Dunmanway is the ‘Heart of West Cork’... always!

In the final part of our Come to My Town series, MARTINA O’DONOGHUE visits the wonderful West Cork town of Dunmanway and talks to local resident Sandra Maybury about what it has to offer
Dunmanway is the ‘Heart of West Cork’... always!

Sandra Maybury at Dunmanway Lake. Picture: Flash Photography Studio

WHILE Dunmanway is sometimes called ‘The Gateway to the Mountains’, local resident Sandra Maybury describes it even more fondly.

“When I was growing up in Dunmanway, it was always referred to as the ‘Heart of West Cork’ and to me, it still is and always will be.”

Sandra, founder of Maybury Marketing, is a marketing specialist and an experienced consultant and mentor. And there’s scarcely a better woman to market Dunmanway, as she has a huge passion for the place.

As mother to three girls, Alice, Grace and Emma, she finds plenty in the town to keep the whole family occupied and entertained.

“We have a state of the art 25-metre swimming pool with a steam room, sauna, hydrotherapy pool and a learner pool right on our doorstep. Just recently a newly developed playground has opened. This playground is something for all the community to take pride in, as it was partly funded by a community fundraising drive. This all-inclusive facility shares a space with the adjoining tennis court and zip wire,” says Sandra.

If activity is what you’re after, there’s another opportunity in the great outdoors with the 18-hole pitch and putt course in the town, although the kids may be pulling you in a different direction, as Sandra explains. “A big attraction for my kids, especially the younger ones, is a trip to Scruffy’s Pet Store on the Main Street. Every time we call in, there is a new selection of animals to greet us, from rabbits and guinea pigs that you can pet and feed to all kinds of weird and wonderful reptiles, birds, fish and other animals.”

Not a sight you see every day. Nor is the presence of a lake in a town centre, but that’s exactly what Dunmanway has, tucked away on Chapel Street.

Sam Maguire is celebrated in his home town
Sam Maguire is celebrated in his home town

Sandra says: “If you are looking for a peaceful retreat, I’d highly recommend a visit to Dunmanway Lake, referred locally just as ‘The Lake’. For as long as I can remember, even as a child, we went to the lake to feed the ducks and the swans. Year after year, wildlife continues to breed there and the cygnet and ducklings are always a great attraction. There is a lovely picnic area there too.

“At the lake, you’ll notice a bench dedicated in memory of Joe Higgins, who was the Chairperson of Dunmanway Community Council before he sadly passed away. Joe was a great man for Dunmanway and was the driving force behind a lot of projects. There is also a wonderful Fairy Garden, dedicated to the memory of a young girl, called Jessie O’Flynn.”

For further picturesque exploring, there are a number of magnificent gardens to visit in the area, many of which are part of the West Cork Garden Trail.

Tar Isteach volunteers Mary Walsh, Rose Kelly and Emma Twomey.
Tar Isteach volunteers Mary Walsh, Rose Kelly and Emma Twomey.

“Last year, I discovered Longhill Garden, situated close to my father’s home place. We took a trip there and it was spectacular. There’s wonderful water features, a wide variety of colourful plants, a pets corner, a secret fairy garden and picnic areas overlooking panoramic views of the countryside,” says Sandra.

When it comes to seeking refreshment, Sandra admits she is biased when she names the Parkway Hotel as the best place to eat.

“That’s because it is my brother Martin and his family who run the business. Originally bought by my parents, Sonny and Mary in 1976, it’s been in the family for my whole existence,” she explains.

Mind you, she is also generous in her praise and encouragement for new businesses such as Mirabelle’s Café/bakery on Market Square, opened up by a former school colleague Des O’Meara earlier this year. Another new food offering in the town is the Bia Blasta food truck located in the main car park, behind Healy’s SuperValu, run by local lady, Nadine O’Donovan.

If you do grab a snack, there are a number of picnic areas at which you can take a break, including tables at the bank of the Sally River, near Sackville Mews, and the addition of benches and a canopy providing a convenient meeting place right in the town square.

Sandra has a few tips for shopping too.

“If you are looking for a special gift, I’d recommend a trip to The Hummingbird Gallery, a beautiful shop run by Finn and Anita Kearney. Finn is a skilled potter and photographer.

“Also on Thursday mornings, the local farmers’ market is at the Sam Maguire Plaza in the town centre. I love driving into town and seeing such a buzz around the place.”

GAA fans all over Ireland know Dunmanway to be the home town and final resting place of Sam Maguire, the legendary man after whom the All-Ireland senior football cup is named. You can buy a Sam Maguire Passport in most of the shops, which will guide you to seven associated locations. The trail finishes at St Mary’s Church, where he is buried. There you will also find the Sam Maguire Visitor Experience (open for July and August, noon to 4pm, Wednesday to Saturday), where you can view videos about his life and ring the Sam Maguire Community Bells.

The local Heritage Centre on the Main Street has exhibitions on a number of stories relating to Dunmanway’s history, while you can also enjoy heritage walks and trails, each starting and finishing in the town centre. A map is available at the Tourist Information Centre at Dunmanway Library.

As you take your stroll, you will notice a number of stunning murals dotted throughout the town, all hand-painted by local artists. Some recall Dunmanway’s magnificent history, such as the connection with Duffy’s Circus (they had their winter base in the town in the 1940s and 50s), the West Cork Railway and the Broadway cinema.

While Sandra is happy to guide me, she feels the real praise should be bestowed upon the many community groups, schools, sporting groups and businesses that always present Dunmanway in its best light.

A current example is local businesswoman Fiona Connolly, who has introduced the Dunmanway Civic Pride Project called ‘THIS IS A GREAT TOWN’ to spread joy and positivity about her home town.

“As we slowly emerge from Covid restrictions, the timing for this project couldn’t be better as people will welcome a reason to smile and take pride in their surroundings,” says Sandra.

“This summer, a number of signs were placed throughout the town displaying the initial set of replies from people in the community on why they feel Dunmanway is a great town.”

Watch out for this very positive signage when you make your visit.

You can catch up on our Come to My Town series on EchoLive.ie

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