West Cork – a place apart sitting on our doorstep

The spectacular views from Gougane Barra, as captured by Richard Mills in his new book, West Cork: A Place Apart.
The spectacular views from Gougane Barra, as captured by Richard Mills in his new book, West Cork: A Place Apart.

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

As a naïve new arrival in the Rebel County back at the tail end of the eighties, when Cork people used to tell me they were heading west on their holidays, I basked with pride because I thought they were all off en masse to Galway.

But it doesn’t take long to discover that Corkonians are both intensely proud and virtually self-sufficient – so when they headed west, they were actually off to Bantry and Baltimore, Ahakista and Allihies.

Or West Cork, as the rest of us know it.

The more affluent among them even had holiday homes down there, convinced that a second residence close to their doorstep made more sense than an apartment in Turkey or on the Costa del Sol.

And once you got used to their enviable and unchallenged sense of pride in their own place, you also realised that they might have had a point.

Because there are few places in the world more beautiful than West Cork – and if you think you’re nearly there by the time you hit Cork city, then you should know your journey is only really beginning.

All of this is brought to mind by a new book entitled West Cork: A Place Apart written by Jo Kerrigan and with photographs by my old Irish Examiner colleague and acclaimed wildlife photographer Richard Mills.

Richard’s ability to wait for hours to capture the perfect image of a bird in flight knew no bounds; his patience was a virtue when it came to dealing with people too but his overriding talent shone through when he was at one with nature.

And so it is with this beautifully produced book, published by O’Brien Press, which takes you on a journey that heads west down the Lee Valley, through places like Dripsey and Inchigeelagh to Ballingeary and onto the breathtaking beauty of Gougane Barra.

And that’s only the start of the adventure that incorporates Mizen and Crookhaven, Schull (more Cannes than Cork, as the book puts it) and Goleen, Sheep’s Head and on to the area that Jo and Richard call the World’s End – from Bantry on towards Adrigole and ending in Allihies which is literally as far as you can go.

West Cork is of course about the coastline but so much of it is inland, by rivers and streams, in the shadows of mountains – and all rolling in wildlife, flora and fauna that Richard Mills captures in a way that few others can.

Of course, I’d be biased enough – and proud enough – to point out that we’re blessed to have equal beauty on our own doorstep with Connemara boasting the coastline, the rivers, the mountains and all of the wildlife you could ever wish for.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.