Day 3: 75 Miles

Chris from Russagh Mill had been pretty insistent that we would want to go and see Lough Hyne (Lough is pronounced like the Scottish Loch) before we left Skibbereen. This was one of the optional routes on the trail but would involve us cycling out and back along the same road. We did cycle down here, and at the time I felt it would be a lot more impressive if we could have seen something through the mist and fog. The sign told us about the island in the middle of the Lough where the donkey-eared king was meant to live, but he didn’t put in an appearance for us.

While we were at the Lough, we met a group of open water swimmers who also started describing the bioluminescence that Chris from the hostel had been sending people out night kayaking the night before. They described that it was best in September/October when it would be like swimming in a lake of diamonds (my Dad and I did make a trip back there later that year to see this phenomenon, and I can say that it is amazing. It is related to the fact that this is a freshwater lake, but then there is the influx of the sea at high tide which makes a rare and diverse environment and there is a particular type of bacteria in the water which releases this light. You need to wait until it is really dark, so you look like someone on drugs standing up to your ankles in the lake in the pitch black in the middle of nowhere talking about the lights but any movement you then do in the water is like fireworks or sparks coming off your hands, it is beautiful and very hard to describe, but I also digress from this trip).

We then needed to cycle back towards Skibbereen, and the weather started to clear up, and the sun even came out. The roads became very Irish- they were completing works on the road which would have shut an English road for a few weeks I’m sure. Instead, they stopped the traffic long enough to dump a load of rubble in the middle of the road and then send the queuing cars, and us on our bikes, across the rubble to level it out. We were, therefore, skidding across the gravel, rubble as big as my foot and dust while cars flew past on our road bikes. It kept us guessing, and I must say that in general, the road surfaces were a lot better than you find in England, so maybe they had something right.

A misty view of Lough Hyne and the island where the donkey-eared king lives.

We picked up some food for lunch from a village shop and then continued until a tomb/altar with a view of the sea for lunch. It had originally been a bronze or iron age tomb which had then been used by the Catholics to celebrate mass when they had been banned from doing it inside a church.

From here we headed off down Mizen Head which is the most south-westerly point in Ireland. There were so many coves of white sand and views out to sea; there was even a tourist stop at the end which very importantly had a café with tea. Back at the top of the peninsula, we came to the village of Dullus. We had the choice of going down Sheeps Head which was the adjacent peninsular to Mizen or cutting across to Bantry, as it was 5:30 pm we opted for the second of these options. Also, Bantry looked to be the last of the notable sized towns/villages between us and our accommodation so it would be the last place we could guarantee to get food.

After our dinner stop it was only 11km to the B and B, and I was very happy when we reached the signed that indicated only 3km to go however this turned out to be 3km uphill and I did think that the others in the group were going to kill me for having booked this night of accommodation. When we got to the Waterland’s Retreat, we were treated to a very warm welcome, a secure shed to store our bikes, more tea and scones and a very comfortable night.

Our lunch stop at the Iron/Bronze age tomb and later the Catholic altar.

White sand beaches down on Mizen head.

To Be Continued…