Western Cork, How We Love You
May 20, 2011
|My hair has become inexplicable. Normally if there is a lot of humidity, it flops and plasters to my head. I don't get floofy hair from humidity. Well, I didn't in the past. Clearly my Colorado dry hair requires prolonged exposure to humidity before it floofs out and looks like an insane mess. I do not have curly hair. Or even wavy hair. I have sections of hair on my head where my hair will strike out in odd directions. Typically this is corrected with something as complex
I'm sure that was very important for all of you to know.
My brother Michael made a comment on my travel blog: "Shut the hell up and post more pictures." Yes, I get it. However, I have taken just over 500 pictures so far. Some of them are awful and nearly as inexplicable as my hair. I'm not good at taking landscape photographs either, so there won't be a lot of breath-taking vistas that give you even an inkling of how stunningly beautiful this place is. I need to review them and perhaps rotate them so they are not upside down. Then I need to shrink a select few so this idiot blog site will accept them (size wise).
All this on the heels of our VERY jam packed days. So to Michael and the other complainers: GET OVER IT! I'm tired and my eyes get very blurry at the end of the day. There will be pictures eventually. And if I get any further grief, those giving said grief will be required to view all 1000 or so photos upon my return in a very long slide projector show with detailed history lessons to accompany the pictures.
Now, about today... (sheesh)...
Today was "Unexpected long hike" day. The first place we visited was Glengarriff Nature Reserve. Amazing trails just 10 miles west of Bantry. We ran into very few people; it being a Friday likely contributed to that as much as anything. There are miles of trails that consist of nicely maintained paths (for wooded jogging routes and mother's entertaining toddlers), as well as more natural single tracks. Our first trail was to a waterfall, a nice steady climb, then looped back around to the parking lot. Next we went on the river walk trail. Just glorious. For you east coast kids, it had a PA/NJ feel to it. I would think that if you were there with children or inexperienced hikers there is a trail for you. If you're a more experienced trekker, there are paths to get a good leg going and take in some lovely scenery. Backpacking/Overnight treks are out of the question in the reserve however.
All in all, a great way to enjoy the morning.
Around 11:30 we began back east a bit, and then a dip south. We decided to do a driving tour of Sheep's Head Peninsula. At the southern most tip is a lighthouse and that sounded interesting to both of us. Again, gorgeous. Can't say that enough. There are castle ruins along the way, as well as stone circle forts. So much wild and unspoiled land in western Cork County. Go there.
Reaching the "end of the road" we saw a sign that indicated that to get to the lighthouse, one must hike along the Sheep's Head Way for one and a fourth miles. Let me say, the idea of a 2 and a half mile hike didn't sound daunting to either of us. Nor would it have deterred us if we had known it was more of a three mile hike. I'm glad we didn't know about the steep, rocky, near scrambling in spots trail. THAT might have given us pause after already putting in several miles that morning. I'm glad we didn't know because it turned out to be an awesome hike. No cows this time (though evidence suggests they'd been around!), but we did get to see a lamb and his mamma. We walked and walked and walked and thought "where the hell is the lighthouse?". We went up, then down, then up again... still no lighthouse. Good grief, had the Queen taken it home as a memento of her visit? We pressed on until Bill saw the helicopter landing pad. "Landing pad". A circle of white painted stones on a flat area of grass. Evidently other people took a helicopter to this thing instead of leaping around like mountain goats.
I'm not gonna sugar coat it, the lighthouse was a disappointment. Not sure what either of us were expecting, but whatever those expectations were, they were not met. First of all, there was a huge staircase to go down to get to the lighthouse. And a huge sign telling us to get away from said staircase. All that distance to be turned away. (Utoh, Rock of Cashel flashbacks?). We could see the top of the lighthouse, and a bit of the side, but not exactly "scenic".
Yet SUCH a case of "it's not the destination but the journey". I'd do that trail again tomorrow if we could. As steep and unsteady as the trail is, it was was so exhilarating. Having oxygen while hiking is a nice change too.
There is a shop in the parking lot of the trailhead. Sandwiches, scones and jam, that kind of thing. We decided this would be lunch (instead of a pub in one of the small towns on the way back to the hotel). The woman in the shop was a kindly older gal and, as is the trend, so incredibly nice. She did tell us that just a little while ago some kid fell over the rails on the steps and had to be rescued (he lived) which is why they put the signs up to keep people away. Other than that, all very pleasant exchanges. The sandwiches were basic, but had a "made by Mom" quality about them. Very nice. As Bill and I sat eating, a fly, a common housefly, went trailing through the little shop. The woman, from behind her counter, asks "Is that a fly?" We confirm to her yes, it is a fly. She asked if we would mind if she opened the sliding door near us. Of course not. She came toward the door, but the fly was "gone". She asked if I would open the window behind me. Well sure! We talked, like normal people for a moment more. Then she developed, in an instant moment, what can only be described as a far away look, or maybe even a thousand yard stare. In a flat, monotone, downright bone chilling voice she said "I don't like flies." Bill and I both froze. It was one of the top 10 creepiest moments of our lives. It was like she flipped a switch and became a Norman Bates like character. WTF?? The fly appeared against the sliding door glass. I saw her hand dart out, assuming she was going to open the door. With ninja like swiftness, she slapped her latex gloved hand against the door. Holy Hanna, she got it. I'm not sure either of us would have been entirely stunned if she would have next popped the now deceased fly in her mouth. Not entirely stunned, but never the less diving out the now open window to flee screaming to the car in a mad escape. Instead, she pulled the glove off, folded the insect carcass in it, and returned to her very gentle, kind demeanor.
Now mind you, he and I didn't trade glances, we were separately unhinged and expressed our "creeped out-ness" only later in the car. I think both of us were afraid to look at the other and confirm, then and there, the utter creepiness of the moment. The screaming and fleeing might have taken place even without the fly eating. It is hard to explain this odd moment. All I can say is, the woman "changed" for a minute and then came back. I've read enough Stephen King novels to know that kind of behavior leads to clowns living in your gutters or your car eating the neighbor kids. Something NOT good. Best to just move along.
All of THAT aside, if you're on the Sheep's Head Peninsula and in decent condition AND you have proper foot-wear, I say hit the trail and go find that lame lighthouse. You will be the better for it. Then go get a sandwich, or scones, maybe even a tee-shirt from the shop. But for the love of all that is sacred in the world, don't let in any flies.
History / Things of Interest:
Glengarriff Nature Reserve - http://www.glengarriffnaturereserve.ie/
Sheep's Head Peninsula: http://www.thesheepsheadway.ie/contentfiles/brochures/Sheeps%20Head%20General%20Brochure.pdf
Sheep's Head Way: http://www.myguideireland.com/the-sheeps-head-way
On the horizon:
Wings of Angels so might shine
Glancing back soft light divine,
Beauty's home Killarney,
Heaven's reflex Killarney.
Via The Ring of Kerry