Today our Wild Atlantic Way journey takes us slightly afield, about 16km from Bantry to the little town of Drimoleague, where we meet up at the Top of the Rock Pod Pairc and spend the day exploring West Cork with David Ross. This was one of my best days in Ireland and I hope you have the time to read about the entire trip. If not, this is the short version:
- The Pod Pairc is the most unique place to stay in the center of what is Ireland’s best walking area. Pick from 300km of trails nearby. Here’s a short video about Top of the Rock.
- If you have limited time or just want to try an easy walk – the Alpaca Walk is fun, easy to do and has beautiful scenery (including a waterfall.)
- Looking for history and some fine dining – head to Gougane Barra to the sixth century St. Finbarr’s Oratory and then have dinner in the Gougane Barra Hotel.
There’s much more in the complete version, including my big mistake, so please keep reading.
The Complete Version
(Page one of two pages)
Drimoleague – where the heck are you?
I’ve been following the Wild Atlantic Way down the west side of Ireland and worked my way to lovely County Cork and into Drimoleague, where I have been invited to visit Top of the Rock – Pod Pairc & Walking Centre.
Drimoleague is 20km from Bantry going due east on R586.
Top of the Rock Pod Pairc
Following the signs north on the well-marked route from town center, I worked my way up the hillside to Top of the Rock, owned by David and Elizabeth Ross. This is a small working farm in an idyllic location with marvelous little cabins (pods), perfect for travelers, walkers and families. The farm is a restoration of his grandfather’s farm who settled here in 1920.
David and Elizabeth are the perfect hosts – with hospitality a-plenty and a wonderful knowledge of the West Cork area. Looking for places to walk or visit – just ask. There are walks of all lengths with sights to suit anyone. Hiking books and maps are available to purchase in the guest center as well. David’s separate Top of the Rock Walking Tour’s website has more information available on the walks starting from the Pod Pairc.
The guest center serves as a dining area upstairs as well as a reception area. Downstairs you’ll find a game room with pool table and ping-pong table. There’s a large laundry room as well as men’s and women’s shower facilities. For anyone who wants to prepare their own meals, there’s a large kitchen with gas and electric stoves, refrigerator and freezer.
Top of the Rock is known as the “Walkers’ Junction of West Cork.” Because you can walk in any direction, your biggest decision will be “Which way today?” There are about 300km of dedicated walking trails that anyone can enjoy in West Cork…and lucky for you, I think David knows them all and can give suggestions.
How to choose a walk?
Want to hear about many of the walks available as part of the Drimoleague Heritage Walkways? David Ross narrated a series of ten 15-minute recordings you can download to provide further insight into the wonders of each walk. Click here to give a listen.
David was kind enough to custom design a whirlwind tour for this journalist, who wanted to see everything, but had very little time to actually walk the trails and soak up all the countryside had to offer. You’d do yourself a disservice to do what I did, the paths are incredible and you’ll want to savor every step and discover West Cork’s treasures slowly.
World’s best Panna Cotta
Our first stop was a visit to his brother’s Glenilen Farm where I got to sample some of his dairy products. To say his Panna Cotta was the best I’ve ever had is an understatement. I had the Coconut & Passion Fruit which was out of this world.
Their yogurt is packed in 160g. glass jars with the natural fruit layered at the bottom, and has zero additives or artificial flavors. Don’t leave Drimoleague without picking up some of their products. You can thank me later.
Down to the river, we glimpsed Castle Donovan, one of the many charming scenes on the popular St. Finbarr’s 34km Pilgrim Walk. Walking across the stone Ahanfunsion Bridge (originally built in 1830) we explored the much more current, gently arched, wooden Manager’s Bridge.
Read on for strange furry animals, stones that stand, wild Irish tales and a groovy place for pilgrims.
Also published on Medium.