This is an update of a post that originally appeared here 5 years ago. We find as time goes by that we need to go back and fix broken links, insert newer ones, and make sure the photographs are still faithful to what’s on the ground.
The Mizen is the Peninsula we live on, and of course we think it’s the most beautiful part of West Cork, and of Ireland. In Mizen Magic posts I exploring different aspects and areas of the Mizen – take a look at what I’ve covered. In this post I’m concentrating on the stretch from Schull to Castlepoint. The map below shows the area, with the village of Schull, our starting point, on the top right. The photograph above was taken from the top of Sailor’s Hill, while the one below the map provides a winter view of Long Island Sound – Coney Island, Long Island, the Calves, Cape Clear and Sherkin, with the entrance to Croagh Bay in the foreground.
It’s only a few kilometres, and it would take you about ten minutes to drive straight to Castlepoint from Schull. But where’s the fun in that? No- let’s start by driving (or walking if you’d rather) out to St Mary’s Church on the Colla Road. It’s largely an eighteenth century church, although there are hints of a medieval structure here and there, and it stands in what must be one of the most scenic graveyards in West Cork. You can read more about its past lives here.
Intriguing depictions of boats are scratched into the render inside the church. How old are they? Who did them and for what purpose? From there, I suggest you drive to the lookout on Sailor Hill – the trail arrows for the new extension of the Fastnet Trails will show you the way. We discovered Sailor’s Hill ourselves when I was researching belvederes – the redoubtable Connie Griffin has built his own modern version of a belvedere and there is no better place to get a view of Long Island Sound and the south side of the Mizen. Here’s the viewing house Connie built – perfect for contemplation.
Back down to the Colla Road, continue to the scenic little Colla Pier, where you can take the ferry to Long Island. It’s become one of our favourite things to do. The Island is idyllic, a wildflower heaven, and now that Castaway East is operating, we love to book a lunch or a coffee break and just take off for the day. Be sure to pack your camera – there’s lots of birdlife too, including these oystercatchers on the rocks at Colla Pier.
From the Pier the road winds across country, overlooking the sea here and there, and always with Mount Gabriel looming in the background. From here you can see tiny Coney Island, privately owned, and with one house which is rented out to holiday makers.
Beyond Coney Island are the Goat Islands – Goat Island and Goat Island Little – probably once one island, but now split into two, with a narrow passage between. There are feral goats on these islands, but not much else. They appear to be completely inaccessible, with craggy shores that are impossible to land on. That, of course, only makes them all the more mysterious. I’d love to hear from anyone who knows more about the Goat Islands.
The road now winds down to Croagh Bay (locally pronounced ‘Crew’), a lovely tidal sheltered inlet with the romantically named Gunpoint at its head. On the higher ground to the right you will see that an enterprising individual has converted one of the old signal stations into a unique residence. It must have the best view – but all those stairs!
We are now in the territory described by Robert in Here Be Pirates and in Pilchards and Palaces, and by me in Mizen Magic 23, Croagh Cove. Croagh Bay, or more correctly Leamcon House, was the site of William Hull’s house and a hotbed of piratical activity.
Nowadays it’s downright idyllic and the shallow waters of Gunpoint inlet provide sanctuary to wintering birds such as these shelducks.
Our last stop is the little pier at Castlepoint, offering a dramatic view of Black Castle, one of the O’Mahony Tower Houses that dotted the coast of West Cork in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This one is privately owned and the owner has stabilised and largely restored the castle, saving it for future generations from the all-too normal fate of dereliction that befalls West Cork Castles. I have described it fully in my post Black Castle, or Leamcon.
Robert looks across to Black Castle in the photograph above. The castle as the owner has stabilised it is shown below – he has done a first-rate job and we should all be grateful for his care of this important monument. The final photograph is of a small inlet by Castlepoint Pier.