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Five Great West Cork picnic locations

April 29th, 2022 9:00 AM

By Elaine Desmond

The enchanting views on offer at Leap's amenity park

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Sandwiches warmed under sun, wind-freshened cheese, fruit dripping down chins. The al fresco delight of picnics never fades. Food always tastes better outdoors and in the right place, picnic days stamp perfect memories. Shake out your tartan throws to test these great West Cork picnic spots

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Leap Community Garden

Freshly paved and gazeboed, test out the wheelchair friendly picnic credentials of Leap’s new Community Garden.

Overlooking the estuary toward the one-car bridge where The Young Offenders pedalled, this new space will attract picknicers aplenty.

It will also attract wildlife with bird boxes perched high and planting perched for pollinators and seasonal variety.

Already daffodils, poppies and sea thrift are well established with mugwort, lavender, grasses and gazebo climbers ready to flourish. Whether water fills the estuary here or a retreating tide reveals the mud-map, ease will always ooze. Estuaries promote only peace.

Putin bring your picnic basket — who could wage war when blissed over a mound of thickly buttered sandwiches, gleaming salads and surprise-filled containers, heron poised in the background. Leap Picnic Peace Treaty awaits your signature.

Stretch your legs a few sandwich crusts away in Myross Wood estate or ramble further to Union Hall or Glandore to delete strawberry and double cream dosage. Whether you walk off your calories or sit Buddha-like, this is a great West Cork picnic spot.

Galley Head

Take the coast road from Rosscarberry toward Rathbarry but veer to the sea edge past the great scimitar beaches of Ownahincha and Long Strand. Follow the slim roads signposted for Galley Head Lighthouse. Drivers and walkers pass, coveting these perfectly placed coastal houses.

The last right angle corner almost topples you into the home owners’ garden and front door.  Thank you, yes a cuppa would be lovely.

The sea spans the headland here with a roadside barley field soaking up the sea salt. These lucky grains are grown for Clonakilty Gin. Doubly lucky. And a double would be lovely, thank you.

Galley Head, near Clonakilty, is one of the most recognised views in West Cork, but a fall in UK visitor numbers means local tourism interests will have to concentrate on other markets post-Brexit. Galley Head, near Clonakilty

Your picnic spot lies behind the sign for Galley Head/Dún Déidí, no table here but tufted grass and duned paths.

Uphill past the Cowhig fort ruins, Galley Head lighthouse perks up over the ocean. Powered by an onsite gasworks, light first flashed here in 1878, then believed to be the most powerful in the world.

The signature light beams 5 white flashes every 20 seconds. Opt for a starlit picnic if you want your flask flashed by the Frasnel lens in one of West Corks great picnic spots.

Glengarrif Woods Nature Reserve

Glengarrif’s dramatic coastal location is calmed by the woodland reserve on the village toward Kenmare ....don’t panic you’re still within the Cork border.

A mostly broad-leaved wood – Alder, Rowan, Willow, Holly, Birch and Oak with Strawberry trees scattered throughout. Other flora and herbs also sing off the tongue – Bilberry, Great Wood-rush, Irish Spurge, Hay-scented Buckler Fern and Enchanter’s Nightshade. In gardens some of these are considered weeds but here they thrive;

O let them be left, wildness and wet; Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.  (Hopkins)

And long live humans who enjoy the wilderness. Doctors in Japan now prescribe forest bathing (deep immersion) as a restorative therapy. Cool forest clarity is scientifically proven to be good for you. Phytoncides emitted from trees boost immune systems.

Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve

Bathe yourself in Glengarrif ‘s woodland, immerse yourself in one of West Cork’s great picnic spots  – go slow, breathe in, look down, go slow, breathe out, look up, stop, sit......picnic.

O’Donovan Rossa Memorial Park  – Skibbereen

If wilderness will only find you at weekends, then a lunch time urban picnic spot could hit the spot.  Carving a nook of me-time, or our time or our-time away from them-time. Whatever the break in the day might mean, try and make the time to find your way away from the streets or café non-smoke to O Donovan Rossa Memorial Park.

Unveiled in 1950 by President Sean T. O’Kelly, O’Donovan Rossa’s statue stands hands folded, surveying all above the entrance. A granite bouncer of the who-goes-there.

This tucked-away park is a community goldmine.

Take a walk and enjoy the surroundings of the beautiful O’Donovan Rossa Memorial Park. (Photo: Garry Minihane)

Community spirited from the beginning with Jackson Coakley’s sale of land for the G.A.A. pitch and park. His son, grandchildren and great-grandchildren live and play beside and in this park. Circles of life.

And circular landscaping, lack of straight lines here, circles within circles make it a soothing space.

Linger over a lunch less hurried in one of West Cork’s great picnic spots. The art of enjoying the moment. The art of a picnic.

Heir Island –  Dún

From urban picnics to the edge of the edge on Heir Island. Once you step off the ferry, pace adjusts to a slower step. Why hurry..... except the return journey when you might miss the ferry due to slower pace.

Birdsong bounces between ditches, hedges spill over, furze gleams, cottages beam – your picnic clamours to escape. Anywhere here will do more than nicely. But wait, keep going.

The road splits left to the main Reen strand. If you have time for a swim, turn and plunge, but if not keep going.

Pass the school and the regal water pump. Pause, hear the splash of history but keep going. Pass the Cillín. Pause, pay respects, keep going.

Pass Paris, an impossibly beautiful cluster of cottages by an impossibly perfect little bridge. The picnic shouts to spread itself here but keep going.

Heir Island

A nod to Richie Pyburns’ donkeys if they’re in residence. A rub and a chat but keep going. Pass Dan McCarthy’s gleaming green house. Pause and admire but keep going. Up and around the corner the lane magics itself into a grassy path. Full fat views of Cape Clear and ramrod pencil of the Fastnet. Pause and admire but keep going.

The path dips then rises to the Dún headland. Underfoot is coastal heath, veer slightly to the right toward the cliffs. Do not keep going.

Stop above the cormorants’ nesting shelves as your picnic screams to get out. Let it. Laid out between a sandwich of green and blues. Picnic perfection.

And I am here as near Happy as I will get In the sailing afternoon. (W.S. Graham)

Lying under bee-buzz or mizzle, shade or sun, put these great West Cork picnic spots to the test. Everyone feels a frizzle of joy on hearing the word picnic.

Connotations of contentment, whether a squished banana roll or basket laden with goodies. You are outdoors, you have food, you have nature at your toes and broad skies above.

Every day should be a picnic day.

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