Clooties and a stone circle, a route quandary, mines and rainbow houses.
Herself drops me off in Castletownbere and sets off hunting for holy wells while I begin the steady climb up a small road in the warm sunshine. The coloured rags of a clootie tree announce sitting in a field amongst cattle with calves. I keep an eye on on them as I hop around the cow-pats but they are not bothered. This is a fine circle even though some of its stones are fallen.
A track leaves the road and climbs steadily up onto moorland under Miskish Mountain. Once off the track, I begin a steep climb over rough ground along a boundary fence and then steeply down again over sheep-cropped slopes to a junction where one way leads up into an area of clear-felled forestry and the other down a steep winding track into the valley below. There are confusing signs and on the ground lies an undated notice with instructions to take the track due to forestry work. I have read a similar notice on the Beara Way website, also undated. Is it an old sign, now defunct or has it recently become detached from the post? I decide to take the track which will lead me onto the route between Allihies and Eyeries but in reverse. (Later I discover that I should have taken the other way, but it doesn’t matter, it can be done when I head for Eyeries later).
The wind gets up as I begin to traverse the contours of Knockgour on its more exposed northern side with the Kerry coast and Coulagh Bay below. It’s chilly and there is dampness in the air as cloud rolls down off the summit. The ground is very boggy too with slippery sections where boots have compressed the surface. Whenever I have fallen before, it has been on ground like this so I tread carefully and progress is slow.
I find some shelter to eat lunch by a small stream where it falls over a rocky outcrop dripping with lichen.
Still circling Knockgour, the route eventually joins a long track that leads way, way up to the pass over the jagged rocky ridge that surrounds Allihies. This is the old road to Eyeries that takes a direct route instead of wriggling around the coast like its modern version. It’s steep and stony: walking on the patchy grass in the centre of the track is the softest option but not by much. It is one of those tracks where the high pass is always in view but never seems much closer and there is always yet another uphill section before the last.
Over the pass at last, I follow the horseshoe road down past the old pump houses of the mines. One has been partially restored and I find a ledge to sit and sketch. The rainbow coloured houses of Allihies lie below in the sunshine but this must once have been a scene of smoke, noise and hard lives toiling for a living.
Down past the rainbow houses of Allihies and a welcome tea and scone in the mining museum café before Herself meets me and we travel home to the Sheep’s Head.
The end of three days hiking on the Beara Way but there is more to be done!