Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lot's Wife and the standing stones

After a late start, I drove westwards to Skibbereen, the major centre for West Cork. I quickly found out why the guidebooks give it short shrift: if Clonakilty is tidy town, then Skibbereen is its opposite. The people I spoke to on the streets were very pleasant but the town was very unattractive, especially after the sequence of pleasant villages extending all the way back to Cork city. It reminded me of a bit of Fraserburgh in northern Scotland.

Then it was south to Baltimore, a small village on the peninsula below Skibbereen famous for having had a hundred of its people kidnapped by Algerian pirates in 1631: "The Sack of Baltimore". Today was supposed to be the first day of a 3 day Wooden Boat Festival (I guess like the one in Vancouver BC) but the place was decidedly nonfestive and gave little sign that anything was happening. One of my guidebooks mentioned an interesting beacon/lighthouse, known as Lot's Wife, which we eventually found as it was not signposted anywhere in Baltimore. It's perched on a headland south of the town, with unfenced cliff edges abounding, the thought of which is enough to make my stomach turn over several times. I climbed to higher ground to be level with the 30m+ structure but couldn't pursuade myself to walk closer.

Turning back we followed some lovely countryside to ex-hippy town of Ballydehob and walked around 12 Arches Bridge. This town is at the base of the lowest of the 5 peninsular fingers marking Ireland's southwest. At the other end of this peninsula is Crookhaven with "the last inn in Ireland" and Mizen Head, supposedly the most southwesterly point of Ireland. I'm not sure how they worked this out: I would figure that point had to be where a 45degree line (like a weather front) would first hit the mainland as it moved from the southwest. To my eye, it looks like Crow Head, "two fingers north" on the Beara peninsula would be a better candidate for the title.

Stopped between Toormore & Goleen for a late lunch (a surprisingly good goats cheese salad and a wonderful carrot cake), challenging the proprietor to make me a strong cup of coffee.

Reaching Mizen Head through a few miles of fog, the visitor centre was visible but not much else - the lighthouse beyond it couldn't be seen, let alone any view of the coastline. I decided to forgo visiting the lighthouse today: it would have been like my foggy visit to the Eiffel Tower a few years ago where I could only see things under the tower.

We left the centre and made a wrong turn at an unsignposted intersection (not helped by the fog). I figured that since the peninsula was so narrow, anywhere we went would take us landwards. We had an interesting ride around country roads, but seemed to have found one of the few long cul-de-sacs on the peninsula, dropping us at (I assume) Three Castle Head. I retraced the road back to the intersection and then around to Crookhaven via Barley Cove.

Leaving the peninsula I had stop to make on the way back to Clonakilty: the Drombeg stone
. Turning off the N71 at Leap, the road through Glandore is very attractive, and I see now is marked on my map as a scenic route. It took a little while to find the stone circle as one of my maps had it marked incorrectly. The only road-indication is a small sign at the actual turn off to the private property where you can visit the circle. For those planning a tour of Ireland: (1) stop at every intersection to read signs & (2) don't expect guidebook-listed attractions to be signposted.

The circle is fairly small - about the size of a master bedroom, with the tallest of ~16 stones being a little taller than me, and the shortest about knee-height. Nearby is the remains of a stone-hut and a cooking-room where hot stones were used to boil water for cooking meat.

The final pictures here are from Clonakilty: the statue is of Michael Collins, and was unveiled a few years ago by Liam Neeson, who had portrayed him on film.

1 comment:

  1. It is a pity you didn't hit Baltimore on Sunday as the festival was in full swing then. I was down with our wooden boat (the Bantry bay gig, An Seabhac Mara) for my first time. The village was packed and the food festival was fantastic.