Ballydehob village was on my bucket list of places to live from the tender age of 20. Now at 52 I have lived in this beautiful place for the last 16 years. How we ended up here is a long story and too convoluted to tell, but suffice it to say, it was due to a re-invention of our lives, job change, house change, baby….. in that order. So, speaking of re-invention, this village has done it over and over to survive, and so have most of the people who live here. From mining and farming, to famine, rebellion and sand-boats, and on to art, crafts, music, writing and tourism, this town has seen more changes than a little. Not least the population the village supported, which pre-famine was 20,000 in the greater area, now only 274 (Census 2016) in the village itself.
Lately the village has undergone another sea-change. Listed as one of Ireland’s coolest villages this year, Ballydehob has become the place to visit for music festivals, art exhibitions, shopping, history and walking, not to mention the several fabulous eateries and some of the most interesting pubs on the island of Ireland. Many an ironic bun on the lads drinking lattés and craft beers here! And so to my list of the best re-inventions:
Kilcoe Cottage, first and foremost I should outline our own self interest in this article. We own and manage several exclusive vacation rentals in and around Ballydehob. A converted barn, a small but beautifully formed duplex and a two house property with wonderful sea views here in Kilcoe, a two house waterfront property in Foilnamuck and a wonderful townhouse in Castletownshend. If you are looking for comfort in a bespoke setting, check out our houses on www.kilcoecottage.com
Levis’ Bar, once the domain of Nell and Julia Levis as a bar and grocery shop, their grand-nephew Joe O’Leary and his partner Caroline now run it as one of the hippest music venues in the country. They also hold a fabulous local produce market on Wednesday mornings www.leviscornerhouse.com
Budd’s Café and Bistro, once the famous Annie’s restaurant, now owned and operated by Jamie and Emma Budd. Fabulous flavours using local and foraged ingredients, and the best coffee in the West. www.budds.ie
Rosie’s Bar and the Aisling Gallery, one of the cosiest bars in Ballydehob, the first one we ever frequented here to sit and sip by the roaring fire, has now added an art gallery on the upper floors. There are several excellent exhibitions every year of local artists.
Ina Daly’s, The Irish Whip, O’Briens Bar and The Sandboat, traditional bars that everyone should visit. No re-invention here….. sure why would you re-invent the wheel?
Restaurant Chestnut, once the Chestnut Tree pub, is now an elegant eatery serving exquisite tasting and á-la-carte menus by Rob Krawczyk (chef) and his partner Elaine Fleming www.restaurantchestnutwestcork.ie
The Post Office, under threat of closure our local post mistress Bridie Roycroft changed it up a peg by opening an excellent craft shop to compliment her already extensive offerings of stationary supplies, cards and local gifts. www.facebook.com/ballydehobpostoffice/
Patrick Roche jewellers, contemporary silver and gold jewellery crafted here in Ballydehob
Hudson’s Wholefoods, café and wholefoods market, owned by Gill Hudson for many years, but now in the capable hands of Catherine Melvin.
The Copper Merchant, the owner of this wonderful lifestyle shop needs a whole paragraph just for herself. The mother of re-invention, Joanne Cassidy is part of the fabric of the village. First owning the inimitable West Cork Gourmet Store, she morphed that in to The Porcelain Room, one of the best Thai and French Vietnamese restaurants in the country. Then she started in the vacation home business and now has several properties on offer in the village including one above The Copper Merchant, which is style itself.
Bally Bia, Faye, the new owner of what was the Porcelain Room, took over from Joanne and now offers a fabulous fusion menu. You can also get takeaway curries from 5- 7 pm on summer evenings. www.facebook.com/ballybia/
Vincent Coughlan’s Bar and Restaurant, a great new seafood and steak house www.facebook.com/coughlanrestaurant/
Antonio’s Pizzeria-Ristorante, a staple for every family in the village. Great pizza, Italian menu and gelato. www.antonioristorante.ie