Monday, May 29, 2006

Sheeps Head - Kenmare - Killarney

[Saturday] Checked out of Clonakilty and drove west again, and then north at Ballydehob. Today's peninsular finger was to be Sheeps Head. It's a pleasant drive down the lower side, and then you hit a set of roads variously indicating cycle or walking paths to the Head itself, without offering a suggestion as to which one to drive on (all being roads of equal width).

I headed up the central (walking) road and saw that there was actually a side path for actual walking, with an indication of another stone circle. We walked up it for a short way, past a roaring cascading stream, through a long section of boggy peaty path lined only with nettles, holly and other things one shouldn't grab at when stumbling. The stone circle was a very small affair, with two stones standing, and I might have just walked past it if it hadn't been signposted earlier. There wasn't an indication of how far we might have to walk, so we turned back through the bog and nettles, jumped back in the car, and then drove down the cycle road.

As with our journey to Mizen head yesterday, heavy fog made the last section of the journey rather pointless as there was less and less to see as we forged on. At the last descent into the wool-like fog, I decided enough was enough and turned around. Back at the main loop and fog-free, we turned toward the northern side of the peninsula, and climbed quickly onto another fog-bound ridge. Almost as quickly we were out of it and looked down on a spectacular view of Bantry Bay.

We turned around the high street of Bantry, looking for a place to eat. Nothing caught my eye, so I drove into the grounds of Bantry House but was deterred by a 5€ overhead on just entering the grounds before getting hit-up for lunch cost.

Back on the N71, north again. Stopped in pretty Glengariff (?) but the cafe was full of post-communion diners, so north again. Passing through a short but primitively cut road-tunnel we left County Cork for County Derry. The roads were in a pretty bad state - early works on their upgrading notwithstanding. Much of the N71 north of Ballydehob is very narrow one lane road with few opportunities to overtake slow farm machinery or tourist coaches. One must slow to crawl-speed to pass all oncoming traffic, especially such wider loads. At one point I was following a geriatrically slow Fiat Panda, which couldn't have been slower if the passengers were actually riding a giant bear that stopped every few minutes to eat bamboo shoots in the middle of the road.

My tummy was really rumbling and so I pulled over at a farm cafe overlooking a lovely valley that recalled some of the Basque country I had traversed in November. The cafe, called something like Jolly Molly and her holly (golly!) didn't have much food on offer so I settled on a coffee and scone.

Soon however we reached the perky little town of Kenmare, which had real food and real coffee on offer (at Jam cafe) and I topped up for the afternoon. Perched at the nexus of the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Bera (peninsular fingers 3 & 4) it was doing a roaring tourist trade. In a music store I picked up a couple of old albums by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, who has produced some wonderful piano/chamber pieces reworking traditional Irish tunes. I've been trying to track down some print scores of his work for years, but he remains unpublished. His surname is pronounced O'Sulleveen, the 'bh' being like that in Cobh/Cove.

After Kenmare, the terrain became much starker, sheep and stones sometimes indistinguishable in roadside pasture. The Macgillycuddy's Reeks dominated the landscape, and then we came over Moll's Pass after which tourists (mostly American, German and some Poles or Russians) multiplied furiously. The clouds were dispersing as quickly and I was seeing more blue-sky than at any time since arriving in Ireland.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:22 pm

    After leaving Cork you entered County Kerry - not County Derry (that's in Northern Ireland!!!). Great account though..... must go and read more - need to find out what happened next :0)

    best regards,