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Skibbereen in Moments: 4 Important Historical Events

Sack Of Baltimore (1631)

Early in the morning of 20th June 1631, corsairs (raiders) from the Barbary Coast of North Africa landed in Baltimore Harbour and carried off 105 men, women and children from the sleepy village to be sold as slaves. This raid was part of a wider pattern of corsair raiding throughout the Mediterranean and Atlantic seaboard, a pattern which began in earnest following the expulsion of the Moors from Spain. The Sack of Baltimore is the only corsair raid ever to have been recorded to hit Ireland.

The inhabitants of Baltimore were primarily English settlers, who had been given the lease of a fishery by the local Gaelic lord, Sir Fineen O’Driscoll. The village was the centre of a power struggle between members of the O’Driscoll family (exiled to Spain after fighting against the English in the Battle of Kinsale) and local lawyer and moneylender Sir Walter Coppinger. Rumours abounded that the corsair captain who had led the raid, Murat Reis (a renegade Dutch sailor converted to Islam and raiding following his own capture at sea), had been tipped off by one of these men, or that the settlement had been built with the specific intent of serving as somewhat of a den for pirates, whom the area was rife with due to the illicit activities of the O’Driscoll family. It may simply have been Murat Reis’ own idea.

Regardless, very few of the Baltimore captives ever saw home again. Sold in the slave markets of Algiers, at most three of them were ever ransomed and returned home. The rest of the captives likely served as either galley or construction slaves, concubines, or ‘turned Turk’ (converted to Islam and assimilated into Barbary society).


First Temperance Hall in Europe (1833)

The Total Abstinence Society was founded in Skibbereen in 1817 by Geoffrey Sedwards, a local Quaker. The Society was the first total abstinence society not only in Ireland, but in all of Europe. Sedwards would go on to establish 72 Temperance Halls throughout West Cork. The Society was taken over by Fr Mathew in 1838 at the request of Cork Quaker leaders. Under its charismatic leader, the movement was massively successful, with five million members by the 1840s all over Ireland.

The Skibbereen Temperance Hall on Townshend Street, built in 1832-1833, was the first of its kind in Ireland, and likely also the first in the entire United Kingdom. The Hall was the centre of a thriving local temperance movement, and also hosted a library. It was at the Temperance Hall that Daniel O’Connell was entertained after his 1843 Curragh Hill monster meeting.

While the original hall burned down in 1854, it would be refurbished several times over the years and eventually became the base of the Skibbereen Fire Brigade in 1966. It served this function until 2002 when the brigade moved to a new home at the Marsh Road, and the hall was knocked in 2006 to widen the carpark entrance. Today a plaque (erected in 1970 by the Skibbereen Pioneers) commemorates this significant landmark of local history.


Michael Collins at the Eldon Hotel (22nd August 1922)

Michael Collins was shot at Béal na Bláth on the 22nd of August 1922, having been caught in an ambush while travelling through the Cork countryside with a small convoy. Earlier that evening, Collins had eaten what was presumably his last supper at the Eldon Hotel in Skibbereen.

Collins had been in Cork for several reasons, as a man with many responsibilities. Charged with investigating theft of state funds from Cork banks by Anti-Treaty republicans, as well as hoping to negotiate with the other side through neutral IRA middlemen Florrie O’Donoghue and Sean Hegarty, Collins had made the ill-advised decision to journey through Cork (a hotbed of Anti-Treaty activity) with only a small convoy. As an Anti-Treaty republican had spotted Collins earlier that day as he travelled through the countryside, all other roads back to Cork were blocked in order to lure the big Fellow into an ambush. Collins died after receiving a severe gunshot wound to the head.



Homecoming of Paul and Gary O’Donovan, Olympic Silver Medallists in Rowing (30th August 2016)


Paul and Gary O’Donovan, members of the Skibbereen Rowing Club, won silver at the Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, claiming Irelamnd’s first ever Olympic medal in rowing, a truly historic occasion. The two Skibbereen natives arrived home to their native town on the 30th of August to massive crowds eager to welcome home the town’s sporting heroes.

