• Mckenzie Dow

A Stone Circle and Plenty of Lambs | Castletownbere 3.0

Once again I found myself in Castletownbere during a bank holiday weekend. There is something so irresistible about this lovely little town and it always brings you back in one way or another. Everything about this place brings me joy, and here at Lady Mac Lifestyle, we are all about pursuing joy!

One of my besties, Emily, is in Ireland for the month so I knew I just had to take her to one of the best spots on the Beara Peninsula. Nick's parents were so generous and awesome, allowing us to join them over the weekend.

I've written a good amount of blog posts about Castletownbere, West Cork and its surrounding area (which can be found here, here and here, here, here and here). If my previous blog posts about this place haven't inspired you to book a flight yet, perhaps this one will!

For this holiday bank weekend I thought I would keep our adventures to just one post for the activities we got up to on our second day. This time around Emily and I explored some new things that neither of us had ventured into before. In addition to all the normal activities of eating crepes, sing-alongs in MacCarthy's, and taking strolls around town, we walked up into the surrounding hills on a whim. While the trek left me with a massive blister, it was well worth the views and fun!!

Our walk started off completely on a whim. We just started on a random road, following a brown sign with a little hiker symbol on it. I had not a clue as to where we might end up (remember to click on pictures if you want to see them bigger).

Right away we were surrounded by rolling green hills, some potential cow friends and enough mist to last you a lifetime. Emily was immediately enchanted. To be fair, how could you not be?

As we continued up the rural country road, you could see the mist rolling through the horizons. The rest of the country was apparently warm, sunny and bright but the same could not be said for Castletownbere!

As we turned a corner, Emily was quick to spot a structure made of stones buried beneath a heap of gnarled branches and greenery. It was so covered that you can barely see the door way/arch of the structure in the photo above. At first I thought it could have been the remnant of a bridge, because it was adjacent to a stream, but then Emily pointed out that it had the shape of a house, missing its roof! Upon closer inspection I agreed with her. Emmy desperately wanted to climb down to get inside, but there wasn't a great pathway to make it down the mini-ledge safely in the mud. Regardless, it was a neat find and I would have completely missed it had she not pointed it out. That's one thing I love about rural Ireland, you never know what you'll stumble upon.

As we continued to walk up the road, there were plenty of sheep families to be seen. Apparently the spring season means loads of little lambs are running about! We couldn't help but coo at every little lamb we passed by. We even saw the adorable sight of one of them taking a rest on top of a larger sheep. It was easily the most adorable thing I had seen all week.

As our walk continued, we turned a corner to be greet by an incredible view of Bere Island across the way. You could see the light house and despite the cloudy day, the view was stunning! The ocean was a gorgeous blue and the sun was shining down on the island so beautifully. I've been to one end of Bere Island in the previous year, but I would like to go again, probably to the other end (and remember my memory card for my camera this time). It's a small but thriving island, with a very cool archaeological and historical past.

On the other side of the road here, we stumbled upon a stone circle. This one in particular was called Derreenataggart. You can read more about it here. It was small, but still remarkable. I don't know much about stone circles and they remain a bit mysterious to this day. Often times these stone circles are in alignment with the way the sun rises during the different solstices and they may have had religious purposes. You can read a basic summary of stone circles in Ireland here.

The stone circle was small, but the stones themselves were tall enough! It was just so random as we hadn't a clue that they were up there. The circle is in a contained field just off the road and there is an unlocked gate you go through with a small sign explaining what you are staring at.

As you can see, the stone circles nearly blend right into the landscape on a cloudy day. Blink and you'd miss them! Apparently on our walk we may have completely missed a standing stone elsewhere, which goes to show how easy it is to not even realize you're near something of importance.

