Ballycotton, in east Cork, has impressive coastal views, sheer cliff ledges and wildlife-rich gorse land. No wonder it was slated as the setting for a Hollywood film, writes THOMAS BREATHNACH
BALLYCOTTON IS HOME to one of east Cork’s most dramatic cliff walks. A lookout during the second World War, when local defence forces watched the coast, the walk is now a highlight of the Atlantic coastal path and part of one of Ireland’s finest bird trails.
We start at the car park looking out to Ballycotton Island and lighthouse. We squeeze through a concrete stile that keeps farm animals from wandering, making our way on to the dirt path. Well trodden and undulating, it leads us along parallel to the black cliff face, where wire fencing protects us from sheer drops of up to 60m.
Masses of gorse provide a profusion of yellow flowers, and clusters of pink thrifts and white campions add to the palette of colour. The gorse and the surrounding outcrops provide sanctuary to many birds, including house martins, choughs and the occasional gannet.
To our left is a steep path down to a bathing area known locally as Paradise. It’s for the sure-footed only and best avoided during slippy conditions. We keep to the main path while a small herd of Friesians watch us curiously.
Advancing along the coast, we cross a small pasture until we reach a dramatic headland. With fine views as far down as the Old Head of Kinsale, this is prime picnic real estate, and so it seems an ideal spot to grab a little sustenance.
We lose ourselves in the tranquil Atlantic surroundings, admiring a cormorant perched on a rock face while we pig out on farmhouse cheese we picked up at a local market and red wine we picked up at Lidl.
Complying with the country code, no crumb goes unaccounted for as we gather our belongings. Then we venture on until we reach a stream that is bridged by wooden steps.
We’re now at the small cove of Ballytrasna, and waves froth as they ebb on to its secluded shingle beach. Grey seals are occasional visitors here, but today they seem to be fishing elsewhere.
As clouds come in from the south we leave the beach, at which point a boreen leads us inland. Passing an old green water pump, we reach a narrow road, and we keep right as it loops us back into Ballycotton under a mantle of deciduous hedgerow and elder trees.
Continuing down Church Street, we find ourselves back in the captive charm of Ballycotton. The village was to be the setting for Divine Rapture, a 1995 movie starring Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp, Debra Winger and John Hurt. The production’s financing fell through after a fortnight of filming, however, so Ballycotton missed out on Hollywood fame. Perhaps it was just as well.
Before coming to the narrow main street of the village I pass the now deconsecrated Church of Ireland, thatched cottages and a Marian shrine. To my left lies Ballycotton Bay, with the marshes of Shanagarry, beaches stretching out to Knockadoon Head and views as far as west Co Waterford.
At Spanish Point the fishing pier is a hub of activity in advance of a night’s trawling. The marine background is complemented by rolls of turquoise nets and schooners in bold shades of red and white.
Reaching my closest view of the Ballycotton islands and the goats that graze on them, I branch right to the sweeping hill that leads back to the car park.
Ballycotton, Co Cork
Start and finish Ballycotton car park.
How to get there Follow the R629 strand road into Ballycotton, passing though the village to the cliff top.
Distance Nine kilometres.
Time Two or three hours.
Maps Ordnance Survey Ireland Discovery Series sheet 81.
Suitability Easy, although take care with children, in bad weather or with high seas.
Refreshments Ballycotton should do the trick. You could try the Bayview Hotel or the Blackbird pub.