About the Area
Gortadrohid is situated on Ringarogy Island in West Cork. It’s a beautiful part of the world, touched on one side by Baltimore Harbour, then onwards to the Atlantic Ocean – a stretch frequented by the ferry that runs between Baltimore and Cape Clear Island – and connected to the mainland by a causeway over the estuary to the island’s East.
Across the bridge is the village of Baltimore and, just a short drive further, the busy town of Skibbereen. The R637 will take you out of the town and toward the city of Cork, which is just under two hours away by car.
This truly is the perfect location for a luxury staycation in Ireland. Here’s why…
Ringarogy – Gortadrohid’s Home
The island itself has a fascinating history; much of its population was scattered between North America and Europe during the Great Famine and, each year, many people make the journey back to their ancestors’ homeland. Many who lived here were farmers and fishermen, in tune with the land and water and the fickle seasons for which Ireland is known.
These days, Ringarogy is a much quieter place with less than a hundred permanent residents, but its landscape and waters are still producing food for the local community.
Walk beyond Gortadrohid’s patio, down the slipway or through the meadows to the strand, and you’ll see a number of satellite islands that soften the tides that sweep in from the open water. The landscape itself is part of West Cork’s culture – one of closeness and familiarity, neighbourliness and cooperation.
In the warmer months, you’ll see kayakers and smaller boats passing by the strand; in the winter, you’ll be able to watch the weather roll in from the ocean, warmed by the roaring fire at Gortadrohid’s heart.
The Village of Baltimore – 10 minutes by car
For a small village in a quiet part of Ireland, Baltimore harbours a fascinating and complicated history. While it has been populated since the 17th century, the village was all but abandoned in 1631 after the Sack of Baltimore, when a fleet of pirates abducted many of the village’s inhabitants and sold them into slavery. The nearby town of Skibbereen harboured the survivors, and the village remained empty until the late 1700s.
The return to Baltimore was a return to tradition. The market, which had first taken place in 1607, was revived; the lifeblood was put back into the village with the reopening of pubs and other communal spaces.
The village suffered again during the Great Famine, like much of West Cork. Each year, countless visitors from across the world come to Baltimore to retrace their family history. While the village is small, its community is spread across the globe.
Things To Do
Baltimore may be small, but it’s not to be underestimated. There are opportunities for sailing, kayaking, angling, and whale watching – along with some dolphins and seals and plenty of seabirds. The village also hosts a number of festivals and the Baltimore Community Market, which takes place every Sunday.
There are plenty of walks, family activities to try, and a few once-in-a-lifetime experiences…
Also known as Lot’s Wife – a Biblical reference to the pillar of salt she became after taking one final glance back at Sodom. The Baltimore Beacon stands watch over the Sherkin Island, which is situated just across the channel, and the horizon of the Atlantic Ocean.
A small path – a relatively easy walk – connects the beacon with Baltimore. Don’t miss the opportunity to see it for yourself.
People travel from far and wide to experience Baltimore’s outstanding 2 Michelin Star restaurant – and this really isn’t one to be missed if you’re staying in the area. A blend of high-quality local produce and the incredible flavours of head chef Ahmet Dede’s Turkish heritage. It should come as no surprise that Dede at The Customs House books up well in advance, so be sure to make a reservation in plenty of time.
You’ll find the beautiful Inish Beg Gardens just a few miles outside of Baltimore. A private island that feels as though it grew from the pages of a fairy-tale, the Inish Beg offers 97 acres of beautifully kept woodland, orchards, farmland, and vibrant gardens. From rare trees that have captured the gardners’ imaginations and found a new home in Inish Beg to the local birds that fill the air with their music, these gardens offer the sort of spellbinding sites that stick in the memories of anyone who visits.
Spend the day on this island, learn more about its owners’ philosophy for allowing nature to thrive, and leave with some new ideas for your own garden back home…
Built more than 800 years ago, Baltimore Castle is a must-see for anyone travelling through the area. You can tour the castle’s great hall and battlements and learn more about key moments in Baltimore’s history, including its longstanding relations with pirates prior to the Sack of Baltimore in 1631.
Baltimore Castle is open daily between April and the end of October.
This historic pub takes its name from the Sack of Baltimore, as some Barbary Pirates originated from Algeria). The Algiers Inn offers a wonderful experience of Ireland’s community spirit, along with its people’s passion for great food and drink. Shore up your spirits on a blustery winter’s day, or cool off over a cold cocktail in the summer.
