The very pleasant village of Durrus is located at the head of Dunmanus Bay where the Sheep’s Head and Mizen Head Peninsulas meet. In recent years the village has seen a sizable development of property for use by tourists.
Durrus is the location of Cool na Long castle, built by the McCarthy (Muclagh) family, which is now in a ruined state. A number of Neolithic (3500-1500 BC) monuments in the area at Coolcoulagha and at Dunmanus indicate that a significant pre-Celtic population existed.
Durrus Festival is held in July each year and includes sport, family and entertainment events.
There are a number of pubs and restaurants in the area that are well worth a visit and renowned for serving local and seasonal produce.
The famous Durrus Irish Farmhouse Cheese is a raw milk cheese, made using traditional methods in the beautiful upland valley of Coomkeen. Made by Jeffa Gill since 1979, Durrus Farmhouse Cheese is recognised as one of the finest of the modern Irish farmhouse cheeses made in the artisanal manner and has won medals and awards throughout the world.
DIRECTIONS: Located on the R591, 95km west of Cork city, 10km from Bantry.
SPECIAL AREAS OF CONSERVATION: Dunbeacon Shingle, Sheep’s Head, Farranamanagh Lough, Reen Shingle.
The village of Ahakista is located midway along the coast road between Durrus and Kilcrohane on the Sheeps Head peninsula. It is a wooded coastal village with a deep and sheltered harbour. The harbour is home to both fishing boats and pleasure craft and the annual Ahakista Regatta is held every August bank holiday weekend. There is a small sandy beach, and the 90 km of marked trail comprising the Sheep’s Head Way criss-crosses through the village.
A memorial garden and sundial that honour the memory of the victims of the 1985 Air India disaster can be found in Ahakista. Air India Flight 182 was an Air India flight operating on the Montreal–London–Delhi route. On the 23 June 1985 the airplane operating on the route, a Boeing 747-237B, was blown up by a bomb at an altitude of 9,400m and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while in Irish airspace. A total of 329 people were killed, including 280 Canadians, 27 British citizens and 22 Indians. The incident was the largest mass murder in modern Canadian history. The sundial was sculpted by Cork sculptor Ken Thompson and was donated by the people of Canada, India and Ireland.
Kilcrohane is located west south-west of Durrus as you head towards the end of the Sheep’s Head peninsula. The village lies under the ‘Shadow of Seefin’ — the area’s highest mountain and overlooking Dunmanus Bay. Kilcrohane is renowned for its beautiful coastline and idyllic views and is a lively and vibrant seaside village whose population swells in the busy summer months.
The Kilcrohane pier is popular swimming place and there are numerous private coves dotted along the coast. The water is clear and perfect for swimming. There is an abundance of pollock and mackerel in Dunmanus Bay for fishing and there is boat access to Carbery Island where seals are plentiful.
Kilcrohane takes its name from the Church of St. Crohan founded in the 8th century. Little is known about Crochan except that he is believed to have lived about the time of St. Patrick (mid 5th century). There is a ruined church in the grounds of the cemetery, thought to be where Crohan built his cell.
The nearby Bantry Bay Golf Club is a demanding 18 hole course, designed by Christy O’Connor, Jnr.
Fishing and Angling
The area offers a great diversity of fishing from the many convenient rocks and piers along the bay –Durrus pier (grey mullet), Kilcrohane pier (pollock and wrasse) and Dunoon pier (pollock, wrasse, mackerel, ling and the much prized sea bass). The ‘Airport Beach’ towards Bantry is a famous dogfish and ray location. From both the rocks and Dunoon pier you will be able to spot sea urchins and large star fish.
There are also plenty of places to charter a boat if deep sea angling is more your style
Surfing and Swimming
Near Durrus are the spectacular golden sands of Barley Cove. This is a fantastic beach with good surf in the right conditions. In the summer months the beach is manned by lifeguards and whilst it can get reasonably busy, it is never packed.
Another great beach is the one at Ballyrisode. This is a much more family friendly beach as it’s shallow and more enclosed. There is also a small beach in Ahakista, again very family friendly and easily accessible. There are lots of little bays and inlets around the area and no doubt you may find one that is your own little secret.
Sheep’s Head is filled with small attractive harbours, where you can swim from the piers.
Just outside the village of Kilcrohane is a small, sheltered harbour. The water here is clear and of good depth. As you swim you will have good views across Dunmanus Bay. Go through the village of Kilcrohane and watch out for a left turn signposted for the Pier.
A few kilometres past Kilcrohane is another pier, this time at Ruaim Harbour. Here the water is choppier as the harbour is less well protected. Access to the water is via the stone steps and the water is lovely and clear. Travel a few kilometres beyond Kilcrohane and watch out for a left turn signposted for Ruaim.
Trà Cluais – Gortnakilla Pier
If you want to get away from it all then this might be the place for you. Located on the far side of the peninsula to Durrus and Kilcrohane, Gortnakilla is quite remote. This is a narrow inlet harbour, with steps and a slipway giving access to the harbour. From Durrus head towards the village of Gerahies. After the village watch out for a right turn signposted for the harbour.