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 West Cork > Features > Castletownsend


I am tempted to describe Castletownsend as "quaint", but I fear this may be misinterpreted. The Oxford Dictionary defines "quaint" as "attractive in virture of unfamiliar appearance". That certainly describes Castletownsend. But the dictionary also defines "quaint" as "daintily odd". Casteltownsend is, in no way odd - hence my fear of using the word "quaint". The village began to develop around the castle of the Townsend Family from about the middle of the eighteenth century - hence the name Casteltownsend.
As you come around the corner that leads into the village, you suddenly find yourself on a street that slopes rather steeply to the sea. It is the only street in the village. In fact, Castletownsend is a kind of hanging village, and you begin to wonder where the children learn to ride their bicycles.


Then you notice that mid-way down the hill there is a picturesque hazard in the middle of the street. This takes the form of a rather large circular type of flowerbed containing a tree. Up to a few years ago, the tree there was an old majestic specimen, but it fell victim to the ravages of old age. Its replacement, a mere sapling by comparison, has a lot of growing to do before it confers the degree of adornment provided by the old tree. It has its beauty but suffers from being compared with its predecessor.


The next surprise as you enter the village is seeing where the beautiful Church of Ireland (Anglican) Church is located. One expects churches to be built on higher ground, dominating the landscape but St. Barrahaue's Church is at the bottom of the sloping street, beside the sea. In spite of this, it is eye-catching as you move down the street.
Castletownsend's claim to literary fame is that it was the home of the writers and cousins, Edith Somerville and Violet Martin Ross. St. Barrahane's Churchyard is their burial place. The work of these writers, most notably "The Irish RM" provides a hilarious fictional chronicle of a bye-gone way of life.
Castletownsend is picturesque; it is different and yes, it is quaint in the sense that it is attractive due to its unfamiliar appearance - a kind of suspended village dipping it toes in the Atlantic Ocean.

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