Incredibly, it had been over five years since Kevin Ring and myself last visited the underrated and a little overlooked Sheep's Head Peninsula. This smaller, less mountainous peninsula lies just south of the glorious Beara Peninsula which, understandably attracts greater attention. The secret is slowly seeping out but the Sheep's Head is still a wild and wonderful, less touristy heaven. When we were last here we did something of a brute of a run that lasted over 4 hours and covered approx 35 kilometres. To say we were dehydrated by the end would be something of an understatement but the cakes and coffee afterwards went a little to reviving us. Today we weren't arriving until the afternoon and something much shorter was planned.
Getting to spend time with Kevin is like trying to grab the wind. My shift work and travel and Kevin's super busy homelife and work make it difficult to nail some quality time down. It was great to manage to secure three days for this trip and we were determined to make the most of it. We have been enjoying a super summer weather wise and drought conditions prevail everywhere (now that is a rare thing to say hereabouts) but Kevin must be one of the unluckiest men when holidays and weather are mixed. We are hatching a plan to send him on holidays to drought affected regions as we speak. Suffice to say it was drizzle and cloud predominated on the journey down😥. We parked at the little cafe near the end of the peninsula and set off from there. The weather was actually showing signs of improvement when we set off along the twisting undulating trail. Everywhere the ground was super dry but the going is still tough as it is rarely possible to lope along easily as you run from rock to bog on rugged rough terrain. Common sense prevailed this time and any uphill sections we (because of me) walked and enjoyed the chat and banter all the more. Eventually we reached a road junction (The black gate) there was a map of the routes which gave us the direction of our next section.
We set off up the narrow lane towards Cahergaun some 4 kilometres away from where we could follow the beautiful coastal trail back to our car. The next few kilometres, even though they were on tarred roads, were wonderful. Here in the hidden heart of the peninsula, the landscape had a timeless feel to it and it was easy to imagine life here in times past. After running over a crest and once again nearing the sea we spotted our trail and began the return leg. It would be hard to use adequate superlatives for this trail. Wild ground, where good tracks wind through abandoned mining ruins, courts sea cliffs and inlets for kilometres until you reach a wild bay. Another short hop up a lane before you follow a cart track up to reach wild ground again. Now another stunning stretch follows which is on springy turf (for the most part) and runs gently downhill to reach another little bay. The weather was now quite poor with sea mist and rain denying us grand vistas but no matter, what was available for us was wonderful. More wild and rugged trail followed before we cut off left and decided to visit the cafe. Our wet, weary sorry state elicited some pitying looks from the other customers but the delightful lady who was serving was a bit of a character and while she dished out large mugs of Tae and huge slices of apple tart and cream she was witty and entertaining.
Full and a little weary we decided to call it a day and head towards Glengarriff to sort out where to stay that evening. As we drove towards Durrus the weather was showing signs of improvement and we decided to have a look at Zetland Pier, which lies west of Glengarriff and would, Kevin assured me, make a great place to camp up for the night. Alas when we arrived there was a couple of motor homes already there so we abandoned the idea and headed to Glengarriff and checked into the excellent Blue Pool Hostel in the village centre. A warm welcome, a nap, a fine feed and several pints ended a very enjoyable day.
Monday June 16th;
The iffy weather of yesterday still lingered and we awoke to an overcast drizzly morning. The plan for today was...well there wasn't one. Depending on what the weather offered we could go for a cycle or a hike and as we ate the basic breakfast provided by the hostel (a selection of cereals, toast and tea or coffee) some blue sky started to appear so we decided to head for a hike. We then debated two options, 1- Hungry Hill or 2-Cumeengerra near Lauragh. We were leaning towards the latter. As we were passing Zetland Pier en route I suggested that we go for a swim there as a "perk me up" start to the day. As soon as I said it I started to regret it and as we walked onto the pier and saw a few jellyfish drift by the idea was rapidly losing its appeal. Still we were here now so we decided to give it a go. I'm an immerse myself in slowly man but this location didn't make that to easy. I used the steps on the side and after step two the water was tickling my tush and three was chest deep and suddenly I was in. I am a big softy, it was wonderful. Kevin went in the sensible way..jump. The water was warm and we whiles away an excellent half hour swimming, splashing and jumping and any lingering vestiges of weariness were washed away. To top things off, by the time we were done it was a warm sunny morning.
While driving towards Adrigole, Kevin spotted a sign for kayak rental and we went to investigate. It was just 10am and they were about to open so on a whim we rented a pair of sit on kayaks and entered the glassy waters of Adrigole Harbour. We spent a delightful 75 minutes doing a circuit of the harbour with lots of seals keeping a wary eye on us as we glided past. It was exciting and relaxing all at the same time and with the bulk of Hungry Hill looming large over the scene we decided to explore there when we got out. One of the things that is great about Ireland is the openness and friendliness of people, even in tourist hot spots. We called to the small roadside shop just outside Adrigole and while we waited for our teas we had told what we had done so far today and what we were going to do next and discovered that the lady behind the counter was the daughter of Peg (after whom the shop is named) and that Peg had lived to just a few months short of her 100th birthday and while her body had grown frail, her mind was as sharp as a tack to the end and I've no doubt more personal information would have been forthcoming if we had stayed longer. It was a nice little interlude and demonstrates what is best in people in the west of Ireland...they still maintain an interest in others.
|Three slabs and a gully|
We parked by the main road at the junction where the Beara Way follows a little lane in towards the mountain. It was now a warm sunny glorious day and these laneways are now a riot of colour and birdsong which made for a lovely start to the walk. When we reached the the point where the "Way" left the road we continued on as far as the farmyard. No entry signs detered us and we returned to the stile where we entered the rough wild mountainside. Once we had gained a little bit of height we contoured around towards the curved cascade that comes from Coomarkane lake. We crossed the stream and climbed up the three slabs that lead to the area where the lake sits. The rock on the slabs was wonderfully gnarled and featured so it was an easy climb, especially in these super dry conditions. The final slab is a little intimidating as you approach but it is pretty laid back and easy. A l=fall however would not be advisable from near the top. Once up at the lake we turned towards the steep ground behind it and we climbed an easy gully on the southern (left) side of the crags. We exited onto the main shoulder but we still had around 100 metres of a slog to reach the broad top. What a place to be. The whole of the Beara Peninsula stretches either side of you and beyond the peaks of the Everagh Peninsula looked resplendent. After soaking it all in and seeing a squall arrive down by Allihies we continued off the plateau to the north before skirting Coomadavallig Lake and we descended the spur that leads to Dereen Upper where the lane leads back to the car. The view of Hungry Hill from this spur is fantastic and the "Mares Tail Waterfall", even in these dessicated conditions looked impressive. I must return when more normal rainfall returns for it is surely one of the finest waterfalls in the country. We returned to the hostel and once again enjoyed fine food and some beverages.
|Looking up the main slab|
|A wee bit of weather coming..it missed us|
|The Reeks and more|
|A savage mountain..lots and lots to explore|
Tuesday June 17th;
Did I say that we enjoyed some beverages???. Well the sad fact is that we enjoyed one or two too many and that fact coupled with the rather dreary weather meant neither of us had the appetite for the cycle we had planned today. So with some relief and reluctance we had a short wander through the woods and returned home. Slightly foreshortened but none the less a really enjoyable trip. Monday I will long remember and The Sheeps Head is a joy. We must get back out soon. Oh, a forgotten SD card meant the camera was not employed. Phone images only.
|A misty Glengarriff|