This loop walk is one of the Fastnet Trails starting from the Schull trailhead on the Mizen in West Cork. It follows the road out of Schull and then joins an old butter road leading gently uphill beside fields with expansive views across to Mount Gabriel and the Barnacleeve Gap. The Butter Road (actually a grassy track) is one of the old networks of routes leading to the butter market in Cork City. Here is a description from an information board near the start of the track…
This old road linked Schull and the Mizen to Ballydehob before heading east towards Kilcoe and Skibbereen. It was used in olden times by farmers to transport salted butter, in oak barrels – known as firkins – to the famous Cork Butter Exchange, founded in 1769.
Usually, 2 firkins holding 56lbs of butter each, were secured on pony back by hay ropes for the week long return journey. The area from Skibbereen to Crookhaven contributed up to 6,000 firkins per year to this market, which by the 1860’s had become the biggest butter market in the world.
Cork butter was very popular in the West Indies, Spain, Holland, South America and Australia.
This road fell into bad repair and in July of 1822 (a famine year) the construction of a new road commenced under Sir Richard Griffith, civil engineer.
Now known as the R592, it replaced this road in 1826, becoming the main route through the Mizen Peninsula
We walked this loop on a bright, calm, crisp November day when the colours in the landscape were turning to rich yellows and reds. The trailhead is by the car park to the east of Schull village and we chose to head down through the car park to join the footpath that passes above the harbour rather than keeping to the main road. The path joins the road again near the old railway station, now a private house.
The route soon turns off the main road and joins the Butter Road by the old mill, now restored as a photographer’s gallery. The road has a wonderfully ancient feel, lined by gnarled trees, ruined stone buildings hidden under ivy and rusting farm machinery being reclaimed by briars and nettles.
From the top of the track, small lanes lead down to the coast through Kilbronoge townland with wide views over the islands of Roaringwater Bay and across to the Fastnet Rock. The little quay at Derreennatra (Doirín na Trá: Strand of the little Oak Wood) is reached through two grand pillars and past an old cedar tree standing by a little bridge.
The route then returns to the old mill to complete the loop before retracing its steps back to the trailhead.