West Cork is a magical place. The people who live there know it—and let you know it if you’re visiting—but there is evidence in every town (mostly from a culinary perspective) that there are many people who move there from England, Scotland, Germany and even the States because “there is just something about West Cork.” The BF and I drive out occasionally to see his uncle who has a farm just outside of Skibbereen, and I was lucky enough to spend a week in Durrus, near the Sheep’s Head Penninsula, with my family this past July. I am now a full convert to the magic. We were down in Skibb this past weekend, and it reminded me how much fun I’ve had in 2012 down in the wild west of the rebel county.
2012 had a dreadful summer weather-wise. It was beyond what you would even allow for an Irish summer. There weren’t two sunny days strung together from June-August. Come to think of it, there really weren’t that many sunny days from sun-up to sun-down. For my family, who is used to sweating through the summer months in the American North-East, it was not totally unbearable. The weather wasn’t delightful, but it was truly “Irish” and hence, perfectly charming. And because we were in West Cork, and because we are a family who loves food, we made our trip about eating. There is no better place in Ireland than West Cork to eat.
To go into all the details about the cheeses, the seafood, the incredible local restaurants (massive shout out to Good Things Cafe in Durrus. Go. There. As. Fast. As. You. Can.) could be many posts. Suffice it to say that West Cork is the perfect holiday if you want to eat a lot of fantastic food, and then walk it all off. It is the perfect combination holiday: eat, walk, eat, walk, eat. The guilt-free foodie holiday. For my family, West Cork embodies all the drama that we, as Americans, want and expect from Ireland: rolling green hills and meadows, sheep-dotted pastures, a few ruined castles here and there, cliffs that drop down into the sea, tiny roads lined by hedges that make every car ride thrilling (read: terrifying), and sweet towns and villages nestled into valleys and onto bays. It’s picturesque, it’s Irish, it’s wonderful.
On our trip down this past weekend, the BF and I were blessed with one cloud-less, cold, perfect late-autumn day. There was a frost overnight, and as BF’s farmer uncle said “you’ll get a grand clear day after the frost, so you will.” We went on a long loop of a walk through the hills above Skibb with occasional views down to the Atlantic. The shady side of the road was still covered in frost, all sparkly white, while the low sun was able to melt the shimmer away on the opposite side pretty quickly.
Later, the BF drove us to the little beach where he spent many happy summer days paddling around. I love looking at photos of his family on their “beach holidays” in Cork: skinny white legs covered in goosebumps, little swim suits and a wool sweater to keep off the cool sea breeze. Irish beach wear always includes sweaters. Irish beach picnics tend to include a thermos of warm soup and hot sausages. Something to keep you warm on the inside. No matter what the temperature, though, like any good beach day anywhere in the world, ice creams are a must. If someone says no to a 99, they are in need of immediate medical attention. The 99 is an Irish classic: creamy vanilla soft-serve loaded onto the cone and pierced with a cadbury’s flake chocolate stick. Um…..heaven? Possibly.
There was no ice cream for us to purchase on Saturday. If there had been the option of a 99, I would have taken it in my little gloved hands gladly. Our beach treat that day was seeing a seal just off the rocks in the shallows. If it had been a tad bit warmer, I would have joined it. The water was LA-pool blue, clear enough to see the sandy bottom and almost irresistible for a water lover like me.
I did resist, though, and we jumped back in the car for a dinner out with the BF’s uncle. Even “traditional” Irish fare in West Cork is delicious. We had roast pork, roast carrots, cabbage, and plenty of mash. Because just one type of spud on the plate is simply not enough for most Irish dinners, the BF’s uncle asked if we needed chips too. Luckily we’d made room for it all….