Our West Cork markets – Skibbereen, Bantry and Schull – are thriving. Each has a distinct character and all of them are fun for wandering, browsing and buying.
Top right: A basket of scotch eggs from West Cork Pies; bottom left: April Danann from Rebel Foods
Skibbereen Market on Saturday mornings has become the iconic foodie market of West Cork. Everyone goes – it’s a social occasion as much as a shopping trip. Yesterday, Darina Allen of Ballymaloe breezed through when I was chatting with Eithne McCarthy, and rumour had it that Saoirse Ronan had been spotted earlier.
Everybody loves Eithne McCarthy’s home made cakes, breads, jams and chutneys.
There’s music and coffee and crepes and bean burgers and sausages and cupcakes and scotch eggs and anything else you can happily munch on as you wander.
Many stall are devoted to locally produced and artisan foods. Perhaps the best known is Gubbeen, famous for cheese and smoked meats, but not far behind is West Cork Pies, Brown Envelope Seeds, April Danann’s Rebel Foods (wild, foraged and fermented), and Union Hall Smoked Fish.
Top: Fingal Ferguson of Gubbeen; Lower left: Union Hall Smoked Fish; Lower Right; Madeline McKeever of Brown Envelope Seeds
But there’s also a whole array of stalls selling chocolates, baked goods, chutneys and pickles, free range eggs and the hens who lay them, vegetables, honey, vinegars, sausages, quiches, berries, olives, seaweeds, and more cheese.
It’s not just food, of course. There are flowers and bedding plants, wooden chairs, magic wands, dolls, jewellery, wool, carved bowls, antiques, books, junk, and yes, knitted tea cosies.
The Schull market is much smaller but has many of the same stalls. Schull is the quintessential tourist town – heaving in the summer – and the market here goes from Easter to October. It’s on Sunday mornings and has a lovely, casual, local vibe, with people dropping down after mass and everyone getting caught up on the latest news.
Like Skibbereen, it’s madly busy, so expect to queue and just enjoy the ambience and the music.
Bantry, on Friday mornings, is the largest market. Although there are some of the same food stalls, it seems to attract different vendors than the other two. This is the market where people shop for second hand goods, curios and collectibles, tools, carpets, clothing, work boots, trees and shrubs, and Michael Collins posters.
A visit to West Cork wouldn’t be complete without making a trip to the market. Heck – make it to all three of them!