You will know you have reached the gateway to West Cork when you see an impressive sculpture of a Horse and Rider at the entrance to the lovely village of Innishannon. This is a symbolic sculpture of a cloaked rider on a workhorse, telling the story of the origins of this village and of its strategic location at the original entrance to West Cork.
This village was first mentioned in the Book of Leicester in the 8th century and was given a royal charter in 1412. Back then it was the only point on the river Bandon at which you could gain access into West Cork. At that time water crossings were of huge commercial importance and Innishannon grew up around this river crossing. The little lane way to this crossing was then and still is known as Bothairin an Atha (little road to the ford). The sculpture is the Bothairin an Atha sculpture and breathes the antiquity of an earlier time, before bridges were built, when the main means of transport was by horse.
This is the first chapter in the story of this historic place, which has the impressive streetscape of two elegant church steeples and an Old Tower dating back to the 12th century. The key to the story of this village is in a historic map on a wall in the village centre, which gives you a total picture of all the historic points of interest along the village streets. As you stroll along you will find detailed information plaques on each historic building. An accompanying brochure can be picked up in the local shops and pubs and guided tours are available for groups – please inquire locally.
In the village you will encounter the ancient arched wall of the old Adderly manor, which was granted to that family by Cromwell in 1649. Thomas Adderly, who was part of the Wide Street Commission to design the streets of London, redesigned Innishannon.
You will also see the early 18th century Georgian style Westropp House, which was once the home of George Bernard Shaw’s wife and the ancestors of the actor Jeremy Irons. The Old Market House, which is the only one of its kind in Ireland, is also here as is the Frewen ruin, once the home of Clara Jerome Frewen, an aunt of Winston Churchill’s. Churchill visited here as a boy. Further on an informative plaque will give you a brief history of the Charter School, which was part of Innishannon in 1750.
At the western end of the village is the wonderful sculpture of Billy the Blacksmith. Billy’s family plied their trade here for generations and the forge is a historic landmark on the road to West Cork. Beside this sculpture is the entrance to the captivating Dromkeen Wood. This wood in springtime is a carpet of bluebells and for the rest of the year takes you far from ‘the maddening crowds’. It was originally planned by Adderly who planted contrasting trees to imprint his name on this hillside above the village. Dromkeen Wood is a restful and energy enhancing hillside walk. All around Innishannon are many wonderful walks of varying lengths to test your stamina.
Every June bank holiday weekend there is the local Steam Rally where vintage vehicles of every description, from all over Ireland and England, converge on Innishannon. Each July the village hosts a village barbecue in Barretts Yard in the village centre and visitors are very welcome.
DIRECTIONS: Located on the N71, 23km west of Cork city.
Information courtesy of Alice Taylor.