Ireland – Mizen Head and the Fastnet Rock

Ireland Mizzen Head

The Rock Hill House served a first class breakfast in a dining room overlooking the gentle sea and a big blue sky and we lingered for a while before we left and after dining took some time to explore the surrounding wild flower gardens.

Today we were heading west, to Mizen Head, the most south-westerly point in mainland Ireland and the location of a lighthouse station and a rocky cliff top terminus and after only a short drive along a spectacular coast road overlooking sandy beaches and the Atlantic Ocean we arrived at the visitor centre and bought our entrance tickets.

The walk to the old lighthouse took us up and down steep raking steps and across a bridge where the Atlantic Ocean surged with anger and rage between fiercely jagged rocks  just thirty metres or so below our feet and very soon we were at the most south-westerly point of the peninsula and could go no further and we were staring out at two thousand miles of water and next stop Canada and the USA.

At 10°27’ longitude Dingle, slightly to the north of our position today, claims to the most westerly town (as opposed to city – this is important) in Europe but whilst this may be true there are lots of other ‘most westerly’ claims to take into consideration.

Mizzen Head Ireland 1

The Blasket Islands (10°39’) at the end of the Dingle Peninsula are the most westerly point in the British Isles but these have been uninhabited since 1953, Iceland is the most westerly country in Europe and Reykjavik is the most westerly capital city (21°93’); Lisbon (9°14’) is the most westerly city on mainland Europe and furthest west than anywhere else are the Azores at 31°30.

When someone tells you that something is the biggest or the longest or the highest or the heaviest it is always worth checking up I find.  The most westerly point in Asia is Cape Baba in Turkey and in the United States it is Alaska which is also the most easterly as well because it stretches so far that it crosses right into the eastern hemisphere (a good pub quiz question that).

Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse

Four miles further south we could see the Fastnet Rock a small rocky islet in the Atlantic Ocean and the most southerly point of Ireland. It is the location of a famous lighthouse because these are some of the most dangerous waters around the British Isles.

Due to its location, Fastnet is known as “Ireland’s Teardrop”, because it was the last part of Ireland that nineteenth century Irish emigrants saw as they sailed to North America.  There are sixty-three lighthouses around the coast of Ireland but there are no lighthouse keepers any more because these days they are all automated and controlled from a secret central point somewhere on the mainland.

After an hour or so we left and drove east, stopped for a while for a walk on a magnificent sandy beach and then continued to Crookhaven, the most southerly village in Ireland, which is a leisurely place today which depends on tourism but was once a thriving port because the harbour here was the first and last place for ships to stop before or after crossing the Atlantic to and from America.

Ireland Beach

Lots of people crossed the Ocean from this part of Ireland because it was very seriously affected by the Irish famine of the 1840s and it isn’t difficult around here to find museums and restored cottages dedicated to the memory of the disaster.  Inside the cottages there is generally a recreation of a typical mid-nineteenth century family home and information boards about the famine and the consequences.

It seems that at that time Irish people lived almost entirely on potatoes and that a working man would eat as much as fourteen pounds a day – that is a lot of potatoes, roughly equivalent to two hundred and fifty bags of potato crisps (chips)!

Now, I know potatoes are versatile – boiled, baked, mashed, fried, hash browns, dauphinoise, gnocchi etc. but I imagine this sort of diet can become awfully monotonous!

potatoes

Unfortunately not only did the Irish rely completely on the potato they specialised in just one variety.  The Arran Banner was a reliable heavy cropper but not such a reliable heavy cropper when the  potato blight virus dropped by and a succession of harvest failures in the late 1840s led to starvation, death, farm failure, cruel and vexatious evictions by English absentee landlords and eventually mass emigration to the United States.

Interestingly it is most likely that the virus came from the United States in the first place (just like the phylloxera virus that infected French vine crops at about the same time) but regardless of this they blamed the English and five million Irish (80% of the total population at the time) chose to go there anyway.  Today nearly sixty million people in the USA, almost 20% of the population, claim Irish heritage and twenty-two out of forty-four of US Presidents (including Barack Abama!) have claimed Irish ancestry.

Canal du Midi near Beziers

The U.S.A also stands accused of destroying the iconic Plane trees that line the Canal du Midi.  A fungus has been attacking the trees, spreading along the waterway and defying all attempts to cure or control it.  Tree specialists have concluded that it is almost certain all the planes will have to be chopped down, burned and replaced because the trees have been struck by an outbreak of a virulent, incurable microscopic fungus which spreads through the roots and is thought to have first reached France with American GIs in the Second-World-War whose sycamore ammunition boxes were infected with the virus.

After we left Crookhaven we drove to the next peninsula to the north and drove around the Sheep’s Head Way but I am afraid I am unable to explain the curious name – it doesn’t even look like a sheep’s head!

We finished our drive in the town of Bantry which turned out to be one of those places that sound as though you should visit but when you get there you wonder why?  We walked along the main street, contemplated staying a while for an early evening meal but eventually decided against it and returned directly to Schull where later we dined at a French restaurant and for the second time finished the evening in Hackett’s Bar.

