Introducing Cappoquin & Around
Slinking up a steep hillside, the small market town of Cappoquin sits at the foot of the rounded, heathery Knockmealdown Mountains. To the west lies the picturesque Blackwater Valley, where traces of the earliest Irish peoples have been discovered, dating back over 9000 years.
The Dromana Drive to Cappoquin from Villierstown (An Baile Nua), 6km south, traces the River Blackwater through the Dromana Forest. At the bridge over the River Finisk is a remarkable Hindu-Gothic gate, inspired by the Brighton Pavilion in England and unique to Ireland.
The beautiful 19th-century Mt Melleray Cistercian Abbey is a fully functioning monastery with two dozen Trappist monks, but welcomes visitors wishing 'to take time for quiet contemplation'. There are tearooms (closed Monday) and a heritage centre. It's signposted 6km north from Cappoquin in the Knockmealdown foothills.
Turn right off the road to Mt Melleray for the forest walks and picnic spots at Glenshelane Park.
Cappoquin House and Gardens is a magnificent 1779-built Georgian mansion and 2 hectares of formal gardens overlooking the River Blackwater. It's the private residence of the Keane family who've lived here for 200 years. The entrance to the house is just north of the centre of Cappoquin; look for a set of huge black iron gates.
Richmond House, which dates back even further to 1704, was built by the Earl of Cork, and is set on 5.5 hectares of woodlands. All the same, its 10 guest rooms – furnished with countrified plaids, prints and mahogany – are cosy rather than imposing, and service is genuinely friendly. Nonguests are welcome at its modern Irish restaurant, where local produce includes West Waterford lamb and Helvick monkfish (five-course menu €55).
Barron's Bakery has used the same Scotch brick ovens since 1887. Sandwiches, light meals and a mouth-watering selection of cakes and buns baked on the premises are available in its spearmint-green-painted cafe, while its breads are also sold throughout the area.