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Brilliant Bantry

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Our designer and general cool-guy Fiachra went west for a dose of West Cork fun. Here’s his pick of the best things to eat, see and do in the Rebel County.

“Go West young man” says the song, but being an awkward mix of belligerent and people-pleaser we only half obey and go south-west instead. To Bantry in fact, the baby toe on the boot of Ireland. Where getting away from it all also, intermittently, includes, your phone reception. With more and more people considering stay-cationing in Ireland, we say considering we mean advised by their bank managers, we’re setting off to see what this outpost of the Peoples Republic can offer.

1. The journey.

Philistines, micro-managers and Google maps will tell you to take much of the trip via the M8 to Cork city and then head north-west from there, but we say “No!”. Breaking off  somewhere around Thurles will catch you some of the most breath taking scenery the country has to offer. With the weather set to four-seasons-per-hour our journey took us through brooding storm cloaked Caha mountains, followed, moments later, by lush green sun speckled valleys. It’s all very impressive and, we’re not afraid to admit, made us a little patriotic… and light headed, maybe it’s time for dinner…

2. La Cascade, Sheen Falls.

As the old Irish proverb goes ‘If you must get away from it all, make sure there’s a bloody good restaurant nearby” and so we can’t resist detouring slightly to Sheen Falls renowned Falls restaurant for dinner. After a quick G&T to rejuvenate us from the drive, we get a little lost admiring the impressive collection of Irish vinyl records on display in Oscars Bar (so good to see Dr Strangely Strange up there with Phillo and Rory!) and settle down in one of the most comfortable dining rooms we’ve ever graced. It would be sacrilege to come to this part of the country and not order the seafood, and we’re well rewarded, the monkfish is perfectly cooked and the sea trout is outstanding, flaky and full flavoured. We can’t possibly face desert, but we order the chocolate brownie anyway and somehow it vanishes all the same. We’re now fully committed to ensuring every journey we take beyond the pale justifies a stop off at Sheen Falls.

3. The Stuffed Olive.

Bantry is a world class town for ambling, a walk by the shore provides some stunning view of the coast and neighbouring Whiddy Island. The town encircles itself with twisting lanes and heart attack hills, all perfect for getting a little lost in. After a quick stop off at the library, an  more ambitious example of Irish modernist architecture, designed to echo local megalithic tombs, we’re ready for a brew and The Stuffed Olive is just the place. Perched in the window it’s the perfect place to people watch, the coffee is excellent with a large array of treats to accompany it and we’re loving the stack of well thumbed foodie mags and books, along with the mornings Examiner (but of course) to leaf through.

4. O’Connors

We’ve been tipped off that O’Connors is the place to go for great food in Bantry, indeed we’ve already overheard the locals making plans to meet there later, a sure sign of a find. Bustling, even at off season, there’s a great buzz around this small but lively eatery. Despite being filled to capacity the staff are still warm and friendly and quick to recommend a spot for an after dinner pint. We’re sticking to the ‘fruits de la mar’ and seafood platter starter is pretty much the whole orchard on a slate. The neighbouring table is eyeing up our mains, and we can’t blame them, the huge white sole is served on the bone and is light delicious and the sea bass, all three full fish (unheard of in Dublin) is perfectly matched with Mediterranean vegetables. We can’t resist that most nostalgic of all deserts, the bread and butter pudding to round off the night and leave O’Connors feeling a little more like Bantonians, if only for the evening.

5. Sheeps Head

On our final day down south (west) and we need one last fix of pure distilled Irish ruggedness, and Sheeps Head, a few minutes drive outside the town, delivers. Winding down narrowing roads, struck, turn after turn, by the stunning views as gorse covered mountains roll down to stone walled farms, giving way to the wild churning atlantic. Is there anywhere else that can cram this much epic spectacle into one single vista? A short walk at a small harbour clears the cobwebs and fills our heads with fresh mountain air and sea spray salt all at once. Further on, as the terrain gets even more jagged and weather beaten we wonder how people can live in such a beautiful yet remote part of the country. What do they all day? Could we also last the bleak long winters here? and lastly… what’s the Wi-fi like?1. The journey.

Google maps will tell you to take much of the trip via the M8 to Cork city and then head north-west from there, but we say “No!”. Breaking off somewhere around Thurles will catch you some of the most breath taking scenery the country has to offer.

2. La Cascade, Sheen Falls.

We couldn’t resist detouring slightly to Sheen Falls for dinner. After a quick G&T to rejuvenate us in Oscars Bar we feasted on the best of Cork seafood. The monkfish (perfectly cooked) and the sea trout (outstanding – flaky and full flavoured) meant we couldn’t possibly face desert, but we ordered the chocolate brownie anyway and somehow it vanished all the same. We’re now fully committed to ensuring every journey we take beyond the pale justifies a stop off at Sheen Falls.

3. Walkabout

Bantry is a world class town for ambling. A walk by the shore provides some stunning views of the coast and neighbouring Whiddy Island. The town encircles itself with twisting lanes and heart-attack hills, all perfect for getting a little lost in. Keep an eye out for the library, a more ambitious example of Irish modernist architecture, designed to echo local megalithic tombs.

4. O’Connors

More food! I know, but we were tipped off that O’Connors is the place to go for great food in Bantry, so it had to be tested. Bustling, there’s a great buzz around this small but lively eatery. Despite being filled to capacity when we arrived, the staff were warm and friendly and quick to recommend a spot for an after-dinner pint. We stuck to the seafood platter starter – so delicious it had our neighbouring table giving us the greedy eye – and devoured huge white sole (served on the bone, light and delicious) and the sea bass, perfectly matched with Mediterranean vegetables. Bread and butter pudding rounded off the night and we left O’Connors feeling a little more like Bantonians.

5. Sheeps Head

On our final day down south (west) we needed one last fix of pure distilled Irish ruggedness, so off to Sheeps Head we went. Winding down narrowing roads, we were struck, turn after turn, by the stunning views as gorse covered mountains roll down to stone walled farms, giving way to the wild churning atlantic. A short walk at a small harbour cleared the cobwebs and filled our heads with fresh mountain air and sea spray salt all at once. Bantry bliss.

Check in with Sheen Falls and browse the menu at O’Connors

@FEEKRA

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