August 19 – Little Island to Skibbereen
You can keep your isobars and your barometric pressures and your low front this and high pressure that. Yeah, there are specific, technical, accurate meteorological terms, but they aren’t a patch on the language that’s used on the ground. As I’ve mentioned before, our all time favourite weather presenter is Carol on BBC and I’ve introduced you to her memorable terms such as “it will be brightening” and “fair weather clouds will be bubbling up” and as we travel, we always like to learn new approaches to describing the ups and downs of weather. Somehow, there’s always a positive spin, no matter what.
We found another Greenway this morning and went for a little pedal along the Carrigaline to Crosshaven path. This was just a short one, a 5km point to point, so 10km return, following an old railway line that was closed in 1932. As we unloaded the bikes and got ready to go, I saw a lady get out of her car in sporty shorts and t-shirt and off she went at a brisk pace, walking along the Greenway. She was fully prepared too with what she was carrying. Did she have a drink bottle in her hand, to sip as she walked? No, she did not. Did she have a phone in her hand, to listen to music as she went? No, she did not. She had one thing in her hand, as she set off for her brisk walk. She was carrying an umbrella. I did smile. She looked the biz, in the gear and walking with purpose and carrying one essential item – a brolly. She knows what time it is in Ireland! We set off behind her and the path was another terrific one. It was only a short pedal, but we had a great traffic free path beside the Owenabue River.
As we pedalled along, we could look across the river at the green fields and we saw Coolmore House, a mansion built in 1788 . It was also nice to see some remnants of the path’s former life, with parts of the original railway still in place.
As we rode beside the river, there were lots of yachts and boats moored and we passed by a small sheltered area known as Drake’s Pool. Sir Francis Drake’s ships are said to have hidden in that spot in 1589, when they had a Spanish fleet after them. Apparently the Spanish sailed up Cork Harbour but missed Francis and his ships, who could wait it out, unseen in this spot. The Spaniards sailed off, Frank waited for a few days and then upped and left too. So that little spot in the river, that we pedalled past, has quite a story to tell!
We rode up to Crosshaven, with its little harbour absolutely full to the brim with all manner of sailing vessels, we did an about-turn and pedalled back again. Once again, there were heaps of people out on the path, walking, running and cycling, so it just goes to show how successful having traffic-free, scenic, enjoyable paths like this can be, for getting people out and about. Just brilliant.
We loaded up the bikes again and stopped for elevenses at one of the many picnic tables provided beside the Greenway and had elevenses before hitting the road.
No sooner had we got in the van and set off than…down came the rain! “I’m counting this as a rain day,” declared Steve, “if I have to put the windscreen wipers on, it’s heavy enough to be counted in the tally!” OK, fair enough, our strike rate of rain days just increased. It did come down pretty heavily for a while and we continued on, along narrow country roads and eventually the clouds parted and we had some sunshine again. We motored along, past bright green fields and rolling hills, passing through small towns and seeing others in the distance.
We passed through Kinsale, which was a bustling little harbour town and then on to Timoleague. We stopped here for a walk, because some ruins looked interesting and worth a further gander. It turned out this little spot also has quite a back story. Remember the Lusitania, the passenger ship that was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1915 for the loss of 1198 lives? Well, when that happened, volunteers from the Courtmacsherry Life Boat (just 5km down the road from Timoleague) rushed to the scene and helped with the rescue, rowing for three hours to get there. So this little town has certainly planted itself in history.
The ruins we saw were those of Timoleague Abbey and Friary. This was like a university and was renowned nationally and internationally as a centre of learning in the 17th century. This also has an interesting story to tell. In 1642 soldiers from Oliver Cromwell’s army ransacked and burned the Friary. Two of the monks escaped in a boat, taking with them a very valuable chalice. Apparently, their boat was discovered drifting by some local fishermen and the monks left the chalice in a box with the fishermen, for safe keeping, telling them they would return for it and the box shouldn’t be opened. The monks didn’t manage to get back and those fishermen were obviously very trustworthy, kept the box and chalice well hidden and kept schtum about having it because it wasn’t until 1856 that it was discovered on Cape Clear Island by a visiting parish priest. It became known as the Timoleague Chalice and is now in safe keeping, with only a replica allowed out and about.
The town sits on an estuary and centuries ago, ships could sail right up to the Friary door. Well, in 1755 there was a major earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal and the resulting tsunami created waves 20m high and they travelled a distance of 6000km. That tsunami was the main reason the estuary silted up. Until then it had been a bustling Medieval port with a deep water harbour. In such a small place and on a short little stroll, we learned a lot! The stories that are out there, hidden in little places, just waiting to be heard…I love it when we stumble upon places like that.
We hopped back in the van and…it poured! At least it waited until we were inside shelter, but it bucketed down. On we went, looking at the scenery passing by, with that rain coming and going like a meteorological jack-in-a-box. The clouds came over, the clouds drifted off…the sky turned grey, the sky turned blue…the sky was dry, the sky gave us a downpour…and repeat! We passed through Clonakilty and then on to Skibbereen, where we decided to stop, since it looked like a nice little town and had some digs for us. When we checked in to the local hotel, the lady at the desk chatted about the weather. “It’s been a lovely day in between the showers.” Oh, that was another pearler. Yep, focus on the positive please! Don’t think it’s been a wet and windy day with the occasional glimpse of sun and blue sky…nooooo, it’s been a lovely day!…in between the showers! I think we should adopt that attitude all the time, just focus on the good bits in between the dodgy bits and make that the day! Perfect!
We went for a walk around and it’s certainly a nice little market town and the first thing you notice is there are no chain stores anywhere. The main shopping streets are lined with independent, local stores, with traditional signage, no garish signs, nothing bright or lit up. It was lovely, to see the traditional looking stores in a town that seems to have resisted the push of commercialism. It was a little like stepping back in time, with the appearance of the shop fronts and if it hadn’t been for the traffic going past, we could almost have imagined ourselves here in days gone by.
Skibbereen also has a story, being one of the worst hit areas by the Great Famine in the 1840’s. Over a million Irish people died and Skibbereen was badly affected. It was reports from here, detailing just how bad the Great Hunger was, that focused world wide attention on the scale of the disaster. Skibbereen has become synonymous with the Famine.
Another fab day in the bag. A very pleasant little pedal along a fantastic path, then a trip along country roads, past more nice scenery and passing through lovely towns, with some stories to learn along the way. Tops! As we continue our journey west, heading along the Wild Atlantic Way, we will no doubt experience some more wild and woolly weather, summer days or not. But…we shall thumb our nose at any grey and wet and cold bits, because I’m sure at some point it will “be brightening” and there might be some “fair weather clouds bubbling up” eventually and if we try hard enough, it’s bound to still be a “lovely day in between the showers / downpours / torrential rain”…silver linings people…silver linings!
Distance ridden: 10.6 km
Time in the saddle: 42 minutes
Weather: sunny, rainy (repeat), very windy, 15C