A walk on the wild side
From bay to beach, Kerry’s far west is mesmerising
When the next parish is America and the wind is coming from that direction, you will have a wild and wonderful walk along a coastline fringed with spectacular beaches surrounded by imposing uplands.
Even on a calm day, the little circular bay of Clogher, Co Kerry, is enchanting, with a pocket beach encased by battered cliffs and, offshore, stretched in repose, the arresting Fear Marbh, or Dead Man, the most northerly of the Blasket Islands.
With a strong westerly wind blowing, it is transformed into a maelstrom. Waves up to eight metres high thunder into the cove and break on the cliffs in great fountains of spray that seem to hang suspended in the air for seconds, before falling back into the turmoil beneath them.
You could become so mesmerised by the scene that you might forget you have a saunter ahead of you. Walk back a short distance up the road, to the stile that marks the start of Cuas na nEighe, a loop walk around the edge of the cliffs north of Clogher, where you are closer to the tumult of the waves while protected by a stone wall. Ahead the land sweeps up to a sharp ridge, the northeastern end of which forms the distinctive peaks of The Three Sisters, two of which have male names – Binn Hanraí and Binn Diarmada. I wonder what that’s all about . . .
At the end of the cliff walk, a farm track leads back on to the R599, but you’ll be able to escape from it back on to the quiet country roads after 600m.
This road leads directly to Dún an Óir, the scene of an infamous massacre in 1680 during the second Desmond rebellion when a force of 600 Spanish and Italian soldiers, who had been sent by Pope Gregory, were attacked by a 4,000-strong English force led by Lord Grey.
When the invaders surrendered, all but the chief officers were executed. They were decapitated one by one with their bodies thrown in the harbour and their heads buried in a nearby field now known as Gort a Ghearradh (the Field of the Cutting.).
Stretching away from this site of ancient carnage is An Béal Bán, a Green Coast beach. These are beaches that have EU water-quality standards and an unspoiled environment but that do not have the other facilities required for Blue Flag status. You have a good chance of having the beach to yourself at most times of the year.
At the end of the beach, a small headland is occupied by a scattering of caravans beyond which is your objective, Wine Strand. Slightly smaller than Clogher, it is much more sheltered and has darker sand, from which it gets its name.
It is a peaceful spot in which to rest and contemplate the peaks of the Brandon range before heading back to the cacophony of Clogher.
Clogher Beach to Wine Strand, Co Kerry
Map: OSI Discovery, sheet 70. (The 4th edition shows the changes to route.
Start: Carpark at Clogher beach.
Finish: Pier at Wine Strand. If you don’t have two cars at your disposal or don’t fancy a long walk, take the road that runs from An Béal Bán beach back through Na Gorta Dubha.
Get there: Take R559, west of Dingle, turning left just beyond Milltown Bridge and follow signposts for Ballyferriter. Time: Three hours. Distance: 9km. Suitability: Easy. Dress to suit weather.