We had two days out last weekend. One involved a walk in the Galtee mountains, the other was a beach in West Cork. I never thought I’d say this, but I preferred the Galtees to the beach. (Saying I prefer Tipperary is probably enough to get me drummed out of Cork.)
It’s not that the beach was bad. It was at Dunworley outside Clonakilty, one of those flat beaches in a stunning sheltered cove that they put in travel guides to Ireland. It’s one of my favourite beaches in the world. But as any parent knows, that’s only part of a beach day in Ireland.
That’s before you get into food and drink, enough for two meals in case the weather improves, and don’t forget towels and a change of gear because the kids always run into the water before you can get them into their wetsuits and clothes don’t dry by the seaside.
Now you’re ready to go to the beach.
As I said, Dunworley was amazing. But this is Ireland in June, so it was only amazing for an hour before the sharp breeze told us it was time to go somewhere else. So we drove around to Courtmacsherry for a sunny, sheltered bag of chips by the sea, and that was amazing too. But then we headed home and the work began. Unload the car, shower the kids (children can’t go to bed with sandy legs anymore), hose down the wetsuits, it was a good half hour before I could pour a hard-earned beer.
In other words, don’t believe everything you see on Instagram, a day at the beach is no walk in the park.
The next day was nice in an Irish way and I got a hankering to head inland. I’ve driven past the Galtee mountains all my life on the way up and down to Dublin, without ever once paying a visit. My wife and kids weren’t too keen on heading out for a second day, so I bribed them with KitKats and a promise that I’d cut the grass.
It’s a lovely drive up to the Galtees on the motorway, followed by a short trip down memory lane on the old N8 through Kilbehenny, and then up a lovely narrow lane to a place called King’s Yard in the foothills of the mountains. This is a little base camp for the Galtymore mountain, run by a friendly local farmer, who offers toilet and shower facilities, a small cafe and also secure parking for €3.
We said we’d keep the mountain climb for another day, and headed off instead on a lowland loop called Attychrann. (That has its own free car park down the hill from King’s Yard.) It was magic. You walk through mature forest, bursting out every now and again for a view of the mountain. By the time you get back to King’s Yard, you’ll have seen a raging river, curious cows, lambs, birds and a red double-decker bus parked in someone’s back garden.
The kids skipped back to the car, stopping for one last look at some cows in the farmyard before we headed home. But the best was yet to come. On the way back down the hill, four or five deer ran through the trees, right next to our car. It was a fleeting moment, two or three seconds, but we all saw them and it had us buzzing all the way back home.
This time there was nothing to unload from the car, no showers, no hosing down wetsuits. A perfect day really.
I think we big-up beaches in this country more than they deserve. That’s not to say I won’t go to one next weekend if the weather plays ball. I love a day at the beach. But for a relaxing day in the countryside with loads of variety and a small family of deer, give me the mountains every time.