This walk is one for when you really want a sense of space and to be able feel as though you are getting far, far off the beaten track. It is quite steep and hard going in places and perhaps a walk that is suited to families with older children who are able for quite an exerting (yet exhilarating) walk. However, everyone knows how much the little legs in their own families can do, and if you take a slow pace and soak in the solitude and the views along the way, the walk can be done or even be tailored to only go as far as an enormous rock in the road and back again. (You will know it when you see it).
The Glanaclohy Walk is one of the Drimoleague Heritage Walkway routes which make up the network of the Eastern Routes of the Sheep’s Head Way. The walk is approximately 9.5km long and it is estimated to take between 3-4 hours. We always take longer as we like to stop and take photos and admire the views – there are so many picturesque spots along the way to explore and to have snack breaks so do allow for plenty of time.
Officially, the walk starts at Castledonovan, where you will see it signposted from there. The first part of the walk follows a quiet country road before you cross a stile in the fence and go off-road for the mountain trail. As we prefer the off-road part of the walk, we usually cheat here and drive the first part of the route, past a little cottage and until we come to a small designated parking space. Parking is limited here but we have always managed to find a spot and begin our walk from here. There is a notice board warning of not undertaking the walk in poor weather conditions or attempting the route between the months of November and March due to the poor visibility of shorter days combined with muddy ground conditions.
The walk starts rising up along a little track and all around you can see little farmsteads and their fields. In the distance, you can see Castledonovan itself nestled in the valley. Soon you will come to an astonishing rock on the side of the path which I am sure must have many tales to tell if it could speak. This is where you discover if your child is the type who wants to try and climb it or the type to want to sit under it. Behind the rock, you can catch a glimpse of the house of George of the Sky. His house was called this because it is situated so close to the sky. Some people may walk straight up to the house from near here, but we prefer to do the entire loop first, and then come down to the house on our way back.
On the walk, you will cross many stiles and after each one, the terrain and view changes. According to the Drimoleague Heritage Guidebook (a worthy investment) the lake which can be seen to the west, is presumed to have its source as an underground spring. Apparently in the last century a channel was dug from the lake to the nearby village of Dromore to channel water to the mill that was situated there.
As the road rises up, you will see evidence of turf cutting which used to be very active here due to black turf which was said to burn better than coal. I read somewhere that this was called the Old Bog road and it is easy to see why. As the road climbs up, you will discover two more lakes from the top, Coomanore Lough and Agower Lough as well as a panoramic view to Bantry Bay in the distance. The vista and silence of the mountainside up here is remarkable and is what makes it one of our favourite walks. From the top, there are various options for longer walks but the highlight for us, is following the marker from here for the House of George the Sky.
George the Sky house has a profound effect on me as it really gets me thinking about how immediate and fast paced our lives are lived at these days. It is lovely to sit there in the little doorway to his home and imagine what it must have been like to live there with no electricity, no nearby shop to run to for a litre of milk or loaf of bread. With every convenience on earth available to us in our modern lives, and with the added constant distraction of the Internet, I do wonder if we have paid too high a price of total disconnection with nature.
It is lovely to sit for a while at George the Sky house and hear the sound of the stream as it flows past, listen to a little meadow bird chirping in the hedges and feel the sunshine warm my face. Equally, there have been walks where the rain has lashed down on us and we have been grateful to find shelter – albeit roofless. Either way, living in tune with the elements and with nature is something I am always reminded of the importance of when I visit this magical little spot.
For more information on the Drimoleague Walkways visit their facebook page here.