Category Archives: Wild Atlantic Way

Postcards from the Wild Atlantic Way – Mizen Peninsula Co Cork

We left East Cork on a wet and miserable Sunday morning, heading to West Cork with its wonderful scenery. The weather cleared. The sun shone.  It was a perfect day for drifting along the coast enjoying the moments. Here was the Wild Atlantic Way in all its glory! After a wonderful breakfast in Budds of Ballydehob, we headed to Barley Cove to stretch our legs. The magnificent beachscape here and sand dunes were created by a tsunami in the aftermath of the great Lisbon earthquake in the 18th Century.

Next stop was Mizen Head itself with its rugged landscape, pointing out into the Atlantic Ocean at Ireland’s most south-westerly point. The visitor centre here forms the entrance to the Mizen Signal Station, built on an island in 1905. Access is via a very secure walkway and bridges with a number of easier walks to viewing platforms. Everywhere you look the cliff scenery is spectacular

The walkways allow for close encounters with birdlife and a close-up view of some spectacular geology.

It takes about 10 minutes to walk down – longer to walk back up via the famous 99 steps!

The signal station with keepers quarters was severely damaged in the storms of last winter and they and the Marconi Radio Room were still under repair at the time of our visit. All the more time for us to enjoy the fantastic views of Dunlough Bay and out towards Sheeps’ Head and the Beara Peninsula. Afterwards, we meandered towards Three Castle Head. Access to the site is via a working farm, unsuitable for our dogs, unfortunately, but we enjoyed the lovely countryside.

  • This is what we missed – next time, hopefully!

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    Three Castless overlooking Doulough – Image Wikipedia.

    We then headed towards Crookhaven via Browhead with its interesting fieldscapes. Traces of 19th Century copper mines remain here.

    From the pier in Crookhaven…an old quarry works can be seen.

  • We headed back via the famous church in the townland of Altar. This Church of Ireland building was erected between 1847 and 1852, at the behest of  Rev. William Fisher, who gave work to the poor people of the area, with funding from Famine Relief. He named it ‘Teampol-na-mbocht’  – the Irish for Church of the Poor.

    Nearby is a fine example of a Wedge Tomb

  • It was a beautiful end to a beautiful day, overlooking Toormoore Bay.

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Postcards from Rosguill Peninsula Co. Donegal

Rosguill is a peninsula in north Donegal pointing out into the Atlantic Ocean, to the west of the well known Inishowen and Fanad Peninsulas. It is on the Wild Atlantic Way and has scenery to rival anywhere in Ireland. It is also in my home parish of Mevagh and any trip home is not complete without a jaunt along the Atlantic Drive.

Carrigart Co Donegal (Image Donegal Cottage Holidays)

Our village of Carrigart lies at the entrance to the peninsula and it was from here that I headed out last week and I hope you enjoy these few snaps from my phone.

 

Carrigart village is on the shores of the sheltered Mulroy Bay overlooked by Gainne a high hill across the shore. The Carrigart restaurant is under new management and offers a very interesting menu for travellers and a very comforting log fire!

Leaving the village of Carrigart we head towards the neighbouring village of Downings crossing the area known locally as the Lee. Years ago horse racing was held here and it was a great venue for young boys playing soccer. This stone bridge, Ballyhogan Bridge,  used to be an iron bridge and we children were subjected to awful warnings from adults about the particular part of a stream that flowed under it, known as ‘The Black Hole’.

The Atlantic Drive Road. This is a loop, but I like to drive it in the other direction via Downings.

Downings, on Sheephaven Bay, has a couple of hotels and a number of restaurants. as well as the famous McNutts weavers.  Once it was a very busy herring fishing port. Its maritime history is acknowledged near the pier with a memorial to locals who drowned in the area, including the three little McCorkell children who drowned in 1921 when herding geese and they were cut off by the tide. The inscription belies the fact that their little bodies were not all recovered immediately. Their father William recovered 5 year old Elizabeth at Aughadahor  on March 22nd;  7 year old Jane was found by Edward Shiels on Downings Beach on March 29th and Willie aged 3, was found washed up on Downings Beach by Cornelius Boyce on April 7th. What a terrible tragedy for the family who lived in Aughadahor, which is on the upper end of nearby Tramore Beach.

