WE set off north, up MacCurtain Hill, passing the garda station on our right.
We take the second left, just above the small park, onto Chapel Lane. It rises as we go, giving good views over the town. Soon, we leave houses behind and are on a country road with the usual blackthorns and whitethorns, locally called ‘sceacs’.
We begin to descend. At the bottom of the hill, we come to a four-cross-roads and go straight across. The OS map shows the ‘green road’ as starting on the other side of the stream but it begins on this side, a track on the left immediately we cross the R588. We cross a ford of stepping-stones, with the bridge on our right.
The laneway ahead can be very muddy after prolonged rain. We soon come upon the old graveyard. Within it are the ruins of the first Kilgarriffe Church.
Local historian Tomás Tuipéar tells us the first mention of Clonakilty was when one Thomas De Roche received a charter in 1292 from Edward I to hold a market here, at Kilgarriffe.
The ‘green road’ is metalled from this point. Walking downhill, we soon come to a cross roads, and take a sharp left beside a cottage. Arriving at a “Yield” sign, and a big road, we turn right. The spire of Clonakilty RC Church is straight ahead, below us. We don’t follow the main R588 around to the right, but take the road straight ahead. Heading downhill, our route curves around to the right, and we arrive out on Oliver Plunkett Street, opposite what used to be the old Industrial School. Here, we turn left.
The West Cork Regional Museum, on the left, is well worth a visit with antique rural and urban artefacts. On the right, we pass the Boy’s National School, 1884. Michael Collins was one of three ex-pupils who fought in Dublin in The Easter Rising, 1916.
The Catholic Church is huge inside, with a high vaulted roof, fine windows and a white marble altar. Crossing the churchyard, now a car park, we exit opposite the Post Office, once a Presbyterian Church.
Emmet Square is the pride of Clonakilty, an outstanding Georgian square where rich merchants of the town built elegant residences between 1785 and 1810. We exit via Kent Street, following the River Fealge where, as boys, we used to bag small brown trout.
It still has a healthy trout population today. It has ducks also, and a stately heron, often seen below the bridge at the library.
Turning right at the corner, we walk up Connolly Street to the “The Wheel of Fortune”, as it is called, a pump supplied to the town under Lord Shannon’s public water scheme in the last century. To the left, on the corner, is The Linen Hall; in the early 19th century, linen manufacture employed up to 10.000 persons in the town and district.
At the Linen Hall, we cross the street and follow the pavement to the left. At the corner, we cross to the front of the GAA stadium and round the corner onto the sea front. The first left takes us into Long Quay, with its derelict warehouses, soon to be restored.
A left into Sand Quay, and the first right, crossing Brewery Lane and up Asna Street, bring us back to where we began.
Start point: From Cork we take the N71 west to Clonakilty (50km). At the roundabout entering town we go straight ahead, onto Wolfe Tone Street. After 450m we reach our trailhead at Astna square, a triangular plaza on our left featuring a statue of Tadhg Ó Donnabháin Astna.
Distance/time: 6km/2-3hrs depending on sightseeing.
Map: OS Sheet 89
* For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie
LEENANE WALKING FESTIVAL (www.leenanevillage.com/events)
May 2-4: A festival designed to suit all levels of walkers with a choice of at least three walks, from strenuous to low level, each day. The programme includes the favourite Mweelrea as well as two new walks with Ben Corbettte to Kylemore and nature walks around the new Delphi trails. For full details, see website.
BALLYHOURA INTERNATIONAL WALKING FESTIVAL, May 2-5 (www.ballyhourabears.com)
This weekend some 1,000 walkers are expected to descend on Ballyhoura, covering a total of 20,000km. The festival sees guides from the Ballyhoura Bears Walking club leading a packed programme in the company of local experts in the fields of heritage, archaeology, history, flora and fauna.
SLIEVE BLOOM WALKING FESTIVAL, May 2-5 (www.slievebloom.ie)
Choose from pleasant and easy woodland walks to challenging hikes through wilderness areas in the beautiful Slieve Bloom Mountains.
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