Of Howe and history at Kilbrittain

OUR trailhead is Howe Strand, where a few cars can park but space is limited. The beach looks out onto Courtmacsherry Bay and beyond it, the open ocean. Westward are the Seven Heads, and to the east, the Old Head of Kinsale.

Of Howe and history at Kilbrittain

The strand is named for the Howe family, local landowners from Cromwellian times. Guy’s Postal Directory of 1914 lists Howe owners of Killeens House and Glanavirane House; the latter is still occupied by a Howe family today. A stream crosses the beach, fed by the reed beds behind. The beach is little frequented except in summer.

Walking down the right hand side of the beach, we look across at the huge, gaunt ruin on the left (eastern) side. This was the Howe Strand Coastguard and Telegraph Station burnt by the IRA in 1920. According to the witness statement made to the Irish Bureau Of Military History by John O’Driscoll, captain of the Timoleague Company Irish Volunteers, the station was first attacked by Timoleague Volunteers in April 1920. The seven coastguards present surrendered and seven rifles were seized. Later that year, 18 volunteers from the Bandon Battalion, supported by 24 men blocking the approach roads, attacked the station again. The 15 coastguards manning the station surrendered after a brief fight. Fifteen rifles and 1,000 rounds of ammunition were captured. The station was burnt and was subsequently abandoned by the Coastguard.

The rocks on the right hand side of the strand are deeply grooved by the passage of cartwheels. Over decades, possibly over centuries, farmers drove their carts over the bedrock to collect oarweed to fertilise their land. Ian Howe, who lives nearby, reports hearing stories that the weed was so highly prized that pitchfork fights sometimes broke out on the beach. The grooves are a testament to the laborious harvesting of natural assets necessary for survival in bygone days. The building seen at the headland is the ruin of a boat house that served the Coastguard Station.

Leaving the beach, we walk up the road and turn immediately right. Acres of flag iris, spectacular when in flower, are to our right. We pass the entrance to a large Georgian house on the hillside; this is Glanavirane. The road climbs gently for about a kilometre. The foliage of the tall ash and sycamore trees form tunnels over the road in summer. At a period house with old stone-built farm buildings, we go left and start downhill on another quiet road, with extensive country views.

We take the next left, going steeply downhill, westward. The rising land ahead is bright with the ‘forty shades of green’ in spring and summer. At a pebble-dash bungalow, we go left and see a sign for a school. As the road swings right, a grassy bohreen, shown on the OS map, leads straight ahead but access is blocked, so we follow the road past the colourful Gurraneasig National School. A bamboo brake thrives on our left and farther down old chestnut and beeches form a canopy over the road.

At a Yield sign, we go left. The windows of the house below the ruin have brick surrounds. Now a residence, it carries a plaque inscribed “Granasig National Schools” and once housed separate schools for boys and girls. The road winds down, past a reed bed on our left, to our trailhead. Start point: Take R600 Cork Airport-Kinsale-Clonakilty road. After Kinsale and Ballinspittle, we see the sea. Turn left onto L7303 (brown sign “Coolmain: Beach Fishing”), then take first left. After 1km, take the right fork. Our trailhead, Howe Strand, is a further 1.5km. On sunny weekends, park near where a bohreen goes left as a big, ruined house on the hillside ahead comes into view.

Distance: 6km.

Difficulty: Quiet byroads. Interesting encounters with agricultural and military history.

Map: Maps 86 & 87




Tomorrow: 21 Bridges, grade D, 3 hrs., meet Car Park, County Hall, 7pm.

Aug 13: Glencush Horseshoe, grade B+, 12km., 5 hrs., ascent 1030m., meet Cork 8:30 am., and Firgrove Hotel, Mitchelstown, 9:30am.

Aug 14: Lough Hyne, grade C, 10km, 4 hrs., ascent 200m., meet Lough Hyne, Skibbereen 11:00am.

Aug 16: Coomasaharn, grade B 15km, 6.5 hrs., ascent 1100m, meet Glenbeigh Hotel, 9:50am.

Aug 17: Seven Heads Circuit, grade C, 15km, 4 hrs., ascent 150m, meet Courtmacsherry Hotel Car Park, 10:45am.

Aug 17: Comeragh, No 2 Gully at Mahon Falls from Coumshingaun, grade A, 12km, 6 hrs., ascent 850m, meet Crotty’s Bar, Lemybrien, 9:00am.

Aug 17: Glanteenassig, Stradbally Circuit, grade A, 20km, 6 hrs., ascent 1400m, meet Camp Cross 9:45am.



Aug 17: Knockmealdowns, A, meet Mount Mellary Abbey, 9:30am.

Knockmealdowns, B, Greenwood Cycle Track Car Park, 11am.

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