I was quite tempted to stay another night at the Insiara b&b as it was so nice but there was little of interest around it, with even the nearest village being over 5 miles away.
So at 10:00 and smelling of lavender after my shower, I set off for the short 9 mile drive to Kinsale…..a destination which totally underwhelmed me.
Yes it’s a cute fishing port and yes it has wonderful fish based restaurants where the food is probably so fresh that it’s still moving on the plates but it just wasn’t for me. I parked along the sea front and walked around the town, which took all of 30 minutes as there wasn’t much to see.
I did visit the most recommended restaurant in Kinsale and the owner let me take photos inside as it wasn’t open for business at that time of the morning.
I did make good use of the tourist office though and left armed with a series of lovely glossy guide books to all areas of Ireland which I found very useful for the rest of the trip.
I’m not sure about the “pocket guide” descriptions though as you’d need very large, deep pockets to fit one of these guides inside.
Leaving the town behind, I drove south 10 miles to the Old Head of Kinsale but couldn’t go the last mile or so to the lighthouse because the land had been turned into a rather posh golf course and there was even a man by a stone portal who was making sure riff raff like me weren’t allowed to progress further.
Even telling him that I’d come all the way from Kinsale didn’t impress him !
At this point both sides of the path, for it wasn’t even a proper road, disappeared off down to the Atlantic but when the portal keeper saw my indecision, he helpfully told me to go to the right for better views.
And he was right.
Craggy. Definitely craggy.
I sat on that little sandy/grassy platform (top photo) and enjoyed the view for a while. Sea birds whirled around me before returning with food to their nesting sites. All in all it was a lovely spot and back at the car I thanked the portal keeper for his advice.
He asked me to wait a minute and went off to his little hut and returned with a gift for me…..a golf club brochure and here are 3 photos from it to show how dramatic a course it is and probably why it costs €240 to play 18 holes there. I’d probably lose balls to the same value if I played a round ! The last photo shows an aerial view of the course and the Old Head peninsula and I’ve added some text to show how far I got.
I think there was a public route round to the lighthouse if I’d gone down from the path to the left instead of the right, but I was happy with the choice I’d made.
Driving back to the main roads, R604/R600/R603, I was meaning to go straight to Mizen Head but while sitting at that Old Head scenic spot I’d read the guide book from the tourist office in Kinsale and saw that a short detour would take me to Kilbrittain.
Why ? Well obviously to see the skeleton of a fin whale that washed up on the beach and….oh let this sign tell the story……….
It was 10 miles away and only a mile or so from my route anyway so worth a visit. When I got there I found that Kilbrittain consisted of 1 shop, a pub, a petrol station and 2 or 3 houses….maybe 4. The park where the skeleton was on display was basically a grassy hill with a small concrete area at the top where kids could kick a ball about BUT sure enough, in pride of place was the fin whale, or at least its bones.
I’m still not sure where the beach was as Kilbrittain is miles from the sea ! That whale was REALLY lost.
It was a bizarre sight and for some reason it made me hungry.
I hit the trail again and also the N71 towards Mizen Head. I was now on the Wild Atlantic Way and I’d recommend the website to anyone planning to drive around any section of the west coast of Ireland. I did mostly follow it but sometimes I wanted to be even closer to the water so would go off down narrow tracks to get to the very edge of peninsulas around the coast.
50 miles from Kilbrittain (and after leaving the N71 onto the R592) I came upon a grouping of stones just a few feet from the road so as there was a parking area, I pulled in and went to explore.
Good spot for a sheltered bbq I’d have thought or sacrificing a local maiden at the weekend..
Nearby were some great views with the crashing Atlantic waves breaking spectacularly over the black rocks There were also sheltered bays and despite the late hour, I enjoyed clambering around them like I used to love doing when I was a kid. Not there of course but back in N. Ireland.
Then it was on to Mizen Head. The R591 forked just over 6 miles from Mizen Head but the road that WASN’T the continuation of the R591 didn’t have a number but the sign at the fork said Barley Cove and Mizen Head so I took it. This narrow unnamed road proved the point that you can totally miss something scenic by going one way as I’ll explain later. By the time I got to Mizen Head, all my stopping and starting had left me too late to get onto the bridge shown in my photo below. I’d no idea there would be a visitor centre and gift shop which meant there were opening hours but it seems that at the end of every peninsula in western island, at least ones with lighthouses, there are commercial enterprises to take your money of you.
At least there was a bridge here that would need maintaining so fair enough…..and it was only €4.50 to go across BUT it all closed at 17:00 and I arrived at 16:30. I asked how long was the walk to the bridge and was told 15 minutes so it made no sense to stay.
Here are a couple of photos from the web site to show what I missed !
Ah well…..another day !
On my drive back along the unnamed road to rejoin the R591 and just 2 miles from Mizen Head, I saw a lovely beach to my right that I’d totally missed on the outward journey as it was hidden when driving that way. It was at Barley Cove and to get onto the beach, I had to park at some apartments and walk down a long private path. Being off season there was no one around to challenge me and after a few minutes I was on the sand dunes and then on the beach
I walked to the far end but for some reason there was a smell of sewage where the beach swept around due to a long channel that might have had an overflow pipe somewhere along it. I came back along the sand dunes and with the sand there being much softer and deeper, I was pretty tired by the time I had to face the very steep climb back up to the car park area. I can tell you the walk up took 10 times longer than the walk down and I had to sit in the car for a while to get my heart rate down to normal !
By now it was well after 6pm and I wanted to leave Bantry till the next day so just 19 miles from Barley Cove and a quarter of a mile from Durrus, still on the R591, I saw a b&b sign and went to check it out. It was called J0-Al because the owners were John and Alice Hickey and not because they came from the planet Krypton ! I’m not sure why, but John gave me a lovely double room for an amazing €30 and when you see photos of the breakfast, I think I got the b&b deal of the decade.
Again I had a bit of a rest before inquiring about places to eat. I was told it was a short walk to Durrus and there were a few good places there but I’d had enough walking so drove to the village and picked O’Sullivan’s Bar.
Non classic Irish bar with one local propping it up and thankfully no music. It was a warm evening so I sat well away from the fire and enjoyed my chicken in a basket and using the wifi to catch up on world events.
Back at the b&b I made my plans for the next day and then watched some more shows on the laptop but was ready for bed at midnight. Another long day with lots of exercise and I was asleep in minutes.
I didn’t know it then, but the next day was to be one of my favourites.