The O’Donovan brothers have been rowing since they were seven and nine with the Skibbereen Rowing Club, and are delighted by the publicity their historic win is generating for their sport and home club. Rowing as a sport has strong roots in Skibbereen. Founded in 1970, the Skibbereen Rowing Club is regarded as the best rowing club in Ireland, with 163 Irish National Rowing Championship wins. The O’Donovan brothers have said on several occasions that they hope to inspire the younger generation to take up rowing as a sport.

The O’Donovan brothers were the subject of the film Pull Like A Dog, which aired on RTE One on 27th December 2016.



By Emma O’Donoghue

About Skibbereen Things To Do

The River Ilen- at the heart of Skibbereen

The River Ilen is at the heart of Skibbereen, the largest settlement on the river. The Ilen rises five hundred metres up on Mullaghmesha Mountain and flows into the sea at Baltimore. It has five main tributaries- the Saivnose, Coarliss, Achrinduff, Glounaphuca, and Clodagh. The river is especially scenic, perhaps due to its extremely low levels of pollution (ranked Quality A, meaning its pollution levels are significantly lower than the Irish average for rivers). The river is home to several species of fish (brown trout, sea trout, Atlantic salmon) and its banks also host several species, from ducks, swans and otters, to seals (at high tide).

The River Ilen Anglers Club regularly make use of the river, regarded as one of the best rivers for salmon fishing in Ireland. The Ilen is the ideal choice for disabled anglers, as the Disabled Anglers’ Stand at Ballyhilty Bridge provides a more accessible angling experience. This stand is free to use for any disabled angler, but a club ticket must first be procured to comply with insurance requirements.

Skibbereen Rowing Club also make use of the river. Founded in 1970, the club is regarded as the best rowing club in Ireland, with 163 Irish National Rowing Championship wins. The club fields rowers at all levels, from domestic regattas to the Olympic level (Gary and Paul O’Donovan, silver medal winners at the 2016 Olympic Games, are members of the Skibbereen Rowing Club).




By Emma O’Donoghue

About Skibbereen History

‘Dear Old Skibbereen’

Famous at home and abroad, the song ‘Skibbereen’ (also variously known as ‘Revenge for Skibbereen’, or ‘Dear Old Skibbereen’, among others) is one of the most famous examples of traditional Irish songs about emigration (others include ‘Boys from the County Mayo’, ‘Fairytale of New York, and ‘Fields of Athenry’), notably featuring in Neil Jordan’s movie, ‘Michael Collins’.

The lyrics of the song (although there is no single definitive version) indicate that it was composed outside of Ireland, most likely in the United States. The song was most likely written by Skibbereen emigrant Patrick Carpenter, who wrote for publications in New York and Boston, and was first published in 1869 in Boston in a collection called ‘The Wearing of the Green Song Book’.

The song is a dialogue between a father and son about the father’s reasons for emigrating from his native Skibbereen. It covers the various calamities that affected the area and country in general- the Great Famine (Skibbereen was one of the most affected areas, with between 8’000 and 10’000 dead), evictions, and the 1848 Young Irelander Rebellion. The British are blamed for these disasters, and the song calls for revenge in the form of rising up to fight for Irish independence. The song ends with the son swearing to return to Ireland and take his revenge.

Although the song heavily features the Famine, it likely began as more of a Fenian anthem than a pure lament. The song is overtly political and openly militant, and was initially only truly popular in Irish-American nationalist circles. While the song became more popular in Ireland after the melody switched from that of ‘The Wearing of the Green’ to a slower and more melancholy tune, it remained very much a nationalist song.


