The walk then comes onto the county council road, and where it meets
the Goats Path Road TURNS LEFT. It then takes the FIRST RIGHT up a
winding the hill, locally known as Bawn’s Road, to the top of the hill
at Boolteenagh (“place of little booles or cattle enclosures”). Along
this Road there are spectacular views of Whiddy Island, the inner
harbour of Bantry, and you should be able to see three ring forts: two
to the east and west of you atopdrumlins, and one in the centre right on
(This should not be taken that there is a right of way to these ring forts.)
Ringforts are usually associated with early Christian times – from AD 400 onwards. They were not forts in the military sense of the word, but were used as farmsteads and as protection against cattle raiding neighbours and wolves. They were also home to a variety of craft industries, and are usually sited on a hill so as to afford a commanding view of the countryside. There are dozens of ringforts, usually in an overgrown state, on the Sheep’s Head peninsula, and are distinguished by their circular shape and concentric fosse, or ditch, on their outside.
The Walk then leaves the road and goes along the top of the ridge to
Glenlough. One of the features you will first notice are the stone
cairns left behind by the Ordnance Survey when they came here in the
1830’s to make the first detailed maps of the area; these maps were
in 1842. This nation-wide “translating” the Gaelic townland-, village-, rivernames etc. into English provides the storyline for the play “Translations” by Brian Friel.
Here, Yolland, the British Army Ordnance Survey officer is talking to Owen, the son of the local hedge schoolmaster and who is acting as “translator” to the survey.
YOLLAND: He knows what’s happening.
OWEN: What is happening?
YOLLAND: I’m not sure. But I’m concerned about my part in it. It’s an
eviction of sorts.
OWEN: We’re making a six-inch map of the country. Is there something
sinister in that?
YOLLAND: Not in…
OWEN: And we’re taking place-names that are riddled with confusion
YOLLAND: Who is confused? Are the people confused?
OWEN: …and we are standardising those names as accurately and as
sensitively as we can.
YOLLAND: Something is being eroded.
The poet John Montague also puts it well:
The whole landscape a manuscript
We had lost the skill to read,
A part of our past disinherited;
But fumbled, like a blind man,
Along the fingertips of instinct
About a mile west of Loch na Fuilla if you look north you will see a small inlet on the coast near Reen Point. It is here that in 1602 the English General Carew’s army embarked from to lay siege to Dunboy Castle, just of west of Castletownbere on the other side of Bantry Bay. After the fall of Dunboy, Donal Cam O’Sullivan began his “Great Retreat” that eventually led him to exile and death in Spain. What began at the height of winter and with over 1000 followers and soldiers in Glengarriff ended, after much hardship, in Leitrim with just 35 people left. (The lands from Beach to Gerahies on this side of the Sheep’s Head peninsula belonged to Donal Cam’s uncle, Sir Owen O’Sullivan.)
The Walk then proceeds to a new concrete Ordnance Survey marker, and crosses a county council road near Fahane (“little lawn or field”), and comes off the hill in Glenlough (“glen of the lake”).
When you reach the council road at Glenlough, TURN RIGHT, take your first tarred road then LEFT, then RIGHT again. After a short spell on this road, locally known as “The New Line”, you TURN LEFT and begin a climb up Gouladane. (There is a B & B near here, and the next one after you come off the hill is nearly three hours away, so a decision at this point must be made.) Fog can be a problem at the top of this hill, so an alternative route would be to use the Goats Path road which meets the main walk some miles to the west when the walk comes off the hill.
There is a local story that two Tobin men were up on this hill
collecting turf on Christmas Eve 1796, when they saw the British fleet
south of Baltimore. Knowing that the French were in Bantry Bay, they
came down and rowed out to the French and, apparently, spoke to Wolfe
Tone and the crew of the
«L’Indomptable» to warn them of the approach of the British.
Later one of them received a summons to go to Bantry and on his way he met the local hedge schoolmaster near Gerahies who read the summons for the Tobin man. “If you go to Bantry, you’re dead”, he informed the Tobin man who then left for America and never returned.
One of the Tobin men was “Dick the Pilot” from Gortnakilly, Kilcrohane, so named because he piloted the sailing ships into Bantry Bay. The name of the other man who left for America is unknown.
At just over 1000 feet Gouladane is the highest point of the walk. This is the hardest climb of the walk, but you will be amply rewarded at the top with the view and the fine open and flat walking terrain.
