“Go west, young man” is a phrase we in the United States associate with the western migration of people in our own country; an expression of Manifest Destiny. As it happens, westward migration or flight has been occurring in many places over many centuries, perhaps millennia. Yesterday, Monday, May 27, we learned a bit about how the harsh, forbidding, far western reaches of this small island became refuges for men seeking to escape from religious and political persecution during various times of Irish history. We were told how they took this very marginal land and, through excruciatingly hard work, turned it into tiny farms from which they were able to eke out a subsistence. We were also told how, after successive failures of their potato crops, they were forced to either abandon these areas and head yet further west onto the ocean and parts unknown or die of starvation. It is an achingly beautiful landscape filled with heroism and sorrow.
Our hike took us along the further most north-western tip of the Sheep’s Head Peninsula; for those of us who walked the full walk, it was just over 9 miles. We passed down roads and through fields; we walked on very narrow, rocky trails high above the pounding waves of the Atlantic; at one point,there was even a rope anchored to the rocks to give us a little bit more confidence walking near the edge. It’s a good thing Michael had opted out of this portion of the walk.
Ann had arranged picnic lunches for us from The Creamery, a local restaurant/creamery. Oh, my gosh, our individual boxes were packed full of deliciousness: Huge, succulent prawns, piles of picked crab, melt-in-the-mouth smoked salmon as well as a leafy salad. Crisps and chocolate digestive biscuits filled in any unoccupied crannies of our tummies.
At the end of the peninsula, but not of the walk, was a lighthouse. Leg and foot weary as I was, I opted to look at the top of the lighthouse but not go down the stairs to the structure itself.* It was still almost a mile to the end of the walk and to the van that would take us back to our lodgings. All I can say is that I am glad that the wind, which had been blowing all day, as at my back as I trudged up those last few inclines.
Down to a pub for a liquid reward for a day’s outing well done and then back to the hotel and, ultimately, another fabulous meal at Manning’s in Bantry: A selection of small plates featuring, you guessed it, fabulous products from the area.
*Michael, who had opted out of the middle, post-lunch part of the walk did walk to the lighthouse from the place where the van was waiting for us, which gave him a couple of miles to add to his morning’s exertions.