Further Reading:

Milner, Dan. “FOLK MUSIC: ‘OLD SKIBBEREEN’: Fenian Anthem or Famine Lament?” History Ireland 24, no. 5 (2016): 20-23



By Emma O’Donoghue

About Skibbereen Things To Do

Skibbereen’s Hidden Walks

There are a number of well-known walking trail guides available here in the Tourist Office, but there are also a number of other beautiful trails that remain lesser known, yet equally worth the walk. Three of these are on quiet country roads (as always, take care and be aware of traffic, and leave no trace), and one wooded trail.

Ringarogy Island Loop Walk (1-1.5 hrs, depending on pace)


Ringarogy Loop Walk Map

Start Point: Skibbereen
Take the R595 for Baltimore, passing Inish Beg Island and Kileena holiday homes (both on the right). After left-hand bend, the old railway cottage should be visible on your left-hand side. The road widens and about 500m on the left is the causeway to Ringarogy. You can park on the side of the road on the hard shoulder (at your own risk). This is a beautiful and fairly easy walk with only a few slight inclines. Ringarogy Island can be accessed by walking over the causeway. Stay left at the end of the causeway, walk for about ten minutes, and go left again (recommend doing this walk clockwise).



Toe Head Loop Walk (leisurely 1 hr walk)

Start Point: Skibbereen
Situated between Tragumna and Castletownshend on the R596 from Skibbereen, this is a beautiful walk right out on the headland of Toe Head. This is an easy walk , has a  sharp incline at the start  but after that it’s easy enough. Parking is available at Toe Head Beach. From the beach, keep right and then take a left at the Y for that sharp incline.Do the walk in a clockwise direction.








Rineen Forest Walk (over an hour)

Start Point: Skibbereen
Take the R596 (Castletownshend Road) for about 6km to Castlehaven Old Creamery, and take the left for Union Hall. After 2km you will come to a Y junction- keep to your right, and Rineen Forest Walk is approx 3km on your right-hand side. There should be a sign visible. You can park in the small car park- barrier is usually down. At the barrier, take the trail immediately down to your right. This narrow path will continue for approx 15 mins before emerging onto the main trail through the forest. After about 20m take the path down to your right, which will take you along a path on water’s edge. At one point near a stream the path appears to end, but actually continues left for a short distance then continues as before. This is a looped walk, with lovely views of Raheen Castle and the ruins of an old lime kiln. This is a fairly easy walk, but there are a few slight inclines, and as always, please take care underfoot (walking boots advised). This can be either an out-and-back walk or a loop walk (to avoid the loop, take the path that climbs up to the left to get to the main forest trail and back to the car park).


Coastal Walk (over an hour)


Coastal Walk Map

Start Point: Skibbereen
On this walk there are a number of very sharp corners, so please take careTake the R596 for about 4km, taking a right at the lake for Tragumna. Follow that road for about 1.5km until Tower Lodge is in view, then take a left until Tragumna Beach and park in the car park there.. Leaving the car park, keeping the beach on your right, pass the Skibbereen Eagle Pub. You will start climbing (at this point, there are 3 very sharp corners, so please take care and swap to the other side of the road at these points) and after approx half a km you will reach the top of the incline. Take the road to your left, and after about 500m you will come to a Y. Take the road to your right. Continue your walk, and you will start climbing down and will find yourself back on the main coast road, looking across at Toe Head. Turn right and continue your walk along the coast road until you arrive back on Tragumna.




By Emma O’Donoghue

About Skibbereen History

Five Fascinating Historical Skibbereen Figures

1. Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa

Born in Reenascreena near Rosscarbery in 1831, O’Donovan Rossa moved to Skibbereen shortly after his father’s death during the Great Famine, where he established the separatist Phoenix National and Literary Society (which would later merge with the Irish Republican Brotherhood). O’Donovan Rossa spent much of his life in various prisons for his Fenian activities. In 1871 O’Donovan Rossa and several others were released from prison but forbidden from returning to Britain until their original sentences would have finished. O’Donovan Rossa would never again live in his native Ireland, but continued his involvement in Irish republican circles for the rest of his life, with his activities ranging from setting up the United Irishman newspaper to fundraising for a bombing campaign in Britain. On his death in 1915, his graveside oration (delivered by Pearse) was a key point in the lead-up to the 1916 Easter Rising. Nowhere is O’Donovan Rossa’s memory more alive than in his native Skibbereen, where the local GAA club and park are named for him.