It's fun to imagine what these stone circles were used for and to simply think about how old they are. It's sites like these that make you realize how ancient Ireland truly is, and just how special, and nearly spiritual these lands truly are. It's hard to describe, but when you approach these neat archaeological specialties, something about them really grounds you and makes you feel connected with your surroundings and the vast history of the place. If you close your eyes you can nearly feel the footsteps of the generations of people who existed before you, and those of the generations that will follow you.

Perhaps this inevitable groundedness (is that even a word) is part of the draw of coming to Ireland? I'm not really sure, but I do know that it's a special feeling. It's the same kind of feeling you get when hear live music being performed in the Irish language. It bring that sense of connectedness to ancient times.

As Emmy and I continued our amazing walk, the weather started shifting in the most Irish way possible. The sun slowly started peeking out, the breeze got warmer and we had to shed our spring jackets as we continued to trek. I was amazed at the solitude of the area and how peaceful everything was. Very few cars passed us as we walked and the hills were quiet.

(That's Emily on the top right! Lovingly referred to by me, as Emmy. Her mom also calls her Emmadoodlebug sometimes. She might kill me for providing you with that fun fact.)

Emily and I continued to walk for a long time. When we stumbled up on the stone circle, we also noticed a sign directing us to a ring fort. We were silly and figured it was probably somewhat nearby. It was not. We kept walking for ages and ages, and eventually had to pee so bad that we popped a squat on a side road. Now don't judge, sometimes you gotta do whatcha gotta do! It was worth it.

As we continued to trek, the sun once again took shelter behind a cloud, emphasizing how misty and craggy the landscape was becoming. I was really intrigued by the change in environment as it went from green hills to craggy mini mountains and this golden tall grass that started taking over some of the fields. It was lovely to look at. We were also passed by a lad on a horse whose hips were level with my shoulders. The thing was massive! I immediately envied the perspective of the guy on the horse because exploring the Beara Peninsula by horseback is probably an incredible and unique experience. To travel the narrow roads in the way that the ancient ancestors did all those years ago, goes back to that groundedness that rural Ireland has about it. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way because Nick's Dad, Michael, said something very similar to us when I told him that we saw the guy on the horse in the middle of nowhere.

We finally spotted the ring fort in a field past some cottages. It is called Teernahillane. It looked massive and had a single small tree growing on top it, with its direction molded by the years of wind its endured. There was another unlocked gate you could open to get closer but there was a massive mud puddle right at the gate, so we opted to observe the ring fort from afar.

As you can hopefully see, the ring fort is rather large and very round. It is raised from the ground around it. Again, I do not know much about ring forts. Michael told us that they were often created as a place to live, where timber would have lined the fort with a homestead in the middle. Ring forts still stand across the country and farmers will often leave them untouched and simply work around them. You can read more about ring forts here and here. When I was eighteen, I'm nearly positive that during my first trip to Ireland my family and I went on a tour where you get to go into a smaller ring fort. So if you're keen to explore them in more depth it is definitely worth looking into.

When we reached the ring fort we were at peak exhaustion so we turned ourselves around and made our way back to Castletownbere. If we had a car, we probably could have kept going and done a big loop back, but alas we only had our feet to carry us from place to place and we needed to be back in time for a live music event at the Sarah Walker Gallery with Liam O' Maonlaí performing (it was awesome, in case you were wondering).

On our way back the sun peeked its way out again and I think you could see the next peninsula over, behind Bere Island. Do not quote me on that/rely on me because I'm not 100% about what I was looking at. That's just my best guess... (someone feel free to correct me).

All in all we made it back to the house in one piece, tired but happy with our day. For anyone exploring Castletownbere for the first time, I would highly recommend just following your whims and exploring as you go because you never know what you'll find and it's ALL absolutely beautiful. It's impossible to be disappointed!

My next West Cork posts will hopefully come in August when we return to Castletownbere for the notorious Regatta Weekend/Festival of the Sea. Ideally I'd like to go back to explore the other end of Bere Island, and perhaps road trip down to Bantry and Schull.

Until next time...

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