Walking and talking the Seven Heads of Clonakilty, West Cork – one of the best kept secret walking trails in Ireland

Wild swimming in Ireland West Cork

‘He’s a really good head’ is something you will often hear in Ireland. It’s a colloquialism for a person who is truly decent. So when I decided to take on the Seven Heads Walk around the coastline between West Cork’s Timoleague and Clonakilty, I set myself the task to also try and meet seven ‘good heads’ along the way. I put out a request on Twitter and it was quite easy to see that the same good heads kept being recommended and that I wasn’t going to be short of companions on this, one of the best kept secret walking trails in Ireland. Before I knew it I had gathered fellow walkers, dates in pubs, tea in a gardening writer’s kitchen, picnic pals and a swimming soul mate for a dip in the Atlantic. Tune into my quick chats with them by clicking on the links attached to each of my ‘heads’ below.

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Sea kayaking in Baja, Mexico – Irish style

I say it again and again – kayakers are cool. I get the chance to kayak a lot on my travels, and kayaking guides are, nearly without exception,  fun to be with, informative, caring and sharing. And these guys, Atlantic Sea Kayaking, based on the cove-a-licious coast of West Cork, Ireland, are top of my list. Not only are they superb activity ambassadors in my native Ireland, but they also run sea kayaking trips in Baja, Mexico every winter. It is this connection with Mexico which led to their founders, Jim and Maria Kennedy, being honoured recently by the Mexican government and receiving  the highest award  that can be bestowed on a non Mexican, The Ohtli Award.

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Dear Old Inishowen – the most memorable of adventure holidays in Donegal, Ireland

Coasteering in Donegal

The audience cheered at the end of Jimmy McLaughlin’s rendition of ‘Dear Old Inishowen’, not only because of his fine a cappella accomplishment but also because he was singing it in McGrory’s front bar in Culdaff, the heart of his dear old Inishowen. He was here because his family was the subject of an Irish television series called Dúshlán 1881 – Living the Eviction, about famine evictions from the nearby village of Carrowmenagh, and they were having a screening in the hotel to celebrate. I was there to explore the wilderness that remains all around this northernmost point of Ireland, travelling with one of a handful of companies offering adventure holidays in Donegal. Right now, however, in this cocoon of Culdaff, my cultural immersion was like an unexpected and delicious appetiser.

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Wild Walls Cycle Derry-Londonderry Sunday 12 May 2013

Lawrence McBride, founder Far and Wild on Derry-Londonderry's city walls Photo credit: Far and Wild
Lawrence McBride, founder Far and Wild on Derry-Londonderry’s city walls Photo credit: Far and Wild

I travelled around Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, Ireland with this company recently and was blown away not only by the fierce wind, but also by their fiercely committed approach to truly responsible tourism. I will be writing more about that trip anon, but in the meantime I have asked Lawrence McBride, founder of Far and Wild to write a guest post about their latest, very exciting project in Derry/Londonderry, just thirty miles from Inishowen. Over to Lawrence…..

If you asked someone where in the world would you find joyous chants  floating on the sea breeze up to ancient battlements,  while troops of cyclists prepare for a historic competitive Mountain Bike Challenge along historic ramparts, they would be unlikely to say Derry-Londonderry. But in fact this is indeed the location of a special cycling event, here in the  first UK City of Culture- Derry-Londonderry 2013, nestled on the political border in the far North West of Northern Ireland.

The Wild Walls Cycle event by local eco-adventure company Far and Wild on Sunday 12 May is a unique event in the City of Culture calendar, combining a healthy dose of competitive and non-competitive cycle events with the very real culture of our ‘post troubles’ civilisation.

The day will start with an urban cross-country mountain bike competition which will weave its way through the communities, both nationalist and unionist, that live around the City’s four hundred year old battlements, built originally as a garrison town by the Guilds of London. It was this London connection that led to the highly controversial addition of the pre-fix ‘London’ to the original Derry, from Doire – the Irish for ‘Oak Grove’.

A charity and family cycle will follow the main cross city cycle trail, making for an all inclusive day which will culminate in the first ever cycle ride down one section of the historic walls from the local Court House and past the Bogside. Young people in both nationalist Bogside and unionist Fountain communities will take part, bucking summer trends of simmering friction.

Discovering the North West of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with Far and Wild Photo: Far and Wild
Discovering the North West of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with Far and Wild Photo: Far and Wild

What has this all got to do with eco-tourism? Well the short answer is ‘Come and see’! The Wild Walls Cycle event can be booked here . Evidence argues that our foreign visitors are fascinated by the complexity of Irish and Ulster society, despite the nervousness of the traditional tourism industry.  With countryside to die for (no pun intended), perhaps the factors that have keep folk away for so long are ready to reveal their hidden treasures.

Contact Far and Wild on hello@farandwild.co.uk or +447775911198 for further information or check out what other eco events we have in store at  www.farandwild.co.uk.

(Far and Wild is a community interest company combining adventure with ecology- including historical interpretation or human ecology- in the stunning North West of Ireland, in both political jurisdictions).