The Town of Skibbereen – 15 minutes by car
Skibbereen has a faster pace than Baltimore and is the closest major town to Gortadrohid.
Its history dates back to the 17th century, although many of its families were lost or emigrated from Ireland as a result of the Great Famine. The town was also shaped by decades of British rule, and the Maid of Erin statue at the town’s heart stands as a reminder of the Irish struggle against control.
These days, Skibbereen is bustling once again – and a real haven for West Cork’s unique, friendly culture. People travel thousands of miles to rent a house in Skibbereen or the surrounding area – and for good reason. There are plenty of shops to keep you busy, and the town is regularly brought to life by markets and festivals, including the Skibbereen Walking Festival.
If you’re here to understand more about your ancestry – or simply interested in the area’s history – Skibbereen’s Heritage Centre is the ideal reference point. The centre is located just West of the town’s centre – just keep in mind that their opening hours vary throughout the year, so checking in advance is a must.
There are so many lovely places to eat in Skibbereen, but Corner Bar’s long history – almost 140 years, believe it or not – makes it a strong contender for those visiting the town for the day. Schedule a weekend visit, and you’ll have the pleasure of experiencing Corner Bar’s thriving live music scene over Guinness.
You can be sure of a warm welcome here and, before long, you’ll feel like a part of the furniture. After all, the bar used to be the patrons’ living room!
The Farmers’ Market
Like Baltimore, Skibbereen runs a weekly farmers’ market – a showcase of incredible local produce and crafts. Drive to Skibbereen on a Saturday morning, and stock up on all the basics – fresh eggs, bread, honey, and meat sourced within miles of the market stall for a true West Corkonian.
This area lies just outside of Skibbereen – and, believe us, you can’t miss it! A stunning lough that has (rightfully) become a favourite among swimmers, kayakers and paddle-boarders, nature lovers and picnickers who have come to rent a house in Skibbereen or Baltimore for a week or two in summer.
The area is incredibly well-cared for, and even a short hike along the water’s edge will put down deep roots in your memory. A trip to Lough Hyne is one of the best West Cork family activities on this list – just remember your bathing suit…
Music, Festivals, and Events in the Area
Whether it’s family activities or something a little quieter than you’re looking for, there’s always something going on in West Cork…
One of West Cork’s biggest events of the year, the Chamber Music Festival brings together artists from far and wide to mark one of Ireland’s biggest celebrations of chamber music. The festival is hosted in Bantry House – a stunning backdrop to some of the most talented musicians playing today.
What this small venue in the small town of Leap lacks in size, it more than makes up for in its ability to generate noise. Generations of Irish musicians have brought their music to the crowds that gather at Connolly’s, making it a real hotspot for fans of live music. Get there early enough to see the 4,765 (and counting) posters on the walls – and grab a good spot to enjoy the music.
The film festival has been running for more than half a century, celebrating some of the biggest names and ingenues in Irish and international filmmaking. This is an unparalleled opportunity to experience some of the country’s contemporary cultural highpoint. Film buffs are sure to love it.
October also sees some of the greatest names in jazz take up residency in Cork city. Trust us – when you’ve heard jazz echoing between Cork’s most beautiful buildings as you follow the jazz trail from the Metropole to the city’s centre, you’ll remember it for the rest of your life.
Another festival organised by West Cork Music, the literary festival, is a week of celebration of the written and spoken word. It’s an opportunity to hear talks and sit-in on masterclasses from some of Ireland’s top voices, as well as authors from further afield.
The city of Cork is at its most vibrant during the Midsummer Festival, which brings together artists, musicians, dancers, and performers from across Ireland to celebrate a real highpoint in the country’s calendar. This is a wonderful time to experience the
city, whether it’s your first or fiftieth time there. It creates a stunning backdrop to the festivities, becoming its own character brought to life by creativity and passion.
The folk festival is like a welcome back to Ireland’s past. Anyone with roots in this beautiful country knows that preserving and celebrating the old ways – whether
through song and dance, storytelling, or music – is one of the most important things we can do. There’s no better time in the year to get back in touch with the country’s unique culture than September and October, so be sure not to miss it.
May is a wonderful time for Ireland. The frost starts to shrink back to the higher reaches, the cold loses its bite, colour returns, and the city of Cork welcomes back
some of the most beautiful choral ensembles singing today. This is an unmissable opportunity to hear some incredible choral performances, competitions, and concerts in some of the city’s most beautiful buildings. A definite item for the bucket list.