Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A pass, old boats and a copper mine

We'd now reached the most southerly points of our tour of Ireland and we'd travelled on some of the most dangerous roads in the land.  I think of them all the Healy Pass would be the most impressive.  It was easy going for us, the passengers, sitting back in comfort while Henry guided us up and over the pass, across the Ring of Beara.  With stops along the way to take in the scenery, of course.

Road side grotto at the top of the pass with the road we had travelled snaking its way to the top.

Healy Pass, also named Bealach Scairt in Irish meaning “the way of the sheltered caves”, was built during the famine times in 1847 as a way to give work to those who would otherwise have starved.  I’d have wanted to be fed pretty well to have carved out that road.

Henry had to park on the road while we hopped out to look around.  The valley we had come through was rather barren and featureless.  Take a few steps at the top of the pass and look the other way, the scenery is entirely different.  Two different worlds.

On the way up the valley we had stopped to look at some recently dug peat. Everywhere else when we had spotted it, the road of the traffic hadn't allowed us to stop. No such problem here, there was a little side road and, once the van couldn't go any further, we walked the rest of the way up the hillside.

Luckily for us, a local man who has rights to this bog was there turning his peat rows over to let them dry.   He signalled to us to join him and happily explained the process.  He was happy to have an audience - a chubby, jovial little man. 

We thought Henry had arranged for the peat digger to be there but it turned out to be a happy co-incidence.  In my imagination our little teacher could be the last of the little people.

Back at the van we noticed a great little bridge and were told its history (which I've totally forgotten).  Too good a spot for a group photo to let pass.


To the right, all the Americans, then the two Australians, the grim Belgian and me.

Along the road to our next stop Henry decided to take a little back road to see if he could find a standing stone he'd heard about. We came to the spot where the road met the sea, a delightful little bay, but no standing stone was seen. Incidents like this was what made the tour so wonderful as far as I was concerned. I've always had a thing for the road less travelled. We got out of the bus to stretch our legs while Henry found somewhere to turn the bus around, no tourist spot could be more charming. 

I'd been wanting to get a close up of that orange flower that was everywhere in roadside hedges. Is it montbretia? It was growing so thickly at the side of road, I couldn't get any closer.

On the other side of the road tiny little fuschias were just as prolific.

It seems we really were in Ireland at festival time.  In Allihies, at the western end of the Beara Peninsula, it was festival time, too.  But all the action was the racecourse which was some distance from the pub where we had our lunch.  We found a few tables inside, didn't have to sit at the tables out on the road.

We were here to see the remains of copper mining in the area.  No mining has taken place for over a hundred years but the buildings still stand, grim and gaunt looking on a rocky hillside softened by the heather and gorse managing to survive on what little soil is trapped in crevices.

Look down from the path up the hill, though, and there is still a copper seam to be seen.

From up on the hillside we had a great view over the town and its colourful houses with the Atlantic in the background. 

There's a pretty, rural view away from the sea, too.

There were no more stops before we reached our destination for the night at Gougane Barra.  Of all the places we saw, this was my favourite.  I would have happily stayed for days.  I took many, many photos and will share some of them tomorrow.  


  1. I would have liked to see much more of the engine houses. They are fascinating buildings.

  2. Learning about the peat bog would have been one of my favorite things, i think.

  3. Backroads are the best and then take time. Don't rush. That's what makes a good tour.


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