Schull – Barley Cove – Mizen Point – Kilcrohan 

We were met by two huge herons when we unloaded the bike on the quayside at Schull – they were gorging on fish and squid cuts from the fishing boats. The seagulls weren’t getting a look in.

It was turning out to be the sunny day that our crystal clear morning had promised and I couldn’t have asked for better weather for my first introduction to Schull – the seaside town which Paddy grew up in until he was seven. With its curved, sweeping harbour and many yachts moored in neat rows, bustling peer with the small scale fish factory still in business and the main shopping street populated with locally owned shops, Schull struck me as a lovely little town.

We visited Paddy’s old house and then went to call on Mary his old babysitter who was more than surprised to see us I think! 

Mary and Paddy
Outside the old house
My lasting impression of Schull was that it must have been a very happy place for a seven year old to grow up in – particularly one who couldn’t be more addicted to the sea if he tried – i kept thinking (and hoping) that our planned new start in Cornwall at the end of the trip might hold in store a similar life.

The weather remained amazingly good for the rest of the day. This was fortunate, because we had some stunning coastline views awaiting us as we continued south towards Mizen head. With the picturesque Long Island straddling the mainland and the vast, piercingly-blue Atlantic Ocean stretching out beyond, we didn’t make great progress because of all the stops we kept taking. The way was pretty up and down but we were so eager to get to the peaks to enjoy the panoramic views we at least made good progress on the climbs. 

In the afternoon we linked back up to the main road which brought us right back next to the coast again. We stop next to the Altar Wedge Tomb – an old Bronze Age burial chamber – and thoroughly enjoy a leisurely picnic of smoked mackerel salad and bread. We spend a good hour sunbathing, listening to the waves lap the rocks below and the sound of excited German tourists exploring the rock pools. After some time a lovely Irish lady and her dog ‘Lucky’ sit down next to us and starts chatting away about the bike.

Burial chamber
Enjoying the sun
Panoramic views of Long Island
The aim was to reach the famous Barley Cove beach by late-afternoon so we climb back on the bike and make our way down and along the road which skirts the fortified natural harbour of Crookhaven. The beach is still busy and we can’t resist running into the sea for our second swim of the day. As the beach empties we pull out the bottle we had been storing in the pannier since Schull and get set up on the sand dunes above the beach. We watch the tide slowly engulf the sandy beach as we sip our mugs of wine waiting for the pasta to come to the boil. It takes a while to find a suitable camping spot and it’s pretty late before we begin to pitch the tent in the semi-darkness. We hear a cry of greeting from the road as we’re locking the tent poles together and Paddy goes to investigate. 

Helen who had seen our parked bike on the beach earlier had cycled all the way up the hill from her camping ground below to offer us a bed in her caravan for the night. Overcome by this kindness we gladly accept and hurriedly pack up before following her back down the hill. We spend a very comfortable night in Helen’s caravan and even get treated to fried eggs, bacon, and black pudding in the morning. Word soon gets round that we are travelling by bike and we enjoy meeting many of Helen’s camping neighbours over a leisurely morning. 

Helen’s niece was in fact cycling in Tajikistan with a friend so it was great to hear about their recent travels as well as Helen’s own hitchhiking and cycle adventures! 

With plans to meet Helen and her sister in Durras for lunch and wanting to visit the famed lighthouse at Mizen head beforehand we decided it was time to get going. It was a pretty tough climb up to Mizen point but we had a really enjoyable hour exploring the lighthouse and the views along the coast were spectacular. There was a good exhibition on the construction of the lighthouse and we were delighted to discover that the entire structure was made of beautifully interlocking stones all carved at the turn of the 20th century in Penryn, Cornwall – very close to where we are soon to move!

We hang over the rail and watch a family of seals playing in the swell before giving the Fastnet rock one final glance before heading back down and onwards North to the next peninsular. 

Rugged coast line
Pointing to Wales!
Final picture of the Fastnet or ‘the tear of Ireland’

We have an amazing cycle towards Durrus as we head inland and with the wind pushing us along we’re only 45 mins late for Helen!

After lunch we make our down the south coast of the Sheep’s head peninsular towards Kilcohane. The peninsular is famous for its walking routes, ring forts and towers. It was now time to delve even further back into Paddy’s past and visit the house his great grandmother was born… 

Cobh to Cape Clear – via Kinsale, Clonakilty and Glandore

We said our goodbyes to Ger and Christine and set off on a wet morning to continue our journey south. We reach a town called Kinsale in time for lunch – Paddy has fond memories of sailing here including competing in lots of races. A gap in the rain allows us enough time to have lunch on the quayside where we repeatedly have to scare away a persistent seagull who is intent on stealing what he can of our sandwiches.

