Cork: Savouring delight of Bantry House walk

BANTRY HOUSE WALK, CO CORK

A WAYMARK at the arch directs us to a tree-lined drive.

Nearing the house we see a magnificent Monterey cypress with the bay and Whiddy Island beyond and, westward, the Sugar Loaf Mountain on the Beara Peninsula.

At the tall gates we may divert to view Bantry House and surrounding gardens. Otherwise, we follow the path curving left and skirting the car park. This pathway takes us past a stone building topped by a dome, with an archway at centre and leads along the back of the house, past the beautiful Italianite gardens with boxwood and yew hedges are arranged in patterns. Behind, the ‘Hundred Steps’ climb to a carriageway whence vistas over the house and across the bay to the mountains of Beara may be enjoyed.

A circuit of the house exterior is worthwhile, with more elegant gardens and a large unroofed terrace with a row of Corinthian columns and an ornate balustrade. On the house wall facing the bay, plaques record airmen of the Allied forces who died when their plane crashed off the Fastnet Rock in 1942. Here, the gardens step down in terraces toward the N71, between the house and the sea.

We again walk along the back of the house past the Italianite gardens. The path from the main car park soon joins from the right. We go straight ahead, a meadow below us. We pass many exotic shrubs, trees and plants, including gunnera and Japanese Knotweed and, in spring, flowering primroses, Irish spurge and cowslips.

At a crossing, the path left, “Old Ladies Walk“, is a steep climb; the genteel grandmammas must have been in rude good health to tackle it. To the right, flagstones lead to a pretty ‘Japanese’ bridge over a stream, which in winter, may be quite robust. Instead of following the Woodland Walk, a more pleasant option is to take the parallel path on the opposite bank, with mossy tree trunks and tall, exotic tree ferns. Ascending gradually, we come upon a grove of myrtles, with ochre-red bark and white flowers in late summer. As we emerge from this shaded path, the walled gardens are on our right.

Opposite the garden gates, a Sheep’s Head Way waymark on a myrtle trunk directs us right, uphill. [There is some confusion here on the OS map] We pass through a tunnel of trees and arrive at a field gate with a narrow stile alongside.

A spur leads to the Bantry Enterprise Park. A waymark directs us right to a T-junction. Here, we may see a waymark pointing left for the Sheep’s Head route. We go right, at first walking uphill.

This road is called The Rope Walk. We soon top the rise and see the bay below. An old footpath runs a metre above this wide road for a short distance. As we walk downhill we see the Caha mountains on Beara rising dramatically across the waters of the bay.

Reaching the N71, we turn right and walk up the driveway of The West Lodge Hotel. At the top, a waymark directs us left to the path running between the lawns. Soon, steps on the left take us to an area alongside a small pond, with a picnic table and a row of slim columns. Level parkland stretches around us, with some fine trees.

Walking towards the small, ornate gate lodge where our route again meets N71, we may see the brightly-coloured Whiddy Island ferry.

We pass through the gate beside the lodge, and are on the N71, facing the bay. Crossing it, we can continue along the seaside footpath to opposite the arch alongside the Maritime Hotel where we began. It is only a few hundred yards to Bantry square, with its statute of Brendan the Navigator, probably the first European to discoverer America.


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