Friday, December 11, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

GAELIC GETAWAY, Chapter 10:  

Day 11:  Cork & Kinsale 
Today turned out to be a slow and easy day as we headed out of Cork southwest toward the coastal town of Kinsale.  Ken had set our agenda for the day while I was busy with other things, and he always manages to track down some very interesting sites.  We were looking for Old Head, he informed me, a headland protruding dramatically two miles into the Atlantic that erosion had carved into a peninsula—almost an island.

Old Head barely still hanging on
A lighthouse was first established at Old Head in the 17th century.  Some type of manned facility continued to serve as a guide to the entrance to Kinsale harbor until 1987 when the station was converted to automatic operation.

Old Head of Kinsale (photo from
Ten years later, a private golf links course was established on Old Head, and admittance was limited to members and their guests.  Shortly after access was cut off, a County Cork group organized under the name "Free the Old Head of Kinsale" to campaign for the restoration of public access to this popular remote spot with its towering cliffs and spectacular scenery.  They have yet to experience any meaningful success.

Don't enter?  But what if we drove all the way from Cork to see what's here?
Though we didn't anticipate this bar, we did see the signs at the entry indicating that only members and their guests were permitted to enter.  On the other hand, the gate was open, and we figured that if we had wanted to become members, we certainly would be permitted to check out the course.  And really how could we know whether we wanted to join if we didn't go in and look around?  So in we went.  And we were well rewarded for our trespassing curiosity.

Perfect green grass in the middle of December
Not only were the greens immaculately maintained—and we met some of the grounds crew as we explored—the views were exceptional.  Ruins of a Norman fort established on this critical outpost after their 12th century invasion intersperse the course.

Who knew the ability to jump could be so useful?
Glad we were in the little Mii as we followed the pinched lanes to the end of the head, we found the current lighthouse and discovered that the light station area was gated.  Behind the gate were three small dogs, who all came out to greet us.  One was a Jack Russell terrier who used her jumping ability to slip through the bars of the gate and come out to greet us personally.  Lacking the Jack's agility, the other two pups were forced to perform their concierge duties from behind the gate.

Part of Lusitania memorial
Though none of our three hosts mentioned it, we had noticed a memorial and museum before we reached the entrance gate for the 1,198 victims who died on the RMS Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a German submarine in May of 1915.  The ship foundered and sank within 18 minutes eleven miles off Old Head, the nearest point of land to the disaster, and its wreck still lies on the sea bed there.  Of course, the museum is open only in summer months.

So many restaurants but not until dinner
Driving back through the picturesque town of Kinsale, we paused to seek out lunch in one of its fashionable cafes.  The town has developed quite a reputation among foodies who have designated it the Gourmet Capital of Ireland for its many restaurants and cafes.  However, as we discovered in walking around, most places do not open for lunch this time of year.  So we moved on to look for Desmond Castle, a Heritage Ireland location in town.

Desmond Castle caretaker on duty
Despite all the signs pointing to the entrance to the castle, we were unable to get in.  The caretaker on duty showed us the proper door, but it was locked up tight.  On the way back to the car, we noticed that the sign informed that the site was open April to September only.

Ruins of Charles Fort
Charles Fort, another Heritage Ireland site, was the last item on our agenda before returning to Cork, and that one is open all year.  A classic example of a 17th century star fort, Charles Fort is located at the water's edge on Kinsale Harbor.  One of the largest military installations in Ireland, the fort was named for Charles II and has been declared a national monument.  Small parts of it have been restored and serve as exhibit areas to tell the history of the fort.

After exploring the fort, we continued back to Cork, stopping at the Hertz airport location on the way to our hotel.  Though the little SEAT Mii is good for tight quarters, the 'Check Engine' light had come on, and the car was a bit difficult to drive because of its constant engine shut down for economizing.  Even when trying to get into a parking space, every time you braked, the engine would stop.  And then there was the engine surging.

Third time's the charm?
At any rate, we asked to exchange the car for one the size we had actually reserved, not one too large like the first car or one too small like the Mii.  We were looking for the Goldilocks car, and the charming Damien at Hertz had just the vehicle for us—a bright blue VW Polo, the only automatic transmission car in his inventory and smack in the class size we had requested to begin with. After transferring all our belongings, we returned to the hotel, prepared a flavorful salad for dinner, and packed up to depart Cork tomorrow.  We'll be taking our new car west to Bantry, cruising some country roads and little towns along the way.
Daily Stats:
  • Started in Cork, ended in Cork
  • Mileage -  52  (Trip total: 5,436)
  • Miles walked - 2.9  (Trip total:  29.3)
  • Weather - 43° to 48°, partly cloudy 

Seeing how the grass grows naturally on Old Head demonstrates the amazing job the grounds crew has done on the greens.

Among the ruins
Old Head light station
Free to roam...
...stuck at home.
Desmond Castle locked up tight
St Multose Anglican Church in Kinsale (also locked up tight)
Fascinating marker in St. Multose churchyard
Kinsale harbor from Charles Fort
Charles Fort
Another part of this huge fort
Yep.  Charles Fort