 

Also at Downings Pier is a gun from the  SS Laurentic, an armed merchant cruiser that sank after hitting two mines off Fanad Head on January 25, 1917 with the loss of 354 lives.  The gun was salvaged by the Downings Diving group. These memorials are my first stopping-off point as I like to remember that the sea in all its majesty, also claims lives.

Heading on, there is some spectacular scenery to the left out over Sheephaven Bay, looking towards the Ards Peninsula and Marble Hill strand with Muckish in the background. Sheephaven Bay lies between the Rosguill Peninsula and Horn Head.  Stopping places are limited but there are some viewing points along the way.  At Dooey, the little beach slopes dramatically and depending on the weather and tides it may be accessible, but is not safe for swimming.

Dooey

A few hundred metres further along there is a magnificent viewing point with views of Horn Head, back towards Dooey, and Tory Island, just about visible to the right of Horn Head, and the wild Atlantic Ocean.

 

In spite of the strong wind blowing on the day of my visit, the sea looked relatively calm. a large swell was expected the following day.

Here is one of my favourite views. This abandoned house was once the home of a salt working family. The 1st edition Ordinance Survey map (produced in the first half of the 19th century) shows the little cobbled beach as ‘Salt Pans’ where salt was extracted from the sea water

A short distance away is  probably one of the most spectacular views in Ireland.

The famous postcard pair of beaches at Tranarossan.

The next photo of Tranarossan was taken last year on a very misty day when the sea was very calm. Tranarossan has so many moods..it is different at every visit!

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Just above Tranarossan Bay it is possible to see some hard won little fields, in all probability fertilized with sea weed to turn the rough scrub into lush green fields.

 

I often think that I would not mind living in this sheltered little valley with this spectacular backdrop!

Driving up the hill, a breathtaking view opens out ahead. This is the entrance to Mulroy Bay, where the Atlantic rushes in between the Rosguill and Fanad Peninsulas.

Mulroy Bay is a very scenic stretch of water.  A bridge now connects the two peninsulas

The  ancient graveyard and church ruins of Mevagh, from which the parish takes its name,  are located here at the water’s edge. Here too is an  ancient early christian cross.

 

 

The Ancient Mevagh Cross

On a clearer very calm day some years ago I was able to take these pictures.

The ‘back isles’ on Mulroy Bay from near the boatyard

View from Carrigart village towards Island Roy

At the end of the Atlantic Drive, Tramore beach comes into view again.

Looking towards Tramore Beach across the famous Rosapenna Golf Links

 

The  Atlantic Drive, only a few miles long, is to my mind, one of the most spectacular routes anywhere in Ireland.

There are two professional landscape photographers in the area, if you would like to see  stunning images from this beautiful part of Donegal and across the county, click on the links below!

Scenes of Donegal

Rita Wilson Photography

 

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Postcards from the Wild Atlantic Way: Kilalla to Downpatrick Head

Making my way for the first time ever along the beautiful north Mayo coastline I had many ‘wow’ moments as I turned corners to meet with spectacular views. This part of Mayo is one surprise after another and was an eagerly awaited part of my 3,000 kilometer trip along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

My first stop was at Killala, a picturesque little village with a 12th Century Round Tower that vies with the nearby 16th Century Church and steeple.

Killala Round tower and church

Killala Round tower and church

The scenic little harbor looks across at the sandy shore of Bartragh Island once owned (and possibly still owned) by premier golfer Nick Faldo who had plans to make a championship standard links there.

Killala is a popular tourist destination, with many attractions such as pristine beaches, walks, fishing, historic sites and archaeology and the bay itself is a treasure trove for birders with many unusual species to be seen here.

Further along the coast is the breathtakingly magnificent Lacken Strand – a huge expanse of sand sheltered by high sand dunes. The Lacken Salt Marsh is a protected area of special conservation  and the tidal bay again hosts many wading birds. It was near here on August 22, 1798 that General Humbert landed at Kilcummin Harbour with over a thousand French troops, in support of the United Irishmen Rebellion against the British.

One of the most remarkable features between the road and the sea just beyond Lacken Strand on the minor coast road, is the prevalence of long narrow strips of land running towards the coast. The Rundale System of farming predates the Famine in Ireland and was a method of land management determined by land quality, that was shared out and rotated among many families. The parallel lines of these fields can be clearly seen on the map above by enlarging it slightly. Just a short drive along the coast I arrived at the excellent B & B accommodation (Creevagh Heights B & B ) overlooking the Atlantic Ocean which I had selected for its proximity to Downpatrick Head.

