A walk for the weekend: Rugged terrain and sparkling sea in Baltimore

With a recorded history going back to the 13th century, the village of Baltimore provides a short but intriguing walk from its historic centre to the soaring cliffs at the mouth of the harbour

 

With a recorded history going back to the 13th century, the village of Baltimore provides a short but intriguing walk from its historic centre to the soaring cliffs at the mouth of the harbour

The best place to start the walk is from Dún na Séad (Fort of the Jewels) which was built in 1215 by Robert de Carew, but rebellion soon restored the hegemony of the Gaelic clans and the O’Driscolls, with whom the castle is most associated, held sway there until 1604.The castle ended up roofless and with crumbling walls until it was acquired by Patrick and Bernie McCarthy in 1997. They have completed a meticulous restoration and a visit will greatly enhance your walk. It is open from March to October.

Head south past the attractive St Matthew’s Church which dates from 1819. The road descends to a sheltered cove which was the scene of the most infamous event in Baltimore’s history when, in 1631, Algerian pirates landed, sacked the village and carried off 107 captives, mostly English settlers, to be sold into slavery. A captive set ashore was a chap called “Ould Osborne” who presumably would not have fetched much at auction. Because of its infamy, one would think that this was an isolated incident; the only thing unusual about it was that the captors were Algerian. Piracy was practically a sport along this coastline for hundreds of years because of the wealth generated by the fishing industry. There seems to have been a particular animosity between the O’Driscolls and the men of Waterford and they frequently engaged in piratical sorties against one another.

Leaving the built-up area you will find yourself walking between stone walls and a patchwork of small fields. At the head of the road a series of rocky steps will bring you up to Baltimore’s famous Beacon (“Lot’s Wife”) which was built in 1849.

Among the many vessels that have passed under this marker was Saoirse, Conor O’Brien’s yacht which was built in Baltimore during the Civil War and on which he sailed around the world on a passage which took in the great Capes of the Southern Ocean. At the launch, the Republicans who occupied Baltimore at the time objected to him flying the Free State Flag. So when they said no flag; he said no champagne and drank the lot himself. He flew the flag on the voyage.

Even though you are only 40 meters above sea level, the prospect is splendid, with the arc of the west Cork mountains forming a backdrop to the rugged landscape and sparkling sea. If you are lucky you may spot whales cavorting off the coast; an increasingly common occurrence.

You can walk back along the cliff top to the top of an inlet. Don’t be tempted to scramble down to the water’s edge as in rough conditions extra-large waves break frequently. Return by the central spine of the headland and retrace your steps to the village.

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