West Cork Run: 16th April 2023

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A group of six sevens and one without,  making up seven members on a club day run entitled “West Cork 2023” where we all dined together, ten of us at The Speckled Door Pub & Restaurant in Ballinspittle Village, Co Cork where our Sunday lunch was enjoyed.  With cars parked outside, many of the patrons were pleased to see our array of cars dating back to 1926.  That was our mid-day stop. 

Let us go back and reminisce on out first tour of the year, hosted by our former honorary treasurer Chris O’Mahony.  Our meeting point was the car park of The Ramble Inn in Ballinhassig.

Our readers might be interested to know that Ballinhassig (Irish: Béal Átha an Cheasaigh) is a village in County Cork, Ireland, situated 10.6 km (6.6 mi) south of Cork City just off the N71 Bandon road and near the source of the River Owenabue (Abhainn Bui, meaning “Yellow River”).  Traditionally an agricultural area, Ballinhassig has seen some growth as a commuter area, being close to Cork city.  There are a number of prehistoric ringforts around Ballinhassig. 

Mountjoy, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, camped locally with his army of 4,000 troops on the night before the Battle of Kinsale in 1601.  The Gogginshill Tunnel at Ballinhassig, opened in 1851, is now the longest abandoned railway tunnel in the Republic of Ireland. It was a part of the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway. Ballinhassig railway station itself was opened on 1 August 1849, and closed on 1 April 1961.

On arrival and in the prior knowledge that the Ramble Inn would not be open at 10:30 am, Nuala Grogan packed a picnic basket full of cutlery & crockery and an abundance of freshly baked queen cakes as well as flasks of hot water to brew up teas and coffee.  Our mid-morning break for those of us who journeyed for an hour or two to get here.  Not a crumb left over; thank you Nuala.

Chris had prepared route sheets which were circulated.  His driver’s briefing was short and sweet.  We departed at 11:15 am and after 20 minutes on the back country roads we arrived at  Kinsale, a historic port and fishing town in County Cork, Ireland. Located approximately 25 km (16 mi) south of Cork City on the southeast coast near the Old Head of Kinsale, it sits at the mouth of the River Bandon, and has a population of 5,281 (as of the 2016 census) which increases in the summer when tourism peaks. Kinsale is a holiday destination for both Irish and overseas tourists. The town is known for its restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Bastion restaurant, and holds a number of annual gourmet food festivals. 

As a historically strategic port town, Kinsale’s notable buildings include Desmond Castle (associated with the Earls of Desmond and also known as the French Prison) of c. 1500, the 17th-century pentagonal bastion fort of James Fort on Castlepark peninsula, and Charles Fort, a partly restored star fort of 1677 in nearby Summercove.  Other historic buildings include the Church of St Multose (Church of Ireland) of 1190, St John the Baptist (Catholic) of 1839, and the Market House of c. 1600.

Our cavalcade progressed slowly through the very busy mid-day traffic where pedestrians on the crowded footpaths were clearly delighted to see our offerings, particularly as one of our number took a short pit stop on the busy quayside, to adjust the points on a distributor, making for sweeter engine running.  We were anxious for a stop in Kinsale.  We decided that a better photo opportunity was the Southern End of the Archdeacon Duggan Bridge where soon enough after a delightful  riverside journey our cars were all lined up for the task to hand. 

After an interval we were off again to meet fellow members Alan & Avril who were on a short weekend break to join in with us for lunch at The Speckled Door, a family run establishment at the gateway to the famous Old Head of Kinsale, run by the Lordan family since the late ‘50’s.  The Speckled Door is ideally located just 2 minutes from the world-famous Old Head Golf Links, 10 minutes from Kinsale and just 2 minutes from our Blue Flag Beaches at Garrettstown.

The area offers the widest range of activities including Golf, Sailing, Kayaking, Kite Surfing, Sea Angling, walking and of course just relaxing with good company and a perfect pint.  They specialise in the freshest of local produce served in our ocean view restaurant and bar with daily fresh fish and local meat from the family butcher’s shop.

Club Chairman Declan Grogan then addressed the group.  He was pleased with growth in membership and that that we had a higher attendance this year with apologies for non-attendance.  He thanked Chris for his time and effort in making the day enjoyable with a selection of roads ideally suited for our cars, fast approaching their centenary.  He presented Chris with a hand turned bowl from apiece of splatted beech that fell down as a result of storm Ophelia of a few years ago.  What might be of interest, is the said tree was located only a short distance from the home of Richard P O’Brien, one of the seven founding directors of our Club.

After lunch, we proceeded in the direction of the Old Head of Kinsale.  We stopped for a break at the Old Head Signal Tower & Lusitania Museum with our cars lined up and ready for inspection by the many visitors.  This 200-year-old signal tower, houses a museum dedicated to the RMS Lusitania, which was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915 with the loss of 1200 lives. You can walk to the nearby clifftops for impressive views south towards the Old Head, the nearest point of land to the disaster.  As the photograph clearly show, the spring mist descended, thus inhibiting a clear view of the majestic surroundings that are on offer.  Maybe we will return for another try on a clear day.  We stayed a little while.

Our journey recommenced.  We were off again to the village of Ballinspittle, the pretty little village near Kinsale, put on the world map 35 years ago this summer, when locals reported seeing the statue of Our Lady ‘moving’ at the local grotto on July 22nd.  What followed next was a summer never to forget, as thousands of people flocked to the West Cork village, carrying rosary beads (and umbrellas) to pray – and hoping to catch a glimpse of the ‘moving statue’.   We parked up our cars neatly in front of the Grotto for a remembrance photo.  We stayed a little while too.

Off again on the final leg, a riverside drive along the banks of the River Bandon in the direction of Innishannon, heading east and completing our circle by terminating back at the Rambler’s Inn.  Further chats and recollections of a wonderful day drive in magic West Cork.  With all due thanks to Chris O’Mahony for sharing of his deep knowledge of the area and his pick of the most scenic and appropriate roads for us, best views, absence of hills and very low density traffic.  We had a great day. 

We surely will return.

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A one marque organisation, catering for the Austin Seven, is what makes The Irish Austin Seven Club unique. Prospective owners are always welcome to make contact with our membership who will be pleased to present and demonstrate the Seven’s special characteristics and driving experience.

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