2. Gearóid O’Sullivan

Born in 1891 in Coolnagarrane in the Skibbereen parish, Gearóid O’Sullivan was a member of the IRB, the Volunteers, the Gaelic League and was an Irish teacher at Kildorrery National School and Coolbeg College. O’Sullivan was the second cousin of the famous Michael Collins, and with many republican leaders arrested in the German Plot in 1918, his cousin summoned him to Dublin and made him an Adjutant-General in the Volunteers. O’Sullivan is most famous for his momentous hoisting of the Irish tricolour on the roof of the GPO during the 1916 Rising. Fr Patrick Doyle (who knew him when he taught Irish at Coolbeg), however, recounted a more lighthearted tale O’Sullivan had told him of his role in the Rising. As Doyle would later tell the Bureau of Military History, O’Sullivan was charged with the transportation of most of the Volunteers’ ammunition supply from Liberty Hall to the GPO. To accomplish this, O’Sullivan used a cab and piled its interior full of ammunition, even stacking some on the roof. O’Sullivan and the ammunition arrived at the GPO just in time to witness Joseph Plunkett lead the charge to capture the building. Right on cue, the overloaded cab floor gave way and scattered the precious ammunition along O’Connell Street. O’Sullivan survived the War of Independence and Civil War, becoming a barrister and being elected five times to Dáil Éireann. He married Maud Kiernan, sister to Michael Collins’ fiancée, Kitty Kiernan, and is remembered with a stone plaque on the Skibbereen Town Hall wall.

3. Agnes Mary Clerke

Agnes Mary Clerke was born in Skibbereen in 1842. Homeschooled by educated parents, Clerke was taught Latin, Greek, mathematics and astronomy. It was the latter in which she would particularly excel. Settling in London, Clerke was a regular contributor to the Edinburgh Review, writing about the history of science (particularly astronomy). Clerke wrote seven books on astronomy on such complex topics as the structure of the universe and theories of its evolution. Clerke’s works were particularly remarkable for their inclusion of rare photographs of space and celestial bodies (obtained from her wide network of international correspondents in the field of astrophotography), as well as her talent for writing in simple language accessible to the ordinary reader that did not oversimplify the complex ideas. Clerke wanted to make astronomy more accessible to the average person, and was awarded the Actonian Prize for her excellent science writing. Clerke was an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society, and there is a crater on the moon named in her honour near the landing site of Apollo 12.

4. Percy Ludgate

Born in Skibbereen in 1883, Percy Ludgate is known for designing the second ever general-purpose program-controlled computer. The first design was by Charles Babbage, and while Ludgate was familiar with some of Babbage’s work, the majority of his design was entirely original and his work on program control even superseded Babbage’s. Ludgate’s envisioned machine could multiply two twenty-decimal digit numbers in a mere six seconds, and unlike Babbage’s Machine (which would have been significantly bigger), Ludgate’s was designed to be portable. Little known during his life, although highly respected by his colleagues, Ludgate published only one paper on his machine in the Scientific Proceedings of the Royal Dublin Society in April 1909, and never actually built it, dyinging in 1922 at only 39, of pneumonia. Incredibly, Ludgate was not a full-time scientist or researcher, but seemingly an accountant who took up computer design in his spare time as a hobby. Ludgate’s legacy lives on today in Skibbereen, with the Ludgate Hub in the town named for him.

