Walk of the Week: By the cliffs of Dooneen on Cork’s native shore

KINSALE: DOONEEN STRAND AND THE CHURCH AT COURTAPARTEEN

WE set off on the road going left, signposted Sandycove 3km.

The highlights of this walk are the strand at Dooneen and the little cliff-top church (in ruins) and its ancient graveyard on the cliffs at Courtaparteen, west of Sandycove. Countless visitors know the western side of the Old Head of Kinsale; few know the eastern side, where networks of small, almost trafficless roads are perfect for the rambler.

Leaving the trailhead, we have views of Courtmacsherry Bay behind us. We turn right opposite a house, 200m along. The road is dead straight ahead. We shortly pass through a cross roads.

In spring and summer, note the blousy Japanese roses on the ditches; they are widespread on this coast. Foxgloves, wall pennywort and brilliant cushions of birdsfoot trefoil brighten the verges.

At the ridge top, we can see, far to the southwest, the Signal Tower at the landward end of the Old Head. We pass a left turn, and sign for a Dead End and, as we head steeply downhill towards Bullen’s Bay, an ancient roadside pump wearing a saucepan helmet.

Dooneen Strand isn’t very sandy, but the rocky foreshore teems with small inshore fish, some rarely encountered. I have come across Greater Pipefish, brilliant green Lumpfish and Connemara Clingfish in the rock pools. The wall at the end of the road is bright yellow with Xanathoria lichen, and Sea Beet (edible) flourishes at the base. Looking west, we see moored boats, a pier and slipway, a large caravan park and various houses including the Speckled Door pub and restaurant.

One could cross the beach and walk out to the cliffs beside the closed gates of the Old Head Golf Course to view the seabirds nesting below.

However, we now retrace our steps. We take the first right turn, a narrow, windy road. We ignore the road left opposite old farm buildings. Going downhill we see the sea ahead. The tall Sovereign Islands beyond Frower Point come into view. We descend steeply, a deep valley below us on the right. At the T-junction we go right to visit Courtaparteen Church following the road marked cul de sac. It ends at a green footpath leading into woods ahead. At the base of the ditch is a well, with a small statuette of the Virgin. Concrete steps descend on the left; the ramp alongside serving for pall bearers carrying coffins to the graveyard below.

The ruined stone church, perched on the cliff west of Sandy Cove and the entrance to Kinsale Harbour, has a low arched door in the landward gable and a window shaft facing the sea. Lines of rough upright flags mark ancient burials, and carved headstones dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. At the bottom left hand corner, a beach may be seen below, and a track on the opposite hillside leading toward Sandy Cove. A path from the churchyard once joined it but is now blocked.

Returning through the churchyard gate, we can take a path immediately left into wild woods. Possibly private but not gated, it circles around to the green footpath at the top of the steps.

Returning the way we have come, we take the first right. The road going left at the crossroads takes us back to the trailhead.

Start point: Take N27 (airport road, becoming the R600) from Cork through Kinsale. 4km beyond, at Barrels Cross, go left on the R604, uphill, signposted Old Head of Kinsale and Garretstown Strand. Pass another sign for the Old Head 5km. After 200m, we reach Oldcourt crossroads. Park in front of disused farm buildings.

Distance/time: 11km/2-3hrs

Difficulty: Byroads and lanes. Medium gradients/a set of steep steps.

Map: OS 86 and 87

* For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie

MAAMTURKS WALKING CLUB

Jul 13: Ben Gorm, B Grade, meet Maam Cross 10am.

SLIEVEBLOOM ECO WEEKEND (www.SlieveBloom.ie)

Walks open to visitors — €5 per adult (accompanied children free). Grade A and B walks only for walkers who walk on a regular basis and have reasonable fitness level and are properly equipped. A and B walks are in remote wilderness areas of the Slieve Blooms, only accessible on foot and rarely frequented by hill walkers. Waterproof footwear, and outdoor clothing advisable plus adequate drinks/food. No dogs. Walkers participate at own risk.

Jul 11: Evening walk, Silver River and Hazel Grove, Grade C, 5km., 2 hrs., meet Cadamstown Car Park 7pm.

Jul 12: Glenbarrow, Grade B, 10km, 4 hrs., meet Glenbarrow Car Park, 11am.

Jul 13: Glenafelly, Grade A, 12km., 4-5hrs., meet Kinnity Community Centre 11am.

GALTEE WALKING CLUB (www.galteewalkingclub.ie)

Jul 9: Galtee Beag, 3hrs. meet Cush Car Park, 7pm.


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