We are profiling all the towns to enter this year’s National Enterprise Town Awards. Today we are looking at Clonakilty in Co Cork. 

Clonakilty is a town in County Cork, located at the head of the tidal Clonakilty Bay with a population of 4,592 as of 2016. The town is a tourism hub in West Cork, and was recognised as the Best Town in Europe in 2017, and Best Place of the Year in 2017 by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland.

Clonakilty received its first charter in 1292 but was re-founded in the early 17th century by Richard Boyle, the first earl of Cork. He settled it with 100 English families and planned a Protestant town from which Catholics would be excluded, but his plan ultimately failed.

The lands at Clonakilty were later purchased by the Earls of Shannon, another branch of the Boyle dynasty. They remained the main landlords of the town from the eighteenth century through until the early twentieth century.

Clonakilty is a town of firsts. It was the first town in Ireland to receive Fair Trade status and a number of shops, restaurants, cafes and hotels offer a selection of Fair Trade products. It is also is part a select group of 142 cities and towns in 24 countries that constitutes the Cittaslow network.

The town has also won many awards including numerous tidy town awards, a top 100 sustainable destination award, a pride of place award and being named the best town in Europe by the Academy of Urbanism in London. In 2007 it was awarded the status of European Destination of Excellence by the European Commission at a ceremony in Portugal and is Ireland’s first recipient of this title.

The town is well-known for its black pudding which originated in Twomey’s butcher shop on Pearse Street. The secret spice recipe has been handed down through the generations since the 1880s, and is still only known to the Twomey family.

However, the town is probably best known for being the birthplace of Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins, who spent most of his childhood in the town before moving away. Clonakilty is also the birthplace of William Ford, father of Henry Ford who founded Ford Motor Company, along with Margaret Field and James F. Hickey, who were two of John F. Kennedy’s great grandparents.   

The town still has an historical feel to it and its streetscapes are renowned for colourful and meticulously maintained shop and pub fronts, directional signs and street names. Extraordinary floral displays can be seen throughout the town right through the summer months. The surrounding area features some of Ireland’s most spectacular scenery and beaches, including the popular seaside resort of Inchydoney.

It is a town of tall spires, towers and historic buildings — the brewery buildings, the mills and the quayside warehouses all tell of the town’s busy trading and industrial past.

Written by Stephen Larkin

Published: 16 August, 2019