A brief history of The Sheep’s Head

Muntervary, or Sheep’s Head, is a bold rocky headland, facing the Atlantic Ocean, which divides the entrance to Bantry Bay and Dunmanus Bay, and is the extreme western point of the peninsula of Mintervauria , otherwise Minster-Vauria, The House of the Friend of Mary. The signal tower at the Sheep’s Head is 774 feet above sea level. The rocky cliffs of this headland are exceedingly wild and grand during a storm from the west, when huge waves from the Atlantic are dashed against it with tremendous force – the spray from which descends a considerable distance inland, like a fall of snow. The eagle builds its nest in the Sheep’s Head cliffs, of which she has undisturbed possession; and many a hare and young lamb finds its way to the lofty and inaccessible eyries. Tourists who follow the routes pointed out in guide books have not the slightest idea of the grandeur and beauty of West Cork coast scenery.

A remarkable character formerly lived in the Sheep’s Head district, and is not many years dead. He lived to the great age of ninety-six years, and was well known for three quarters of a century as the King of the West. I have often conversed with him, and heard him relate how he watched, when a boy, the French fleet sailing up Bantry Bay. King Tobin, or the ‘King of the West’, although uneducated, was a very intelligent, shrewd, honest man. He was one of Nature’s noblemen. His son, the present King of the West, a P.L.G. of the Bantry Union, farms extensive tracts of land which have been held by his ancestors under the Evanson family, for generations.

The mountain range, which extends from near Durrus to the Sheep’s Head, and forms the backbone of the Peninsula varies in height from 600 feet to 1,049 feet above the sea level. Rosskerrig Mount, a little to the north-east of Kilcrohane, is 1,049, and South Killen, near Ardahill, is 1,029 feet above sea level. On reaching the summit of this mountain from Kilcrohane there is one of the grandest views in the United Kingdom; I doubt if there is anything to compare to it.

At your feet is that magnificent sheet of water forming Bantry Bay; to the west is the broad Atlantic, Dursey Head, Berehaven mountains, Castletown, Bere Island, the splendid and safe harbour of Berehaven, Rouncarrig Light-house, Adrigole, Glengariffe, Whiddy Island etc; while in the back ground you have Hungary Hill, the Sugarloaf, Esk Mountains, Magillicuddy’s Reeks, Mangerton etc, etc, the whole forming a grand panorama, with an endless variety of light and shade reflected on the mountains.

Turning around you have the view of another beautiful sheet of water, forming Dunmanus Castle, Three Castle Head, Mizen Head, Brow Head, Cashelenne, Mount Gabriel, and Cape Clear, filling up a bold, rugged and picturesque back ground. How many people, born within twenty miles of this delightful scenery, who have an idea that there is such a place as I have attempted to describe in Ireland. In the reign of Elizabeth there was an Act of Parliament which prohibited any person going abroad unless he had a thorough knowledge of his own country. Such an Act would, no doubt, be beneficial elsewhere. From a series of articles that appeared in The West Cork Eagle (the Skibbereen Eagle) in 1872.


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