Walk of the Week: Inchydoney Island

AS the new year is almost upon us we conclude our series of favourite walks with this fine walk which has for a long time been near the top of my list for birdwatching in winter.

Walk of the Week: Inchydoney Island

Leaving the public car park, we pass the hotel on our left and, turning our backs on it, descend steep steps to the eastern strand.

Beyond the enormous hotel are miles of sand unsullied by Celtic Tiger development, and as wild and beautiful as any in West Cork.

Ahead, about 1km away, is Ring Channel, with green hillsides beyond.

The beach is backed by dunes, colonised by marram grass. The surf rolls in and sea birds cry overhead.

Dunlin or sanderling may be seen skittering along the waterline, busy little birds rushing in and out of the sea.

Oystercatcher will also be seen with their red beaks, red legs, and neat black-and-white plumage.

Where the beach ends, we follow the shore to the left or, at high tide, cross the dunes.

Banded snails are common and, in summer, black-and-red burnet moths, or cinnabar moths with their black-and-amber caterpillars.

Now, as we walk between the dunes and Ring channel, Ring village comes into view opposite, a pretty pier with boats, and another pier, nearer the open sea, below it.

The water’s edge is often busy with black-tailed godwits, curlew, whimbrel, redshank, turnstones, oystercatchers, cormorants, shelduck, merganser, egrets, herons, swans, sometimes Brent geese; any or all are present in winter.

The rough path following the channel toward the bay head and Clonakilty town nurtures seaweeds of diverse hues and species (but slippery at times!) and is splashed with lichens yellow as eggs yolks, green as jade and even pink as pomegranates.

Sea-ivory, a hard, crinkly lichen, aka Neptune’s Beard, grows on the stone walls on the left.

We pass a wide-bellied moored boat, the solitary and singular home of one of the many West Cork blow-ins who seek to live a quieter life.

Here, on the island’s undeveloped side, it is removed from the hotel where Bertie Ahern, Ray Burke, and the Fianna Fáil crew posed during annual self-congratulation fests.

Unfortunately, on winter evenings, the lights of Clonakilty glare in the sky 3km away at the bay-head.

At the end of the channel-side path, we reach the tarred road that runs between the bay and Beamish’s Lagoon, as the lake on our left is called.

Swans drift on the surface and the willows at the far end provide nesting sites for egrets, the pretty, stork-like birds lately naturalised in Ireland.

Where it ends, facing a cottage, we turn left up a leafy road fringed by with tall bulrushes.

We pass a mossy ruin and then high stone walls sheltering a nuns’ retreat.

Passing through a hill-top stile, we head down onto Muckross Strand.

On winter evenings, the channel-edge toward Clonakilty town is carpeted with migrant flocks.

We walk left and, rounding the corner of the dunes, continue onto Inchydoney main beach, with surfers, black as seals, out on the waves, or holidaymakers on their coloured towels on summer days.

A 10-minute stroll along the beach return us to the car park.

Warmth and Christmas cheer will be available in the hotel but, if the evening is right, we might pause to watch the sun gild the mirror-calm channel to the west.


Start point:

Take the N71 from Cork City, via Bandon to Clonakilty (1hr) or the more scenic R611 to Kinsale and then the R600 via Timoleague.

At the roundabout at Clonakilty, take the second exit, the bypass around the town and then the first left, signposted Model Railway Village and Inchydoney Beach.

At Inchydoney, the road becomes one-way and takes one directly to the car park in front of the hotel.

The walk starts from here.


6.5km. 1hr 30 mins


An easy walk, sand beach, shoreline path, (some but some of the rocks may be slippery), road, cross-country trail and dunes.


OS Sheet 89


Bishopstown Hill Walking Club

Jan 1:

(1) Galtybeg, Grade B, 11km., 4hrs., ascent 885m., and (2) Galtymore, Grade C, 8km., 3.5hrs., both meet Cork 9.30 pm and Firgrove Hotel, Mitchelstown 10.15.

Jan 3:

Crosshaven cliff top and beach, Grade D, 8km., 2.25hrs, ascent 120m, meet Cork 9.30 and Cronin’s Pub, Crosshaven, 10am

Jan 3:

Knockeenatoung and Galtymore, Grade B+, 13km., 5hrs., ascent 1,350m, meet Firgrove Hotel, Mitchelstown 9.30

Jan 4:

Ilen River Loop, Drimoleague, Grade D, 13km., 3.5hrs., ascent 180m., meet Cork 9.30 and Old Railway Station car park, Drimoleague 11am.

Ballyvaughan and Fanore Walking Club

Jan 1:

The Flaggy Shore, Cancer Care Charity Walk, all road, register New Quay church 12noon

Jan 4:

Glenstal Loop, Forest track and trail. 3.5 to 4hrs., meet the church Murroe village, Limerick 10.30am

Midleton Hill Walking Club

Jan 1:

Castlefreke Loop, New Year’s Day Walk, Grade C, meet Distillery Lane car park, 9.30.

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