About the Festival

The West Cork History Festival – what is it and why do we do it?

The West Cork History Festival is five years old in 2021. In it, we try to bring people who research and write about history together with a public audience of informed and interested people. The festival is still in its infancy and we run on a shoestring budget, but we aim to make a contribution to the local cultural programme in West Cork and to wider conversations about important historical subjects.

We take our inspiration from the richness of the history of West Cork itself, but, like the people of West Cork, we are outward looking. Each year, we seek to broaden the range of the Festival to include national and international themes. This is a work in progress, as we gradually build both our network and the resource base to be even more inclusive.

We are running a Festival, not an academic conference or symposium, so each year we have a range of subjects which are loosely connected, rather than following single defining research theme. We hope that by bringing leading academics together with non-academics, and non-historians, we provide an intelligent general audience with food for thought.

The Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations has as one of its tenets that the aim of commemoration should be “to broaden sympathies without having to abandon loyalties”. We believe that is very good advice. We think that including a range of contributors, some with unconventional or unpopular analyses, is necessary to arrive at a generous and truly informed view of our histories.

We do not believe anyone ever has the final word in historical debates and our aim is always to have a plurality of opinions. This means we have sometimes had controversial speakers and some people find that a challenge, even offensive. We include people with different interpretations of our pasts. We do not suggest that any programme of ours offers a definitive view. We do hope people who attend will come away challenged and inspired by our speakers to think and read more, whether they agree with what they have heard or not.

This all sounds a bit worthy, and in one sense it is intended to be worthy. Being at the Festival is also supposed to be fun. In pre-Covid times, food, drink, and music were a big part of the experience. They will be again when we can meet in person. Some of the most memorable parts of 2017, 2018, and 2019 were the conversations in the bar and the bookshop, we are looking forward to their return.

In 2021, we have had to construct a purely virtual programme for the Festival. It is constructed around the two connected strands of ‘Ireland in 1921’ and ‘Ireland and Empire’. This will range from the actions of Crown Forces in Ireland during the revolution, to aspects of the Irish experience of the British Empire. Of course, as much recent work has suggested, the Irish Revolution is illuminated by an understanding of its international context, both the First World War and the crisis of empire that followed. As in previous years, this will be an important part of what many of our speakers discuss.

The bulk of the Festival programme is free to view on our website, to maximise its accessibility – find out more here. We do have a number of live events, to allow people to engage with some of our speakers and join in the discussion, as well as a fantastic live-streamed Festival Concert. We hope you enjoy it!

Our thanks

For all their support for the West Cork History Festival we would like to thank the following:


John & Jo Spearman, Chair of Patrons

Bishop Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross

William Bollinger

The Harold Barry Trust


Chantry Cottage Enterprises


We are very grateful to the following organisations for their grants for the 2019 Festival:

Cork County Council’s Local Festival Fund

Creative Ireland County Cork Grant Scheme

The Irish Government’s Reconciliation Fund (Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade)


Ben Burman & Aisling Ludden-Burman

Patrick Handley

Simon King

James Kingston

Kirstan Marnane & Philip Graf

Joe Mares and Etain Lavelle-Mares

Charlie McCarthy

Peadar O’Mórdha


Liss Ard Estate for their generous provision of parking facilities when we have a physical festival and visitors with cars to park

The Ludgate Hub, with which we were proud to partner in 2019

The Festival Committee

Simon Kingston, Founder; Victoria Kingston, Founder
Dr David Edwards, Danielle O’Donovan, Finola Finlay, Robert Harris, David Clarke, Di Pitcher, Jessie Kennedy

Honorary President: Professor Roy Foster

Contact Details

Castletownshend Road,
County Cork,
P81 HF61

phone: +353 (0)87 356 1871

News Round up

Plan Your Visit

The West Cork History Festival takes place in the grounds of Rosebank, formerly the dower house of the Liss Ard estate, less than a mile outside Skibbereen in West Cork.

Our full address is:

Castletownshend Road
County Cork
P81 HF61

+353 (0)87 356 1871

Food & Drink

Excellent West Cork food and drink will be available throughout the Festival – find out more here.


Please note that due to space restrictions at the Festival venue itself, ALL parking for the Festival will be at the Liss Ard Estate Hotel nearby.

Signage on the road will direct you to Liss Ard, where Festival stewards will point you towards the parking. It is then about a five minute walk to Rosebank where the West Cork History Festival is taking place. It will all be signed (and properly lit in the evenings), but please be aware that the path is rather uneven and the route is through a field.

Wheelchair users and others with mobility impairments should contact the Festival organisers in advance to arrange parking closer to the Festival venue by email at or by phone +353 (0)87 3561871


By air

The nearest airport is Cork (80 km away), but you can also fly into Shannon (220 km) and Dublin (350 km) airports. For directions from Cork Airport see below.

By ferry

Ferries from UK to Rosslare, or from UK to Dublin Port, then approximately a three hour drive from either to Skibbereen.

By car

From Cork City (and other points east)

Take the N71 west, heading for West Cork and Skibbereen; the route is pretty straightforward, and you will pass through Bandon and Clonakilty on the way. At Skibbereen follow the one way system to the Regal Roundabout with LIDL. Take the first left, following signs to Castletownsend, R596. All the parking for the Festival is at Liss Ard Country House Hotel, half a mile along this road on the right.

From Cork Airport

As you leave the airport complex (there are two roundabouts within it), take the third exit from the roundabout on to the R600 Kinsale Road. Follow this road for about three miles, before coming to a junction (a sort of oblique crossroad) at Fivemilebridge where you take the right-hand turn on to the R613. This leads you through a village called Ballinhassig. Pass straight through and as you climb a hill on the far side you will see a turn to the left to join the N71 which is the main road west to Skibbereen.

