Clonakilty, often shortened to "Clon", is a town on the coast of County Cork in southwest Ireland, 50 km southwest of Cork city. It's a seaside resort, with a population in 2016 of 4592. The TIC is on Ashe St in town centre.
Clonakilty in Irish is Cloch na gCoillte, castle of the woods. It has fertile farmland but a shallow harbour. It was destroyed in the rebellion of 1641 / 42, and battles were fought nearby in 1691 and 1798; it also suffered during the famines. In the late 19th century it became a holiday resort, while continuing as a traditional market and agricultural town. Its most famous son was Michael Collins (1890-1922), often spoken of as "Ireland's lost leader".
Collins was born at nearby Woodfield, and aged 13-15 he stayed with his older sister in Clonakilty during the week while attending school. He moved to London and studied law, and fell in with the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who spotted his talent and gave him a senior position. At the Easter Rising of 1916 he fought at Dublin Post Office, was captured and would surely have been executed, but he managed to mingle into another batch of prisoners who were sent to Wales for a few months then released. In 1918 Collins was elected MP for Cork South, but did not take his seat in Westminster, as his party Sinn Féin had pledged instead to set up their own parliament in Dublin. A War of Independence broke out between Britain and this unrecognised republic, with Collins a senior (and ruthless) figure - often the effective ruler in de Valera's absence. In Nov 1920 he was the instigator of the Bloody Sunday murders of several British agents, for which the British retaliation was the massacre at a GAA game at Croke Park.
By 1921 both sides saw no military solution and peace talks began, with Collins sent (reluctantly) to negotiate in place of de Valera. The Anglo-Irish Treaty proposed the "Irish Free State", a sort-of-Canada for Ireland, part of the Commonwealth under the British Crown, but with Northern Ireland remaining in the UK. Collins acceded to this, seeing it as a stepping-stone to full independence as a republic, international recognition, ending the war, and with a non-viable north eventually joining the republic. Two out of four isn't bad. An anti-treaty faction of the IRA mobilised, and Ireland became convulsed by civil war. Collins was the "generalissimo" of the pro-treaty Provisional government, and quickly dislodged anti-treaty forces from Dublin, but they hunkered down in Munster and even administered it as a break-away republic. The government pressed on and over the next year regained control. So the civil war was winding down by 22 Aug 1922, and Collins made an inspection tour of recaptured territory in west Cork, when his convoy was ambushed and he was shot dead. He's buried in Glasnevin in Dublin. Collins had been the big mover and shaker in Irish politics: de Valera was often the man who wasn't there, but he now ascended towards power.
Bus Eireann 237 runs from Cork via Inishannon and Bandon to Clonakilty (1 hour) and continues to Rosscarbery, Leap and Skibbereen, where the service branches for Baltimore or Schull. They run daily every two hours. The westbound bus sets down on Pearse St in the one way system, the eastbound stop is on the main road opposite the distillery.
Local Link Bus 253 runs from Kinsale via Ballinspittle and Timoleague to Clonakilty. There are 5 M-Sa and 3 on Sunday.
Clonakilty is about a hour's drive southwest along the N71 from Cork.
The bus connects Timoleague, Clonakilty and Rosscarbery, but most places of interest are some distance off the main road, so you need wheels.
Clonbike is a community bike-share scheme with four town locations.
- Michael Collins House, 7 Emmet Square, ☏ . W-Sa 10:00-17:00. Museum about the life of Michael Collins (1890-1922). He was born at nearby Woodfield but aged 13-15 he stayed with his older sister in Emmet Square - it's not known at which address. He was prominent in the Easter Rising, the War of Independence to 1921, the treaty negotiations, and the Irish civil war between pro and anti-treaty factions. On 22 Aug 1922 his convoy was ambushed in west Cork and he was shot dead. Adult €5, conc €3, child €2.
- 1 West Cork Model Railway Village, Inchydoney Rd P85 HR26, ☏ , email@example.com. Daily 11:00-17:00. 1:24 scale model village and railway styled for the 1940s. Assistance dogs only. Adult €8.50, conc €6, child €5.
- 2 Michael Collins birthplace at Woodfield is a reconstructed farmstead, there's little left of the original farmhouse. Free.
- 3 Lios-na-gCon or Lisnagun hill fort: good luck finding this in the back lanes near Darrara Agricultural College. It's an authentic hill fort which in modern times was reconstructed as a late Iron Age farmstead, with souterrain and thatched hut. This flopped as a visitor attraction and fell derelict; the site became covered in shrubs, and access was blocked. So if you do locate these ruins in the jungle, it's perhaps not as thrilling as Eldorado, but you can gaze upon the Lost World of early 21st century tourism and try to imagine the civilisation of those times.
- 4 Inchydoney 3 km south of town was a tidal island, until modern times when two causeways connected it leaving a wetland between. Its south side has a long sandy beach divided by the small Virgin Mary promontory, and accommodation. Swimmers must beware the strong tides. The surf school came too late to assist defeated Irish rebels in 1641, who tried to flee to Inchydoney but were drowned by the rising tide.
- 5 Timoleague has a ruined friary, founded by the Franciscans in 1240.
- 6 Courtmacsherry is the village on the Point south of the river. Abbeymahon midway along R601 from Timoleague was a Cistercian abbey, founded 1172.
