We are heading towards some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, Downpatrick Head is a majestic heritage site 5 kms north of Ballycastle in County Mayo, it is a signature discovery point along the Wild Atlantic way, we are totally gobsmacked by the raw beauty of the headland as we arrive, we couldn’t get our coats on fast enough . We’ve decided this will be Pogos resting spot for tonight and the forecast says it will be reasonably calm.
Before the storm
There is a warmish breeze as we walk up the slopes of Downpatrick head, we near a blow hole called Poll Na Seantainne right in the middle of the headland! this huge cavernous gap has literally been formed by the sheer power of the sea, safely cordoned off with both a fence and glass panels, it was an impressive sight, advancing further up the head and nearing the edge, signs everywhere spelling danger! The ground looks like the hexagonal shapes of the Giants Causeway but covered in a soft bouncy mossy earth, it was a bit unnerving feeling movement under your feet when you are only feet away from a precipice.
unnervingly soft ground
the power of the waves
Heading up to a WW II lookout out we can see to our left the Stags of Broadhaven and Benwee head and to our right Streedagh in the distance. Carved into the Head with large rocks and granite is EIRE 64, this was to let the American Aircraft know that they were in neutral territory having crossed the Atlantic during WWII.
But the sight everyone comes for is Dun Briste, in 1393 the stack broke off in a storm, the stranded inhabitants allegedly rescued by rope, it sits 40 metres above the waves, it’s called a sea stack, many centuries of layered rock and sandstone of varying colours can be seen, and home to thousands of nesting sea birds.
Dun Briste sea stack
St Patrick is said to have founded a church here, hence the name of Downpatrick Head, pilgrims still flock here on the last Sunday of July known as Garland Sunday to hear mass at this sacred site.
Monument to St Patrick
Watching over the lands
Dave couldn’t get enough photos of the waves swirling and breaking against the stack. I had to prise him away and get back to Pogo for some food as it was getting more breezy, the waves forming white frothy clouds of spray as they hit the dark rocks in front of our windscreen, checking the weather forecast again before deciding to sleep here and opening the wine we were reassured the wind speed was no more than 16mph and there were no warnings forecast, storm Ali seems to have breathed its last breath.
a tempestuous evening
Well after Dave took 3 games of Yahtzee from me, scoring 2 Yahtzees in one game and getting an extra 100 points, 2 or 3 glasses of wine had been consumed and the gusts started, Pogo was seriously being bounced about, the Irish weather forecasts we learned later can change up to 4 times a day! Never mind 4 seasons in one day, we were well chocked up with wood blocks and a fence in front of us but I was not that relaxed, a restless night was had, tucked up tight under the duvet even the earplugs didn’t stop the sound of the waves crashing and the wind scuttling across the roof and trying to find it’s way under the skylights.
loving the views
Up early at 7am as the skylight sounded like it was going to take off, Dave assures me he’s put an extra two screws in it, having said that though he decides we’re off! At 7.15 am and we’ll have breakfast somewhere else less scary, heading inland to Crossmolina, well the R315 is one of the bounciest roads we’ve ever been on, Pogo is a creaky old soul anyway but the cups and plates rattling and chinking, we heard a crashing sound but on investigation it was only the shower screen that we hadn’t clipped back into place, finding a lovely harbour Aire at Crossmolina with 4 motorhome spaces at the top car park, it was deserted so we drove down to the pier a peaceful resting spot and we’ve got breakfast on, bacon butties and then a nap for me and photo sorting for Dave, he needs less sleep than me, all those years of being called out to work in the night with the newspaper industry, later on we were treated to yet another rainbow, so many different weather conditions in one day!
Ben Nephin from Crossmolina
Pogo and his mates
We relaxed for a few hours then made our way further south to Blacksod, Co Mayo, taking in a great road trip on the N59 which travels along the Wild Atlantic Way, we arrived at the square lighthouse at Blacksod pier, we are still tired after our sleepless night at Downpatrick Head, no exploring tonight, so after a tea of poached eggs and toasted sourdough we hit the sack!
Miles walked – 1.5
GPS Downpatrick Head, free parking, N54.31868,W009.34564
GPS Crossmolina, N54.09347,W009.29855
GPS Blacksod, free parking, N54.09904,W010.06191