Dunlough Castle

The first sight of Dunlough Castle invariably elicits the response: “wow!”

After a 20 minute walk first through pleasant meadows and then an easy climb up rocky ground the castle with its three towers, bounded on one side by sheer cliffs and on the other by a lake, comes into view.

“Wow” indeed.

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(Left click on any photo to see it in larger size.)  

“A hidden gem” is an over-used travel cliché but it is appropriate in this instance. The castle, on the north-western point of the Mizen Peninsula in West Cork, is hidden from the public road and is not touted in any brochure as a popular destination. It is on private property, is not sign-posted in any way, and visitors are not so much encouraged as tolerated. It is well worth seeking out, however.

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The lake was man-made. A legend persists that if one sees the spectral Lady Of The Lake one’s death will follow soon. 

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It was built in 1207 by Donagh O’Mahony who was driven west to this extremity by the invading Normans and their Irish allies. The O’Mahony clan lived peacefully here and in other castles in the area for the next 400 years and earned a living primarily from fishing related activities. Their fortunes declined after the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and by 1627 the castle had passed into loyalist hands. It was probably abandoned soon afterwards.

The dry-stone construction nature of the building has meant that many of the stones have fallen over the centuries. Still, for a castle that is over 800 years old, and given its location in one of the wildest parts of Ireland, it is in remarkably good condition. Visitors should note that there is a risk in getting too close to it (although it is impossible to resist) as one never knows if the next falling stone could be on one’s head!

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Detail showing the dry-stone (no mortar) construction and some of the fallen stones.

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An interior view of one of the towers. 

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Note the sheer drop into the sea.

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On the ground above the castle is this memorial to Andy Brubaker who died on 24th March, 1996. I would welcome any information on him.

Where it is.

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How to get there.

If you have a SatNav dial in these co-ordinates: 51.478, -9.815.

This will bring you to the small car parking area at the edge of Dunlough Bay.

If not, keep on the road for Mizen Head. When you come to the junction with a sign showing Mizen Head 3kms to the left continue on straight, turn right at the next junction and keep on the narrow road until you reach the car park.

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The car parking area is next to the magnificent Dunlough Bay.  

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The land is private property and is owned by the famous French/German writer and illustrator Tomi Ungererer whose  house is in the distance. From here, you walk. You are *not* allowed to drive up that road.  

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The route is roughly as shown on this map.

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Veer left as shown before you come to the house. Do *not* approach it!

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I would suggest €2 as an appropriate donation.

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The route is through verdant meadows and (in the distance) steeper rocky ground.

When you get back it is worth staying awhile to drink in the beauty of Dunlough Bay. I was there on a beautiful day in mid-Summer. It must be a wild place indeed during a winter storm.

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Dunlough Bay from next to the car parking area.  

 

(Thanks to Noel Lane of Cork City who told me about this magical place.)

 

 

 

Fastnet Lighthouse

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I recently had the opportunity to go on an evening trip around the Fastnet Lighthouse in West Cork.

It is a place that has held a fascination for me for a long time. This wonderful lighthouse stands on a rock 8 miles off the coast in an area notorious for its heavy seas. It was once known as “Ireland’s Teardrop” as it was the last part of the country that Irish emigrants would see as they sailed to America in the 19th century.

Lighthouses are all operated automatically now but it was manned until March 1989 and one can only admire the resolution and bravery of the lighthouse keepers who worked here over the years.

The construction of the present lighthouse was begun in 1897 and was commissioned on 27th June 1904. It replaced an earlier one started in 1853 but which was too weak to cope with the often severe weather. It is comprised of 2,047 dovetailed blocks of Cornish granite. It is 44.5 metres high.

The tower was first built in the Cornish yard of the contractors John Freeman & Sons to make sure that each granite block fitted perfectly. It was then disassembled and each block shipped to Ireland. It is a wonderful feat of construction. When it was completed the vertical variation from the original plan was only 3/16th of an inch. And despite the battering it has got from storms it still looks pristine and I understand the interior is perfect as well.

Every second year the Fastnet Race sees yachts competing in a 608 nautical mile course from Cowes on the Isle of Wight around the Fastnet Rock and finishing at Plymouth. In 1979 a storm with gusts of up to force 11 resulted in the deaths of 15 yachtsmen and 3 rescuers.

The sea was unusually calm on the evening I was there and that, combined with the beautiful light of the setting sun, helped me to take some nice photos of this beautiful lighthouse.

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