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Skibbereen

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Skibbereen is a village in the southwest of County Cork, Ireland. An Sciobairín means "the little boat harbour" - it would have to be a small boat to get this far up the River Ilen. Skibbereen was one of the worst affected places during the Famine of 1845-52, and it's reckoned that up to 10,000 victims are buried in the mass grave here, with a similar number fleeing to an unknown fate. The village is nowadays a small resort, with a population of 2778 in 2016.

The Tourist Office is in village centre, open W-F 10:00-14:00.

Get in

Skibbereen is on N71, about 85 km west of Cork. Bus Eireann 237 runs daily every two hours from Cork main bus station via Inishannon, BandonClonakiltyRosscarbery and Leap, taking 1 hour 45 min to Skibbereen. Here the service branches, with four buses running to Baltimore (10 min), and three to Ballydehob and Schull (30 min).

A local bus plies M-F to Bantry, setting off at 08:00 and taking an hour via Ballydehob and Durrus, and setting off back around 16:00.

The village 1 main bus stop is on Bridge St. Buses also stop on North St by the cathedral and council offices.

There's no bus north to Killarney or Tralee so you have to back-track via Cork.

Get around

You need a car, as many places of interest are several km out. The local taxi firm has gone out of business.

2 Cunnamore is the ferry pier for Heir Island. This sails daily year-round every 2 hours, adult return €6, child €3, foot passengers only. See  Baltimore for ferries to Sherkin Island and Cape Clear; this also has a summer service to Heir Island and trips to Fastnet. See Schull for ferries to Long Island.

See

  • 1 Skibbereen Heritage Centre, Old Gasworks Building, Upper Bridge St. P81 WK06, ☏ +353 28 40900, fax: +353 28 40957. Apr, Oct Tu-Sa 10:00-18:00, May-Sept M-Sa 10:00-18:00. Museum with exhibitions on Lough Hyne, and on the Great Famine when this area was badly hit. They also have resources for genealogy research. Adult €6, conc €4.50, child €3. (updated Nov 2020)
  • The Maid of Erin is the statue in village centre expressing heartfelt thanks that rebellions against the British were defeated, in 1798, 1803, 1848 and 1867. Surely it was only for lack of room for further dates that they didn't add 1916 for the Easter Rising.
  • Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen P81 VW98, ☏ +353 28 22090. M-Sa 10:00-16:45. Exhibitions of modern art, studio space and classes, in a boxy rust-coloured building that some hate. Closed in 2020. (updated Nov 2020)
  • 2 St Patrick's Cathedral (RC) on North St is a neo-classical building completed in 1830.
  • 3 Abbeystrowry Cemetery on N71 one km west of the village has the mass grave of some 8000-10,000 local famine victims.
  • 4 Lough Hyne 7 km southwest of the village is a seawater lake. It's almost completely closed off from the sea, so the tides rush in and out through rapids. It's a nature reserve and there's a kayaking centre. You can swim, though there isn't a beach. The islet in the middle has the overgrown remains of a castle.
  • 5 Leap is a village on N71 midway between Clonakilty and Skibbereen. It has a few bars and eating places. North side of the main road is a ravine with a stream cascading into it: legend goes that a chieftain escaped the English by leaping across it, hence the village name. In 2013 the stream bank was decorated with models of fairies and their teensy-weensy dwellings, to emetic effect. The stream flows into Glandore Harbour - see Clonakilty for Glandore village and Drombeg Stone Circle on the east bank.
  • 6 Union Hall is a small fishing village on the west bank of the Glandore inlet, with a couple of bars and that's about all. You get here by the east bank road from Leap towards Glandore, then cross Poulgorm Bridge. This is very narrow, but if you've driven this far into west Cork without scraping the car you're obviously equal to the challenge.
  • 7 Castletownshend: see separate page for this harbour village.
  • 8 Heir Island (or Hare) is reached by ferry from Cunnamore. It has beaches and a nature reserve. Island Cottage is a restaurant and cookery school open April-Sept, but it didn't open in 2020.

Do

  • Atlantic Sea Kayaking have two locations: Reen Pier near Union Hall, and Loch Hyne, where one specialty is a night kayak trip.
  • Golf: the golf course is 2 km southwest on R595 towards Baltimore.
  • The Wild Atlantic Way is the coastal driving route from Cork away up to Donegal. It starts at Old Kinsale Head and heads west via ClonakiltyRosscarbery, Glandore and Leap to Skibbereen. If time allows, turn aside to Baltimore and the islands of Roaringwater Bay. Then continue west through Ballydehob and Schull to Mizen Head; then north to Bantry and into County Kerry. Only another 2000 km to go.
  • Carbery Show is an agricultural show held in Skibbereen in July. The next is probably 22 July 2021, tbc.
  • Skibbereen Arts Festival is in September. The next is probably 2-5 Sept 2021, tbc.

Buy

  • Aldi in village centre is open M-Sa 09:00-22:00, Su 09:00-21:00.
  • The three banks have ATMs.
  • Farmers' Market is held on the car park outside Aldi Sa 09:30-14:00.

Eat

  • Church Restaurant in village centre is a reliable choice, open W-Su 12:00-20:00.
  • Kalbo's Cafe at 26 North St does good light meals and snacks. It's open M-Sa 09:00-17:00.
  • Kennedy's in the West Cork Hotel serves daily 17:30-21:00, see Sleep.

Drink

  • Pubs in Skibbereen include Paragon Bar, Tanyard, Kearney's Well, Horse and Hound, Fairfield Bar and Corner Bar.
  • West Cork Distillers at 16 Castletownshend Rd was founded in 2003 and produces whiskey, gin and vodka. The shop is open M-F 08:00-17:00; tours by arrangement.

Sleep

  • West Cork Hotel, Ilen St (by Heritage Centre), ☏ +353 28 21277. Friendly mid-range hotel, some rooms tired but great service and value for money. With kennels. B&B double €90. (updated Nov 2020)
  • Eldon Hotel, 21 Bridge St P81 D232, ☏ +353 28 22802. "A credit to the town" is visitors' reaction to this smart mid-range hotel. That said, one of the few people not to post a favourable review was Michael Collins, since he was slain in an ambush shortly after dining here in 1922. B&B double €110. (updated Nov 2020)
  • Bridge House, 46 Bridge St P81 KW57, ☏ +353 87 949 8925. Remarkable B&B in a Victorian townhouse, the whole place is a work of art, and the owner Mona Best gets the basics right as well. (updated Nov 2020)
  • B&Bs include Glencora, Annie May's, and Ilenroy House.
  • Hideaway Camping and Caravan Park, 1 km southwest on Castletownshend Rd, re-opens in April 2021.
  • Russagh Mill Hostel, 1.5 km southwest on Castletownshend Rd, didn't open in 2020.

Connect

As of Nov 2020, Skibbereen has a 4G signal from all Irish carriers. There's mobile coverage on the approach roads but lots of dead spots in the countryside. 5G has not reached this area.

Go next

  • Baltimore just down the road south has marine activities and ferries to the islands.
  • East the countryside becomes gentler towards Clonakilty and Cork.
  • West is Schull and Mizen Head.
  • Bantry is a good base for all three of the southwest Cork peninsulas.



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