This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Here’s the full list. Click on the photos for a closer look!
Day 5: Castletownbere to Allihies (10.2mi, 6 hours 16 minutes)
We awoke around 7, took our showers, and packed up our now-dry laundry. Our host provided the usual tasty full Irish breakfast, we fetched our leftover sandwich from yesterday from the fridge, and we hit the road, walking the mile into Castletownbere for the fourth time.
Today was beautiful and sunny, and as we ascended up some hills we gradually stripped off layers. We had prepared the night before by surveying our potential routes – the official trail had us detouring up to the crest of a hill, and eventually meeting back up with the road we started on. We reached the turnoff for that detour, and it was just as we feared: a steep, boggy trail through a marsh. We stuck to the road, which was narrow but not busy. Along the way there was a Stonehenge-like formation of standing stones! The views along this road are gorgeous panoramas of Castltownbere and Bere Island.
About a half-mile after the official trail rejoined our on-road route, we turned onto a gravel track, and found a place to eat lunch. We spotted some strange plants with enormous, tough leaves, and sent a photo back home to Lucy.
Today’s main challenge was crossing over the pass to the other side of the island. This dirt track was the beginning of the ascent, and it continued on a footpath. It was pretty steep, and we took frequent breathers. We reached the top and took one last look eastward, from whence we came. It was amazing.
We continued through the pass, reaching the other side for a grand vista of where we were going – we’re pretty sure we can spot our inn from here. The dirt track started going downhill, and our pace slowed again as our knees started complaining.
There are lots of historical placards here regarding the area’s history in copper mining. It turns out this area played a large part in the industrial revolution, though the Irish were treated as subhuman for much of it. We stick our heads into an old pumphouse, where a steam engine would have pumped water out of the mine 500 feet below our feet.
We arrived in Allihies around 5pm, and the pre-supper pub crowd was starting to gather. Our B&B is charming and large, and we settle immediately into our room for the tea tray. We’re pretty hungry, though, so we head to the pub (two doors down) around 6, and get a table in the back.
We once again take our puddings home with us, stopped at the little neighborhood store for a small bottle of wine, and watch our shows and read until we can’t keep our eyes open, around 9pm. The biggest surprise of the day: Becky actually liked banoffee pie!
Day 6: Allihies to Garnish (6.2mi, 5 hours 7 minutes)
Today we were up and out late, since we had a stop planned. The Allihies Copper Mine Museum is small, but has a bunch of great exhibits that talk about the history, significance, and workings of a 19th-century copper mine. We spent a fascinating hour there, and made sure to tour the gallery upstairs before moving on.
Our path today starts off by skirting a beach, which it turns out is made out of crushed silica, which was waste from the copper mine!
See that big hill in the last photo? Our goal today is to skirt the right edge of it, and get to the other side of the next one. The first leg has us skirting the ocean on the top of a cliff, crossing fields and pastures. We took our lunch on a pile of rocks overlooking the rocky coast.
From here it was up, up, up. The gentle slope of the road gave way to a steeper climb on a footpath. Once we got high enough, we spotted the Skellig Islands, which you probably know from a movie. We listened to Revisionist History (which we heartily recommend) as we climbed, and met a nice Dutch couple hiking the other way. We explained to them that Irish food wasn’t actually bad, and they showed a surprisingly strong interest in US politics.
Once we crested the hill, we could see our endpoint in the valley ahead. There’s no town, just a scattering of houses and restaurants. The main draw in this part of Ireland is the Dursey Island cable car, which we’re slated to ride tomorrow, so as we go back to road walking, we are passed by quite a few cars on their way to or from that attraction.
We arrive at our B&B, and are greeted by our host, who is supremely nice and accommodating. We’re accustomed to readjusting our plans every single night at this point, so when we see a weather forecast for the next day that looks startlingly like our first day, we take stock and re-plan.
Dinner is monkfish, meat stew, local beer, and cheesecake, and it is very welcome. We stay up way too late watching our shows and reading (my book just got really good).