Bantry Bay, in West Cork, is where Europe slips into the Atlantic. With sea on one side and mountains on the other, it is a country of stones and boulders, small walled fields and hedgerows exploding with fuchsia.
In this remote corner of Ireland the West Cork Chamber Music Festival has flourished for a decade, celebrated both for its ability to attract world-class ensembles and for its intimacy and egalitarian approach to music making.
Musicians stay for the whole festival, mix with each other in an array of ensembles, mingle with the audience, mob each others' concerts, and make exacting demands in masterclasses.
The venue, Bantry House - a magnificent Georgian residence with the best view in Ireland - echoes with performers rehearsing in the library and dining room, drawing rooms and dressing rooms, even bedrooms and the billiard room.
But the music is the thing. From Mozart to Shostakovich, from Schulhoff to Tavener the programme for the 11th festival encompasses the mainstream and contemporary, from soloist and singer to quartet and sextet. For the Mozart anniversary, there is a series of afternoon recitals of his chamber music.
For the quartet-lover, there is the T'ang quartet from Singapore, the Vanbrughs from Cork and the Prazaks from Prague - all of whom can be heard in the opening concert along with the brilliant Polish violinist Patrycja Piekutowska.
It's an enviable line-up over nine days, with up to five concerts a day. With the wind off the sea and the sun setting behind the mountains, the candle-lit late-night concerts provide a perfect finale.
The festival is the creation of Francis Humphrys, its self-effacing musical director, whose obsessive search for the most exciting performers playing in dream-like combinations has resulted in an internationally acclaimed event.
Joanna MacGregor, renowned pianist and regular performer at the festival, says: "You have to have a wild-eyed fanaticism to put something like this on. You need to be a visionary. What goes on here is a miracle, both artistically and financially."
24 June to 2 July (00 353 27 52788 www.westcorkmusic.ie)Reuse content