Sunday, July 25, 2010

Kinsale and The Old Head

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Kinsale is a very cute fishing village in the south of Ireland, in County Cork, not far from the city of Cork. By cute I mean that not only does it have charming and delightful buildings and narrow twisty streets and all that, but also shops selling t-shirts and candles and stone angels and all that too. Fortunately, it's not as bad as most towns like it in the states; there were stores selling beautiful things, like sweaters knitted on the Isles of Aran, and there weren't any fudge or hot sauce shops (though there was a clothing store whose logo was an imitation of Tabasco's). It's kind of like Sausalito.

After we had a perfectly lovely time strolling and browsing and lunching (on very good seafood at The Fishy Fishy Restaurant) we decided to drive around. We started following signs leading toward the ocean that were labeled "Old Head".

Looking at maps, we've discovered that in Ireland, the peninsular tips of land sticking out into the water are always called "(something) Head". I can think of a bunch off the top of my -- uh:
  • Mizen Head
  • Malin Head
  • Glengad Head
  • Dunree Head
  • Sheep Head
  • Hog Head
  • Cow Head
  • Flat Head
And so on (there are many, many more). This was Old Head.

We drove for a long time on an increasingly narrow and scary road that wound through farmland, between hedges and past cows, shrinking to one lane over blind hills, and gradually ascending. The land plateaued and the road ended at a strikingly large piece of a ruined stone building that loomed above the entrance to a golf course.

old head, cork

An unpaved parking area sat next to the road and the Irish Sea was visible to either side. A dirt path took us over a rise and toward the view of the ocean. There was no observation platform or handrails and the path went right to the edge of the cliff, several hundred feet above the water. 

old head, cork

I wish that the pictures could convey what this place was like. Wind blasted off of the sea. Gulls swooped from above our heads and plummeted toward the ocean, flocking and swirling in clouds around the rocky cliffs. The place was at once beautiful and deadly. I kept thinking "I'm really glad the wind is in my face and not at my back."

I had never imagined that a place like this existed. I hadn't known anything about this place or seen a picture before before we arrived. I'm glad I knew nothing of it. Surprise, terror, and joy all rolled up into one. It was a good moment.

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