The Póc an Tairbh Loop Walk is a three-hour walking route which offers spectacular views across the valleys that cluster around Carriganass Castle, just outside Kealkill village in West Cork.
The walk’s name – Póc an Tairbh – is an Irish phrase that means ‘the bull’s pocket’, and it’s the name of one of the hills that dominate the skyline here, near the shores of Bantry Bay.
This loop walk takes you from the Carriganass Castle gates up into the hills that overlook the Borlin valley. Enjoy views over the mountains and Bantry bay, visit a Bronze Age Stone Row, or call in to a contemporary basketry workshop and organic farm on your way.
From the castle entrance, follow the road to the left, past the picnic area. After 0.5km, you will cross a bridge over the Owenbeg River.
At the junction beyond the bridge, follow the left fork. The road is narrow with sharp bends, so watch out for traffic.
Follow the winding road for 1.75 km until you reach a marker and stile which lead left, off the road, onto a dirt track. Look out for the wealth of birdlife here. Blackbirds, thrushes, robins, tits, sparrows, crows, ravens, pigeons and pheasants can often be sighted (and heard) here.
Follow the way markers to the crest of the hill, passing a ruined house (cabhlach) on the left. You are now in the Bull’s Pocket (Póc an Tairbh).
From here, you can look out across Bantry Bay to the west, and Kealkill village to the south, and the Sheha hills to the east.
At the second cabhlach, in the hollow of the hill, follow the way markers to the right. This path will lead you to a small stile.
Cross the stile to enter a small forest plantation and fire break.
Cnoc Baoi, the highest peak in West Cork, is to your north, and the Sugar Loaf mountain can be seen in the distant west.
Follow the fire break to a stile which emerges on Barr an Adhmaid (Top of the Timber) road.You can now see the Borlin Valley, one of the three valleys around Carriganass Castle. Turn right onto the Barr an Adhmaid road, and walk for about 2km to the Maughanasilly crossroads.
You are now on the route taken by O’Sullivan Beare on the tragic retreat to Leitrim in January 1603.
East of the crossroads, you’ll see the evidence of other generations’ presence on this landscape in the form of a Bronze Age Stone Row. You’ll also see evidence of the quarry from which stone for Carriganass Castle was originally sourced.
About 150 metres north of here you’ll find the contemporary basketry workshop and organic farm. Visitors are more than welcome to call in!
To head back to Carriganass Castle from here, follow the signs and roadway that take you around the lake, and past the quarry from which the castle sandstone was originally sourced.
To extend the walk for another hour, you can link into the Srón na Gaoithe loop walk at the crossroads.