Rush along the coast and you may miss some scarce-visited delights of Cork, including Kitchen Cove in Dunmanus Bay, says Norman Kean
Dunmanus Bay, the first of the great rias north of Mizen Head, is one of the least-travelled stretches of water in Ireland. Yachts tend to pass it by in their hurry to get to the more popular honeypots of Bantry Bay, which is a pity.
Dunmanus Bay has several lovely anchorages, and the best of these is Kitchen Cove, beside the tiny village of Ahakista. Kitchen Cove lies on the north shore of the bay, eight miles from the entrance between Three Castle Head and Sheep’s Head, and three miles from the head of the bay at Durrus.
Largely surrounded by woodland, the anchorage is also protected by the low rocky Owen’s Island to the south and by reefs extending from it to the shore. Entry to Kitchen Cove from the south-west is straightforward; the ocean swell has normally completely dissipated this far in, and while the shores on each side of the entrance to the Cove have extensive drying rocks, the clear channel is more than a cable wide. A small red-and-white banded pole marks the inner end of the reefs on the port hand.
Good anchoring is available north or north-west of Owen’s Island. The shallow (and very sheltered) north-west corner is taken up by local moorings, and the north-east corner, south of the pier, has poor holding on a rocky bottom. Approaching from the east, the narrow channel between Owen’s Island and the reefs is not recommended. The concrete pier has a metre and a half of water at LAT at its outer end, and a water tap, but for overnight berthing the local shellfish boats take priority. There is a strong tradition of hospitality and good seamanship, as we found on one occasion when we dragged an anchor and fouled the propeller on the tripping line.
There are two pubs with lovely beer gardens – the long-established Arundel’s, and the Ahakista Bar, known as the Tin Pub from its corrugated roof. This is a remote part of Ireland – the bus goes to Bantry just three times a week – and running through Ahakista is the Sheep’s Head Way, a 56-mile walkway extending all round the peninsula and offering spectacular views of the cliffbound coast.
A few hundred yards east along the Durrus road from Ahakista Pier is a beautiful memorial garden to the Air India disaster. In June 1985 a Boeing 747 flying from Montreal to London and Delhi was blown up 180 miles off the Irish coast. The death toll of 329 was one of the worst in a single terrorist incident until the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. The centrepiece of the garden is a sundial whose shadow is said to fall in the direction of the crash at the time of the anniversary each year. That is true, but more accurate is the shadow, 13 miles to the south, of the Fastnet lighthouse.