- 7 Galley Head Lighthouse. This was lit in 1878 and remains operational. It's on the headland known as Dundeady Island, which is not detached, but there's a pinch point occupied by a Norman castle, now ruined. The lighthouse keepers' cottages are available for self-catering. East of the headland is Red Strand beach and west is Long Strand.
- 8 Rosscarbery is an attractive little town on N71 west, with a tiny 17th C cathedral. The estuary here is shallow so it never developed as a port, people come for the beaches. Warren Beach east of the estuary is closest but has suffered from erosion; Owenahincha further along is better and adjoins Long Strand stretching to Galley Head. Castle Freke (built 1780) is closed for restoration in 2020. Bohonagh Stone Circle is 2.5 km east of the village but it's on private farmland.
- 9 Reenascreena Stone Circle is a circle of 12 stones, 4 km north of Rosscarbery.
- 10 Drombeg Stone Circle 10 km west of Clonakilty along R597 is a closely-spaced group of 17 stones, astronomically aligned, from around 1000 BC. It's free to stroll round any time. One km east, Coppingers Court is the shell of a tower house.
- 11 Glandore is a scenic little village and harbour 2 km west of Drombeg. See Skibbereen for Leap and other places further west.
Steady on the drink now - remember Tojo
Tojo, named for the wartime Japanese prime minister, was a mascot monkey aboard a US B17 Flying Fortress bomber. On 4 April 1943 this was heading from Morocco towards German-occupied Norway, but became lost and made an emergency landing in marshland. The crew and monkey squelched out of the marsh to surrender, only to learn they were in Clonakilty in neutral Ireland. They were taken to Donovan's Hotel and plied with drink, since the whole town wanted to celebrate this arrival. After a few days of boozing Tojo was found dead. Maybe it was the cold or the black puddings he'd gorged on, but the little fellow had imbibed quite a skinful. Even more was drunk at his Wake and military funeral. He's buried beneath the dance floor of the hotel.
- 1 Clonakilty Distillery on the Waterfront produces whiskey and gin. Tours are W-Su at 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00 and cost €15.
- The Wild Atlantic Way runs through the area, from Old Head of Kinsale to Timoleague, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery and on west to Skibbereen, eventually to Donegal. There's no set route so either follow the direct road or divert around the headlands and coves as the mood takes you.
- Clonakilty International Guitar Festival is in September. The next event is probably 23-30 Sept 2021, tbc.
- Farmers Market is every Friday 09:00-14:00 in Emmet Square.
- Clonakilty black pudding is a pork blood-sausage, usually fried or grilled. No Irish breakfast is complete without a slice.
- Maya Asian Street Food, 20 Pearse St, ☏ . Daily 12:30-22:00. Offers Thai, Malaysian and Chinese specialties, bento box and so on.
- The Whale's Tail is next to the distillery.
- Rossa Grill, Rossa St P85 DR67, ☏ . Su-Th 16:00-22:30, F Sa 15:30-23:30. Fast food takeaway: burgers, fish & chips, pizza.
- An Súgán, 41 Wolfe Tone St P85 DY95, ☏ . Serving all day. Great seafood, they also do steaks. Has rooms for B&B.
- De Barras Folk Club, 55 Pearse St, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 10:00-00:00, Su 12:00-23:30. Great crowd in this buzzing pub. Often live music in the back room.
- Oodles more pubs: take your pick from Shanley's, Scanell's, The Courtyard, Aris Cafe & Wine Bar, Fiddlers Green, GG's Gin Bar, Con and Maura's, Fahey's, Casey's and Brewery Bar.
- Look out for products of the town distillery.
- 1 Desert Camping, Desert House, Coast Rd, ☏ . Simple campsite, usually clean, less than 500 m to town. 2-person tent €14, caravan €20.
- 2 Emmet Hotel, 2/3 Emmet Square P85 PC89, ☏ , email@example.com. Good central mid-range hotel, dog-friendly. B&B double €120.
- Clonakilty Hotel, Wolfe Tone St P85 KN30, ☏ . Simple friendly hotel in town centre. B&B double €80.
- Clonakilty Park Hotel is south of centre on Park Rd, +353 23 883 6400.
- Bay View House B&B on Old Timoleague Rd didn't open in 2020.
- 3 Fernhill House Hotel, Clonakilty P85 X322 (1 km north of town on R588), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Upscale family-run hotel in landscaped gardens. Great scores for comfort, cuisine and service. B&B double €150.
- 4 O'Donovans Hotel, Pearse St P85 V205, ☏ , email@example.com. Welcoming hotel with great bar, nice bar food and huge baths in the rooms. Dog and motorcycle friendly, has secure parking. B&B double €130.
- Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa, Inchydoney Island (3 km south of town, see above), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Upscale resort hotel on beach, rave reviews for service, comfort and cuisine. Two lanes connect Inchydoney to the mainland. B&B double €190.
- 5 Dunmore House Hotel, Muckross (5 km south of town), ☏ . Smart hotel on a headland, with gardens and its own 9-hole golf course.
- Celtic Ross Hotel is in Rosscarbery, +353 23 884 8722.
- 6 De Barra Lodge, Rosscarbery P85 HY59, ☏ , email@example.com. Clean friendly B&B in modern accommodation.
As of March 2023, Clonakilty has 4G from Eir and Three, and 5G from Vodafone. Coverage is patchy in the surrounding countryside.
- East brings you to Kinsale then Cork, which needs a few days to explore.
- West the coast becomes very rugged beyond Skibbereen.