Friday, 14 March 2014

Two of the most beautiful walks in County Cork, woodland and coastal

Ship-pool Castle and Woods (see below)
  • Start-point about 1.5 miles (2.5kms) SE of Innishannon on R605 Kinsale road
  • A short walk of little over 0.5 mile total length, of no great difficulty
  • Historical interest, incl a ruined 16C castle of the Roche family
  • A beautiful walk in mainly beech woods alongside the Bandon river
  • The walk culminates in a magnificent waterfall 

Sandycove Bay to Courtaparteen (see below)
  • Start-point about 3 miles (5kms) S of Kinsale off R600 Ballinspittle road
  • A walk of little over a mile total length, on a well-defined and safe path
  • Walk first offers fine views of Sandycove Bay and Island
  • Continuing, walk gives you wide stunning views over Atlantic ocean
  • An option at the end, more challenging, to visit ruined church and village

Ship-pool Castle and Woods walk

The starting point for this walk is 1.5 miles / 2.5 kms south-east of Innishannon village on the R605 road to Kinsale, beside the ruined castle on your right above the river. There is plenty of space to park here, or to park your bike. This walk can also be reached by public transport, as a regular Bus Eireann service comes through Innishannon from both the Cork city and Bandon directions.Just walk out the R605 from Innishannon village, which means taking the first right up a steep hill at the end of the village. This road is fairly quiet, but take care as always when road-walking.

The ruined Ship-pool or Poulnalong Castle, your start-point, was built by the Roche family in 1543, said to be haunted, stands in a romantic position above a wide bend in the tidal Bandon river. It is worth quoting Mary Leland from the book 'The Lie of the Land'(1999), to give a flavour of this special place : 'the crowded with reeds; the margin has been tamed in one stretch into a woodland walk. A ruined castle adds to the atmosphere which has an almost medieval texture as hills collapse into marshes and the river's golden edges merge with water-meadows and low-lying farms.' 

Simply follow the path down to the left from the castle, and it takes you along above the river for about a quarter of a mile, through beautiful woods. These beech trees are beautiful at any time of year, with their graceful trunks and branches.

Eventually the walk culminates in the sight of a splendid waterfall coming down over shelves of sloping rock, to flow into the estuary below. You simply retrace your steps to the beginning. Just be careful of any drops by the path and any warning signs.

Sandycove Bay to Courtaparteen

The start-point for this walk is about 3 miles / 5 kms to the south of Kinsale town. You take the R600 road (by car or bike) out of Kinsale town, towards the Old Head / Ballinspittle, and cross the bridge over the river Bandon estuary (which is actually the 'new' bridge!), and in about a third of a mile / 0.5 kms you come to a sign to the left for Sandycove, which involves a left and then immediately a right turn. You follow the road along the tidal inlet of Sandycove for at most 1 mile till you reach the small village of Sandycove.

Follow the road along until the road turns right to leave the sea, and park here at the head of the bay. The path simply continues straight ahead of you in a southerly direction, with a house to your right. The path winds along right beside the sea. At first you look to your left as the path rises, seeing the expanse of Sandycove Bay and Sandycove Island, the bay being sheltered from the sea, and popular with snorkellers.

As you round a point, the island gives way to one of the most spectacular views of ocean and coast in Ireland, stretching from Frower Head in the east to the Old Head to the west. I myself have seen the spouts of whales out to sea here. The whole walk is just over one mile in total, but it is a walk you must take if you love the sea.

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