At Skibbereen follow the one way system to the Regal Roundabout with a LIDL on the opposite side. Take the first left, following signs to Castletownsend, R596. All the parking for the Festival is at Liss Ard Estate Hotel, less than half a mile along this road on the right.

From Rosslare

From the ferry port follow signs to Wexford, and then before you get to Wexford itself, follow signs to Waterford, New Ross and Dungarven (don’t go into Wexford). There is at least one toll on the road around Waterford. You will soon pick up signs to Cork City.

Public Transport

Buses run from Cork City to Skibbereen – further information and timetables can be found here


We recommend the following local taxi firms

Alwyn Harris 028 22296 or 086 250 4255


Blue Sky Cabs 086 8835725

Where to Stay

There is a wide range of visitor accommodation in the area, but it is advisable to book early as August is peak tourist season.

The Liss Ard Estate Hotel is adjacent to the Festival venue, and within walking distance.

Skibbereen is a short drive from the Festival venue, while Baltimore and Ballydehob are about 20 minutes drive and Schull 30 minutes drive. All have accommodation of varying kinds, and the following sites have listings:

And currently has availability for the weekend of the Festival, both to rent individual rooms within houses and to rent whole properties.



Dan Mulhall to speak

Dan Mulhall is not only Ambassador of Ireland to Great Britain, but a Joycean – and he will be one of the speakers at the Festival. In this piece for the Guardian he ruminates on the issues of national identity Joyce raises in Portrait of the Artist.


Professor Eunan O’Halpin to speak

The WCHF is delighted to confirm that Professor Eunan O’Halpin will be one of the contributors to the Festival. Eunan O’Halpin is Professor of Contemporary Irish History at Trinity College Dublin. He has published widely on aspects of twentieth century Irish and British history. Amongst relevant works are The Decline of the Union: British government in Ireland 1892-1920 (Dublin, 1987), Defending Ireland: the Irish state and its enemies since 1922 (Oxford, 1999), and Spying on Ireland: British intelligence and Irish neutrality during the Second World War (Oxford, 2008). A founding co-editor of the series Documents on Irish Foreign Policy, he is currently preparing a study of Afghanistan and the belligerents during the Second World War. He has strong family links to the Irish revolution, in which his Halfpenny, Moloney and Barry grandparents had senior roles and in which two great uncles were killed.


Professor Terry Barry to speak

WCHF is pleased to announce that Professor Terry Barry will contribute to our inaugural event. Terry Barry is Professor Emeritus in Medieval History at Trinity College Dublin. His main interests lie in understanding the settlements of the Normans who conquered England after 1066 and Ireland after 1169. He is currently working on a book that investigates the historic landscapes around Norman castles in Europe. In his presentation to the Festival, he will be discussing mediaeval tower houses in Ireland and elsewhere and helping to set the form, as we see it in West Cork, in its wider context.


Dr Andy Bielenberg to speak

We are very pleased to announce Dr Andy Bielenberg will be contributing to the Festival in July next year. Andy Bielenberg is a Statutory Lecturer in History at University College Cork. He has published widely on Irish economic and social history, and is currently engaged in various research projects on the Irish revolution, including a digital memorial of all fatalities of the War of Independence in Co Cork.


Professor David Fitzpatrick to speak

The Festival is delighted to confirm that Professor David Fitzpatrick will be a contributor next July. David Fitzpatrick is a Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College, Dublin, where he was until recently Professor of Modern History. He has held various visiting appointments in Australia and Canada, and in 2013 was Parnell Fellow in Irish Studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge. His work has ranged widely across the political, social, economic, and cultural history of modern Ireland, including many studies of Irish emigration, Irish involvement in the Great War, and the Irish revolution. His most recent book is Descendancy: Irish Protestant Histories since 1795, which presents a detailed study of the revolutionary experience of Methodists in West Cork. He has contributed extensively to debates about the Bandon Valley killings, and looks forward to discussing their wider significance in his lecture.


Professor Marianne Elliott to speak

The WCHF is delighted to announce that Professor Marianne Elliott will be among the contributors to the Festival next year. Professor Elliott, who was born in Belfast, held the first Tony Blair Chair of Irish Studies from 2007 to 2014. She is the author of the multi-award winning biography Wolfe Tone: Prophet of Irish Independence, and has been internationally recognized for her role in the Northern Ireland peace process, most notably serving on the Opsahl Commission in 1993, co-writing its report, ‘A Citizens’ Inquiry’. In October 2000, she was awarded an OBE for services to Irish Studies and the Northern Ireland peace process.


John Spearman to Chair WCHF Patrons

The West Cork History Festival is delighted to announce that John Spearman has kindly agreed to chair its group of patrons. John brings a wealth of experience in the leadership of creative and arts organisations. He is currently Chairman of Framestore, the visual effects group responsible for some of the most innovative films of recent years, including the Oscar-winning Gravity. He was previously the founder and Chief Executive of Classic FM. John and his family have long-standing ties to West Cork.

The Festival is very grateful for his support which is a huge boost as we plan a successful inaugural event next year.


West Cork

“From west to east the ocean is wide before you. …from the far blue Fastnet Rock, looking like an anchored battleship, on the west, to the long and slender arm of Galley Head, with its white light-house, floating like a seagull on the rim of the horizon. Between these points, among those heavenly blues and greens and purples, that change and glow and melt into each other in ecstasies of passionate colour, history has been made, and unforgettable things have happened.”

Edith Somerville, Irish Memories