Home along the ridge, on the horns of a dilemma, tomb with a view, lunch at Finn McCool’s.
I will be following the spine of the Sheep’s Head peninsula towards home and Herself drops me off at the end of the ‘Quarry Road’ in the townland of ‘Letter East’ (Leitir: “Hillside/Wet hillside” 1. The Quarry Road is a track that winds up the hill towards Aughaleigue Beg (Achadh Liag “Field of the Flagstones” or Ath a’Luig “Ford of the Hollow”) and half way up it I meet a woman walking her dog, but she doesn’t know about the location of quarry or why the sign also says “Mary Dalaigh’s” so that remains a mystery for now.
Above Coolturtaun Lough (Cul a’Tortain: “Back of the Hillock”), I can just pick out the path climbing to a ridge and then running round it to the first peak at 338 metres (1109 feet), a waymarker post beckoning on the summit of Peakeen (Peicin: “Little Eminence”). It’s a clear day, if overcast and I don’t have any worries about visibility up there on the ridge.
Once up the stiff climb, the path winds along the ridge, dropping down to negotiate geological faults and climbing again to the next peak. The path is alternately dark brown, springy peat; wet bog crowned by bright green sphagnum, and grey striations of the ‘Old Red Sandstone’. Where any of the three combine, footfall is skiddy and my Leki walking-poles and Meindl boots are worked hard.
Ahead on the path is a strange rock. It’s not sandstone, and it has horns! As I get closer, I make out a sleeping goat and he’s sitting right in my path. He stirs as I approach and turns to sum me up, his harem emerging from the undergrowth too. For a moment there is a standoff and I wonder if he might try a charge, but he ambles off a little way to let me pass, the others huddle around him and he gives me a mean look.
Descending towards the road crossing (at the top of the Goat’s Path, appropriately), the passage cairn comes into view sited on an outcrop looking over both sides of the peninsula. It’s not in good condition now, but the site is perfectly placed.
Lunch at Finn McCool’s Seat “Water and ground in their extremity”. The temperature has dropped and I add a layer before setting off for Seefin, scrambling up the narrow, steep gully that leads onto the hill and then seeking the path that often disappears into the long grass. This is not an official part of the route and there are no waymarker posts but there are some helpful yellow arrows painted in the rocks here and there.
Past the trig point on the highest point of the peninsula and onwards towards the junction before ‘Windy Gap’. Around here the main Sheep’s Head Way, the Seefin and Barán Loops all meet and I have three choices because they all descend into Ahakista in one way or another. I take the link that joins the main route and head on further east to meet the Mass Path that crosses the peninsula over a low saddle. I am cold now and keen to descend towards the south side out of the chilling wind that has sprung up.
The Mass Path leads down through boggy ground and off the hill to join the small road through Maulnasskehy (Meall na Sceiche “Knoll of the Whitethorn”) and Rossnacaheragh (Ros na Cathrach “Promontory of the Stone Fort”) to home.
About the route
This route follows the spine of the Sheep’s Head, climbing to 338 metres on the Peakeen ridge and then, after crossing the Goat’s Path road at Finn McCool’s Seat, ascends to the summit of Seefin at 345 metres, the highest point on the peninsula. After ‘Windy Gap’ (where it meets the Seefin and Barán loops) it descends on the main Sheep’s Head Way to meet the Mass Path and follows it down to the coast at Ahakista.
13 km (8 miles) in about 5 hours. Total ascent: 441 metres (1448ft).