Steeply up, gently down, looking across two bays, a lough, boreens, a cilleen and a quay.
Herself and I set out from Alice West’s House in Letter West, turning off the road up a track edged with fuschia and nasturtium. Deceptively gentle at first the track soon becomes knee-tremblingly steep as it heads towards the low ridge of the Sheep’s Head peninsular. Off the stony track onto a green boreen, the route hops into a field and then out again over two ladder stiles, skirts along a field boundary and over another stile onto the low ridge.
Crossing the rough ground, boggy in wetter seasons but springy underfoot today with the grasses looking splendid and bog asphodel just coming out, there are magnificent views north over Bantry Bay, the Beara and into Kerry; south over Dunmanus Bay, the Mizen and as far as the Fastnet Rock.
After a low boundary wall the path divides: north towards Cahergal, east up to the Peakeen Ridge and south down towards Caher with notices on the Peakeen and Cahergal routes advising that they are both strenuous and are not for the inexperienced.
Descending past the ripples and reflections of Coolturtaun Lough, rich with wildflowers around its banks, the winding track leads down to the road, turns to the east and then leaves the road again down a small boreen before joining a smaller road with high hedgerows.
Turning again at a bright blue house, the route follows a track through Caher as it descends gradually towards Trá Ruiam quay, passing the old Caher burial ground with it’s jumble of small stone grave-markers, and an old farmhouse before crossing a field, dog-legging around a house and climbing over a high wall with stone steps.
From the sheltered bay at Trá Ruaim with it’s newly repaired quay it’s a very stiff climb back up to Letter West to complete the loop.