Wildlife Watching and Archeological Treasures
Distance: 28 miles (45 km)
Starting Point: Cahersiveen
Duration: 2 Nights (If Boat Excursion Is included)
Cahersiveen Church Portmagee
Numerous opportunities exist along this route for long and short walks, easy and difficult climbs and bike rides where your only companions will be the birds, the sheep and the occasional farmer to bid you on your way.
There are numerous places available to overnight in this area, including Hostels, Bed & Breakfasts, Country Farmhouses and award winning Hotels.
From Cahersiveen take the N70 towards Waterville and catch the ferry from Renard Point to Valentia Island. The ferry service departs approximately every ten minutes from 7am to 10 pm. From Knightstown travel east along the ring road towards Portmagee. Visit the grotto, which was developed from a disused quarry tunnel in 1954.
Also worth a visit are Gleanleam Sub-Tropical Gardens which were created over 150 years ago and are famous for a unique collection of rare southern hemisphere plants. Return to the mainland via the Maurice O’Neill Bridge which links Valentia to Portmagee.
Portmagee is the main departure point for boat trips to the Skellig Rocks. Skellig Michael, the larger of the two islands is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of significant importance. The monastic complex lies 12km off the south west of Ireland on a rocky pinnacle and dates to the 6th or 7th century.
The monastery survived for about six centuries before being abandoned in the 13th century. The monastic enclosure consists of six beehive-shaped huts of mortarless stone construction, two oratories and a church. According to annals, the Vikings raided in 812 and 823 and found an established community.
A number of operators in the area offer boat trips to see the impressive rocks first hand. The main departure points are Portmagee, Ballinskelligs, Cahersiveen and Derrynane and most services run from March through to October. The boat trips also offer the opportunity to see seabirds and marine life as the boats are often followed by seagulls and dolphins.
Skellig Experience Centre
The Little Skellig is one of the most important sites for nesting birds in Ireland and Britain. It is home to thousands of gannets, puffins, guillemots and cormorants, with more than 20,000 pairs of gannets during the summer nesting season. Find out more at the Skellig Experience visitor centre at Portmagee.
The centre tells the tale of the 6th century monks and 19th century lighthousemen that lived there and offers detailed information on the seabirds and aquatic life from the region and an audio visual show on Skellig Michael.
From Portmagee, travel east on the R567 taking in spectacular views from the top of Coomanaspig out onto the Skellig rocks and Puffin Island. Coomanaspig is one of the highest points in Ireland accessible by car (335m / 1000ft).
It is imperative to stop and enjoy the view before descending to St. Finan’s Bay. The pier in St. Finan’s bay is a popular launch pad for divers exploring the underwater world of wonder that surrounds the Skellig Rocks.
Also worth a visit are the Killemlagh Church ruins, which were originally built in the 12th or 13th century on the site of St. Finan’s original monastery. The “Pagan’s Grave”, which is an enclosure of standing stones, is also within easy reach of Killemlagh.
Continue onwards along the coast road to the village of Ballinskelligs, a popular centre of Irish Language learning during the summer months. It’s award winning blue flag beach stretches for miles and lies on the attractive bay facing the larger resort of Waterville across the water.
At the western end of the beach are the remnants of a 16th century castle belongin g to the McCarthy clan. Visit the Cill Rialaig project, which is a wonderfully restored famine village which now hosts many world renowned artists, who donate some of their works to the Siopa Chill Rialaig in Dungegan. The gallery has a superb collection of paintings and local crafts for sale and also holds important exhibitions throughout the year.
From Ballinskelligs travel east on the R567 (Skellig Ring) to the village of Waterville. The village is best known for its award winning 18 hole championship golf links, which is a popular favorite of Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara, Henry Cotton and Ray Floyd.
The course is one of Ireland’s oldest golf courses, founded in 1889, and is rated amont the top 5 in the country. Charlie Chaplin is one of the many famous visitors who have spent holiday time in the region. A life-size statue of Charlie Chaplin is situated in the centre of the village.