Across the continent in a month
It may be some sort of a coincidence but after spending two weeks on the Bulgarian coast and driving to the most south-eastern point of mainland EU, a month later I found myself on one of the most western points in Europe – Kilcrohane on Sheep’s Head peninsula in Western Ireland.
This trip was my birthday celebration and I’m not sure why my family and I picked this spot but I didn’t regret it for a minute.
Plus the bonus of having been from the south-easternmost point of the European Union to one of the most western points in Ireland in about one month. That was a whole big stretch from one side of the union to the other – a diagonal through the ancient continent.
On the toes of Ireland
Kilcrohane is a small remote village on one of the “toes” of Ireland – if you look at the island you will notice that the south-western part of it resembles toes of a foot with all the peninsulas there. Sheep’s Head is the smallest peninsula of five and the second in a row from down up. Its narrow and you can drive from one side to the other through what’s called the Goat’s pass for less than an hour; and it’s not so long so you can drive the ring of it for a couple of hours.
Sheep’s head peninsula lighthouse
On the first day, after we arrived some time in the afternoon from Dublin, we headed towards Sheep’s Head lighthouse. The road eventually finishes and then you have a wonderful path to follow with stunning views of the Atlantic ocean on each side of the peninsula. By the time we reached the tip of Sheep’s head the sun was setting and we caught some unforgettable glimpses of the sunset over the ocean.
We walked down the stairs to the lighthouse which is literally on the verge of the cliffs. It was a small lighthouse but still served its function of guiding sailors out and yonder. We could also see another two lighthouse beams from the Beara peninsula across us. That was also the perfect spot to scream and shout out load to the autumnal air and nothing else around us.
The magic was full when we came face to face with the big blue full moon emerging in the clear sky that night. We found a stone circle and walked around it wishing our dreams and desires, then we lied down on the ground and let the magic sink in for a while.
The full moon was with us on our way back chasing the darkness away and also we were able to admire it through the window of our bedroom.
The surroundings of Kilcrohane
On our second day we explored our immediate surroundings. In Kilkrohane there are a couple coffee shops – one on Sheep’s head car park before you head of to, or on your return from, the lighthouse trail. The other one is called The White House gallery but we didn’t catch it open. It looked really groovy and arty in there, the yard was packed with interesting items and they seemed to organise all sorts of events, too.
Within Kilcrohane area there also are a few piers and where you can walk, fish or swim depending on the season. In the small town there are a few shops, pubs, a church and a big playground.
In the evening we decided to drive to the nearby towns of Ahakista and Durrus on the way to Bantry. They are fairly small places situated on the coastline so ended up driving past and heading to Bantry instead.
Bantry is lovely harbour town. It has a small town centre, plenty of restaurants and shops, and a small beach on the side of the harbour where you can also catch the ferry to Widdy island. It is really charming and is worth spending a day or two exploring it and what’s around.
A day at the ring of Beara
On my birthday day, we decided to do the Ring of Beara. This is how Irish people often call the loop trips around a peninsula, and they do have a few of those, the biggest and most famous being the Ring of Kerry. Beara is the peninsula south of Sheep’s Head and it took us the whole day to do the trip. That’s of course with lots of stops for snacking, snapping, refreshing and exploring.
We came to Beara from the south we drove up north through the Healy Pass, which “winds its way up and across the Caha Mountains that bisect the Beara Peninsula. The crossing offers unique views of the Kenmare Bay to the north, and the Bantry Bay to the south”.
Dereen House and Gardens
We came out onto Lauragh village and found the stunning gardens of Dereen – a hidden and off the road period house and gardens on the north coast of Beara. There were the King’s oozy passage, beach and ocean views, fairy houses concealed in the big fern trees, and even a small island.
At the Dereen coffee shop I had my birthday cake and tea, and no doubt it was the best cake I’ve ever tried in Ireland.
The town of Allihies is almost at the top of the peninsula and just a short drive from the cable cars to Dursey island. The energy here is really strong and we found ourselves stopping every couple of minutes. The views are just enchanting – the wilderness of the ocean and the surrounding nature are one of a kind. There are also plenty of walking trails around and if you have the time the best is to explore by foot. This way you really get to experience the feeling of the ancient Irish land.
Castletownbere and Glengarriff
On our way back down north we passed through the towns of Castletownbere on the south side of the Beara peninsula and Glengarriff in Batry Bay. Glengarriff was a sweet looking place where we came back the next day to visit the Bamboo park.
Back to Dublin
On our way back home, we decided to take a slightly longer route and drive to the town of Killarney which is a base for exploring the Ring of Kerry. On the way we also drove through Kenmare, another beautiful town on the coast of the Atlantic ocean and the gateway to Kerry peninsula.
Kerry is by far the most famous and visited part of the Wild Atlantic Way, attracting tourist and visitors from all over the planet. It is truly breathtaking. When we were driving through the Molls Gap – the passage between Kenmare and Killarney cutting through the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountains – we felt like driving through a postcard most of the time.
In fairness, the west coast of Ireland is a magical and unique location. When I first explored these areas back in 2009 I knew this was the true “face” of Ireland – remote and wild, lush green hills and endless blue sky and ocean, sheep and other creatures carrying on undisturbed. But there is also this other feeling stirred from the presence of sacred old lands and ruins of places of worship, castles and towers.
You simply and easily find yourself fully immersed into the true Gaelic heritage and feel like you’ve gone back in time.
Some awesome shots:
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