DAY 7: Our last day in the West of Ireland and it was time to do some justice to our base for the past few days – beautiful St Finan’s Bay and nearby Valentia island on the less-visited, off the beaten track Skellig Ring.Why the Ring of Kerry does not include this area I do not know! It was a highlight for us and up there with Dingle and Connemara as our favourite areas. Quieter, fewer houses, unspoiled.
We stayed in a lovely big detached house (Airbnb) run by a local farming couple and we loved its all-on-its-own location at the end of a track and with sweeping views over the whole bay. Super quiet yet only a short drive to Portmagee and with plenty walks close by.We had originally planned to visit Skellig Michael via Ballyvaughan but next time I would book via Portmagee. I just liked that whole area better.
We had some wonderful sunsets over the Bay and some fine views of the Skelligs. An evening drive brought us this great light…..the hill is Bolus Mountain
There were two places I wanted to see today before we drove north to Shannon again – Bolus Head, which was reached via a well signposted easy hike promising superb coastal views. And Geokaun Mountain on Valentia Island.
Bolus Head/Bolus Mountain
The walk starts from the car park at the end of the minor road at the south end of the Bay, where there is a monument to the American Liberator, a plane which crashed off the Skelligs in 1944.
It was a glorious morning, already warm at 10.15am.We’d said our goodbyes to the very nice couple who were our Airbnb hosts.They were amazed we’d got flights from Edinburgh to Shannon for around £65 each return.
We set off along the minor road, not a soul around, just the sound of skylarks singing their hearts out way up in the blue.
Wildflowers lined the base of the stone walls and the field edges – white meadowsweet, dark pink ragged robin, clumps of soft pink sea- thrift, buttercup, clover, bluebells – what a beautiful time of year.We were also delighted to see yellow flag iris – or sealasdair (pron. shallister) as we know it in Scottish Gaelic – not out at home till June and such a feature of the Hebridean landscape.
The route suggested that we head out towards the cliffs first but I was keen to get high on the ridge right away and there was a very good track up to it. From there, we decided to push on further up again and take a very eroded peaty track up onto Bolus Mountain itself which looked as if it would be an even better viewpoint than the Barracks area signposted.I’ll re-write that – I thought it would be a better idea to get up onto the summit of Bolus Mountain for the best views of all.Chris, shocked at suddenly being presented with a harder uphill slog, baulked at the idea.He shook his head looking up at the eroded peaty track that went up and up and up.Maybe it’s the fact that in the few weeks run up to the holiday we’d climbed 13 Munros – mountains in Scotland over 3,000 feet or 914m.Chris had had enough climbing! Torc Mountain had been the ONE minor slog he’d psyched himself up for.Now here was his wife, as usual, suggesting another bit of hard work.Perhaps people from afar looked at our outlines up on that ridge and imagined we were having a nice chat about what we were seeing; a happy couple on holiday.Instead we were having a minor humdinger. Well to cut a long story short, I finally about turned and began climbing up the track, muttering self righteously to myself about how difficult Chris could be.And yes, lazy! (that from me, as lazy as you can get at times). In fact, a few minutes into the ascent, I turned round and saw that he had decided to come up after all…ah, the trials and tribulations of marriage…..
It was only 10 mins or so up to the top, a bit of a huff and puff but perfectly easy. And what a reward came from reaching that big roomy summit! Wow – headland upon headland, islands, skerries, endless ocean and in the far distance but looking very near, MacGillicudy’s Reeks at Killarney.
Behind us, the Skelligs looked quite small, almost insignificant amidst the vast vistas of Dingle and Brandon, Valentia Island and Ballinskelligs Bay.
Stunning on such a clear, sunny day.I don’t stay angry for long and given the joy of it all, I gave Chris a big hug which was mildly – mildly – returned.Oops…slow to anger, slow to forgive but I knew he was thawing a bit.
It was hot! Had a few crisps and apples and drank a fair amount of water. It’s always difficult to leave a summit, even a ‘lowly’ one of 410m but quality not quantity and this hill packed a big punch. It had only taken us around an hour to reach the summit, yet what a huge reward.
We retraced our steps back down onto the road again, then headed for the car. Saw a couple of choughs feeding on the ground, with their distinctive red bills and legs. I’m not a crow fan but these are quite handsome birds. We detoured off the road to have a look at the impressive cliff scenery which is a feature of this part of the coast.
Really, I could have spent all day here, it was so enjoyable and peaceful but we had a long 3.5 hour or so drive to get to Bunratty tonight before our morning flight out next day from Shannon and Geokaun Mountain was still on our ‘must see’ list.
Portmagee and the Skellig Experience
Stopped off at the Skellig Centre to get tea and some cake.It’s on Valentia Island,opposite Portmagee ( I really loved this little village) but the island is connected via a road bridge though you could also just walk across, they are so close.It’s a lovely spot and thankfully we avoided some of the coach tours the centre is obviously set up to cater for.
Under bright sunshine, Valentia Island looked really beautiful.We drove out towards a headland and stopped for some wonderful views over to Puffin Island and the Skelligs.
Then we followed the road signs up to Geokaun, where a small entry fee allowed us access onto a wide, rough track which led to various parking areas on this small compact hill.We made for the highest point, which gave stunning views over Caherciveen and Dingle, the endless ocean and intricate bays.These were views I’d admired often from photos and now here it all was, in crystal clear conditions (one benefit of rainy weather) looking magnificent. There are various short walking routes signposted which would have been ideal to do with more time.
We also stopped at the incredible metal platform which has been built to allow excellent views of the cliffs. They were really quite a sight, well worth the entry fee alone.
We had seen a large car wheelie about after approaching the pay point, presumably annoyed at having to pay for entry – big mistake! You could easily spend a couple of hours here, walking the trails , having a picnic etc and just enjoying it all. It’s been well done and the fee must help a little towards maintenance.
It did strike me that perhaps we made a mistake not paying entry to see the ‘finest cliffs in Kerry’ which were advertised beside a house just above Portmagee. We DO have a lot of fine cliffs at home so perhaps don’t feel the need to view too many more unless ultra special. I did think those at Geokaun fell into that category but if we’d more time, I would have liked to have seen other ones too – that advertising was very persuasive.This is certainly something we are not used to in Scotland – being charged to see a view/cliffs etc.These things are free.
And that was the last bit of real sightseeing we managed during our 7 days in the beautiful West of Ireland. An uneventful , long drive up to Bunratty on excellent roads with not even a pothole in sight (our roads just now are truly dreadful after some hard winters.) A brief stop in pretty Adare village with its little thatched houses and a quick look at Bunratty Castle and early next morning it was goodbye to Ireland. What a wonderful holiday it had been, with mostly fine weather to enjoy some very memorable corners of the beautiful Emerald Isle.