We unlocked the door to our cottage, “The Phoenix”, on Main Street in Castletownshend at about six o’clock in the evening. By the time we went to bed that night we’d met almost a dozen people. Less than 24 hours later, the girls were running around the village with new friends and creating a fort in the meadow near our place. Suffice it to say, life in Ireland has been a great experience so far.
The population statistics online report Castletownshend to have a population of 187. However, our new friend Mary, who’s owned Lill McCarthy’s pub down the street for 26 years since inheriting it from her mother, says the town probably doesn’t have more than a hundred permanent residents. It’s a quiet haven situated on a bay off the North Atlantic. Most of its cottages are second homes used primarily in the summer and at Christmastime or rented out to tourists in July and August. Right now in the off-season Main Street, the only road leading into and out of town, sees a passing car every 15 minutes or so…during rush hour. We love this town and so do the kids. They can run around with their new friends to visit the playground around the corner or work on their fort. They’ve found rope swings down by the rocky beach, and they’ve spent a couple afternoons in the St. Barrahane Church cemetery making flower bouquets to put on the ancient graves.
The nearest hub of commerce is Skibbereen, about 8 kilometers away from us. It’s a cute, walkable town. We’re already members at the library and have visited the Saturday farmers market. As part of the girls homeschooling curriculum, we’ve also visited the local Heritage Museum, which focuses on the impact of the Irish Potato Famine of the mid-19th century. One day on a whim I popped into a hair salon and wound up having Kurt, a world traveler who recently came back home to Skibbereen, cut off 6 inches of my hair. We’re becoming regulars at Apple Bettys, a little cafe on the square with great coffee for mom and gingerbread cookies for the girls.
Just one week into our stay, we already know it will be hard to end our time here in West Cork. The people are absolutely the friendliest population of human beings we’ve ever come across. Everyone from the grocery store cashier to the fellow parent at the playground greets us with hospitality, a smile, and a few questions once they hear our American accents. On top of all that, the area is gorgeous. It’s impossible to put the scenery into words, so I won’t try. Luckily, Brian is getting some amazing photos to give you an idea of the natural beauty we’ve encountered in this corner of Ireland.