, Williams, Willobe, Wiseman, Woodroffe, Woolfe.”

Ballinspittle lies 16 kilometres east of Timoleague and was the location of a very 1980s Catholic Ireland phenonomen. The location was a grotto outside the village to be precise. In the heady summer of 1985, a worshipper at the grotto reported that the statue of the Virgin Mary had moved. A host of Marian apparitions followed across the land. Along the roadside edge of the grotto, a balustrade of sky blue painted concrete letters reads, “I am The Immaculate Conception”. It’s very moving.

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Architecture Art Design Hotels People Restaurants Town Houses

Lavender’s Blue + Skibbereen West Cork

The Capital of the Carberies 

It’s 30 years since our last jaunt but The West Cork Hotel has barely changed – it’s under new ownership (the latest generation of the Murphy family having retired) but there’s still the same relaxed country vibe. Seafood chowder and beer battered fish and chips are served with the obligatory West Coast Coolers in the bar overlooking the old railway bridge crossing the River Ilen. It is what it was.