Stroll one of our finest beaches

INCHYDONEY, CO CORK

ONE doesn’t have to be from West Cork to know that Inchydoney has some of the finest and most photogenic beaches in Ireland.

During the spendthrift days of the Celtic Tiger, our taoisigh and their buddies regularly conferenced or partied at the Inchydoney Hotel, and developers threw lavish wedding receptions for their daughters. The beaches are as unsullied as ever, vast expanses of sand, beautiful in any weather, and eminently walkable in all but rain.

We start at the Inchydoney Hotel so enormous that in less dramatic surroundings it would entirely dwarf the beaches on either side. With our back to its front doors, and facing the promontory of Virgin Mary Point, we set off walking left and descend a flight of steep steps to reach the sand.

The beach is backed by dunes, covered in marram grass. The surf rolls in and sea birds cry overhead. Dunlin or sanderling may be seen skittering along the waterline, busy little birds that rush in and out of the incoming sea. Oystercatcher will also be seen with their red beaks, red legs and neat black-and-white plumage. At the end of the beach, we follow the shoreline around to the left or cross the dunes, where there will be banded snails and, in summer, black-and-red burnet moths, or cinnabar moths and their black-and-amber caterpillars.

Back on the sand, wider or narrower, depending on the tide, we walk alongside Ring channel, Ring village coming into view opposite, a pretty little pier with boats and another pier, nearer the sea, below it.

We will see, at the water’s edge, black-tailed godwits, curlew, whimbrel, redshank, turnstones, oystercatchers, cormorants, shelduck, merganser, egrets, herons, swans, sometimes Brent geese; any or all of these and other species are present in winter.

Meanwhile, on this rough path following the channel toward the head of the bay and Clonakilty town, the rocks underfoot nurture seaweeds of many species and hues and are splashed with lichens yellow as eggs yolks, green as jade and even pink as pomegranates. Sea-ivory, a hard, crinkly lichen, aka Neptune’s Beard grows on the stone walls.

We pass a moored boat, a wide-bellied yacht-like craft, the home of one of the many West Cork blow-ins who have an alternative lifestyle and wish to commune with nature. It has been moored there for years, an interesting wayside artefact doing no harm to anybody.

Onward, then, to the end of the channel-side path and out onto the tarred road at Beamish’s Lagoon, as the small lake on our left is called. Swans drift on the surface and the willows at the far end provide nesting sites for egrets, the pretty, stork-like birds lately naturalised in Ireland.

The road runs between the lagoon and the bay, and at the end of it, facing a cottage, we turn left, walking up a leafy road with a marsh of bulrushes on our left. We pass a mossy ruin and then high stone walls behind which is a nuns’ retreat.

At the hilltop, we go through a stile and head down onto Muckross Strand. The edge of the channel that runs toward Clonakilty town is carpeted with migrant birds in winter. We go left and, rounding the corner of the dunes, arrive on Inchydoney main beach, with holidaymakers on their towels on summer days and, out on the waves, surfers, black as seals, on their boards.

A ten-minute stroll along the beach and a flight of steps takes us back to the hotel where we can enjoy a repast in the lounge where the notorious brigands of the Celtic Tiger sipped their fine wines and hatched their plots not all of them for our nation’s benefit.

Ballyvaughan-Fanore Walking Club

Visitors welcome; pay €10

Nov 25: Rathbourney-Carn Beag-Burrenwee, track, rough terrain, climb, 4 hrs, meet Burren College of Art, Ballyvaughan at 10.30am

Midelton Hillwalking Club

Nov 25: Bricky River, Grade C , 4+ hrs, meet Distillery Lanes Car Park, Midleton 9.15 am

Slieve Bloom.ie

Nov 25: Wolftrap and Knocknacorra, Grade B, 4hrs. meet Clonaslee Community Centre, 12 noon

Nov 25: Bockagh Lake and Monicknew, Grade C, 3hrs., meet Cattle Mart, Mountrath. 14.00

Foyle Valley Walking Club (Derry)

Nov 24: Castlerock & Downhill Forest, Grade C, meet Waterside Station, Derry, 9.30 am

Galtee Walking Club, Co Tipp

Nov 25: Grade A, Knockmealdowns, meet Grubb’s Monument, The Vee, 10am

Nov 25: Grade B, Pilgrim’s Loop, Mauherslieve, 3.5hrs, meet Kilcommon village, 10am

Nov 25: Grade C, Forest Loop, 2-3hrs, meet Clydagh Bridge, 11am

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