THE OS map in the panel shows the route, The Drimoleague Heritage Loop. This is supplemented by a sketch of the walk, marked in purple, on a board at the trailhead. The trail is well waymarked throughout, making directions in this text unnecessary. Attractive wooden seats are sited at viewing-spots.
Simple, ground-level stiles are provided instead of ladder-stiles requiring dangerous and tedious aerobatics. The designers of this walk are to be congratulated.
The old railway station is possibly the best surviving station of the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway opened in 1849 between Cork and Bantry, a length of 94 miles (151 km), all of it single track. Drimoleague was on the 11-mile extension giving access to Bantry’s deep water port. We walk east between the platform and the station building, where the tracks once ran.
The next site is the Old Cemetery, where engraved slabs in Irish and English alongside the gate and a Celtic cross within commemorate the people of the parish “who died of Hunger and Famine Fever during The Great Famine 1846-1849.” The burial ground holds very old graves, often marked by a simple unmarked flagstone, the ivy covered-gable of a pre-Famine church, and modern graves.
Where the road forks, we go left (waymarked with purple arrow), ascending to a well-made seat and a pleasant view of farmland, scattered houses and copses to the south-east. We shortly pass a roadside shrine commemorating the Marian Year, 1954. No country embraced this occasion with the same zeal as Ireland.
Just before the hill top, a farmhouse on the right is the home of the owners of the Top of The Rock Pod Pairc and Walking Centre. We continue past it, and the road to the left and pause just beyond the hill’s crest to enjoy a fine view of two rounded mountains, Derreenacrinnig East and West, with forestry and the occasional farmhouse in between. The ‘pods’, a far eastern concept in self-catering accommodation, are set in a holiday park down a laneway to the right.
Returning to the junction, we follow the waymarks right, and shortly reach the time-honoured Top of The Rock viewing spot, with seat and a pictorial interpretation board illustrating the magnificent vista northward.
Waymarks then lead us along fields paths, part of St Finbar’s Way, to cross small roads via stock-proof galvanised ‘kissing gates’, and to descend into the bosky valley of the River Clodagh and its confluence with the River Ilen below their twin bridges. This ‘meeting of the waters’ is a pleasant spot for a picnic with a parking place, a plaque with a verse extolling the beauty of the Ilen, and a limestone seat.
Paved paths leads us downstream beside the Ilen, to cross it on a wooden bridge, The Manager’s Bridge. The river is narrow here. We walk in a secluded glade with willow and alder overhanging the water, and small rapids and gravel beds.
Low posts support plaques with quotations from poets. We may see trout in the water, or a dipper. Wooden-edged steps and a field path takes us out of the valley.
We cross a road, and follow a field track to another road. There, we turn right and follow the waymarks downhill and back to our trailhead.
: The N71 takes us from Cork city to Bandon (29km). We cross Bandon bridge and go left at the statue to the R586, to Drimoleague, a further 40km. Look out for a brown Heritage signpost on the right marked “Trailhead Drimoleague Heritage Loop.”
Byroads, riverside and field paths which may be muddy in wet weather. Some medium-steep ascents.
Map: OS Discovery 85
: Wednesday night walk, Cush Mountain walk, 3hrs, meet Clydagh Bridge, 7pm.
: The Tenth Annual Galtee Challenge and Crossing, a 31km traverse of the entire Galtee Mountain range, taking in all major peaks, with a total height gain of approx 1700 metres. This year the challenge goes from west to east, starting in Anglesboro. Only for walkers with a high level of fitness. For further information, maps, and compulsory registration, see the website. Register early to avoid disappointment.
: Three day walking festival held in the spectacular Mourne Mountains, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The walks range from easy lowland strolls to very strenuous mountain hikes. Festival headquarters are located at the Mourne Golf Club, Links Road, Newcastle. For further information on individual walks and pre-booking, see mournewalking.co.uk.