WE set off up the steep road from the pier, past the ruined friary.
A Franciscan house founded by the O’Driscolls in about 1460, it was burnt in 1537 by Waterford raiders, smarting from the expropriation of 18,000 gallons of wine by Fineen ‘The Rover’ O’Driscoll from a ship that sheltered in Baltimore harbour earlier that year.
They ‘invaded’ Sherkin and spent five days ravaging the island, burning the villages, abbey and castle, and scuttling or seizing the O’Driscoll fleet.
Reaching a junction, we take the road going right, signposted for the Islander’s Rest hotel and Jolly Roger pub. Just beyond the hotel, a right turn takes us down to the remains of Dunalong, an O’Driscoll castle. One might imagine Sir Fineen, lord of the islands, admiring the view here, while enjoying a glass of misappropriated wine.
Back on the tarmac, the road winds gently north. Topping a small rise, we see Heir Island, Sandy Island and The Catalogues laid out before us, ablaze with gorse in May. The road leads down to a small pier called The Dock with some boats and stacked lobster pots. Small mullet cruise in the shallows and the cove is a delight for the amateur marine biologist or the child with a shrimping net. Now, we return via the way we came to the friary corner.
At the corner, we turn right, and go left at the phone box, taking the sign for Horseshoe Harbour. We are now on a track. We go through a gate and shortly have a view down to the mirror-calm waters of Horseshoe Harbour. We cross a stile and the path narrows to a grassy, downhill track.
At the lowest point, there is a platform of soft grass over the sea, perfect for laying out a picnic of a fine day. As we ascend the other side, Sherkin lighthouse and keeper’s cottage come into view across the harbour. Reaching the crest, we come upon a shale track and turn right towards the main island road.
We come out opposite Kinish Harbour and turn left. Ignoring a road to the right, we continue southwest, direction Trá Bán. We pass the church, with its three arched windows and bell arch above the gable. The crown of the macrocarpa tree, in front of the house alongside, is planed flat by the wind. The road soon divides in a Y. We follow the right ‘arm’, a grassy track, past an old stone house and down towards the sea. Black rocks lie between us and Clear Island.
We retrace our steps. Now as we walk northeast towards the church, we see, in the middle distance, the sweep of West Bay to the north, with its two sandy beaches, enclosed by Drolain Point.
The long, low buildings beyond the second beach are part of the Marine Station, housing libraries and high tech labs., reached by tracks across unshorn fields. After passing the church, we take the road to the left, signposted Silver Strand. Continuing, we pass a road to the left. The road straight ahead takes us to close views of Heir Island. We must now retrace our steps to the main road.
Back at the main road, we turn left for the pier and the ferry. If early for the boat, we may divert to the pubs for post-amble drinks. Hospitable and relaxed, they both afford views of Baltimore and the boat back to Baltimore.
Start point: From Cork, we take the N71 west as far as Skibbereen, turn left onto the R595 for Baltimore where ferries leave regularly. See sherkinisland.ie for timetables.
Distance/time: Depends on walker. The distance is easily divided — 14.5km.
Most route follow the tarred roads. There is little or no traffic. There are off-road sections, so good boots are advisable.
Map: OS Discovery Sheet 88
* For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit:www.osi.ie
INISHBOFIN WALKING FESTIVAL, May 23 — 25
Enjoy the friendly and relaxed pace of island life on this activity packed walking weekend. Professional local guides will be on hand to share their knowledge of local history, heritage and folklore. Enjoy the stunning Atlantic scenery with walks taking in dramatic cliffs, beaches and seal colonies, with a rare opportunity to explore Inishark Island. See inishbofin.com for further details and prices.
SNEEM JFK 50 MILE CHALLENGE WALK
May 24: The challenge this year is to complete 50 miles (80km) in less than 20hrs, and help to raise €20,000 for the Irish Cancer Society and St Mary of the Angels, Beaufort. The walk is a loop, starting and ending in Sneem village on the Ring of Kerry. The challenge starts at 5am sharp on Saturday morning and continues right through until 1am on Sunday morning. See sneemwalkingclub.com for further information.
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