Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Ballycotton Cliff Walk. Blue skies and exercise!

Ballycotton Cliff Walk. Blue skies and exercise!
 Saturday morning, with the sun up in a blue sky, we left behind the temptations of the city and its markets and headed for the Cliff Walk in Ballycotton. The we included the dog CorkMax, well just plain Max actually. Quickly packed a couple of sandwiches, added a few bottles of water and drove east.

About 45 minutes later we were in the car park, changing the footwear and then heading west along the cliff top path. This is not the most difficult walk as there is a path, with some ups and downs, sometime stony, all the way. At a few points, it skirts the fields and there are also three streams to be crossed but, no bother, as there are either good sized stepping stones or small bridges. Besides, the dog loved the cool water.

One of the advantages of this straight-line walk so that you may turn back any time you want. We were inclined to go all the way this time. You have some great views ahead and behind as you walk, particularly on a good day.

The best viewing point is perhaps a little “headland” about 40 minutes in. Here, the Ballycotton lighthouse, which has been hidden for a while, comes into glorious view again. The seascapes, both to your left and to your right, are a feast for the eyes.
You could easily turn back at this point but we carried on and, approximately, about ten to fifteen minutes later, we came to a cluster of houses built above a rocky beach. This seemed to be the end of the walk as there was no indication of the path continuing. Here, there is a rough hewn weather worn picnic table - care needed with the wobbly planks of the seat -   and we sat and enjoyed our sandwiches.

Soon we were heading back along the path, not stopping as often to take out the cameras as had been the case on the first leg. The vegetation is fairly dormant at present and indeed there was one bank where all the furze bushes had been burnt away to leave blackened sticks.
Burned furze and blue sky.
Still there was plenty to see. A few wildflowers, including a small bunch of primroses, were showing up well and attracting the odd bee. A bunch of ladybirds were gathered on a twig of a furze bush. Most surprisingly of all, the dog disturbed a couple of lizards, each about three to four inches long, each in a different part of the walk.

I can’t recall seeing a lizard in Ireland before but apparently they are quite common, Some info here
So after approximately two hours overall, including stops, we were back in Ballycotton village. Here we took a stroll down to the pier. One or two small boats were coming and going, the lifeboat was at rest, and a some people were fishing.
Clean water in Cobh
Next stop was Cobh to see the German tall sailing ship, the Gorch Fock (below), in the deep-water berth the cruise liners frequent during the season (starting soon) and then to take a glass of wine with some family. Lovely day in East Cork!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Faces on the Mall. Cork's St Patrick's Day 2014

Faces on the Mall. Cork's St Patrick's Day 2014

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Stunning Sheep's Head Peninsula

Stunning Sheep's Head Peninsula
We went walking on the spectacular Sheep’s Head Peninsula in West Cork last Friday (7th March 2014). No! Not the whole peninsula, where there are something like 200 kilometres of great trails, but just the walk from the cafe (Cupán Tae)  to the lighthouse. Map & details here.
A stop on the drive down, Bantry Bay, Beara in the distance
It was a beautiful clear blue sky day and, after a stroll around the Farmer’s Market in Bantry, we drove down the peninsula, getting great views to our right (north) and, then to both left and right, as we reached the highest point.
From the highest point, the Mizen peninsula and
a "small" Fasnet in the distance.
On the right, we had the magnificent Bantry Bay, the sky blue, the waters a stunning aqua marine and the Slieve Miskish and Caha mountains visible over on the Beara peninsula. To the left, we could see the Mizen peninsula, though not quite Mizen Head itself as that was half hidden by the nearer Three Castle Head. In the far distance, Fastnet Head was visible, looking very very small.
Start of the walk. Dunmanus Bay
and Mizen peninsula in the distance.
Continued the drive down now to Kilcrohane, the peninsula's only village and the location of a local producers market every Saturday (outside Eileen’s Bar from April 20th onwards). We turned right in the village and drove towards the head; the Mizen peninsula was to our left and now closer. Great views all the way and soon we reached the car park; the cafe, as expected at this time of year, was closed.
The track (left), a lake, the Atlantic ahead and Beara to the far right.

Changed the footwear, took a walking stick each and headed off past the few houses below us to our left. There are marker poles (about 4 foot high) along the way which is not paved or anything like that. Even for amateur walkers like us, the markers are easy to find on the way to the lighthouse; the powerline above is also a guide as the final pole is by the lighthouse.

After the recent bad weather, the walking route, normally uneven enough, was quite muddy and slippery and the sticks came in handy. They were also useful to gauge the depth of the muddy patches on the boggy sections.

We had to be careful where the feet were going but made many stops to take in the views that were opening up on both sides, huge seascapes, rocky hills and a lake or two and a few sheep of course! And there was a stream to cross (there is a little bridge) and soon the end was near. Though not in sight!
Welcome to my world!

The lighthouse itself is a bit of a tease. You don't see it until the very last minute, when you pass the “home-made” helicopter pad and the final marker and go through a gap in the rocks. And it is tiny. But obviously its business is seaward and it is doing a good job and must be a welcome sight to many a ship on the approaches to Bantry Bay and navigating that part of the coast in general.

Watch your step!

Now, we had some navigating to do. The return trip awaited. And when you turn around, you might begin to wonder which way to go. But just pause and look for those little poles and you'll have no bother. In fact, though we didn't rush it, we got back more quickly than going out. It is a reasonably tough one - you won't get a buggy out there. But really well worth it! And, when Bernie’s Cafe reopens for the season, you'll be able to reward yourself with a cup of tea and a pastry.

* Note that we returned by the same track. There is a looped return as well. Details of both, including a route map, here

See also: Blue Sky for Bantry Farmers Market
Bantry’s Maritime Hotel is an excellent base

Hooked in Bantry! O'Connor's Seafood Restaurant.