Clonakilty is rich in ancient monuments and dwelling places of early and pre-Celtic settlers. The Normans made the area their home and their castles and surnames survive to the present day. In 1292, Thomas De Roach received a charter to hold a market every Monday at Kilgarriffe (then called Kyle Cofthy or Cowhig’s Wood), close to where the present town now stands. The area was abundant in woods, as the Irish names of the town and surrounding townlands indicate.
In the 14th century, a ten-mile strip of fallow woodland called Tuath na gCoillte (the land of the woods) divided the barony of Ibane (Ardfield) and Barryroe and reached the sea at Clonakilty Bay. Here a castle called Coyltes Castell was recorded in a 1378 plea roll. This was subsequently referred to as Cloghnykyltye, one of the many phonetic spellings for Cloch na gCoillte (meaning the castle of the woods, from ‘cloch’, the Irish for stone or stone building, and ‘coillte’ meaning woods).
Clonakilty benefited greatly from the patronage of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork ('the Great Earl'), who may properly be regarded as its founder. It was this Lord Cork who obtained its charter from King James I of England in 1613 with the right to return members to the Irish House of Commons. The borough of Clonakilty returned two members from 1613 to 1801; it was disenfranchised when the Act of Union came into force in January 1801.
Clonakilty was later inherited 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.
Shannonvale, near Clonakilty, is known as "the only place in all Munster where a blow of some sort had been struck during the Rising of '98" at the Battle of the Big Cross There is a commemorative statue celebrating the Battle of the Big Cross in Astna Square in the centre of Clonakilty.
General Michael Collins, who was the Director of Intelligence for the IRA, which campaigned for independence from Britain in the 1920–1921 period, lived in Clonakilty and attended the local boys' national school. General Collins later served as Chairman of the Provisional Government and was thus instrumental in the founding of the Irish Free State.
Collins is widely regarded as one of Ireland's leading historical figures. He was killed by an Anti-Treaty ambush party during the Civil War. He gave many an oration from O'Donovan's Hotel on the Main Street of Clonakilty. A statue of Michael Collins by local artist Kevin Holland was erected in the centre of Clonakilty and dedicated in 2002. It can be seen at the junction of Bridge Street and Emmet Square.
In April 1943, a war plane, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, was travelling from Morocco to England when it was forced to make an unscheduled stop at a marsh just outside Clonakilty. The soldiers thought they had been flying over German-occupied Norway but got disorientated in fog and ended up in Éire, a state that later became the Republic of Ireland, which was neutral during the Second World War. The crew were uninjured in the landing and, once they had emerged from the bog, they met local man Eddie Collins who directed them into the town.
Kennedy Gardens at Emmet Square (formerly Shannon Square) in the centre of town is named after John F. Kennedy.
In June 2012, Clonakilty was damaged by flooding.
Clonakilty was founded on 5 May 1613. On 5 May 2013, President Michael D. Higgins and his wife visited the town to commemorate 400 years since it obtained its charter from the King of England.
Kilgariffe Church (Church of Ireland) is a building of 1818 replacing an older church going back to 1613.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception (Catholic) is a large building in Early French Gothic style, designed by George Ashlin and completed in 1880. The old Presbyterian Church was built in 1861 and taken over and used since 1924 as a local Post Office. The Methodist church is located in the town and recently became the first church in Ireland to win two Eco Congregation Ireland awards.
The nearest airport to the town is Cork Airport, and Bus Éireann provides coach links from Clonakilty to Cork and Skibbereen. During the summer months, there's a bus link to Killarney via the N71 road through Skibbereen, Bantry, Glengarriff and Kenmare.
Clonakilty was one of the destinations on the West Cork Railway, an Irish mainline railway from Cork City to various parts of West Cork, which shut down in 1961. Clonakilty railway station opened on 28 August 1886, but finally closed on 1 April 1961.
Clonakility is home to ClonBike, the only Bicycle-sharing system in Ireland in a town of Clonakilty's size.
Clonakilty's position as a centre of music, both traditional and contemporary, has helped this small town to become a thriving melting pot of musicians. Clonakilty's bars host live music nights throughout the year and it is possible to find live music on most nights. Many famous musicians have found a welcome and a home here, and have contributed much to the energy and vibrancy of the town. The late Noel Redding made Clonakilty his home as has singer-songwriter Roy Harper. Currently, English novelist David Mitchell calls Clonakilty home. Monday Night Trad Sessions, O'Donovans Tuesday Trad and Shanley's Famous Music Bar main venues. Summer afternoon sessions in Scannells beer garden with Dave and Friends, De Barras Folk Club presents attracts acts like folk legend Christy Moore and Sharon Shannon, Frances Black and Setmaker play regularly.