I first heard of Downpatrick Head during one of our Atlantic Storms when photographs of huge waves breaking over it made the news. (See here for Irish Independent News). It was late evening when I arrived in the area but as the weather forecast was poor for the following day, I decided to go and have a look around. There was a lack of ‘wild’ on my entire trip along the Wild Atlantic Way as there was hardly a breeze, so I saw none of the spectacular wind-driven seascapes that I love so much. As it turned out, the rugged beauty of this particular spot was best enjoyed in calm conditions given that I was alone when exploring a hazardous landscape. The sign at the entrance to the head announced that the site was unsuitable for children and that dogs should be kept on leads! I couldn’t help wondering why there would be such signs, but very soon I was to find out that it was indeed good advice!

 

I was pleased to note that there was some fencing on the site and that some wire mesh had been inserted on the ground –  I presumed this was to prevent walkers slipping on wet grass. As I stood on it I  became aware of noise beneath my feet and on looking down I was horrified to find myself looking into a dark chasm with a heaving mass of water. I was standing on top of a blow-hole!

This site is a lesson in coastal erosion. The cliff tops look soft and crumbling and the blowholes are testament to the fact that waves cause caves to penetrate the cliff and the tops eventually collapse. There was a constant sound here that can only have come from the waves rumbling beneath the land I was walking on, which gave me a definite uneasy feeling. I walked on up the hill towards a large grassy mound, and what looked to me like a possible hill fort, but when I  arrived there I was astonished to find that the mound of earth is a man-made raised walkway that surrounds a vast blowhole known as  Poll a Sean Tine ( Hole of the old fire or old wave).

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The cavernous hole has been made accessible to the public by the installation of a protective steel fence and reinforced plate-glass. It must be some spectacle to be here when the thunderous waves are throwing vast plumes of spray high into the air.

There is tragic history here too. When the 1798 Rebellion failed, English troops were rounding up rebels and their French helpers. Locals descended into the hole with ropes and hid on ledges below. The Redcoats however stayed in the area for longer than expected, the weather changed, a storm blew up and many were drowned.

All calm at Poll a sean Tine

All calm at Poll a Sean Tine

The name Downpatrick Head derives from Saint Patrick  of course. There are ruins of a 5th century monastery here, with the ruins adorned (spoiled) by a statue of St Patrick. It seems that the usual and only acceptable representation of the Saint is sporting 17th Century ecclesiastical garb.

St Patrick in 17th Century garb at his 5th Century Church

St Patrick in 17th Century garb at his 5th Century Church

This area was an area of significance long before the arrival of Christianity as the ancient landscape predates Patrick. Legend has it that Crom Dubh, a pagan god, occupied this area and St Patrick came to confront him. Crom Dubh tried to throw Patrick into the ‘eternal fire’ but Patrick drew a cross on a stone and threw it into the fire which collapsed into the sea thus creating Poll a Sean Tine. Crom Dubh retreated to his fort but Patrick  hit the ground with his crozier and created Dun Briste or Broken Fort, a sea stack that stands about 100 metres from land. It’s a great story and possibly the first recorded ‘belt of a crozier’ by an Irish bishop!

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Dun Briste or Broken Fort is a sea stack that has been separated from land by wave erosion. There are remains of two dwellings and farm walls apparently still to be seen on the stack.

The effect of erosion is plain to see here with the soft top soil falling away. Up here there are no protective fences, so great care is required. It is a good demonstration of the danger of venturing too close to the edge!

But the discoveries continue.

There is a Lookout Post here, one of many around the coast of Ireland dating from about 1939. At these lookout posts in 1942-43, ground markers were etched out spelling EIRE and with a number  – this one is 64 – to alert  aircraft to the fact that they were now over neutral Ireland. These markers are now being restored at many of the 82 locations around the coast. This one at Downpatrick Head was recently restored.

As darkness was falling I made my way back to the carpark, over the fascinating tufted surface of seapinks and wondered what it would be like to return to this fascinating and special place on a good windy day. Downpatrick Head is a ‘signature’ point on the Wild Atlantic Way and was one of the highlights of my entire trip. I will be back!

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A soft tufted carpet of sea pinks

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