5. Humphrey O’Sullivan

Humphrey O’Sullivan’s US Patent for Rubber Shoe Heel

Born in Skibbereen in 1853, Humphrey O’Sullivan emigrated to Massachusetts, USA after six years of work in the Cork printing trade. O’Sullivan continued to work in the printing trade in Massachusetts for three years, before going to work with his brother at his retail shoe store. As legend has it, O’Sullivan invented the rubber shoe sole when, working as a press-man printing local newspapers, his co-workers continuously stole the rubber mat he used on the stone floor of the printers to ease his leg fatigue from working long hours. In irritation, O’Sullivan cut out two pieces from his often-stolen mat and nailed them to his shoes. To his shock, this turned out to be a much more comfortable and efficient solution to his leg pain. Within a few years this invention was sold all over the USA, and was known as ‘America’s No. 1 Heel’.



By Emma O’Donoghue

About Skibbereen History Things To Do

Skibbereen’s Marvellous Megaliths

West Cork has many megaliths (stone monuments) and the Skibbereen area is no exception. These stone monuments- from stone circles and forts to funeral stones, served diverse functions from the defensive to the calendrical, and would be well worth a wander to anyone interested in ancient Irish history.


Please note that parking is not available at all megalithic sites. Some may be situated on private land, so please ask appropriate permissions. As always, leave no trace and treat the monuments with respect.

Knockdrum Stone Fort (N 51° 31′ 35.5″, W 009° 11′ 37.5″)


Located approximately a kilometre east of Castletownshend, Knockdrum stone fort sits on a ridge, from which the Gurranes standing stones (the Five Fingers) can be seen. This impressive stone fort contains within its grounds a souterrain, an underground tunnel used for storage and as an escape route in case of attack.

Gurranes Stone Row (Five Fingers) (N 51° 31′ 50.9″, W 009° 11′ 25.9″)

Known as the Fingers, this stone row is within view of Knockdrum stone fort. Despite only three of the stones currently still standing upright, this stone row is impressive and well worth a visit.

Drombeg Stone Circle (N 51° 33′ 52.4″, W 009° 05′ 13.3″)

Perhaps Ireland’s most famous stone circle, Drombeg is located twenty minutes from Skibbereen town on the N71 and R597. There is a small car park for visitors only a short walk away. The stone circle consists of seventeen impressive sandstone standing stones encircling an altar stone. Within 35 metres there is a fulacht fiadh and the remains of stone huts. Drombeg and two smaller stone circle sites (Bohonagh and Reenascreena) form an equilateral triangle, and are thought by some to be somehow connected or part of a larger complex.

Knockanoulty Ring Fort (51°29’47.9″N 9°18’57.2″W)

Knockanoulty Ring Fort is located just over a mile from Lough Hyne and other nearby sites (such as the Lough Hyne Funeral Stone, the ruins of St Brigid’s Church, and a ruined holy well). The townland of Knockanoulty is bordered by the townlands of Barnabah, Ballinard, and Ballymacrown.

Lough Hyne Funeral Stone

Found throughout West Cork, coffin stones were used to rest the coffin while family, neighbours and friends said their final goodbyes to their deceased loved one within their own townland, before the burial took place. This stone can be found a short walk away from Lough Hyne, in a cleared area of undergrowth.

Reenascreena Stone Circle (51 37′ 4.155″N, 9 3′ 48.129″W)

Located less than a mile from Reenascreena village (birthplace of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa), the stone circle consists of thirteen stones and is surrounded by a shallow ditch. There are two pits within the circle, one of which was found to contain fragments of cremated bone, suggesting that this was a site of ritual importance and perhaps served as a burial ground at some point.

Bohonagh Stone Circle (51° 34′ 48.37″ N, 8° 59′ 56.35″ W)

Bohonagh stone circle is located just over a mile from Rosscarbery town. The circle has thirteen stones, and there is also a boulder burial 25 metres to the southwest. Similarly to Reenascreena stone circle, cremated bone fragments have been found at the site, suggesting that it was of ritualistic importance.



