Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Castlefreke and Rathbarry. The Castles And The Wood

Castlefreke and Rathbarry
The Castles And The Wood
Rathbarry is a lovely little village a few miles off the main road between Clonakilty and Rosscarbery and has been prominent in the Tidy Towns awards in  recent years. On the way to Durrus the other day, I decided to make a visit to Castlefreke wood and, at the same time, take a look at the castle on the hill which was a ruin the last time I saw it.

In 2000, Stephen Ralfe Evans-Freke purchased Castle Freke, bringing it back into the ownership of the Freke family, as well as surrounding lands and also Rathbarry Castle. Rathbarry was first to be restored and since he has turned his attention to restoring Castle Freke.
Bottom left: a panel from the high cross
 I turned off at the Rathbarry signpost and soon arrived at the village. Just beyond the village, on your right, you’ll see a lodge. I thought this was a private entrance but is is a public road - you'll see the road markings at the exit/entrance. So I came back and drove through.

There are a number of walks on the woods to your left. A few minutes in, there is a car park on the left, informal and v-shaped, with a gate into the wood. On your right, you have a terrific view of Castlefreke Castle on the hill.

Owenahincha beach from the road below Castkefreke Wood.
Galley Head is behind the camera.
We walked into the wood and followed the sign-posted path up to the high cross that stands at the highest point. It is some 30’ high and was erected in 1902 as a memorial to the local Lord Carbery, an ancestor of the current owner.

Here too you have quite a view over the ocean, all the way from Galley Head on your left to the entrance to Rosscarbery Bay on the right. But there is an even better view, as we would soon find out.

We retraced our steps, through the trees and the bluebells, back to the car park and then drove out of the park at the other end, again by another lodge. We turned left on the road and this took us right to the edge of the sea. From this elevated position, the view was broader and grander. Quite splendid in fact on a sunny day. Enjoyed our snack here before heading off for Sheeps Head Peninsula and our second walk of the day.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Walking On The Sheep’s Head Peninsula

Walking On The Sheep’s Head Peninsula
The Sheep’s Head peninsula is one of quite a few beautiful areas in West Cork but what makes this special is that here, you do it yourself. You walk, that is. Of course, you may drive and see the beautiful scenery at each side of the peninsula but it is hard to beat the satisfaction of walking up there in those hills.

But it can be very unsatisfactory if you don't know exactly where you are going and sometimes you are half afraid to set out, even on a sunny day. But arm yourself with the easily obtainable information on the many walks here (and, of course, on what you should take with you). Do that and much of it becomes much more accessible. Here is an excellent resource courtesy of The Sheep’s Head Way. The main walk, by the way, which starts in Bantry is about 90 kilometres long!

Somewhere between the impetuosity of youth and the caution of old age, there is a path for you, maybe more than one!

We had a year previously made our amateur way from Bernie’s Cupan Tae cafe at Sheep’s Head out to the lighthouse, a tough enough walk (lots of mud and surface water that day) but very enjoyable. Last week we were looking to do something different. We didn't have the information about the various routes mentioned above when we stopped up on the viewing point at Seefin.

So, from the car park, we followed the marked posts along the rocky ridge and were rewarded with remarkable views to the left, starting with Kilcrohane village below in the flat, Dunmanus Bay huge in between, Three Castle Head hiding Mizen Head further away, right out to the Fastnet Lighthouse in the ocean. On our right as we walked, the blue waters of handsome Bantry Bay beckoned, Bere Island (lots of publications term it Bear Island) lay at peace and just beyond was the gorgeous Beara Peninsula with the Caha and Slieve Miskish Mountains, and hints of Kerry in the purple distance.

The posts are well spaced, easily seen and the track along the ridge was easy enough, my walking stick coming in handy. But it was our second walk of the day and after half an hour or so we reluctantly decided to turn back. Still it was an exhilarating walk with incredible views.
Bantry Bay
So we were feeling quite happy with ourselves as we got back to the car park. There a young man on his mountain bike, accompanied by two big black dogs, started cycling up the ridge (in the Bantry direction). We kept an eye on him, even got the binoculars out. At one point he put the bike over his shoulder and continued, walking onwards and upwards. Our exhilaration could well have been deflated. But not a bit of it. We were full of admiration and perhaps a little jealous!