In front of the sailing club in Kinsale!

From Kinsale we keep to the coast and reach Timoleague beach – another childhood haunt of P’s. 

The plan was to reach Clonakilty by late afternoon where we would be meeting up with lads Noel, Paul and Shane. The last time we saw these guys was in a hostel in Dushanbe, Tajikistan where we spent a great evening swapping stories and beers having crossed paths – us heading west to Uzbekistan on the bike and them east towards the Pamirs in their 1.2l Nissan Micra – part of the mass organised Mongul Rally challenge. We reach Clonakilty which, is a really lovely town, in plenty of time and so decide to cycle down to the nearby Inchydoney beach which is a stunning sandy paradise. The headland used to be an island before the British built a causeway which over time has silted up. After a nice stroll on the beach Paul picked us up in his van from a nearby supermarket and the lads were waiting for us with a pile of amazing food and the barbecue already smoking. It was an amazing evening – slightly surreal – but great to follow up on our hurried promises of meeting back up in Ireland.

The next day was a classic Irish ‘soft day’ and it was all a little miserable and damp. Not cold though and we kept our spirits up as we made our way down to a lovely coastal hamlet called Glandore. The kids sailing club was in full swing in the sheltered harbour when we arrived and we stopped for a cuppa and a scone while we watched them all whizzing about in their dinghies. On our way out we stopped at the local church where there were lots of info boards containing snippets of local history including one about the mythological goddess Cliona who had three brightly coloured birds who would lull the listener into a healing sleep. She was drowned in Glandore harbour after falling into one of the three magical waves of Ireland. – Irish mythology is so epic!! 

There were some horribly stiff climbs waiting for us after Glandore and we spent a hard hour grinding up them sweating into our rain jackets. It’s incredibly rolling here and we were beginning to miss the Italian Alps!

If you ever spend any time in west Cork you won’t be able to ignore the red fuschia plants which adorn the hedge rows in the whole region. The plant isn’t native to Ireland being originally from Chile I think but the delicate, dangling red flowers are so ubiquitous that they have become the official symbol of west Cork. 

By mid afternoon we’ve completed the rolling hill section and the rain has all but stopped as we free-wheel down into Baltimore. Here we take the small passenger ferry over to the island of Cape Clear. We get loaded on along with all the packages, post and other passengers and head out through the misty and rain  towards it. We couldn’t see much and when we arrive into the small harbour a new weather front rolls in. Nevertheless we decide to take a bracing walk around the island and end up climbing the steep hill in the centre and hiking across the fields along an old foot path to where the church stands at the top. Soaked, we stomp back to the harbour by which time the rain has stopped and the clouds are beginning to part. 

We cook our pasta on the quayside next to the village shop and get chatting to some of the local kids who are jumping into the water from the jetty. We’ve heard quite a bit of Irish being spoken here which is great to hear. After dinner we head over to one of the two island’s pubs for some Guniness before cycling round to the other harbour to hopefully find a free camp spot. There’s a convenient patch of flat ground right next to the water and despite the ‘No Camping’ sign and the island’s only official campsite staring down at us from the other side of the bay we pitch up our tent on the grass behind some handy rocks. It’s so dark by this point anyway that no one can see us and we fall asleep to the waves crashing on the rocks below.

The bad weather blew itself out completely overnight and we woke to a beautifully clear, fresh morning. We pack down quickly, push the bike down to the beach, put on some coffee and then brace ourselves for an early morning swim. Stunning (!) but we didn’t stay in for long – mainly due to the fact that two mischievous crows started to attack our breakfast cereal.

Wanting to capture the beautiful morning I reach for the camera from the handlebar bag and to my hotter realise it’s not there and I obviously left it in the public toilets on the other quay. Luckily it’s still early and we still have an hour and a half before our ferry leaves for Schull. I leave Paddy to clear up and run round to the other harbour to investigate. The camera isn’t in the toilet and the shop connecting to them isn’t open for another two hours so I wonder down to the quay and the friendly crew of the Baltimore ferry start ringing round the houses (literally) to find out who might have it. After speaking to Nellie who cleans the toilets and Tom who owns the shop we discover that Neal indeed had our camera and promised to drop it down to me before the second ferry was due to leave at 9:30am. The whole episode was a lovely way to finish off our time in this little community before heading onwards to Schull.

It was a beautiful morning – making up for the misty crossing the night before. The Fastnet lighthouse could be clearly seen on the horizon and as we headed into the beautiful harbour of Schull we were met with clear blue skies. Paddy was back in the town where he grew up and we wheeled the tandem off the ferry to explore the town. 

One of the island’s forts

Enjoying the sun as we head back to the mainland
Fastnet Rock