By Emma O’Donoghue

About Skibbereen Things To Do

West Cork’s Incredible Islands

The coastline of West Cork has numerous beautiful islands, each somewhat of a treasure in their own right. Easily accessible from Skibbereen town, each of these islands have something fascinating to offer, and provide the opportunity to deviate from the more conventional tourist paths. From beautiful nature walks, to medieval ruins, to amazing art galleries, West Cork’s islands truly do have it all.

All of the islands are accessible via ferry, with the exception of Dursey Island (accessible via Ireland’s only cable car). For ferry times, please check online under the island name (these may be seasonal and/or subject to change).


Long Island

Credit: Marsh Media (Facebook)

Located only ten minutes by boat from the shores of Schull, Long Island, at five km long to less than one km wide, is aptly named. With a permanent population of only ten people, Long Island is ideal for those who enjoy walking, bird-watching and sea angling. Long Island’s best attraction is perhaps White Tower Lighthouse on its eastern end, which marks the entrance to Schull Harbour.

Credit Heir Island Ferries (Facebook)



Bere Island

Credit: Bere Island Co. Cork (Facebook)

Located between Berehaven Harbour and Bantry Bay, Bere Island has historically been of massive strategic importance. As such, the island has several Martello Towers dating from the Napoleonic Wars, and gun batteries at Ardaragh and Lonehort (surrounded by the fortifications of Fort Berehaven). As a Treaty Port, Berehaven remained in British hands until 1938, used to guard Britain against attacks from the sea. With a current population of just above 200, Bere Island has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, and the Druid’s Altar wedge tomb can be seen on the island. Bere Island and its surrounding waters are also home to stunning wildlife, with the area known for the extensive bird and marine (killer whales, basking sharks, and dolphins can all be glimpsed on occasion) life.

Credit: Bere Island Co. Cork (Facebook)


Whiddy Island

Credit: Whiddy Island Ferry (Facebook)

A short ferry ride from Bantry, Whiddy Island hosts such attractions as the 16th century Reenagig Castle of the O’Sullivan Bere, a fortified gun battery built by the British following the 1796 French Armada scare, and a sixth century ecclesiastical enclosure (church, holy well and graveyard) on the shores of the beautiful Kilmore lake. Whiddy Island is ideal for those who enjoy bird-watching, or just the odd ramble about in the peace and quiet (Whiddy Island has approximately twenty permanent residents).

Credit: Whiddy Island Ferry (Facebook)



Dursey Island

Credit: Dursey Island (Facebook)

Accessible via a ten-minute journey across the Dursey Sound in Ireland’s only cable car, Dursey Island, Dursey is an oasis of calm for birdwatchers (rare birds from Siberia and America are often spotted there) and nature walkers alike, with a permanent population of under ten people, and no shops, pubs or restaurants. Notable sights on the island include the ruins of O’Sullivan Bere’s castle (sacked by the English in 1602), the ruins of the church of Kilmichael (built by monks from Skellig), and the two hundred-year old signal tower built as a defence against potential French attack by sea (with beautiful views of Mizen Head and the Skelligs).


Sherkin Island

Credit: Sherkin Island (Facebook)

Located ten minutes from Baltimore by ferry, Sherkin Island is known for its community of artists, with numerous studios throughout the island as well as its own Fine Arts Degree course, and the annual Sherkin Island Regatta. Sherkin has a population of over one hundred people, several of whom are artists. The island is also home to some beautiful beaches, Cow and Silver Strands, both sandy beaches with beautiful views. Also to be found on Sherkin are the ruins of a fifteenth century Franciscan abbey, the old O’Driscoll castle, and the automated Barrack Point lighthouse (dating back to 1835).

Credit: Sherkin Island (Facebook)


Cape Clear

Credit: Cape Clear Ferry (Facebook)

A Gaeltacht island 13km off the coast with a bilingual population of about one hundred and thirty people, Cape Clear is also known as The Storytellers’ Island and puts on a Storytelling Festival each year (30th August to 1st September 2019). The island hosts Ireland’s only manned bird observatory, and whale- and dolphin-watching trips are also available around the island. Also worth a look are the old lighthouse and the nearby Fastnet Rock, and for those interested in history, megalithic standing stones, a twelfth-century ruined church and a fourteenth century castle can all be found on Cape Clear.

