Remote and beautiful, West Cork's Baltimore has much to offer

MORE ON THE SACK OF BALTIMORE

Remote and beautiful, West Cork's
Baltimore has much to offer

By James Doherty

Photo by James Doherty 
Baltimore seen from Dun Na Sead Castle. Click on the image for a larger view.

BALTIMORE, West Cork, Ireland: The small, picturesque village of Baltimore, once the target of hundreds of Islamic pirates, is about a 90-minute drive from Cork city in the south of Ireland. Tourists sometimes bypass the headlands of West Cork as they head for the more famous national park of Killarney. But that's a mistake the very fact of Baltimore's remoteness and its unique history makes this town well worth a visit.

Arriving in Baltimore, I chose to stay in Casey's, a small, friendly, family-run hotel with beautiful views of Baltimore Bay. Michael and Ann Casey made me welcome, while Michael was a fount of knowledge when it came to the fascinating story of the sack of the village by Barbary pirates in 1631. Casey's offers a range of accommodations, from self-catering cottages to full board, and boasts an excellent seafood restaurant. There is plenty of accommodation on offer in Baltimore; however, its popularity in high season makes advance booking highly recommended.

Photo by James Doherty 
Caseys hotel. Click on the image for a larger view.

The sheltered bay that attracted pirates offers perfect conditions for water sports of every description. Charter boats such as "Rooster" and "Algerian" (whose name, no doubt, is drawn from the mother country of many of the Barbary pirates) offer world-class, deep-sea angling. The rugged coast ensures no shortage of wrecks (including a German submarine) for the diving enthusiast, with all levels of experience catered for.

The painstakingly restored Dún na Séad castle, the ancestral home of the O'Driscoll clan, is well worth the visit. As a bonus, the castle offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Indeed, every year in the last week of June, the town of Baltimore plays host to a gathering of the O'Driscoll clan. O'Driscolls from the world over descend on Baltimore for four days of events, highlighted by the election of a new clan chieftain. Baltimore also plays host to a fiddle fair, as well as numerous sailing regattas and fêtes.

Photo by James Doherty 
The Algiers Inn.

The traditional pubs of Baltimore offer Irish music on a regular basis, and a pub called the Algiers Inn provides a nod, as well, to the home port of the pillagers and kidnappers of 107 of the village's residents. Indeed, the popularity of Baltimore with the yachting set ensures no shortage of excellent venues to eat and drink, from pub food to fine dining.

To really appreciate Baltimore, though, one must get out onto the water. Michael Casey was good enough to introduce me to a local man called Gerald O'Flynn, who kindly offered to show me the bay in his boat, which was obviously his pride and joy. O'Flynn, a history enthusiast, showed me all the locations mentioned in the saga of the sack of Baltimore, and it was only then that I gained a true appreciation of the tale. Seeing the maze of small islands and channels in the vicinity, I better understood the advantage that pirates with local knowledge would enjoy only a foolhardy captain would enter that maze of islands and risk wrecking his boat.

To get a true feeling for Ireland, its history and its culture, it's best to get off the beaten track once in a while. Relaxing in Baltimore, it is easy to look out into the bay and imagine the fishing fleets of the past and, indeed, the pirate ships that once sailed these treacherous waters.

Photo by James Doherty 
Baltimore Harbour. Click on the image for a larger view.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Rooms at Casey's Hotel range from, from €40-€70 ($60-$100), depending on the type of accommodation. "Rooster" offers an all-day charter rate for the boat at €70 ($100) per person. Several boats offer one-hour or two-hour sightseeing trips, with prices varying around €20 ($30) per hour per person. For meals, expect to pay about €15 ($22) for a main course at the lower end of the restaurant scale, and up to €30 ($43) at more upscale restaurants. In short, Baltimore is one of those places in which you can spend as much or as little money as you like, offering both luxury and budget accommodation and dining. You can learn more about a trip here by visiting www.baltimore.ie.

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James Doherty is a Waterford-based writer who focuses on the preservation of the history of the Irish worldwide.


This feature was edited by Gerry Regan and produced by Joe Gannon.

Copyright © 2011 by James Doherty and GAR Media LLC. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed without prior permission from the author. Direct questions about permissions to permissions@garmedia.com.

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Tags: barbary, pirates

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