Ireland Dingle

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36 responses to “Ireland – Mizen Head and the Fastnet Rock

  1. Beautiful teardop area. Thanks 4 sharing it.

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  2. Ireland has a beautiful coastline, we pretty much stuck to the coast all the way round. Didn’t get to Mizen Head though. Don’t think I even knew about it. There was no Wild Atlantic Way either when we were driving round. Mind you it was slightly tedious driving all the way out to the Kerry and Dingle peninsulas and all the way back again.

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  3. Done the Ring of Kerry, and Dingle some years ago, but didn’t get to Mizen Head

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  4. Is there anywhere in this world you haven’t been? Some people don’t even leave their local area, it’s good there are people like you folks who are so much more adventurous.

    Now, I must be thick, can you please explain (in words of one syllable or less) about Alaska being the furthest east? “The most westerly point in Asia is Cape Baba in Turkey and in the United States it is Alaska which is also the most easterly as well because it stretches so far that it crosses right into the eastern hemisphere .”

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  5. No, no, no! Iceland is not part of Europe and should never be included in any European activities, particularly sport and especially football.

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  6. I had always wondered where east became west, and now I know. Thanks.

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  7. oh that’s so true about looking things up when they say they are the tallest, heaviest, most westerly etc . . . . we were on the highest cliffs in Portugal where a sign said they were the highest in Europe. As we looked down I thought we yes they are very high but the highest? Once back at hotel I looked them up, and they were not!! If I recall they are about number 7 or 8.

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  8. Sounds kinda perfect!

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    • It was. I rated this place higher than the Cliffs of Moher. Far fewer people and not at all commercialised! Will you visit Ireland again soon?

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      • Sheesh, don’t temp me. My Dad just sent me a link to discounted airfare from California traveling in September but I can’t right now. We will definitely be back some day. Just hopefully not too long.

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      • I am planning next year’s trip already – Connemara and the North West!

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      • Connemara is really beautiful. Make sure you leave a lot of time to travel around. It always looks like it will take you an hour to drive there and the roads are so windy it always takes double what you originally anticipated. Kylemore abbey is worth a visit. Some day I would like to go out there and stay out there so I could experience the place without so many visitors around. But, you must go. Cong is nice and Ashford Castle of Course. And I have never made it all the way up to the tip of the northwest. I missed that whole peninsula. I’ve been as far as Sligo, Donegal, and Derry. It’s another area I think I would like because I love the wild north. Somehow I don’t think there will be as much sun as in our “West Cork” area though. I am so glad you and your family and friends are enjoying it so much.

        I would also like to explore more of Scotland some day. I have been and I loved it but it has been quite some time.

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      • I am going to the Scottish Borders in August but will be playing golf so don’t expect to see much more than a few sandy bunkers and some streams!

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      • Sounds like you play golf like I do. I’m sure you have spent more time there than I have but I did very much enjoy it and its people. It will be interesting to see what happens politically in the future considering the Brexit.

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      • I suspect that little will change. UK will negotiate a new deal with Europe (again) we will have a second referendum and stay in EU and everyone will claim victory. Scotland will remain in the UK for the time being. Th really good thing about the BREXIT referendum was that it sent politicians a message that they need to listen to the electorate and not simply do as they please! It was a good day for democracy. So what happens now in US? Will Trump make President?

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      • Ugh. If only there were a simple way to answer that question. Let’s sit and have a chat all afternoon about that in Kinsale over a beer please.

        To be honest I just don’t know right now. People are pretty upset and tired of “it” whatever it is. But, unfortunately he isn’t exactly the candidate of change many of us were hoping for. And so many people dislike Hillary. Can we just start the primaries over please so we have better options? November cannot get here soon enough.

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      • I am afraid that most of us over here do not really understand the process. It seems to take so long. All of that Primaries business. We got a new Prime Minister over a weekend!
        You can explain it to me over that beer in Kinsale!

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      • I’m jealous of your process to be frank. Hilary has been running for more than two years and it feels like ten. We get very tired and frustrated over it over here too. I wish it were just the few months before the election. That would be plenty. Not to mentioned the majority of the rest of the country gets to decide who will be the republican and democratic nominee before it even gets to us over here in California. So I never feel like I have a say in who will be our parties candidate. We get what’s leftover. Having said that do you every think that your country should have put a smidge more thought in to it? Maybe a month at least? 😉

        There are just too darn many people in this country so trying to get anybody to decide on anything is madness.

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      • It is not a perfect system here. The electorate had no choice about a new Prime Minister, it was decided by about 100 influential people in Parliament. It is justified on the basis that we vote a political party into government and not a Prime Minister so the political party have the right to choose the leader. It isn’t perfect but it is quick and effective and it seems this time that it worked. So far she seems to have been a good choice but we wait and see!

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      • I certainly hope so. America would never stand to have another group choose the President here. Although with the delegate system it isn’t far off. We just pretend that it is. (And we don’t even elect the delegates.)

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  9. Looks wonderful, Andrew! And SUCH blue skies 🙂

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