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West Cork Festivals

The chamber music festivals that are treasured by music-lovers share several features – the day is full of music from morning to midnight, the programming repeatedly discovers unexpected repertoire and great but lesser-known musicians, all works are properly rehearsed, there is a strong programme of masterclasses and facilities for young musicians and audiences keep coming back. These festivals are very often in remote but beautiful places.This is what we try to achieve in Bantry. The Festival lasts for nine days, there are five concerts, three masterclasses and a talk most days. There are instrument making workshops, the hundred or so invited musicians are without exception superb, the programming combines the challenging and the unknown with the familiar and the whole town is taken over for rehearsals.  

Bantry House is the main concert venue along with the small single-aisle church dedicated to St Brendan, whose legendary Brendan Voyage began in this part of Ireland. All the venues have an intimacy that is vital for chamber music and Bantry House itself is renowned for the atmosphere created in the candle-lit Library and the House’s extraordinarily beautiful setting at the head of Bantry Bay. All events are within walking distance of the central hotels and one can find oneself crossing the Square in the company of world-famous musicians. The intimacy of place and venue creates a special community of musicians and music-lovers.

West Cork Literary Festival 

Now an annual highlight in the Irish literary calendar, the West Cork Literary Festival is a week-long celebration of writing and reading for people of all ages.  From its humble beginnings as a series of casual poetry readings and fringe events around the Chamber Music Festival, it has expanded into a varied and extensive programme of readings, talks and week-long workshops, growing more adventurous and imaginative with each year.  We are delighted to bring the finest Irish and international literary figures to West Cork every July – making exceptional talent accessible to local, regional and national audiences.  At the heart of the Festival is the practice and craft of writing, and in keeping with this Festival Director Eimear O’Herlihy devises a workshop programme second to none, designed to encourage and inspire novice as well as experienced writers.  Now in its 17th year,  the Festival is a social event, noted for its supportive and friendly atmosphere, and its personal touch.

Masters of Tradition

Masters of Tradition is a five-day festival held each August in Bantry featuring a series of performances covering the full spectrum of Irish traditional music.  Performances take place in Bantry House, one of Ireland’s most exquisite historic mansions, and in one of Bantry’s other special venues, St Brendan’s Church. The Festival’s mission is to give recognition to the masters of this music.  Being a master of traditional Irish music doesn’t always entail dazzling virtuosity. Sometimes the ability to channel the deep feeling of the music or the ability to reimagine the music is just as important. We equally value virtuosity of thought, feeling and musical ability.

Masters of Tradition provides a platform where subtle and sometimes obscure elements of the music can be heard. We avoid pressure to present this music in a commercial or watered down manner and in so doing have been able to assure audiences that they are experiencing the music as authentically as possible. By seeking the heart of the music we find a universal voice that has widespread appeal reaching across many cultural and musical barriers.  As ever, the Festival is headlined by its Artistic Director Martin Hayes, the fiddler from East Clare, whose distinctive touch and extravagant virtuosity has brought the tradition to new levels. His famous trance-evoking sets with Dennis Cahill have mesmerised audiences all over the world. 

Chief O Neill Festival – Celebrating the Legacy of Captain Francis O’Neill

We celebrate the musical legacy of Chief O’Neill in Bantry with a traditional music festival in September to highlight his achievements as a collector of traditional Irish music. Join us each year to enjoy O’Neill’s amazing legacy as we bring the best contemporary musicians to West Cork for packed programme of concerts, workshops, sessions and fun here in Bantry.  

As the famous ‘Chief’ of the Chicago police force, Captain O’Neill won fame and affection in America, but he never lost his love for the Irish music he had learned as a child growing up in Tralibane near Bantry in West Cork. Noticing that Chicago, with its large Irish population, was home to brilliant musicians from across Ireland, O’Neill set about building a unique collection of the tunes they played: a songbook for the musicians of the future. Chief O’Neill not only collected traditional tunes from Irish musicians in Chicago, he also published them in an impressive series of books which are still in print today. In the process, O’Neill helped to safeguard the future of traditional Irish music on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Chicago, and in West Cork, his memory has been kept alive over the last century, and we’re delighted that our festival will bring his important legacy to an even wider audience. Help us to honour his achievements by coming to Bantry for the Chief O’Neill Traditional Music Festival each year.  Visit for more information.

Bantry Bay Adventure Race Ireland 2018

Take on islands, bays, and peninsulas at the third Bantry Bay Adventure Race (25th August 2018)   Solo competitors will run on Whiddy Island, kayak on Bantry Bay, and then cycle a stretch of the Sheep’s Head peninsula. The event is a test of teamwork as well as individual skills – competitors need to pair up after the run to bring double kayaks across Bantry Bay and back to Bantry’s Abbey Pier.

