To the lighthouse: a hike to Sheep’s Head
Our Going Coastal series continues. Many are drawn to the glittering waters of Dunmanus Bay, one of our last unspoiled stretches of coast
Moving to this area has been a tricky transition for Roser. “It’s a very different life to working in the office and commuting,” she says, with a rueful smile. “You leave your family and friends behind, and you think, ‘I can cope. I’ll get new friends’. But it takes that much longer – especially when you don’t have children going to school. You have to put in an effort to go out and meet people.”
As a member of the community council in Durrus, Davenport has become involved with local issues. A community garden is currently under consideration, as is the redevelopment of an old agricultural building in the centre of the village as a trailhead facility for the Sheep’s Head Way. “It’s the future for this area, I think,” says Roser. “Nature is the biggest asset here in west Cork.”
Walking along the northern shore of Dunmanus Bay, one would have to agree. The distinctive X-shaped stiles of the waymarked trail take the hiker past old copper mines, blowholes and stone circles. Outside Ahakista is the well-tended garden which commemorates the 300 people killed when terrorists blew up an Air India plane off the southwest coast in 1985. In Kilcrohane on a Sunday, there’s a lively producers’ market selling everything from jewellery to jam.
Endof the road
At the Sheep’s Head itself, you find a landscape straight out of a sci-fi movie. Chunks of rock lie scattered everywhere as if chucked by a two-year-old monster in a tantrum. The views – Beara Peninsula to the north, Mizen to the south – are spectacular. And if you want to get to the lighthouse, you’ve got to go on foot because this is, literally, the end of the road.
After a quick pitstop at Bernie’s Cafe, adventurous walkers will head north along the Poet’s Way, across a wild valley and rugged cliffs, to the spot known as the Cove, where the novelist JG Farrell drowned in 1979. But that, strictly speaking, is on Bantry Bay and outside our present remit.
And so we return via Lough Laharadda, garlanded by waterlilies and attended by drifts of electric-blue damselflies, to pay tribute to the author of the Troubles trilogy at his grave in the leafy churchyard of St James’s Church of Ireland in Durrus.
Ah, but what’s it like around Dunmanus Bay in the winter, when the days are dark and the rain is endless? Helen Ennis smiles. That’s what everybody asks, when it’s time to leave.
“It’s just . . . different,” she says. “I see very little of my friends in summer because we’re all too busy with work. Winter is when we really come together for dinners and parties and stuff. We help each other do jobs and decorate and everything else. We just hunker down.”
We turn to take a final look at the view of the bay behind us. Do you get used to that, I ask. “No,” she says. “You don’t. Every day I get people calling in to the shop and they go, ‘You’re so lucky to live here’. And I go, ‘Yes. I am’. It’s not just saying it. I really am.”