We set off at the west side of the causeway known as the Lag Bridge. If the tide is out, the bird life is an immediate feature. Out on the mudflats between the small islets and rocks, a dozen species stalk or waddle about, identifiable with the naked eye.
The most striking birds here are the shelduck, big as small geese, with glorious black-green heads, chestnut collars, pure white breasts and red legs and beaks. Shelduck nest in rabbit burrows, sometimes many miles from the sea whither the ducklings have to walk only days after hatching.
A nine mile walk is on record so, should any of us humans flag on this short circuit, may we be inspired by the thought of waddling more than twice the distance on duckling legs.
We walk southwest. Out on the slob, redshank, greenshank, curlew and oystercatchers stalk insects and worms; a cubic metre of estuary mud is said to contain more life than a cubic metre of Amazon topsoil.
Away to the southeast is the signal tower behind Baltimore and, nearby, we have views of the slob, with silver or blue channels running between the mud, depending on the colour of the sky.
A road merges from the right — we will be returning to the causeway along it.
We branch sharply left at a corner, taking the wider road and ignoring the road straight ahead. On our right, we have examples of ‘rivers of green’, narrow fields running down to the road between rock and gorse-grown outcrops. Around isolated houses are wind-sculpted trees. Turning to look back, we enjoy great views over the slobs and channels of The Lag.
The road divides in a “Y”. We do not go straight ahead but veer left, rounding a corner climbing gently uphill. There is a narrow road right; we ignore it. As the road descends gently, we see Spanish Island and the mouth of the Ilen to the right, Turk Head and, far off, Mount Gabriel, behind Schull. We soon find ourselves walking downhill, with the sea straight ahead.
The vicious, black rocks below the Sherkin lighthouse, the white beacon on the Baltimore side and, then, the coloured houses of Baltimore come into view.
As we face Baltimore town, just before a ruin on the left, we swing sharp right, almost a hairpin.
Shortly, we see the water again, ahead of us, and Mount Gabriel, far off. Two standing gables of a ruin stand starkly on a low hill to the west. At the Y, we keep left, ignoring the road going right, almost diagonally across our circle. The sea is now hidden by rising ground.
There are often big mussel shells on the road, dropped by grey crows from aloft and, once cracked, prized open.
We arrive back at the full round of the circle, retrace our steps past the small quarry, and turn right at the T-junction.
We pass a road to the left, and then the road splits. We take the ‘high’ road, the left branch of the narrow ‘Y’, which leads us back to our trailhead.
From Cork, take the N71 west to Skibbereen. At the roundabout entering town turn left and take the R595, signposted Baltimore. After 10km a small road branches right, with a blue sign marked ‘Beacon Designs’. The Lag Bridge is below us. We park just beyond it, out trailhead.
Easy no steep climbs.
* For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie
Three days of walking in the Wicklow Mountains, varying from challenging to easy. The weekend kicks off on Friday night with a midnight walk, setting out from Wilderness Lodge, Glenmalure at 8pm.
Two days of guided coastal walks with local historians and guides. All moderate walks, suitable for all walkers, with no steep climbs. Registration at the Ocean Hotel 30 minutes before each walk. See dunmorewalks.com for further details.
This challenge is a fundraiser organised by the Action Cancer charity. Set over two weekends, the aim is to visit the highest point in each of Ireland’s four provinces; Mweelrea in Connaught, Carrauntoohil in Munster, Lugnaquillia Mountain in Leinster, and Slieve Donard in Ulster. This Saturday participants will climb Slieve Donard. For an information pack contact Leigh, at