Legendary for its beauty and popular as a yachting harbour, Glandore is situated in one of the loveliest areas in West Cork. Its name comes from Cuan D’Ór, the harbour of gold, or Cuan Daire, the harbour of oak.
The Normans built two castles here in 1215, later taken over by the O’Donovans — one of them still occupied. The business-man, Tony O’Reilly is still (at the time of writing) owner of Shorecliffe, a magnificent house overlooking the harbour, and Margaret Jay, erstwhile leader of the House of Lords also owned property in the village.
The philosopher and social reformer, William Thompson, lived in Glandore C1814. The quaint little Church of Ireland, built on a ledge in the woods opposite the dock, is accessed via a tunnel hewn through bedrock.
The road we take is quiet and overshadowed by trees. Reaching a Yield sign, we go right. The views of Glandore harbour, Union Hall village opposite, and the islands at the harbour mouth, become increasing spectacular as we progress.
We see High Island, and Sheela’s Rocks, and a pyramid that might be a ruined church gable but is actually a seastack called the Stack of Beans. Vistas are panoramic and glorious. Beyond Glandore National School, we come out onto the main road, go left, pass the church and go right at the signpost for Drombeg Stone Circle. We enter the complex some 800m along.
The sight of the circle of upright stones, with the land beyond falling away to the distant sea in fields of a hundred shapes and colours, is immediately dramatic. Interpretation boards tell the story of how our ancestors four thousand years ago raised monuments to the gods of light and seasons in this unique place, carried stones from miles away and set them upright, and arranged the portals so that the last rays of the winter solstice gleaming through a notch in the far-off hills, would target the midpoint of the recumbent stone opposite these portals, as it might through the sights of a gun.
Known locally as The Druid’s Altar, some opinion holds that the recumbent stone was used for human sacrifice but there is no evidence of this. It was a burial site, certainly. Shards of cremated bone were excavated at the circle’s centre C1958, along with a broken pot containing the cremated remains of a young adolescent. The outline of twin stone huts, in use until the 5th century AD, and a fulacht fiadh, a pit in which food was cooked, are nearby.
Emerging from the site, we go right, again enjoying broad and lovely vistas of the harbour mouth and ocean as we walk. At the T-junction, we go right on a level road, the islands coming into view from a new aspect, and then the inner harbour and gracious houses set amongst parkland and trees on the northern shore.
Reaching the Glandore road again, we head downhill to our trailhead, passing Kilfinnan Castle, an embattled 19th century tower house now a private residence, and steps down to a small and pretty beach.
In the final 500m to our trailhead, the village hostelries beckon us with their fine views and charms.
From Cork, take the N71 Skibbereen road. Glandore is reached either by going left just beyond the causeway at Rosscarbery onto the R597 Wild Atlantic Way of small, scenic back roads, or by continuing on the N71 to Leap and going left there, along an equally scenic but shorter stretch of the R597.
Some ascents and descents but none very severe.
OS Discovery 89
For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie
Aug 10: Old Kenmare Road, old track, grade B/C, 4 to 5 hrs, meet roundabout, Lidl, Killarney, 9:30 am.
Aug 10: Kilworth Woods, circular walk, grade C, 3+ hrs, meet Corbert Court 10:30 am.
Aug 9: Take a Hike, Forest, Hills and Riverbank, 10km, meet Killeter Community Hall, 9am.
Aug 9: Mountain Adventure, Lough Braden Forest and Bolaght Mountain, ascent 345m., 4 hrs, meet Killeter Community Hall, 2pm.
Aug 9: Uncover Killeter, Carraigahotten, (to uncover mystery of missing pilgrims), 3 hrs., meet Killeter Community Hall, 11am.
Aug 10: Killeter Extreme, Killeter Forest through Barnesmore and Croghnameal, 9 hrs., meet Biddy’s Public Bar, Killeter, 8 am.
Aug 9: Western Way Marathon and Half Marathon, meet Community Centre, Maum Bridge, full marathon, 7 to 7:55 am, half marathon, 8:30 to 9:25 am, registration fee €25.