N fine summer days, folk sit at the tables outside Teddy O’Sullivan’s pub at Bunaw Pier and enjoy views of the harbour, boats and mussel lines, the Caha Mountains to the southwest, and Tooth and Tooreennamna mountains opposite. It is a colourful and lively scene.
The R573 Wild Atlantic Way continues past the pierhead. We set off on the road directly opposite the pier, between the car park and the quaint remains of an old cottage.
We walk uphill; in spring and summer the ditches are ablaze with wildflowers, an outstanding feature of this walk. To the right, are fine oaks, like parkland trees, and spurs of the Cahas displaying classic examples of almost vertical folding. So verdant is the road that at times it is almost closed in by the exuberance of flora leaning from the ditches. Every common Irish wildflower is seen in its splendour, a pageant changing with the season.
The road climbs steadily and soon we are in hill country: trees and flowers replaced by gorse and heather, reedy fields with mountain sheep and bare rocks. We are ‘monarchs of all we survey’ up here; the road little more than a track, no human settlement in view and uninterrupted vistas of Kilmakilloge Harbour, Droppa Mountain and other Caha peaks.
At 2km from base, we come to bird’s eye views of the Kenmare River (aka Kenmare Bay) and, across it, the Iveragh Peninsula with mountains extending from the tip in the far west to the Macgillicuddy Reeks eastward.
The route then descends steeply, becoming verdant once more and arrives at a concrete bridge. Crossing it, we go left, and arrive at Lehid Bridge on the R573. We will go left here, but a short path, directly opposite, can take us through trees and over a pedestrian bridge to visit Lehid Harbour. On the OS map the R571 and R573 between Kenmare and Lauragh are marked “Landsdowne Road”.
In 1841, the Marquis of Lansdowne, a Kenmare landowner, conceived and part-funded the building of the bridge at Kenmare — Ireland’s first suspension bridge — initiating the road running southwest down Beara’s northern shore. It was replaced in 1932 by the present structure.
Our route, going left at Lehid Bridge, is shaded by trees. When we last walked it — on a lovely weekend in August — there were few cars, but one should take sensible care.
At gaps in the wildwood, we come in view of the bay, on our right all the way back to the trailhead. In August, the road is edged with long stretches of orange montbretia, purple loosestrife, creamy meadowsweet, and the ditches are draped with robust honeysuckle and white-flower bindweed.
Often, the road runs immediately over the sea. We see the high mountains of Iveragh all the way west to Lamb’s Head, and Rossmore, Rossdohan, Sherky and Garinish islands, and the Sneem River, on the opposite shore.
Now in view is the dramatic coastline ahead, Collorus Point and Dog’s Point, and off in the distance, Slieve Miskish beyond to the right of the Cahas. We pass a small beach, and a Parking/Viewing place. The ruin of Kilmakilloge Church is on our right, with many old graves.
The list of names of the interred are, all but a few, Irish names, O’Sullivans, O’Sheas, Healys, Sheenans. An old grave of McFinian Dhu notes that the family served “with distinction under the Austrian, French and Spanish flags”.
Rounding the corner, we at back at our trailhead, and may enjoy a pleasant repast at Teddy O’Sullivan’s pub.
From Kenmare, take the R571 along the Kenmare River (aka Kenmare Bay), a very scenic drive. At 16km from Kenmare, go right on the R573 Tuosist coast road, and through a crossroad — a brown sign indicates Kilmakilloge Harbour. We arrive at Bunaw Pier, with boats moored alongside, and Teddy O’Sullivan’s pub. The car park opposite is our trailhead.
10km. Allow at least two hours minimum. Small roads; some steep ascents and descents. Magnificent scenery and photo opportunities. Bring binoculars.
Regular Sunday 3- to 5-hour walks.
Oct 19: Tip of Sheeps Head, “different terrain”, meet Kilcrohane village, 1.45pm.
Oct 15: Knockeenatoung, Galtybeg and O’Loughnan’s Castle, B, 12km, 5hrs, meet Firgrove Hotel, Mitchelstown, 9.30am.
Oct 18: Carrauntoohill via Lack Road, A, 11km., 6hrs, ascent 1200m, meet Fossa Church, 9.15am.
Oct 19: Rossmackowen to Glass Loughs, C, 12km., 4.5hrs., ascent 500m, meet Eccles Hotel, Glengarriff, 10.45
Oct 14: Slish Wood to Lough Lumman, track and road, steady climb and descent, meet Carraroe Retail Park, 10am
Oct 18: Challenging Aroo, moderate/tough, 13km, 4.5hrs., meet IT Sligo, 10am
Oct 19: Knockshegawna (€5 Entrance fee) Grade B, 8km, 4 hrs, meet Tesco car park, Birr, 11am.
Oct 19: Bishop Wood Bog Walk, Grade C, 6km, 3 hrs, meet Castle Arms Hotel, Durrow, 1pm.