Thank you ferry much

Beamish stout

Beamish stout

I DON’T drink beer as much any more but for some reason I’m really in the mood for one today.

So at 5.59pm I’m going to celebrate centuries of tradition and good taste by raising a delicious pint of Beamish stout.

Here’s to William Beamish.

Apart from any other reasons for so doing, it’ll be a chance to plan some sort of itinerary for Culture Night tomorrow.  The question of where to start my Friday antics has just gotten a whole lot easier.

The Julia which will sail the Cork-Swansea route from 2010

The Julia which will sail the Cork-Swansea route from 2010

Fastnet Lines which will be running a Cork-Swansea ferry again from next March – is driving its newly-purchased ship, the Julia, right up into Cork city centre tomorrow (Friday) morning (www.fastnetline.com). There don’t seem to be any plans to accept visitors – perhaps because the final details of licencing the ferry are still pending. But it will be an impressive sight, dwarfing many of the buildings around: This is a big beast of a thing, a 10-decker with a capacity of 1,800 passengers and the equivalent of about 500 cars. If you’re anywhere near the water you’ll see it as it sails in past Roches Point and Cobh to arrive in the city around 10.30am.

Its importance to Cork – and particularly West Cork – can’t be overstated. While someone who particularly needs to visit West Cork can hop on a plane and hire a car, many UK tourists’ holiday plans run something along the lines of  “Ireland – car – family”. As long as Wexford is the only south coast ferry port, many of them are all but lost to us here in Cork.

Look at the map. Where would you go if you’d just landed in Rosslare, were tired of travelling and had limited time? Kilkenny or Clonakilty?

The ferry into Cork from next year will deliver thousands of tourists into Cork – many of them will be on wheels and free to wander around our beautiful county starting and stopping willy-nilly.

Great credit is due to the consortium of West Cork people who have got this project up and going (www.bringbacktheswanseacorkferry.com). So I’d like to think that people who happen to be at large on Friday might turn out to give it a welcome, a wave or a beep of your car horn.

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