N THE SOUTHWEST coastline, well endowed as it is with famous peninsulas, Bolus Head is, perhaps, the promontory that is least visited. The fact that a road does not run right around the peninsula is largely responsible for this and the result is an unspoiled landscape of stone walls and working farms, with very little holiday-home development. So, even a walk along the traffic-free roads on either side of the peninsula, with the Atlantic swells lunging against the dramatic coastal landforms, is a worthwhile experience.
But now the Skelligs Loop Walk has been developed at the end of the road on its western side, which allows access to the great cliffs of its terminal headlands.
Once you leave the road, it is an easy walk across to Ducalla Head (71m). Signs warn of dangerous cliffs, and indeed they are, as they are formed by great vertical slabs of red sandstone topped with crumbly boulder clay. But that needn’t bother you as Ducalla provides a splendid viewing point eastwards along to the 200m-high face of Bolus Point, and you will have no further need to go peeking over the edge as you follow the low stone wall that leads up to the ruins of the Napoleonic-era barracks that dominate the summit of Bolus Head (264m).
This spot, apart from its splendid views down into St Finan’s Bay and across Ballinskelligs Bay to Hog’s Head, is also the nearest point on the mainland to the Skelligs. If a tendency to seasickness or vertigo has prevented you from ever visiting the Great Skellig, this would be a perfect spot to contemplate these enigmatic islets, the one with its unique monastic settlement, the other with its 30,000 pairs of gannets and numerous other species, many of which also inhabit the precipices below you.
From the barracks, head northeast down to a col. From here, the marked walk follows a track back down to the road, but it would be a pity to come this far and not continue up to the summit of Bolus Mountain (410m).
When I started, I had asked a farmer if there was access to the mountain as I would be writing about it. “It’s my mountain,” he replied, “and you’re welcome to write whatever you like about it. We need every bit of promotion we can get in this part of the world in these hard times.”
While it’s a relatively short haul to the summit, it is slow going as there are thick clumps of furze underfoot. I was glad I had my gaiters on. The view from the peak encompasses the inner reaches of Ballinskelligs Bay, backed by the misty ridges of the Iveragh Mountains.While it might be tempting to drop straight back down to the road from the ridge, you would end up crossing stone walls and fences, so please do head back down to the col and the marked route.
Bolus Head,Co Kerry
Start and finish:The car park at the monument to the American Liberator, which crashed off the Skelligs in 1944. How to get there: From Portmagee (R565), take the coast road to St Finian’s Bay. From Ballinskelligs (R566), take the third-class road that cuts across the neck of the peninsula to St Finian’s Bay.
Time: Four hours.
Map:Ordnance Survey Discovery Series, sheet 83. Suitability: Moderate. Map, rain gear and walking boots needed.
Food and accommodation:
Portmagee, Ballinskelligs, Waterville.