The Clonakilty Hotel was comfortable and good value without being memorable and after breakfast we established that check out was midday and so we went back into the town for a final couple of hours.
First of all we went to the local Friday Artisan Market where hippy traders with beards and pigtails in linen shirts wearing leather wristbands sold bric-a-brac and beads, coins and coasters, pottery and plants, jumpers and jam, articles that, caught up in the moment, you might buy on impulse and when you get home wonder just why you did and then we passed along the main shopping street and finally to Emmet Square, a wonderful Georgian masterpiece overlooking a green park and looking ever so much like a reconstruction of downtown Dublin.
We were going to visit the Michael Collins Museum and as we waited for it to open at ten o’clock we walked around the square in search of photo opportunities.
If we had visited the day before the museum was free but today we had to pay an admission charge but we didn’t complain about that (much) and we paid up and entered the labyrinth of rooms.
Michael Collins is one of the great characters (heroes?) of Irish history, a soldier, a politician, a patriot who was eventually betrayed by a man less worthy (Éamon de Valera) and murdered in an ambush somewhere close to Clonakilty at Béal na Bláth. The life and work of Collins is interesting and too long and complicated to be dealt with here but if you have an interest just Google his name and get the story elsewhere or watch the film in which Collins is played by actor Liam Neeson.
We had enjoyed our overnight stay in Clonakilty, it was one of those places that although you have done everything and seen all there is to see you think you might like to return some day. We checked out of our hotel and set off on the last leg of our journey to the tourist town of Kinsale.
We drove along the coast road, the last section of the Wild Atlantic Way which is a one thousand, five hundred mile route that starts in the very North of Ireland in County Donegal and finishes at the Old Head of Kinsale.
Richard was keen to visit the Old Head of Kinsale because he had been there twenty-five years ago or so but when we got there they had built a swanky golf course in the intervening years and access was denied but we could still look out to sea in the general direction of the sinking of RMS Lusitania.
On 7th May 1915 the ship was nearing the end of an Atlantic crossing bound for Liverpool from New York. Aboard her were 1,266 passengers and a crew of 696, She was running parallel to the south coast of Ireland, and was roughly eleven miles off the Old Head of Kinsale when the liner crossed in front of a German U-boat. The commanding officer of the submarine gave the order to fire one torpedo which struck Lusitania on the starboard bow. Moments later, a second massive explosion, much larger than expected on a passenger liner, and the ship began to sink. Of the 1,962 passengers and crew aboard Lusitania at the time of the sinking, 1,198 lost their lives.
Germany defended the attack on the basis that the ship was carrying munitions for the war but Britain denied this and continued to do so until 1982 when it was obliged to warn a salvage company of the presence of dangerous ammunition inside the wreck. So it seems the Germans were right then!
Around about lunch time we arrived in Kinsale and checked in to the Old Bank Town House with rooms overlooking the harbour and the brightly painted shops in the High Street opposite and after Guinness and Chowder we spent the afternoon exploring the narrow streets, the tourist shops and the harbour area.
There is no getting away from the fact that Kinsale is very much a tourist town and it felt as though the whole place had been recently spruced up for the summer season and everywhere there were overflowing flower planters and fresh paint, bus tour blue, tourist turquoise and visitor violet which gave the town an uplifting vibrancy which was fake but at the same time friendly.
Later we looked for somewhere to eat but this proved difficult on account of how busy the town was and it took some time to find a restaurant that could accommodate us. Someone always finds a table however and eventually we found a place and enjoyed a final meal and had a reflective conversation about the week away. It was our third successive year in Ireland, we have visited the West coast and the North and now the south and for the third year running we had not seen a single drop of rain.
Kim really believes that the sun always shines in Ireland! On account of this I am beginning to think about starting a travel business specialising in escorted tours to Ireland because it would seem that we would be able to give a no rain guarantee.
As we left the restaurant we could hear genuine Irish music playing nearby so like children drawn to the Pied Piper we followed the sound to a nearby pub where a trio of musicians called ‘Goats Don’t Shave’ were playing traditional music and we stayed and watched, tapped our feet, clapped our hands and joined in when we recognised the lyrics.
We had had a good day, Clonakilty and Kinsale, an excellent way to finish the trip and before we went to bed we discovered more Irish music in the hotel bar where a man famous for playing with the Riverdance show was playing for free with his band of excellent musicians. It was quite a show and we stayed longer than we planned and long after we had left we could hear the music of his accordion wafting across the street and through the open window of our room.
What a great way to finish the day and the week. Time now to make plans for next year.