The townland of Gouladoo (“black forks, in streams or hill”) is aptly named, as there are a series of small valleys cutting through the hill. Sometimes you must go slightly south, sometimes north, to get around the small cliffs, so keep a sharp eye out for the “walking man” signposts. Across Bantry Bay to the north and west you should be able to see an Adrigole Harbour and Bere Island. You are viewing the back of Ahakista to the south, and on a good day, further south, you might be able to see the Fastnet Rock.
Alternative Route: Seefin Ridge
This new walk is a realignment of the main Way, that now allows one
to walk the ridge of the peninsula from Glenlough to Seefin. From the
Four Corner Stone to Seefin it is a moderate climb to the top of Seefin
(345 m) – fantastic views and magnificent sweeping scenery. Extreme care
is needed. Not in bad
weather or for the inexperienced walker. From the Junction at Four Corner Stone to the top of Seefin about one hour. (In bad weather, we recommend taking the main walk north to the road at Gortnakilly.)
To come off the hill the Walk uses and old Board of Works road made around the turn of the century for access to these turf bogs, and comes out onto the Goats path road at Gortnakilly (“field of the Church”). You then TURN LEFT and walk for about 1.5 miles on the Goats path road, where just before the top of the road by the Marian year statue, TURN RIGHT onto an other old bog road, locally known as the “Horseshoe Road”, so named because of a horseshoe shaped bend in the road further west.
Alternative route: Peakeen Ridge
You may create here a circular walk in conjunction with the main Way:
From the Seat of Finn at the top of the Pass, where the Sheepshead Way
crosses the Goat’s Path Road, this Ridge Walk goes in an east-westerly
direction – this is a Ridge Walk not suitable for inexperienced walkers
or in bad weather.
From the Seat Of Finn to the west, it is a 30 minutes fairly easy walk on open hill and rock, to a recently discovered Wedge Tomb (approx. 4000 yrs. old). Beyond the Tomb, the terrain becomes very rugged and it is stiff climbingto the peak – beware of many bog holes, extreme caution necessary at all times. From the peak, descent is easier with more steep inclines further down. This walk offers the most spectacular scenery and views, and also is an excellent Loop Walk. Peakeen joins up with the Black Gate Path at Peakeen Junction where one can choose to go north to Cahergal or south to
Black Gate (Letter East).
Alternative Route: The Black Gate Path
From the Peakeen Junction to Cahergal is very difficult terrain to walk. This walk takes about one hour of hard walking. From the junction, with Peakeen to the road south at The Black Gate (Letter East) is about one half-hour steep walking downhill.
Just above Horseshoe Road you might notice a long low stone seat which President Mary Robinson unveiled when she officially opened the Sheep’s Head Way in July 1996. This monument was made by Ken Thompson, who also did the Air India Memorial in Ahakista. Seefinn, which is the nearby and highest mountain on the peninsula, is the “the Seat of Finn”, that is, the seat of the legendary Irish hero Finn Mac Cool.
He (Finn) made his way to the stronghold of the king of Bantry and joined his band of fighters and trackers, but he told noone his name or lineage. Before long it was clear to all that the newcomer had no equal as a hunter. (Over Nine Waves, translated by Marie Heaney. )
Finn Mac Cool obviously sat down here after his days hunting, so we thought it appropriate to have the seat ready for him and one that would suit his royal status, when he returns to us to hunt again. In the meantime you are more than welcome to use it.
When the walk meets the county council road at the end of the Horseshoe Road, TURN LEFT and go on for about a half-hour until you see a style on your RIGHT.
Here decision must be made, alluded to earlier in this guide. There is a section of the following part of the walk which goes along and old path right on a cliff edge; although a hand rope has been provided, it is not for peoplewho suffer from fear of heights. As one local sage put it: “It is not for the weak, the fainthearted, or the seriously pregnant.” Nor is it suitable for anyone during bad weather or when a gale is blowing. So an alternative route is clearly indicated on the map. However, for the adventurous this part of the walk contains some the more memorable scenery and some of the most interesting buildings and stories associated with the area. So make up your mind.
A short way from the road you pass a small standing stone, which archaeologists say is not an ancient Neolithic one. One local story has it that a drowned sailor, washed up on the shore, is buried beneath it.
Next the walk passes through a series of ruined houses, known as the Crimea (pronounced CRA-MAY). At one time it was home for seven families, and the “Crimea” was the address given by the children who went to the school from here. It is also named on the Ordnance Survey Six Inch Maps. Presumably the name comes from the Crimean War – Florence Nightingale, the Charge of the Light Brigade, etc. How did this come about?