Go Walk: Eyeries and Coulagh Bay, Co Cork
Take a breather and enjoy fragrant air along the rugged Cork coast
Eyeries and Coulagh Bay, Co Cork
Start/Finish: O’Sullivan’s Shop, Eyeries, on the Beara Peninsula, Co Cork.
The route starts in the colourful award-winning village of Eyeries. We begin at the display board near O’Sullivan’s shop at the southern end of the village and go down a quiet side road towards the sea. It’s a glorious promenade on a summer’s day, fragrant with herbs and wildflowers, the verges full of the blue rosettes of sheep’s bit and the bright yellow stars of hawkweed.
To the south an eastern outlier of the Slieve Miskish mountains raises its great dome, Maulin, while behind, the summit of Knockoura reaches nearly 500 metres above sea level.
As our route reaches the Kealincha river the fresh, briney smell of the sea fills the air. The river meanders its way towards the seashore through salt marshes fringed with reeds and water lilies and frequented by small flocks of curlews with their long curved beaks.
The road winds its way down to Pallas strand to reach the sea at the great inlet between the Iveragh and the Beara peninsulas which is called, in spite of its width, the Kenmare River.
The horizon is a dramatic sweep of rugged coast and mountain: to the north Kilcatherine Point reaches out into the sea to enclose Coulagh Bay and the tiny Eyeries Island, and to the west the Slieve Miskish mountains sweep down to the sea.
On the shore of Kilcatherine Point a craggy boulder can be found that is said once to have been the Hag of Beara, a pagan goddess who was turned to stone by the local saint, St Catherine. Coins and other offerings inserted in cracks in the boulder suggest the old Hag still has some devotees.
The route now follows a grassy path just above the strand. When the seas are high, great breakers sweeping in from the Atlantic and thunderously crashing on the sandy shore here can be very dramatic. In calm weather, the air is filled with the perfume of such herbs as wild thyme, sheep’s bit and the clover that decorates the grassy banks.
Looking back now, there is a fine view of the pastel-coloured houses of Eyeries gathered on the hillside against a backdrop of the severe-looking Caheravert Hill, where it is said copper was mined in the Bronze Age.
Our route continues around the next inlet. Here the shore is covered with cobbles of sandstone of many shades pounded and rounded for centuries by the sea.
The tide line is scattered with seaweed including great limbs of kelp and dillisk, which was very popular once. Cormorants stand on rugged rocks offshore with their wings stretched out to dry. You might be fortunate enough to spot gleaming white gannets from the great gannetry on the Skelligs diving into the swells offshore for fish.
At the tiny harbour of Creha or Drinagh Pier, built in the early 20th century as a shelter for small fishing boats, our route turns inland again and follows a tarmac side road, lined with high hedges of fuchsia and rosebay willow herb.
Meandering uphill, it is not long before we are back in the colourful village of Eyeries and the end of our walk.