The town hosts several festivals every year, among these are The Clonakilty International Guitar Festival in mid-September, The Motion festival and The Waterfront Festival in August. The 2010 Waterfront Festival featured Irish acts, The Dublin Gospel Choir, Mundy, Aslan, The Heathers, Setmaker and Spanish Singer Paula Gómez and her band.
The town won the Irish Tidy Towns Competition in 1999 and every year since has gained awards for its environmental efforts. The cleanliness is the result in part of the voluntary efforts of local shopkeepers and staff. In 2003, Clonakilty became Ireland's first ever official Fair Trade Town. 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.
As of the 2011 census, ethnically Clonakilty was 80% white Irish, 14% "other white", 1.5% black, 1.5% Asian, and 2% other or not stated. In terms of religion, the 2011 census captured a population that was 80.5% Catholic, 10% other stated religions, 8.5% with no religion, and 0.5% not stated.Peter Callanan, Irish Fianna Fáil politician
Irish historical figure Michael Collins was born in Woodfield (now the Michael Collins Birthplace) 5 km west of Clonakilty.
Tadhgo Crowley, All-Ireland Senior Football Championship winning captain 1945
Patricia Driscoll Actress and TV Presenter (Picture Book, BBC)
Victorian Artist Alfred Elmore
Irish-American artist William Harnett
Louise O'Neill, author
Liam Twomey, Irish Fine Gael politician
Roy Harper, singer-songwriter
David Mitchell, author
Noel Redding, musician
Joseph Walsh Irish Fianna Fáil Politician and Former Minister for Agriculture and Food
Clonakilty is known for its black pudding. Clonakilty Blackpudding originated in Twomey's butcher shop in 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.
The Model Village in Clonakilty is a leading tourist destination in the Clonakilty area, it is an excellent way to start a tour of the region. The village is a fully scaled model of a West Cork town that grew along the old railway line between 1930 and 1950. Built on a miniature of the Railway line, you can enjoy a unique overview of the character and history of a heritage town.
Michael Collins House museum is another tourist attraction in the area. The museum is set out in a restored Georgian town house on Emmet Square, where Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins lived from 1903 to 1905. The museum explores the history of Irish independence told through the story of three local patriots; Tadhg an Asna and the 1798 Rebellion, Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa and the Irish Republican Brotherhood/Fenians and, of course, Michael Collins. Interactive displays, audiovisuals, information boards, and historical artifacts bring the history to life for all ages. Location: 7 Emmet Square, Clonakilty, Co. Cork
Clonakilty is the home of the world's only "Random Acts of Kindness Festival" set up in 2012 by the local Clonakilty Macra na Feirme Club. The festival aims to celebrate the welcoming and warm hearted nature of not only the Clonakilty community but also of the Irish people as a whole. The Festival is held each year on the third weekend in July, with the motto: "Cut the Misery and Spread the Positivity".
Other historical attractions in the town for example the Clonakilty Museum, the Georgian houses of Emmet Square and the Micheal Collins Centre which is located a few miles east of the town. A Farmers Market takes place at O'Donovans alley every Friday.
There are two secondary schools located in the town. Clonakilty Community College is a mixed school and the Sacred Heart Secondary School which is an all girls school. There are 4 Primary Schools located in the town. Clonakilty Agricultural College is located 2 miles east of the town. It is known locally as Darrara College and mainly deals with Agricultural Education.
Clonakilty has a GAA club(Clonakilty GAA), two soccer clubs (Clonakilty A.F.C, Clonakilty Town), a rugby club and a Martial Arts club (Warrior Tae Kwon Do). The teams have been successful in recent years winning the Cork Senior Football Championship in 2009, 1996, and being runners up in the 2003 competition. Clonakilty RFC also became a senior rugby club in 2001 and spent 12 years in the All Ireland Rugby League until they were relegated to Division 1 of the Munster junior league where they currently play. Clonakilty won their first adult hurling county title when they won the Cork Minor B Hurling Championship in 2007. Clonakilty A.F.C. have won the Beamish Cup in 2008 & 1995 and in 2014 featured Australian international, Alex Swift. Students of the Clonakilty "Warrior Tae Kwon Do" club compete in a variety of Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing and Freestyle tournaments and the club has produced 4 World Champions in various martial arts disciplines.
The Blue Flag beach at Inchydoney Island.
About 15 minutes from Clonakilty and looking out over the Galley Head lighthouse is the aptly named Long Strand. A mile and a half of sand bounded by waves of dunes. The top end is a haven for surfers but the rest of the beach is unsafe for bathing due to a dangerous undertow.
A popular beach with locals is Duneen Beach which is across the bay from the right-hand side of Inchydoney beach.
Clonakilty is twinned with: - Chateaulin, Brittany, France.
- Waldaschaff, Bavaria, Germany