Castletownshend is a harbour village in County Cork in southwest Ireland. It's a tiny place, just a single main street leading down to the harbour, with a population of 196 in 2016.
There's almost nothing left of the castle, but in 1601 there was a naval battle in the inlet of Castlehaven. The Spanish were landing troops at Kinsale but part of their invasion fleet became separated and landed here. They were welcomed ashore as allies, but English warships bombarded the Spanish flotilla to smithereens.
You need a car. There's only one bus a week, starting from Castletownshend on Friday around 11:00 and taking 30 min to Skibbereen, and returning towards 15:00. Skibbereen has buses every two hours from Cork via Clonakilty but it's 9 km away, with no local taxi. Don't hike, it's a narrow, busy road with no side-walk.
You can easily walk to Knockdrum, but you need wheels for sights further out such as Toe Head.
- 1 The village is strung along the steeply descending Main Street. Just when you think it can't get narrower, two trees create a traffic island at the corner with The Mall. Sharp intakes of breath will be needed to pass, especially if you're towing. The street ends at the pier. It's not worth looking for the castle that gave the village its name, it's in bits within the grounds and masonry of Castle Hotel.
- Warren Gallery is above Mary Ann's on Main Street. It displays work for sale by local artists and is open M-Sa 10:00-17:00.
- 2 St Barrahane's Church. Anglican church built in 1826 with remarkable stained glass windows, created by Harry Clarke in the 1920s in art nouveau style. In the church porch is a lifeboat oar from Lusitania, torpedoed by a U-boat in 1915. Somerville and Ross, authors of The Irish RM stories, are buried here.
- St Barrahane's RC Church on the lane near the ring fort is a chapel built 1840. It's plain and simple.
- 3 Knockdrum Ring Fort is probably late Iron Age, circa 100 AD, though reconstructed in the 19th century. It's a stone fort some 29 m in diameter with walls up to 2 m high and 3 m thick. Within is a souterrain. It's free to access any time.
- Gurranes Stone Row is across the lane from the fort. They're three standing stones plus one broken, aligned but pointing at rakish angles. A fifth has been removed to a village garden.
- 4 Rineen Forest is at the head of the inlet. There are forest trails, which have been decorated with fairy and leprechaun dwellings, more twee than tree.
- Union Hall: see Skibbereen for this little fishing village to the east.
- 5 Raheen Castle is the stump of a tower house. It's on private land so you can't approach.
- 6 Toe Head is the rugged peninsula southwest of Castletownshend. There's a 19th century signal tower.
- Lough Hyne: see Skibbereen for this unusual seawater lake to the west.
- O'Donovans is the village store, near the top of Main Street. There isn't an ATM, the closest is in Skibbereen.
- Castle Cafe is part of the Castle Hotel. It's closed in 2020.
- Mary Ann's, Main St, ☏ . Feb-Dec daily 12:00-21:00. Creative country restaurant and beer garden.
- McCarthy's on Main St is the village pub.
- The Castle, Main St P81 NH72, ☏ . Early 19th century mansion, and the name's authentic as it used masonry from the wrecked earlier castle. Old-world style and gets great reviews for comfort and service. Open for B&B Mar-Dec and for self-catering all year.
- 1 Atlantic House, Coast Rd (1 km southwest of village), ☏ . Clean friendly B&B. B&B double €80.
- 2 Sandycove House, Sandycove (2 km southwest of village), ☏ . Open mid-Mar to Oct, comfy B&B perched by the ocean's edge. B&B double €70.
As of Nov 2020, there's 4G from Vodafone but no signal from Eir or Three. 5G has not reached this area.
- East is gentler country towards Clonakilty and eventually Cork.
- A short way west, Skibbereen and Baltimore have ferries to the islands of Roaringwater Bay.
- Schull is on Mizen Head, and Bantry is a good base for all three of the peninsulas.