Walk of the Week: Savouring nature’s bounty on Lough Hyne

SKIBBEREEN/BALTIMORE: LOUGH HYNE

Walk of the Week: Savouring nature’s bounty on Lough Hyne

LOUGH HYNE was Europe’s first Marine Nature Reserve. The tides filling the lake twice a day create a habitat of relatively warm, well-oxygenated water supporting a great diversity of marine plants and animals, including 72 fish species. Scientists come from all over the world to study its unique environment.

To scuba dive beneath Lough Hyne’s waters would be a truly remarkable experience; we, however, must be content with exploring the singular landscape that surrounds it. The adventurous may climb a hill to overlook the famous tidal race.

We set out along the lake shore, keeping the water beside us on our left. The scenery is immediately beautiful, with beech trees ahead and gorse and bracken on the slopes across the water. Even in winter, these slopes are colourful, the red bracken and white rock outcrops reflected on the lake waters. In spring, gorse and wild daffodils, then bluebells and sea pinks will be in bloom, and in autumn, the deciduous trees along the way are dressed in all their burnished glory.

We pass a small pier, a quaint tin house opposite. Offshore, the water is some 40m deep. Nearby, Japanese knotweed and winter heliotrope have become established but are kept in check. At lake centre, we see Cloghan Island. When the trees are leafless, the ruins of Cloghan Castle, once an O’Driscoll tower house, are visible. The creek on our left does not connect with the sea, but is pretty when boats are moored on its still waters and the slopes above are carpeted in red bracken, with stone walls and rock faces brilliant in the sun.

We pass the occasional houses, and go left down a tree-lined road to the main pier, the base for lake exploration. To our right is Bulloch Island, rising from sheer cliffs. The entrance of the tide-race to the lough is to our left and, as an option, we can reach the high ground above it by first clambering along the rocky shore and, after some 150m, taking a path up a green valley which leads us to the heights. The come-and-go of the tide is spectacular, the water racing in against the outflow or out against the inflow, great kelp forests moving in the direction the prevailing current. Stasis briefly results from this ‘conflict of the waters’; the cataracts are momentarily in equilibrium.

Returning to the lake circuit, we go straight ahead, uphill, a steepish climb up to Barloge Hill. After the route goes right, and levels, look out for a ringfort in a field on the left. From this ‘plateau’, the vista is magnificent, a panorama broadening with every step. Before us is Roaring Water Bay, its islands and Mount Gabriel with its twin ‘golf ball’ tracking stations, and far behind, northwards, the mountains of Beara, Slieve Miskish and the western Cahas. We see the islands west to Cape Clear and east to Ringarogy. All is especially beautiful in the evening.

Reaching two T-junctions in quick succession, we go right at each, walking steeply downhill, the lake coming into view. Steps lead upward to Knockomagh Wood, an option which will also take us back to our trailhead.

Tireless walkers may now continue on a there-and-back walk along the lakeshore road, the water on their right. They will reach a pretty pier with interpretation boards and a grassy salient fringed with white scurvy grass and pink sea thrift in season.

Start point: Take N71 from Cork city to Skibbereen. Change to R595 signposted Baltimore/ Lough Hyne. 3km beyond Skibbereen, go left on L4207 (sign Skibbereen Golf Club nearby). After 3km. we reach the lake. Our trailhead is the parking space under trees on the right.

Distance/time: 6km/2-3hrs (depending)

Difficulty: One steep climb. (Additional hillside and woodland paths).

Map: OS 89

For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie

MIDLETON HILL WALKING CLUB (www.midletonhillwalkers.com)

July 20: Squilloges/Coumlara Loop — Nire Valley, Grade C, 4hrs. Meet Distillery Lanes Car Park, Midleton, 9.30am.

GALWAY WALKING CLUB (galwaywalkingclub.wordpress.com)

July 20: Short walks: Green Road, Abbey Hill, Burren, Newquay Church. Sign in at St Oliver Plunkett Church, Renmore, 1:15 pm.

CORK BACKPACKERS (www.corkbackpackers.com)

July 20: Mangerton, grade B, OS Map 78. Meet Cunihan’s Bar, Pembroke St. 8.45am Register Cunihan’s previous Wed 9pm. Membership €50 per year.

LAKE DISTRICT CLUB (www.lakedistrictwc.com)

July 19: Annual Joyce Country Challenge, grades A, B, C, and D (4 routes). Grade A walk starts 7:30 to 8:30; B, 8:00; C, 10:00; D, 10:30. Meet Finney village, Co Mayo for all walks.

The Joyce Country Challenge gives you an opportunity to walk the plateau of Maumtrasna and The Devil’s Mother and to do a circuit of Lough Nafooey.

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