Mizen Head (Carn Uí Néid), a spectacular location with its folded rocks and 700ft cliffs, is both the southernmost and “southwesternmost” point in mainland Ireland, and enjoys exceptionally clear waters, magnificent sunsets and stunning ocean views. Watch out for kittiwakes, gannets, choughs, seals, dolphins and whales.
The rugged promontory is reached down a steep pathway known as The 99 steps. Fortunately, there is an easier return path for the less energetic.
There is a lighthouse, a weather station, and an old signalling station, now a museum (”Mizen Vision!”), linked to the mainland by an alarming looking but actually remarkably solid arched metal suspension bridge.
The Mizen bridge, designed by Noel Ridley and constructed in 1910. (Photo – http://de.structurae.de)
Dunlough Bay is the only possible landing point along this wild coast. In July 2007 rescue services saved two Englishmen whose dinghy had capsized; it soon transpired that they had been transporting bales of cocaine from an offshore yacht that had sailed from the Caribbean, and more bales were found floating in the area, making this the biggest cocaine haul in Irish history
Three Castle Head, overlooking Dunlough Bay is named for three C15th Tower Houses with curtain walling, built on the site of a Bronze Age fort beside a cliff top lake. Access is restricted due to the unstable state of the castles, but it is worth asking if it is possible to visit. A path leads down steps to within spray distance of breakers that arch high in the air before pummelling the rocks.
Canty’s Cove in the townland of Dunkelly is named after a legendary C17th gentleman who used to lure ships to moor nearby, invite the crew to dine in his home, and when they were drunk enough, had them flung over the cliff, robbing anything of value on their persons or on the vessel.
Dunmanus Castle, situated on a turtle-shaped rock on the southern side of Dunmanus Bay, is the largest and best preserved of the O’Mahony castles on the Mizen Peninsula. According to archaeologists, it is likely that the castle was constructed in 1430 AD by Donogh More O’Mahony. It has six flanking towers connected with walls, and, unique in an O’Mahony castle, a dungeon below the ground floor, There are three main floors, each with vaulted ceilings, and the corner tower, another unusual feature, has five floors, making the interior stairways are rather complicated. (Photo – www.holiday-rentals.co.uk)
Dunbeacon (Co. Cork / Southwest)
Dunbeacon is a tiny hamlet with a ruined tower, built by the O’Mahony clan in 1460.
Dunbeacon church (RC) dates from 1834.
The Dunbeacon Stone Circle is the only such circle on the Mizen Peninsula, but unfortunately it is close to a caravan and camping site. Six of the eleven tall stones still stand around this very attractive small circle, which measures about 8m diameter and average 1.8m (6ft) high. There is also a central slab.
Cashelane Hill was where a WWII German plane, having been hit by the Royal Navy’s SS Major C, crashed on 5th February 1941, killing five of its crew; the sole survivor was taken as a prisoner and interned in the Curragh (Co Kildare). One of a number to view the wreckage was Miss Daisy O’Mahony from Ahagouna, but she drank poisoned water and died soon afterwards.
Drishane Bridge is at the northern end of a road that splits in two, one branch leading to Schull and the other to Ballydehob on Route 1.
Drishane Bridge is within easy reach of Durrus on ByRoute 1, an ideal place to start or end a tour of this or the Sheep’s Head peninsula.