Touched by a rainbow. Slipping and sliding. A giant’s seat.
This is the second stage of my mission to re-walk the Sheep’s Head Way and Herself drops me off at the Glanlough parking area where I turned for home last time.
I walk down the road past the farm where the washing is drying in the breeze, go between high hedgerows and then turn onto the open hillside with Bantry Bay below me and the Beara across the water. As I begin to climb a rain-cloud moves across the bay and before it brushes against me a small rainbow appears before dissolving into bright mist.
Boggy track and ridges of rock wrinkled like grey elephant skin lead up the hill and I keep my eyes peeled for the waymarker posts which are difficult to spot in some places here. The track gives way to grassy tufts and the dark line of the path trodden by other walkers. Squelchy passages across boggy ground are punctuated by steep, slippery steps up low outcrops as the route makes its way across the small rocky ridges and grassed valleys running down towards Glanlough. The best views are behind me here and I take frequent looks back as the lough gets smaller in the distance before dipping below the near horizon.
I turn onto the first ridge, brighter out of the shadow of the hillside, and pass the turf cuttings, the first of many along this route, now roped off; I assume because they have become bog-holes. In the past, this quiet and peaceful area must have been busy at times with families cutting and drying turf (peat) for fuel.
Down and around the first of the dog-legs in the route which navigate around the small cliffs caused by geological forces shifting sections of the peninsular southwards. The path down is steep and slippery before turning sharply back through deep grass below the cliff and then back up the far side.
The path continues along the ridge and then drops to the lower saddle where the ‘Mass Path’ crosses the peninsular: a route for church-goers from the north side to find salvation in the south. Ahead is the back of Roskerrig Mountain, the ridge of the Baran Loop and the higher ridge route to Seefin. At the aptly named ‘Windy Gap’ the official main route of the Sheep’s Head Way heads off down towards the coast at Gortnakilly (see my notes below) but I vere south before turning west again to join the Seefin Loop. This area is one junction after another as loop walks and main routes converge.
The views to the south disappear while the path follows a contour to the north of the hill and then, once out into the open again, I look back onto the slopes of Roskerrig sweeping down towards Kilcrohane and I can see over Dunmanus Bay and the Mizen as far as the Fastnet Rock and its iconic lighthouse. Ahead, the trig point on Seefin points up behind the lower hills I have to go over to reach it.
From the trig pillar, the highest point on the Sheep’s Head peninsular, I ignore the posts leading down south and take the path behind the pillar moving diagonally northwards towards the car-park at the top of the Goat’s Path road (see my notes below). I keep my eyes peeled for the yellow paint-marks on the rocks but this ‘unofficial’ route has been used so frequently now that the path is easy enough to see. The last climb down off the mountain is a steep gully, easier to come up than go down, and I plant my poles carefully to avoid a nasty slip! From there it is an easy walk over the low hillock to the car-park at Finn McCool’s Seat which is busy with tourists on the Wild Atlantic Way and wait for Herself to arrive to take me home.
About the route
My route stays on the ridge instead of taking the waymarked main trail at Windy Gap which leads down to the Goat’s Path road before following it back up to ‘Finn McCool’s Seat’. At Windy Gap, follow the markers for ‘Seefin Loop’. At the trig point on the top of Seefin, there are waymarker posts leading down to the south – these are for the Seefin loop.
To find my route, go to the right of the trig point and move steadily to the North West. There are a few arrows painted on the rocks and the path can be easily seen. It is essential to follow it carefully because the last cliff can only be negotiated in one place, a steep gulley that needs care, especially if the ground is wet (which it usually is!).
10.6km (6.6 miles) in about 4 hours. Total ascent 460 metres (1510 feet).