OPW announces special literary festival to mark Garinish Island celebrations

Acclaimed Irish writer Cónal Creedon joined Head of Heritage at the Office of Public Works (OPW) Rosemary Collier on Garinish Island in West Cork on Tuesday, 1 August, for the launch of a unique literary event which will take place on the Island this month. 

To mark the 70th anniversary since Garinish Island was bequeathed to the Irish state, the OPW is working with the Good Room collective to present ‘Crosstown Drift Goes To Garinish’, a bespoke, two-day literary festival from 12 August to 13 August. 

Visitors will be able to enjoy readings and conversations with renowned Irish writers while discovering the timeless beauty and sheltered world of Garinish’s famous gardens. 

Architect and garden designer Harold Peto worked with the original owners Annan and Violet Bryce to create the gardens in the early twentieth-century. Today, the stunning grounds are expertly cared for and lovingly preserved by the OPW on behalf of the Irish State and the people of Ireland.

Set beside Glengarriff bay and the mountains beyond, guests can enjoy the dramatic backdrop, with readings taking place in alternate settings, including the Grecian Temple, Casita, Clock Tower, original Martello Tower as well as Bryce House itself.

The festival opens on the Saturday afternoon at 5.30pm with writers Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Conal Creedon, Catherine Kirwan, Danny Denton and Lisa McInerney, in a ticketed event hosted by Eoghan O’Sullivan from the Irish Examiner.

It continues on Sunday from 12pm to 4.30pm with a range of free events all around Garinish Island covering a broad range of topics including sports, food, rewilding on the Bere peninsula and the ecology of the Birds of County Cork with engaging writers such as Eoghan Daltún, Patrick Smiddy and Mark Shorten, Eimear Ryan & Ciarán Murphy and Denis Cotter. 

Welcoming the festival’s launch, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan TD said: “Garinish Island is a unique place and we are privileged to have been able to share this treasure with visitors from near and far for 70 years. It is only fitting to celebrate the anniversary of the Bryce family’s gift to the nation with a special treat for visitors this year.” 

“Last year, the OPW was able to grow its visitor numbers here to over 63,000 last year and I am sure that ‘Crosstown Drift Goes To Garinish’ will act as a further magnet to attract new and return visitors to this wonderful location. In doing so, it will help maximise the cultural and economic benefits of tourism in this high amenity area.”

Rosemary Collier added: “Garinish Island in Glengarrif Bay was well chosen by the Bryce family to establish these wonderful gardens we see here today. The bespoke designs of Peto with later additions to the plant collection by renowned gardener Murdo Mackenzie  have delighted generations of visitors to the island. I am proud of the crucial role that the Office of Public Works has played in conserving and managing the unique architectural and horticultural features and delivering the restoration of Bryce House, Casita, Italian Gardens and the Victorian walled garden. 

“Garinish is a wonderful setting for this exciting line-up of readings and conversations and the OPW team on the Island is looking forward to celebrating this anniversary with a range of visitors over the weekend.”

Looking forward to the festival’s start, acclaimed Irish novelist, playwright and documentary filmmaker Cónal Creedon said: “Glengarrif is the gateway to Beara – and Garnish Island is the jewel in the Crown of Bantry Bay. My mother’s people are from Beara and my father from Iveleary – Garnish Island is always a homecoming. It’s a soulful place and I’m looking forward to being back among my own.”