Sunday 5 August 2018 Kinsale – Portmagee
Continuing this morning on the Wild Atlantic Way north we drove into the village of Kinsale, a pretty seaside town packed with craft shops, pubs and seafood restaurants,
then to Castleview just outside Clonakilty to visit the Michael Collins Centre which tells the story of his public life through the 1916 rebellion, but it was closed today.
Next stop was Skibbereen to visit the Skibbereen Heritage Centre which tells The Famine Story of the 1840s when 1 million Irish people died and at least another 1.5 million emigrated, but it was closed as well. Sunday doesn’t appear to be a very good day to visit museums in The Republic of Ireland.
Third time lucky, we drove to Mizen Head, Ireland’s most south westerly point located on the stunning Mizen Peninsula and it was open! Thank goodness because to get to the Head we had to drive on a single lane road with very little in the way of passing lanes. Mizen Head Signal Station was built in 1910 to save lives off the rocky shoreline and became the home of Ireland’s very first radio beacon in 1931. We walked through the Mizen Vision Visitor Centre located in the Keeper’s House and the Engine Room, down to a viewing platform to see caves and Fastnet Island Lighthouse in the distance and then across the famous suspension bridge spanning the gorge with spectacular views of the ocean below to views of the wild Atlantic waves and fascinating rock faces. we also managed to see two seals in the water below as we passed over the bridge on our return and climbing the last section of 99 steep steps to complete the journey. It is a very wild and unique part of Ireland and well worth negotiating the 6 miles of single lane road each way.
We continued along the Wild Atlantic Way north and then turned at Kenmare onto the Ring of Kerry and headed for Portmagee, ready for our early morning start to Skellig Michael. We parked in the carpark of the Skellig Michael Tours next to the church and cemetery with two other motorhomes. We had a very peaceful nights sleep.
Monday 6 August 2018 Portmagee – Cromane (Ring of Kerry)
Today in light drizzle, we walked to the moorings at Portmagee Harbour to catch our boat, Skellig Walker to Skellig Michael a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 13 km southwest of Valentia Island run by OPW. To land on the island you have to book at least 6 months in advance because boats are only allowed to take 12 passengers and land once a day, so we did not think we would have a chance. On the website they had a section for standby, we applied and received a call three days before with space for two people on Monday, so we jumped at the opportunity. Not only were we lucky in being able to land but we also rode in the only boat purpose built for this type of tour, with 12 leather seats in an enclosed area with windows all around and only taking 30 minutes to reach the island. All the other boats are open, each person has to wear moleskin suits and a lifejacket, and it takes 1 ½ hours to reach the island. We were certainly lucky!
The waves on the trip to Skellig Michael were 3-4 feet high and the weather was overcast with light drizzle at times. As we arrived the shard -like rock appeared out of the mist, an astonishing sight.
After landing we walked and then climbed 600 steps on a 1000-year-old stairway, which is in a scene from Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens. It was very steep and slippery because it had rained overnight as well as this morning.
On the way up, we saw two puffins and one of them came out onto the rock in front of us and stood which was less than a metre away. This is the closest we have ever been to any puffin and it was an unforgettable experience.
Close to the peak clinging to the cliff edges sit several stone beehive-shaped huts, oratories, a cemetery, stone crosses, holy wells and the Church of St Michael in a monastic site that dates back to the 6th century. These remains demonstrate the spartan conditions in which the monks lived until they left the island in the 13th century. An OPW guide gave us a great recount of the history of the site and the lives of the monks and later the lighthouse keepers who also came to live on this island 200 years ago when the first lighthouse was built. As the day continued the weather improved so we were able to see the sensational views of the Irish Coast and the island named Small Skellig which is home to some 35 000 pairs of gannets, making it the world’s second largest colony of the seabirds.
After such an awesome day we climbed back down and had our lunch, which we had to bring because there are no facilities on the island. while we waited for our boat to take us on our return journey. On our way, we stopped near Small Skellig to view these impressive seabirds and when he cut the engine the noise was extremely loud, and the smell of ammonia was quite noticeable, but the sight of the number of seabirds was worth it. This would have to be up there as one of the best days out on our trip to date. We are so glad we were fortunate enough to witness this remarkable tour.
We then continued around the Ring of Kerry to Cromane where we camped for the night overlooking Lough Caragh with 2 other motorhomes and Jack’s Bar and Restaurant 50 metres up the road. Another lovely view. We went for a drink and decided to stay and have dinner, seafood chowder and a seafood platter with a fantastic view overlooking the Lough. It was absolutely delightful and the restaurant for a Monday night was packed. The entertainment was a guy on a piano playing requests and other well-known songs.