You might think that the Sheep’s Head peninsula would be overshadowed by its imposing neighbours – not a bit of it. The northerly Beara and the southerly Mizzen merely blend into the panorama of big sky and oceanic horizon. This craggy finger of rock and peat bog is home to a “Goldilocks” of walking trails, not too long or too rugged, but just perfect for a week’s adventure walking. This is Irelands serene Sheep’s Head Way.
The town of Bantry, comfortable, well appointed and with a colourful history, is the trailhead. Amidst the tranquillity of its waterfront setting, it is hard to imagine the British and French fleets scrapping it out in the Bay or scores of pilchard boats from three foreign nations thronging the harbour. Nowadays the West Cork music and literary festivals seem much more in keeping.
The hike starts through a modest archway into the grounds of the home of the 1st Earl of Bantry, but it soon leaves the suburbs to pass the Lady’s Well shrine. After just a short climb, the views improve rapidly. However, climbing continues steadily to the spine of the ridge at Boolteenagh where the vistas truly expand.
The path is generally clear however it is often confused by animal spoor or obscured by grass and peat. Major routes cross in front of you, the “Mass” paths, used by the congregation of the North coast for their Sunday visit to the churches of the South. Maps and GPS can keep you on track however you will never be far from the comprehensive network of way markers.
To enjoy such pristine places, an effort has to be made to get there. Although Dublin and Shannon are possible, Cork airport is likely to be the most convenient gateway for this holiday. Regular buses from the City serve Bantry, and the accommodation is centred in Bantry, Glanlough and Kilcrohane. Local hotel and B&B hosts are generous with their assistance and advice; a lift to the pub, alternative route suggestions for lousy weather. Bantry boasts good pubs, restaurants and cafes. Kilcrohane and Ahakista both offer pubs and after a long summer walk, check out the Old Creamery, Kilcrohane.
This tour offers flexibility and variety. The hiking is not difficult but demanding enough to be immensely satisfying – just keep your eye on the weather. Gloriously unspoilt, friendly and accessible with a little effort, Irelands serene Sheep’s Head awaits you.
Great trip, thank you, Macs Adventure