Kinsale to Clonakilty on the Wild Atlantic Way
Have you heard about Ireland's new Wild Atlantic Way? It's a route that goes all the way from Kinsale in County Cork to Malin Head in Donegal - along the way passing by some of the most gorgeous scenery in the world - and also taking a trip through the Ireland of your ancestors.
We start our journey along the Wild Atlantic Way in the lovely town of Kinsale. We are very fortunate to have this on our doorstep as we live about twenty minutes away. Every school child in Ireland knows this place for the Battle of Kinsale which took place in 1601 and made real the English conquest of Ireland.
Today, however, you will see a vibrant sea-side town with a healthy tourist trade and plenty to see both on the water and in the back streets.
One of our favourite places to head for a picnic is Charles Fort – a star-shaped fort with amazing views over the inner harbour.
Desmond Castle is an old Fitzgerald castle. Prior to the Battle of Kinsale, the Earls of Desmond (the Fitzgeralds) as well as the de Courceys and Longs would have been the main ruling anglo-Norman families in this area – with the O’Mahonys the main Irish Gaelic family.
This castle tells much of the history of Ireland in its changing use over the years. It was built by the Earl of Desmond, Maurice Fitzgerald, in 1500 as a custom house for the thriving trading town. In 1641 it became a prison – mostly for French and Spanish prisoners. In 1791, it went on to become the town jail but became a workhouse in 1846 during the Famine. In the 1990s, it was restored by the government and is now open as a wine museum – and I guess there was plenty of wine passing through here when it opened up as the original custom house in 1641. So, full circle then!
We called in on our friends, the Fitzgerald family – owners of the Blue Haven Hotel in Kinsale – as you can see, they have staked their claim as being one of the very first places to stay when you travel the Wild Atlantic Way! And a very nice family and hotel too.
The Old Head of Kinsale marks the official start of the Wild Atlantic Way – and I guess it is the first place you will see the “wildness” – but I like to think it starts in Kinsale. It’s also the site of the Old Head golf course (Ireland has half of the links courses in the world).
The prominent family names of the Kinsale region (according to the 1901 census) include:
Ahern, Alcock, Allen, Arnopp, Barett, Barry, Bowen, Buckley, Burke, Butler, Cadogan, Carroll, Coleman, Collins, Connolly, Corcoran, Cotter, Coughlan, Cowhig, Cronin, Crowley, Daly, Deasy, Dempsey, Desmond, Donovan, Driscoll, Enright, Farley, Fitzgerald, Fitzpatrick, Fleming, Foley, Galvin, Geary, Gimlet, Griffin, Hannon, Hayes, Hogan, Horgan, Hurley, Kelly, Kiely, Leahy, Leary, Madden, Mahony, McCarthy, Murphy, Murray, Newman, O’Sullivan, O’Brien, Price, Quinn, Regan, Reilly, Riordan, Roche, Scannell, Sheehan, Stapleton and Walsh.
As we wind along the coast road westwards, the next village we come across is Timoleague.
Timoleague comes from the Irish Tigh Molaga meaning “house of Saint Molaga” – the saint credited with bringing bee-keeping to Ireland.
A very nice place to stop with plenty of Irish history surrounding you – including some historical communications equipment.
Timoleague Friary was built on the original monastic site of Saint Molaga in 1240 – and overseen by the local McCarthys. In 1612, the abbey was finally destroyed by English soldiers but the monks stayed in the abbey until 1642 when the town was burnt down. If you wander the friary today, you will find many of the following names on the headstones within it’s walls:
Collins, Connolly, Coomey, Cowhig, Donovan, Fehily, Fleming, Harrington, Hayes, Hodnett, Hourihan, Hunt, Leahy, Leary, Mahony, McCarthy, Minihane, Murphy, O’Driscoll, O’Leary, Regan, Ryan, Sexton, Shannon, Sheehy and Sullivan.
From Timoleague to Clonakilty – there’s a feeling that when you get to “Clon” – you are truly arriving in West Cork. One of my favourite towns in Ireland – there is a good feeling on the streets and a very good community spirit. When we think of Clon today, we often think of it as the birthplace of the “Big Fella” – Michael Collins.
One of the other, lesser known descendants of this area is no other the the Yankee Doodle Dandy himself: George M. Cohan. Cohan was born in Providence, Rhode Island, USA to Jeremiah and Helen Cohan. They were from the Clonakilty area. Somehow, their name “migrated” from Keohane (pronounced “ka-yo-haan” in Cork) to Cohan on their arrival in the US. So, come on Clonakilty! Let’s see a statue put up to one of your emigrant sons—the Yankee Doodle Dandy himself!
The prominent family names of the Clonakilty region (according to the 1901 census) include:
Barrett, Barry, Bateman, Bennett, Cahalane, Callaghan, Collins, Connolly, Crowley, Cullinane, Deasy, Donovan, Driscoll, Harte, Hayes, Hodnett, Holland, Hurley, Keohane, Kingston, Leary, Mahony, McCarthy, Meade, Murphy, Nagle, O’Neill, O’Brien, O’Regan, O’Sullivan, Reilly, Santry, Sutton, Whelton and White.
There is one final trip on the leg of our journey – back out to the Wild Atlantic at Inchedoney Island – plenty of sand, sea and surf!
Join us on the next leg of our journey around the Wild Atlantic Way when we travel from Clonakilty to Baltimore.