The village name is an Anglicisation of Tig Molaga, having been established on the site of a 7th century monastery founded by Saint Molaga, a holy man who devoted himself to the care of plague victims. The Annals of the Four Masters record that the foundations of the present abbey were laid by a McCarthy chieftain in 1240, the site having been a place of pilgrimage since Molaga’s time.
The village was a commercial centre long before Bandon town was founded. Quays and hostelries burgeoned with Spanish and French merchants. The friars conducted a thriving trade in wine.
Facing the bay, we cross the road and go left along the grass verge toward the bridge spanning the River Argideen.
We go left and follow the wall enclosing Timoleague Church of Ireland and graveyard, entered around the corner to the right. The interior of the church is unique. Tiled in exotic mosaic, the south wall resembles more a corner of the Taj Mahal than an Irish country chapel interior. A plaque records that the work was effected at the expense of the Maharajah of Gwalior, as a memorial to his physician, Lieut. Col Crofts of the Indian Medical Service, who saved his son’s life. Croft’s parish church was Timoleague.
Leaving the church grounds, we turn right and pass the gates of Timoleague House as we set off out of the village. We shortly pass the imposing RC Church on the left. A west-facing window is the work of an Irish stained glass master, Harry Clark. We are soon walking on the high land over the western bank of the Argideen. After walking through tunnels of trees, where wood anemones grow in spring and wood blewits and parasol mushrooms in winter, we come to Inchy Bridge. The Argideen is one of Munster’s most famous sea trout and salmonoid rivers. Over the pool below, in summer, bats flit, including Daubenton’s, the water bat. Kingfishers are resident, and dippers, the small bird that walks beneath the water and hunts between the riverbed stones.
We do not cross the bridge, but continue straight ahead to the building of Barryroe Coop and a signpost for Ballinascarthy and Clonakilty. We bear left, past a house with many-headed cordyline palms. Shortly, a road goes off to our left, but, continuing to the right, we pass another house with palms and reach a plain, straight country road to Killavarrig Cross Roads. Here, we take the left turning, doubling back, up the hill. The climb is steep but, happily, short, and as we ascend we get panoramic views of the lovely country to the west and north.
We pass through a crossroads. Now, on these high lands, we can see for miles. At a brake of gorse, and a gurgling stream, a ‘dog leg’ turning takes us up another short steep climb. We reach the summit at Ardmore and descend towards Timoleague village. Immediately, we have a magnificent view of Courtmacsherry Bay. When the tide is out, hundreds of acres of mud flats are exposed, their myriad invertebrate life supporting up to 20,000 birds that migrate to here each winter.
Our descent is steep, and soon the Abbey, our trailhead, and the painted houses of Timoleague appear. Shocking pink, papal purple, tropical azure and apple green — west Cork people are, indeed, fearless with paint!
Start point: From Cork we take the N71 west to Bandon (30km). Leaving the town on the Clonakilty road, we take a left onto the R602 to Timoleague village (14km). We park in front of, or beside, Timoleague Abbey, our trailhead.
Difficulty: Secondary roads with few cars. Two medium steep stretches.
Map: OS Sheet 86 or 89
The festival comprises of two days of guided moderate to hard walks on the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail, with en route commentary on local myth and legend from the experienced guides. The festival is allied with the local Heart & Stroke charity ‘Croí’ and all entrants receive a sponsorship pack when registering online at www.croi.ie/heritage trail. Information evening will be held on Friday the 21st at Mill Times Hotel, Mill Street, Westport, at 7.30pm.
Mar 22: Low-level walk, Ballycotton cliffs, meet St. Colman’s Community College, Old Youghal Road, Midleton, 2pm.
Mar 23: Sunday walk, Knockmealdown and Sugarloaf, grade B, meet at Distillery Lanes Car Park, Midleton, 8.45am.
Mar 23: Inagh Valley to Joe Keane’s Maam Valley, approx. 20km on the Western Way, meet Omniplex on the Headford Road, 9.45am.