West Cork is the name given to the western half of Ireland's largest county. As such, West Cork has nothing to do with the actual city of Cork. The boundary is not precise, but West Cork begins a few miles west of Cork city and extends to Cape Clear in the south and Dursey Head in the west. Thus, it is the size of many an entire county elsewhere in Ireland. It also has its own unique identity, distinct from the rest of County Cork.
West Cork is a region of immense beauty. Villages of brightly painted houses nestle among the hills and valleys of the rugged landscape. The coastline is deeply indented by long fiord-like inlets. Westwards from Baltimore the view becomes ever more spectacular with high cliffs and countless rocky islands facing out into the Atlantic, while in the distance loom MacGillicuddy's Reeks, the highest mountains in Ireland.
Here and there are the reminders of former inhabitants – Victorian mine workings, Napoleonic watchtowers, mediaeval castles, Iron Age forts, neolithic tombs and standing stones. In historical times the southern part of West Cork was the Barony of Carbery and the O'Driscolls of Baltimore were one of its pre-eminent clans.
The sea is an important influence on the landscape of West Cork, where the Gulf Stream encounters land for the first time on its long journey across the ocean. The mildness of the resulting climate allows tender plants to flourish, even in the wild. One of them, Fuchsia magellanica, has become the unofficial emblem of the region.
West Cork is a popular destination for holidaymakers, especially those of a more discerning kind. Nowadays there are ferries to Cork from France; cruise liners berth at the deepwater piers of Ringaskiddy and Cobh; Cork airport is served by flights from all over Europe. Cork has all the transport links you would expect of a modern city. Yet in little more than an hour you can be at Baltimore in the otherworldly heart of West Cork.