Just 20 minutes from Cork on the Bandon River lies the flourishing town of Bandon, a gateway to the scenic beauties of West Cork.

Bandon was a walled town founded in the time of Elizabeth I as a bulwark to protect the English conquest from the neighbouring Irish - a Protestant colony our `outpost´ in Gaelic terrain.

In 1608 Richard Boyle received the lands of the expelled Gaelic Chiefs (the MacCarthys, O´Mahonys, O´Driscolls, Desmond Geraldines) and planted lands with English Protestant settlers.

Over the town gate was written: ``Turk, Jew or Atheist may enter here, but not a Papist." A local wit is said to have added: ``Whoever wrote this, wrote it well - for the same is written on the gates of hell!"

Today the town boasts many gracious residences, hotels and guest houses, as well as fine public buildings. There are excellent shops and a flourishing pottery. Bandon offers a wide range of sporting activities including golf, salmon fishing, angling, horse-riding, bowling and cycling.

The Bandon Weir project nearby is a beautiful white water weir and wildlife sanctuary, offering the visitor scenic views, leaping salmon, and includes a wild duck feeding area. Full details from P.O'Sullivan, Tel (023) 41533.

The West Cork Heritage Centre, located at Christchurch, Bandon, runs special exhibitions on themes relating to history, archeology, nature, crafts and other subjects.

Christchurch itself is of interest. Step back in time and see the craft of the wheelwright and harness maker, or visit the country kitchen and dairy. Discover about ancient Ring Forts and Crannogs.It was built in 1610 on the site of a Danish fort, and is among the earliest churches erected in Ireland for Protestant worship. It was de-consecrated in 1973, having served the community for 363 years. The centre is open Mon-Sat, 10-18.00 hrs, Sundays 14-18.00hrs. Group Bookings Tel 023-44193.

Kilbrogan Church (1610) was the first Protestant church built in Ireland. It contains the town stocks and other relics. The ruins of Downdaniel Castle, 4 miles E, was a 15th c. stronghold of Barry Og. In 1612 the land was bought by East India Company who established a settlement here for smelting Iron ore.

Nearby the parish of Ballinadee features a fine old church and rectory dating from 1759, with its tower, mosaic floor and marble chancel steps.

A nearby forest walk is Duke's Wood, 5km (3ml) N of Bandon on the R590, with picnic areas, forest and riverside walks.

Nearby tower of interest