Top Ten Facts

Top 10 Facts about Skibbereen

1. The name “Skibbereen” is thought to have derived from ‘skiff’, a type of boat used for crossing the river.

2. Prior to 1600 most of the land belonged to the native McCarthy tribe who were the overlords but the O’Driscolls also reigned there – today McCarthy remains the town’s most common surname.

3.  At the height of the famine in 1848, the body of an unnamed boy, taken for lifeless was placed in a coffin in the Town Square and conveyed for burial to the Abbey Cemetery. As he was lowered into the pit, the youth regained consciousness and walked unaided from the grave.

4. Skibbereen was one of the worst-affected areas in Ireland during the Great Famine and up to 10,000 Famine victims are buried in the Famine Burial Pits of Abbeystrowry Cemetery.

5. The Temperance Hall was the site of the foundation of the first Temperance Society (abstaining from alcohol) in Europe. Built in 1833 it has been succeeded by Skibbereen’s 26 well patronised pubs.

6. General Michael Collins had his last meal in the Eldon Hotel in Skibbereen before he was shot in an ambush later that evening in 1922.

7. The Skibbereen Eagle, a newspaper founded in 1857, became famous by declaring it was “keeping an eye on the Tsar of Russia” over his expansionist designs on China. This newspaper was superseded by the Southern Star, founded in 1889 which included amongst its shareholders one General Michael Collins.

8. Skibbereen and the nearby villages were chosen as location for the making of the film “War of the Buttons”.

9. Skibbereen and the nearby villages are the home to many international celebrities and World Champion Rowers as well as Ireland’s first Rowing Olympians, Gary and Paul O’Donovan.

10. The man who raised the Tricolour over the General Post Office in Dublin on Easter Monday in 1916 was a teacher from a west Cork farm.  Gearóid O’Sullivan, from Coolnagurrane, Skibbereen, a second cousin of Michael Collins, was a member of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and the Gaelic League.

Genealogy Service

Genealogy Service at Skibbereen Heritage Centre

Genealogy service for the greater West Cork area by appointment with our genealogy team. Trace your West Cork ancestry and research your family tree.

Our genealogists, Margaret and Deirdre, can help you trace your West Cork ancestry and are happy to help you by appointment or online.

Catholic Church records for most local parishes up to 1911.
Tithe Applotments, Griffith’s Valuation, local estate records, census & burial records.
Local knowledge of place names, family histories etc.
Personal service by appointment

Lough Hyne & Visitor Centre

Lough Hyne Visitor Centre at Skibbereen Heritage Centre

Discover Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve and unique salt-water lake.

Find out about the history, folklore and formation of this renowned natural phenomenon at Skibbereen Heritage Centre before you visit the lough, (5km from the Centre).

Audio-visual on Lough Hyne shown in French, German and English.
Film footage of underwater Lough Hyne and its extraordinary marine life.
Learn about the long history of marine research at Lough Hyne since it was ‘discovered’ by scientists in 1886.
Explore its rich history and folklore – the O’Driscoll castle, its holy wells and the fable of the king with donkey’s ears!
Follow with an informed visit to the lake itself, (5km from Skibbereen Heritage Centre), with information on walks and other activities there.


Heritage Centre

Enjoy a visit to Skibbereen Heritage Centre, located in the award-winning Old Gasworks Building which overlooks the River Ilen.

Skibbereen: The Famine Story at Skibbereen Heritage Centre

Learn about the Famine of the 1840s when one million Irish people died and at least another 1.5 million emigrated.

Skibbereen became infamous as one of the worst affected areas in all of Ireland. The true enormity of this national tragedy is revealed through Skibbereen’s Famine stories.

Rediscover this era through exhibits, dramatisations and interactive stations.
Listen to the personal accounts of those who experienced the Famine in Skibbereen.
Take a ‘virtual tour’ of Famine sites in the town and hear the stories associated with them.
Follow with a visit to Abbeystrowry Famine burial pits (one of 3 mass Famine graves in Skibbereen) where up to 10,000 victims are buried.
Skibbereen Heritage Centre
Old Gasworks,
Upper Bridge Street,
Co. Cork,
Telephone: +353 (0)28 40900


The Great Famine – an Gorta Mór

The Great Famine – an Gorta Mór

Skibbereen was devastated by the Great Famine of the 1840s. As one of the worst affected areas in all of Ireland, Skibbereen is synonymous with this tragic period in Irish history when over one million people died .

Many of the buildings in the town have direct links to the Famine and there are numerous stories associated with each of these sites. Even today, the horror of this terrible time is palpable at these locations, including the infamous Famine Burial Pits at Abbeystrowry which hold the remains of up to 10,000 unidentified victims.

The Skibbereen Famine Story exhibitionwalking trail app and book offer an insight into this pivotal period of Irish history.

Rediscover this era through exhibits and listen to the personal accounts of those who experienced the Famine in Skibbereen. Take a ‘virtual tour’ of Famine sites in the town and hear the stories associated with them at the Skibbereen Famine Story exhibition.