The Many Attractions of Driving the R584

Macroom to Bantry, via the longest road

One of these days, I’m going to head for Bantry on the R584, the road from Macroom. But don’t expect me to arrive on the same day! It is such an interesting journey, with lots of stops.

First halt will be the Gearagh (right), a mixed deciduous alluvial woodland in the flood plain of the River Lee. It is one of the last semi-natural forested floodplains in Europe and is unique in Ireland. Well worth a walk.

How many of you have seen the signs for the Toy Soldier factory? Well, for the boys (the young and young at heart), that factory is only just down the R584 from the Gearagh. They have factory tours, school activities and workshops.

Then cross the Toons River, in the area where they now make Mozzarella cheese. Now, Friday to Sunday, you can sample that cheese and other buffalo products at a new shop and cafe at the Toons Bridge Dairy. And not just buffalo goodies. Here too, you can get lots of stuff from the Real Olive Company.

Head on towards Inchigeelagh and its lovely lakes. If you forgot your jacket, then call to Lee Valley Clothing Store / who export to many countries. 

There is a cafe here for refreshments, of course also available is the long established Creedon’s Hotel, before you take in River Island and the local lakes (above). 

Next call is the Gaeltacht village of Ballingeary. Here you may learn Irish, go fishing for brown trout, hire a boat, enjoy a score of bowls. Never get to Bantry that way, I suppose!

But there is one nearby detour that must be made and that is to Gougane Barra (the retreat of St Finbarr, the founder of Cork City and the source of the River Lee), a beautiful spot indeed.
Gougane Barra walk

No need for any detour to see Keimaneigh, the next landmark, as the R584 cuts through this pass, made famous by the story of the deer that, to escape its hunters, jumped from one high rock to another at the other side. He’d have done well in the Olympics!
Carrigass and the sign for nearby bridge!

Having cleared the pass, there are some fine views of the valley to the west, but must keep my eyes on the road! I am now looking out for Future Forests.

This is a garden centre but not like any I’ve seen. Visit the website and you’ll see for yourself. Visitors are welcome. You may buy online but this place is well worth a visit and bring the kids who’ll be entertained and educated.

Now we are getting close to Kealkil and my next call, Carrigass Castle. Just a few walls remain of the 16th century castle, built by the O’Sullivan Bere clan. Here, many walks begin: to the Kealkil Stone Circle, to the corrie lake called Loch na mBreac Dearg and much more. There is an old bastible suspended over the fire in one corner but it may be better to check out the little cafe nearby ( and picnic sites), handy before or after your walk.

I’ll be heading for Bantry but there will be one more stop and that will be a call to the fantastic Manning’s Emporium. Think I’ll have a bite to eat here. Make that bites as they now have a Sherry tasting facility that I need to try out. Get those tapas ready.