The first day of four from Dursey to Kenmare to complete most of the Beara Way.
I wave goodbye to Herself as she sways away in the little cable car over to Dursey Island on her search for holy wells before heading up the grassy hillside behind the winch building. This route makes a long inverted ‘S’ shape over two headlands before crossing the Firkeel Gap and following the coast into the village of Allihies. It is not a particularly long section but it makes a good warm-up for my next four days on the Beara Way, ending in Kenmare.
Over the headland and halfway down the long slope towards the pretty fishing harbour of Garnish, I meet an Irishman hiking for the benefit of his heart. We have a long chat about this and that and agree that if our hearts reach their final beats while out in such scenery, we will die happy!
Around the headland overlooking Crow Head the path gets steep with dizzying views over the jagged cliffs below. At the top, an old WWII lookout post sits desolate and abandoned and I eat lunch nearby.
Down through Firkeel and I recognise a house we passed a few years ago where an elderly man beckoned us in to see the sea-urchin shells he had for sale, but none are in evidence today. After the Firkeel Gap, a pass between two steep hillsides, the route climbs up a small road which turns into a track and then a grass path with a dog snarling at me from the house below. Fortunately he stays there.
From above Foher, Ballydonegan Bay curves around with the strand shining in the distance: limestone washed down from the old mines dotted around the hillside above Allihies village. I look down on a small raincloud moving below me along the bay and think how it has the essence of a life of its own, marking its path in the same way as I mark a path on the land, rippling the water just as I tread the grass underfoot. I feel a brief disturbance in the air and smell and feel the dampness of the cloud as it gently brushes my cheeks.
The route skirts around the coast here but I leave it to take the road up into the village. I sit in the Copper Mining Museum café with a scone and tea before heading for my B&B.
Later I check the weather forecast and see that the little raincloud from today has some big friends following it in for tomorrow.
15.7km (9.8 miles) in 4 hours