The Deelish Cascades Walk is a linear riverside walk which is one of the trails in the Drimoleague Heritage Walkways system. The walk is a gentle ramble of just over 3km (6km if you come back the same way) and takes about 3 hours. The walk starts near Castledonovan Castle (you will find a small parking place at the bridge across from the castle which will be signposted) and follows an ancient mass path down through the valley. To find the beginning of the trail, walk on the tarred road signposted toward Bantry for about 200 meters. To your left you will find a metal gate which gives access to the riverside and to the start of the walk. It is interesting to note that the reservoir on your left is the water supply for Drimoleague. There is a lovely plaque with a poem at the start of the walk to contemplate as you go.
The Deelish Cascades Walk follows the course of the Ilen River for about 2km before emerging onto a quiet country road which eventually leads down to Ahanafunsion Bridge. At the start of this trail, the river is full of personality and is strewn with large boulders which make for an interesting walk an highlight the sounds of cascading water from which the walk gets its name.
The path can be quite muddy, especially after rain, so do wear appropriate shoes – preferably wellies for smallies. There are some magnificent views along the way of waterfalls and pools which are framed by Sessile oaks along the riverbank, so don’t forget your camera!
At a certain point on the walk, the path will lead away from the river an up an incline to give a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. There is a great vantage point from which you can give kids an impromptu geography lesson in the formation of an ox-bow lake as the river below gives a great aerial view of how one could be formed. Also, from the top of the hill path, you can see a green mound on the horizon to your left, and this is known as O’Donovan’s seat, a site occupied by the clan before the castle was built.
We read in the Drimoleague guide that just a little further along the path here, a little owl roosts in an ivy tree and you can her her hooting at dusk. We have kept a lookout on a few occasions but have not spotted her yet. The path comes out onto a small quiet road which warns of traffic so do take care of younger ones who may have raced ahead.
The pace of the walk changes a bit when you are on a roadside walk and I find we all fall into a single file and walk more briskly. Soon, the road winds down to Ahanafunsion Bridge and its popular (with children of all ages) stepping stones. This is a lovely place to stop for a while and rest where two rivers converge. When you have recovered your energy, you can retrace your steps and do the Deelish Cascade walk to get back to you car.
The way home back again can seem long and tiring for small children but because it is relatively flat, with a little bit of distraction of interesting things to find, such as the first one to see a yellow flower, or the first one to find a pine-cone, makes the journey back a bit easier.
I do find that the river is the biggest highlight of the walk and spirits lift and new energy levels kick in when the walk rejoins the riverside. The sound of the water cascading over the rocks is mesmerising – especially after a rainfall – and the possibility of spotting a leaping salmon or otter on the riverbank is exciting. We once startled a pheasant on the path and are still not sure to this day who got the bigger fright – us or the bird!