Credit: Cape Clear Ferry (Facebook)


Heir/Hare Island

Credit: Heir Island (Facebook)

Also known as Inis Uí Drisceoil, this small island is home to twenty-five people, over two hundred different varieties of wildflowers, and the numerous majestic sea birds that make their homes in the cliffs. With ferry crossings every two hours, visitors to the island can enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches, cookery school, art gallery, and sailing school- plenty to keep anyone busy! Heir Island also has a lesser known international flair- the intrepid tourist can walk across the Paris bridge in the townland of Paris, all without leaving Ireland!

Credit: Heir Island (Facebook)


Garnish/Garinish Island

Credit: Garinish Island (Facebook)

Located in Glengarriff Harbour in Bantry Bay, Garnish Island (also known as Ilnacullin) hosts beautiful and extensive gardens, made possible by the near-subtropical climate created by a combination of the Gulf Stream and the sheltered position of the island. These gardens are fully accessible to the public, along with a Martello Tower restored by the OPW (for the history enthusiasts). There is a small fee for entry to the island and all of its attractions. Garnish Island can be accessed by ferry from Glengarriff Pier, and seals are often seen on the picturesque journey to the island.

Credit: Garinish Island (Facebook)



By Emma O’Donoghue

About Skibbereen Things To Do

Skibbereen Area Beaches (Not To Miss)

Please note that while all beaches listed are generally considered safe for swimming, conditions permitting, lifeguards are on duty only at Tragumna. Please swim responsibly- never alone or in rough conditions. Remember to always respect the water. Some access road to these beaches are narrow, so drive with care.


A Blue Flag beach with toilet and parking facilities, Tragumna is a lovely beach for families of all ages. Just 6km from Skibbereen, Tragumna has lifeguards during bathing season (weekends in June and September, daily in July and August), and lifesaving equipment available off-season.


Lough Ine (Hyne)

Lough Ine (5km from Skibbereen) is Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve and the only inland saltwater lake in Northern Europe. Lough Ine boasts a lovely woodland nature trail and stunning views of Castle Island, and is ideal for kayaking, swimming and nature walks.

lough hyne

Sherkin Island

Cow Strand

Accessible via a ten minute ferry ride from Baltimore, Sherkin Island is home to two beautiful sandy beaches, Silver Strand and Cow Strand, and lovely views.

Silver Strand


Sandycove is situated on the coast road between Castletownshend and Tragumna. The beach is very small and sandy, and can be accessed by steps. Sandycove can be very busy during the summer, but is worth the visit.



A ten minute drive from Skibbereen along the R595, this small but picturesque beach can only be described as a hidden gem (no facilities, however). Tralispean is a beautiful sandy beach, and popular with families.


Squince Harbour

Squince Harbour Beach is located in Myross Island (access via causeway), Union Hall, and is a gravel beach boasting several rock pools. With a lovely view of nearby Rabbit Island, Squince Harbour Beach is an excellent location for both kayaking and swimming.



Ballyalla hosts a small quiet stony beach with a pier, about three miles from Skibbereen. Beautiful when the tide is in, and ideal for the adventurous swimmer willing to take the plunge (literally!). Ballyalla is a very safe beach, with life buoys provided.



Located in Myross Island, Union Hall, Carrigillihy is a small stony beach with a beautiful view of Rabbit Island, and in the summer, of the many small boats that moor there. Carrigillihy is excellent for those who enjoy seaside walks.


Cape Clear

Located 13 km off the coast of West Cork and accessible by regular ferry from Baltimore (year round) and Schull (summer only), Cape Clear (a Gaeltacht region) is a remote but beautiful island. Full of scenic harbours and gorgeous pebble beaches, Cape Clear is ideal for nature and seaside walks.




By Emma O’Donoghue