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Saturday, 13 September 2014

Old Head - Where Forest Meets Sea


I have postponed coming to Old Head, Co. Mayo, as a Bards In The Woods destination for a couple of years. With an outstanding warm and sunny weather forecast for September I decided this was the place to go at last.

Only one person shared this with me. Pity really, as I discovered this is a special place.

However, despite outstanding weather forecast and sunny blue sky when I left Carrowcrory, once past Westport I did drive into mist and haze.


The photos may cause here to look duller than it was. It was actually warm, dry and pleasant.

I did visit again a couple of days later, tide was almost fully out, and this is what it was like. Even the lifeboat was grounded


Tide was still out enough, while we were there, to walk around this little peninsula head


which had an interesting tree growing from it


Then over more beach. You can see the path into the woods beyond the lifebuoy post


Here is this headland when the tide is out ...


This is a 'Blue Flag' beach, an award for any beach in Ireland that is totally unpolluted.

Off up the sandy path into the Oak Wood


Through a gate


A lovely view from here


Up some stone steps, and here is the sign to show we are here :-)


There is good trackway here


and if you climb higher the woodland scenes are like this



and then it rejoins a trail that continues for about 2 km to finish at the main car park.


We did not walk that trail, though, as beautiful as it is. I did not walk it on my return a couple of days later so this is still on the 'to do' list.

I am thinking this is one of the most beautiful woodland forests in Ireland, which is largely enhanced by being next to the beach, by the coast and all of those coastal sounds, smells and embraces that mingle with the woodland ones.

Our attraction was to take the path that hugs the coastline


and through gaps this is what we could see


Some parts of the path seemed like scenes from paintings due to the varied light


and then comes the stile,


a kind of exit onto the wild shore


On top of there we decided would be a good picnic spot ... in the future, but not today, that was hazing and clouding over more at this moment.


I did come back here on my birthday, a couple of days later, Claire arranged this as a treat, and it was, indeed, a wonderful picnic spot :-)


and The Reek much clearer then too.


Beyond here, still around the oak woodland, really, for awhile, is a coastal walk


where Clare Island, one of the homes of Grainne O'Malley, becomes visible.


That rock jutting out to see was full of cormorants, shags and puffins, but I found the path was too slippery and risky, and I get vertigo easily anyway.

Some coasteering people arrived, I did not take any pictures of them, and they seemed intent on getting there.

Returning, and tide was in and shadows on the rocks reminded us


that evenings are earlier now.


Looking up, back at a part of the woods, not yet walked, blackberries there, still in blossom, berries not even formed yet and those formed still green or red.


Just a km inland and the blackberries were the largest, blackest and sweetest I had tasted for a long time. Very strange.

So now, time for some Bards In The Woods picnic.

We found this delighful hidden picnic table among trees against the beach


but it was cooler now, and though this pic does not show it, sun was now pushing the mist and haze away.


So, a beach side picnic it was :-)

On the way home there was some intent to stop at the wonderful ice cream parlour just up from the beach a little.


but it was closed.

Also, it is now painted all white, I did not take a photo, but it does not look so good either.

We tried to get an ice cream when we returned a couple of days later, but it now only opens at weekends in September. I have read that the ice cream and coffee is not as wonderful as it used to be either. Still, I would like to try again.

There was a stunning sunset as we left, but for some reason the pic will not stick to this blog post.

I will try again in a follow up post about some local Holy Wells we visited :-)