Where to get a coffee on the Sheep’s Head



You could be sat in the pub on a sunny day in summer and a hire car will pull slowly up the small hill from the Cottage. The driver and the passengers all looking left at the view over the pier and the boats in Kitchen Cove. The car pulls up outside the pub and the driver gets out. As he does so he pauses and looks back and is obviously talking into the car. Once he is out he casts an eye over the wooden tables and benches on the patch of grass across the road that leads down to the water opposite the pier. He turns back to say something else into the car, straightens up and walks into the pub.

The door is open for the heat. Once the man is inside, he slows and looks around nervously. There is only me and the man with a black beard stood at the bar. We have not been talking, just drinking our pints in the quiet. Mary is out the back somewhere.

The man looks at us and says ‘Hello’. There is an accent to it but difficult to place. He walks up the bar and stands there straight but looking it over.

‘She’ll be out in a while’ says the man with a black beard.

The man who has walked in must be in his late fifties. He has grey hair and is tall and is wearing clean white clothes. ‘Do they make coffee here or some food?’ he asks. He has a Dutch accent.

The man with a black beard looks at him and shakes his head ‘You’ll not get that here’ he says, ‘It’ll be too much work. But you drive on to Kilcrohane, its a few miles along the road and Eileen she might make you a sandwich.’

The man looks puzzled ‘Eileen, who is that?’

‘Eileen, she has the pub in Kilcrohane, Fitzpatricks its there on hill up from the church. You will see it if you drive. But if you want a drink, a cold drink, well there is plenty here.’ The man with a black beard lifts up his pint and drinks at it quietly. ‘Mary’ he shouts ‘Mary there is a man here may want a drink.’

The man looks surprised at the noise. He looks out at the car and shakes his head at the three faces looking out.

Mary comes out from the green door behind the bar that leads into her kitchen. The man looks pleased to see her and repeats his question about food and some coffee. Mary shakes her head ‘No it is too late for that. We used to do coffee and I used to make sandwiches but we stopped that some time back. If you want a drink we have that and there is packets of Tayto’s if you want them and there is two packet of bacon fries we have left.’

‘Thank you’ the man says ‘A minute please’. He goes back outside to the car and puts his head through the open door. He is out there for a few minutes before the other doors open. Another man of similar age gets out of the passenger door and two women get out of the back. The three who have just got out of the car cross over the road and sit down on one of the benches. One of the women has a camera and she takes some photos of the view across the bay.

The same man comes back into the pub. He asks Mary for half a pint of Guinness and three glasses of Coke.

As Mary pours the drinks I ask him ‘Do you know where you are going, going onto from here?’

“No’ he says. ‘We have come from Cork and are driving to Bantry, to go to the House, but we drove here to see the water and we kept on driving, a little too far I think.’ He smiles sadly at that.

“Well if you have driven this far you can drive to the end’, I tell him, ‘To the end of the Sheep’s Head. It is another 25 minutes or so and when you get there you can walk down to the lighthouse. On a day like today it will be worth it. Have you a map and I’ll show you.’

He goes to the car again and takes out his map and I show him the road that will take him to the head of the peninsula and how he can cut back along the quiet road on the north side that will take them back to Bantry. Mary gives him a tray for his drinks and as he takes them outside he says “Thank you’.

It was quiet again for a while in the pub. Mary pours us two more pints and goes back into her kitchen.

‘It’s the end there, the tip, that is the Sheep’s Head’ said the man with a black beard. ‘You look on a map and it will have written down the middle of this spit of land The Sheep’s Head Peninsula. Well it is not. The Sheep’s Head is the last few hundred yards before it drops off into the sea. All the rest of it is Muintir Bhaire and you will see that on some of the signs but Sheep’s Head is easier to say. I ask you what is there here to be naming it Sheep’s Head after it.’

Out side the four visitors finish their drinks. They leave their glasses on the table and get back in the car. They drive back they way they came ignoring the suggestion to carry on up to the head of the peninsula.


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