The 5k run on Whiddy Island is a wonderful start to the race, offering spectacular views out across the Beara and Sheep’s head peninsulas. From the island, you’ll be crossing back to Bantry by kayak in a real test of teamwork as well as strength and endurance. From Bantry, you’ll be cycling out onto the stunning Sheep’s Head peninsula. As the cycle route skirts the bay, you’ll have amazing views back across Whiddy Island and Bantry town. Not that you’ll have time to look as you race down the country roads to Gearhies, doubling back towards Bantry for the final stretch of an invigorating contest.

Individual and Team Challenges

Take on the challenge alone, or join with friends to compete in the team event. Your team runner will join up with your team’s kayaker in the changeover zone on Whiddy Island. Battle your way across the Bantry Blueway to hand over responsibility to the team’s cyclist on the Bantry side. It’ll be up to the cyclist to complete the Sheep’s Head leg (if you see what we mean)!  Visit for more information.

A Taste of West Cork Food Festival

A Taste of West Cork Food Festival is so much more than just a festival which happens to be about food; It is a festival that celebrates all that is unique about West Cork – the food, the producers, the landscape and the people – the magic ingredients.  The beauty of West Cork draws many artists, writers, craftsmen and food producers to the area and A Taste of West Cork Food Festival showcases the wonderful food and food creators in this very special place. It brings together a unique mix of food markets and cooking demonstrations, food tastings and cookery competitions, special dinners, brunches and banquets, talks and exhibitions, children’s events, adventures and more. 

A Taste of West Cork is one of Ireland’s longest running food festivals and is fast becoming a premier event on the food calendar.  The festival is one of the best opportunities for the many local producers and chefs to showcase their wares to people passionate about food.

West Cork Beaches

Garryvoe Beach

Garryvoe beach is a mix of pebbles and rock set in the beautiful south-east of Cork. It lies on the R632 a short drive up the coast from Shanagarry. In summer this Blue Flag beach is a popular destination for families and the facilities here are good, as you would expect. There is access to the beach for wheelchairs and pushchairs and a children’s play area. Across the bay lie the Ballycotton Cliffs, which have a good cliff-top walk with excellent views and an opportunity to spot some of the local wildlife. On clear days it is possible to see Ballycotton Island from Garryvoe Beach, with its picturesque lighthouse.


Garrettstown is a popular sandy beach. Despite this, it still retains a rural feel and has not been overdeveloped. It’s a great family beach with all the facilities including a seasonal lifeguard service. With a ramp down to the beach, Garrettstown is also accessible. This is one of the most popular surfing beaches in the area and is home to a surf school.


Barleycove is a stunning, sandy beach in a sheltered bay between Mizen Head and Lyroe peninsulas close to the Southwesterly tip of Ireland. The pristine sand is cleaned regularly and the beach has been awarded coveted Blue Flag status. When the sun shines this can be one of the loveliest beaches you’ve ever visited. Whatever the weather it is a great place to come to shake off the cobwebs. The beach is large enough for good walks and has lovely views over the dramatic Cork coastline. 

Barleycove Beach

Barleycove beach is backed by extensive sandy dunes which were formed by a tidal wave which swept through the Atlantic after the Lisbon earthquake in 1755. The dunes provide a habitat to a variety of animal life and have resulted in the beach being designated an EU Special Area of Conservation.

This beach is an ideal destination for a family day out. Barleycove is approached via a boardwalk which turns into a moving bridge as the path crosses a river estuary. Signs warn of dangerous currents and rip tides.this rural beach can be quite difficult to find, and this, combined with the fact that there is plenty of space means that it seldom gets too busy. A single seasonal hotel sits immediately adjacent to the beach and offers fine views across the bay.

Inchydoney Beach 

This vast, sandy beach, on Inchydoney Island, is one of the most beautiful to be found along this stretch of the coastline. The pale, pristine sand is backed by dunes and gently rolling countryside. The beach has two separate sections, divided by the rocky Virgin Mary Headland. The swell here can be excellent and there are good opportunities for surfing. A surf school operates on the beach, which caters for all levels of ability. The beach is also popular with families who come here to play in the sand, picnic and hunt for shells or marine life in the rockpools around the headland. Lifeguards operate here during the summer season and the beach has been awarded Blue Flag status. An award-winning hotel and spa overlooks the beach.

The Island of Inchydoney is connected to the mainland by two causeways, and it is easy to drive here from the vibrant town of Clonakilty, where a good range of facilities can be found. Cork city is just over an hours’ drive away. The approach road to the car park is quite narrow and during the summer months, it can be quite difficult to find a parking spot. Although the beach itself is popular, there is plenty of room for everyone here and it never feels overcrowded.

The Warren Beach

The Warren Beach, Rosscarbery, is a small sandy rural beach backed by dunes and situated at the mouth of the Roscarbery River. The Rosscarbery Estuary is a sea inlet fed by small rivers from the north and north-west. At the southern end of the beach is a harbour wall which protects the entrance to the river mouth. A few small boats still fish from here.  The area around the beach has been designated as a Natural Heritage Area and wildlife abounds

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