The Mizen and Barley Cove

This morning the bay looks millpond calm in its centre and the orange fishermen buoys stand out in stark relief against the greys and blues of the mirror finish of the water. The smooth surface is then broken by the gentle drift of two white swans sending out a runnel of ripples behind them.


Across the bay Knocknamadree stands tall and triangular over the Mizen. We drove behind it yesterday to make the trip to the radio station at the tip of the penisula and then to Barley Cove.

On a clear day the Mizen was the last sight of Europe that the old big ships and their passengers would have before heading into the Atlantic proper and to the New World over the water. It is an empty desolate place leavened by the large car park and gaudy tourist experience with it café and trinkets for sale. Yesterday had started grey with the possibility of wet so there were plenty of cars that had made the trip out there for a day out away from too much rain.

Beyond the café there is a concrete path that takes you down by the side of the cliffs to a bridge that crosses a chasm of broken rocks and water and then on to the final spit of land that juts out into the sea on which the old radio station and light is positioned.

The bridge is new having been rebuilt about five years ago. I have a vague memory of the old iron bridge painted white over splintered rust. You would want to be sure of the bridge. The new one is made out of concrete but was small against the cliffs that were bent and wrought out of shape. There were gaps through the rocks through which it was possible to see Three Castle Head and beyond that the three white houses of Toreen at the end of the Sheep’s Head.

Near the café there was the propeller of a boat that had foundered on the rocks below almost an hundred years ago. The plaque next to it recorded how six lives had been lost but many others saved. The survivors had been able to cling on to the cliffs and they had been pulled up with a series of ropes and harnesses. Inside one of the huts there was a battered stretcher tied together with pieces of old rope similar to what they had used.

Beyond the radio station the path carries on down a set of steps to a small platform which has a red light on it. Standing there and looking out to America we could see gannets in the air and below them, only for a moment, black smudges in the water where dolphins were breaking the surface.

We then went on to Barley Cove. The only true slice of sandy beach within striking distance of the Cottage and even then it is a good 40 minutes in the car to get there. We were lucky and for two hours the grey cloud and rain was pushed back and the beach was filled with light and the sun.

With the sun out and the blue sky you could almost convince yourself that you were somewhere far hotter but it took only one foot dipped in the numbingly cold sea to bring you back to where you are.


1 thought on “The Mizen and Barley Cove

  1. Yes, the sea seems very cold for this time of year – in our case off Glengarriff. And yet it has been a good summer here, I think. (Like you, I am not here all year round.) Any reason, I wonder?

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