A Bookshop Tour of West Cork

I began my Bookshop Day in the pretty town of Kinsale in Cork, at the very start of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Late summer sun lights up the colourful shops and houses of this little town, and we begin our day in Poet’s Corner café, nursing a delicious coffee and gazing out of the window toward the harbour.

There are two bookshops to explore here, and we begin in the Kinsale Bookshop, a low-roofed, creaky floored bookshop with a pretty window display. I received a friendly welcome and enjoyed browsing their broad selection of titles, with plenty of local interest as well as a decent general selection.

We wandered on through the narrow streets of the town toward Bookstór, situated in a colourful pedestrianised area. Bookstór has a great selection of new and second-hand titles, and a particularly good children’s section. I always stock up on nice greetings cards here, the selection is good. Bookstor is situated in one of the most Instagrammed spots of Kinsale, and is in a great location for people watching.

After a leisurely browse we head on our way, taking the coastal route towards the next stop. The road winds through the countryside, through the picturesque village of Ballinspittle, home of the famous moving statues, and on towards the sea. The hedgerows are bursting with the vivid orange and cream of crocosmia and meadowsweet, and the fuchsia is in full bloom. As we round the corner at Harbour View the sun comes out from behind a cloud and lights the sea a vivid blue. we stop for a quick walk and to dip our toes in the sea- with a view like this it’d be wrong not to!

On toward around the coast past Timoleague, then across country to my next stop, the vibrant town of Clonakilty. Despite coronavirus the streets are busy, with plenty of staycationers enjoying the sun and some coffees and ice cream while they wander.

Clonakilty boasts three bookshops, Kerrs, Coughlans and the Clonakilty Bookshop. I begin in the Clonakilty Bookshop. I love the traditional style of the Clonakilty Bookshop, with its double fronted windows filled with enticing titles. There’s always a friendly welcome from the staff here. From here I wander down Ashe Street to Kerrs, which although compact always has a well curated selection of titles with something to tempt me. My last stop is Coughlans on Rossa Street, and although they also have a great selection of titles including school books I always like to have a look at their art supplies.

It’s hard to tear myself away from Clonakilty, it’s a lovely friendly town with plenty of great shops to browse, and to visit Clon without taking a spin to Incheydoney beach seems wrong, but I head on my way toward Skibereen.

The drive flies by with the windows down and some tunes on and in no time at all we’re in Skib. There are two bookshops to browse here, but as the day is late and I’m ready for a break I concentrate on The Skibereen Bookshop, and after a good browse treat myself to the new Happy Pear book. There’s a great selection of local titles, school books and stationery here, and it’s unmissable on Main Street. Feeling more than ready for a snack we head to Apple Bettys cafe and sit in the sun nibbling cake and watching the world go by. With the church bell tolling next to us and the sun beaming down it feels like the south of France.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Skib without continuing on to Baltimore and having a quick walk out to the Beacon, and this is how we finish our tour, watching the sun go down beyond Sherkin island with the heather and gorse glowing in the setting sun. There’s even a seal watching us from the bottom of the cliffs.

Creating a bookshop tour made me immensely grateful for the amazing selection of independent bookshops West Cork is blessed with, we’re genuinely lucky to have so many great retailers in the area. After some challenging months for retail please visit your own independent book store and treat yourself to a book or two. The booksellers will be ready and waiting to point you toward the best titles and share their knowledge and recommendations of books you may not have considered.

Now, how about a foodie tour of West Cork? I think I’m working up an appetite already…

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