Updated: Jan 16, 2019
We were traveling from Kinsale to Glengarriff and had a lot of ground to cover in one day. There were a lot of choices to stop and we decided to do the Mizen Head Peninsula rather than the Sheep’s Head Peninsula due to time.
I always like to ask locals what they think we should see on our journey. The man (Steve) at the front desk of our hotel in Kinsale (Acton’s Hotel) was extremely helpful! He pulled up our route and made lots of suggestions. He was originally from South Africa but was living in Timoleague. He suggested that we stop at the Timoleague Abbey which was on our way.
During breakfast it was downpouring rain so we took our time getting on the road. When it stopped we headed across the street to check out the boats in the harbor and we saw the sun starting to rise behind the docked boats. Then we knew we had to get on the road if we wanted to see everything on our list.
Harbour View Beach
Prior to arriving at the Abbey we stopped at the Harbour View Beach to take in the view. I never realized how beautiful the coast of Ireland was. There was a woman with her two dogs running along the beach and a family walking a bit in the distance otherwise we had the place to ourselves. The sun was starting to come up a little more which created a nice setting for some photos.
Steve gave us excellent directions and I am so happy we stopped. Once again we were one of the only ones there. It was eerily quiet yet very peaceful. It overlooks the Courtmacsherry Bay on the bank of River Argideen. The estuary across from the Abbey is a great location for birdwatching as more than 10,000 birds migrate here each winter.
The Timoleague Friary was founded in 1240 and the abbey was built on the site in the 6th century. Timoleague is known for beekeeping/honey and the Abbey is still used today as a cemetery.
When we went inside the abbey the doorways were probably 5 feet or less and I’ve never seen such bright green moss over the brick. Each doorway took you into a different room with a unique feel and you could just get lost in here. The pigeons had this place heavily guarded and one got a little mad at me when I was taking a picture close to the wall. I would highly recommend stopping here for the history, peacefulness and the scenery.
Altar Wedge Tomb
We had a general route that we were traveling and then specific spots we wanted to check out along the way. We all agreed that if we saw something that looked interesting we would stop. This particular spot was one of those stop and see what’s there locations. The tomb itself was interesting because of the history surrounding it but what I found the most fascinating was the scenery! Every direction I looked was magical. The clouds, the smooth green grasses, the orange grasses of fall, the water, the rocks and the sun. I wonder if we would have stopped at a different time of day or time of year would it still be as magical? The tide was lower which exposed more of the rock and water lines. It overlooked the Toormore Bay and faced Mizen Head.
The Altar Wedge Tomb dates back to 3000 BC at the end of the Stone Age. It is one of a dozen in the Mizen Peninsula and is lined up with the Mizen Peak. Archaeologists uncovered burnt human bone and shallow pits for food offerings, sea shells and fish bones. They also found whale bones. The ritual use of the site ended with the arrival of Christianity but then briefly resumed during the 18th century when the tomb was used as an altar by priests who were forbidden by law to say mass in church.
We then got back to our journey to Mizen Head. I was excited about this stop because of the cool bridge and I was hoping it was open due to the wind. When we arrived, there was only one other car in the parking lot, it did not look promising. Due to the time of year we were traveling a lot of things were either closed or had limited open times. Well I must not have checked this one because it was only open on weekends…we were there on Friday…so close! So we took in the view, walked to the locked gate and said oh well, maybe next time! The good news is we could stop at the one stop I was hoping we would have time for (it was an only if we had time stop).
Prior to leaving for our trip, I was searching Netflix looking for a movie that took place in Ireland. I came across this movie called “Dare to Be Wild” which was about a garden designer who won the Chelsea Flower Show. It was based on a true story and one of the locations from the story was in West Cork called Future Forests and the main character (Christy Collard) still worked there. I looked at a map and if we planned to go to Gougane Barra then it may be on our way.
So we set out to Gougane Barra and if we passed it we would stop. Well low and behold we went right past it and when we walked in I thought I saw him so I asked someone there and they said yes he’s out back. If you go now you can catch him. We caught up to him and explained that we had watched the movie and we talked for a bit with him and of course got our picture taken with him. His brother thought it was pretty cool and they said the movie didn’t take off as much in Ireland as it did across the pond (the US). It was an amazing gardening store that you should check out if you’re over there and a fun movie to watch.
I had read a lot of reviews that Gougane Barra was a must see if you are in the area. It is one of the most photographed churches so of course I wanted to get my own picture of its beauty. It was a bit off the beaten path but totally worth it!! When we arrived it was misty with a bit of fog and there were only a couple cars in the parking lot. The rain slowly started to come down but the backdrop of this church was truly breathtaking, and the pictures just do not do it justice. I would have loved to have spent more time here but we were losing daylight and had to get to our hotel in Glengarriff.
When we pulled into town it did not look too busy and our hotel was easy to find right off the main street. We stayed at the Park Hotel and we decided to eat there as well. There was really only a few options but the food was pretty good. After dinner we headed up to our room because the town looked pretty much deserted. It felt like we were the only ones or maybe one of 2 people at the hotel. We went to bed because we were going to get up really early to see the sunrise at Barley Lake.