Ireland day 0300. Monday 25 July 2022- Oriel

Ireland day 0300. Monday 25 July 2022- Oriel
Today’s summary Val had a day off so we joined two friends from the Walking Club to do a recce for a possible Group walk from Seapoint via Termonfeckin and Clogherhead to Port Oriel.   An excellent contrast of beach and rocky headland, and nice to see the seals in Port Oriel harbour at the end.  Retraced our steps to return the same way
Today’s weather Dry and overcast.   A few short sunny intervals.   Moderate to strong north westerly wind.   About 18C
Today’s overview location
(The blue mark shows the location of our route)
Close-up location
(The green line shows where we walked)
(Click button below to download GPX of today’s walk as recorded, or see interactive map at bottom with elevations corrected):
Seapoint Termonfeckin Clogherhead and Port Oriel

I like visiting Termonfeckin not just because the name rolls off the tongue so beautifully, but also because it’s situated on a really nice piece of coastline which, unusually for this part of the east coast, combines fine broad sandy beaches with a bit of “proper” rocky clifftop headland.

Observant readers of this blog may remember that a couple of weeks ago, while relaxing in the pub after a walk round Phoenix Park, I rashly agreed to lead a walk from Termonfeckin at some point later in the year.   Well today was the day that chickens came home to roost.  Val had a full day off work, and the weather forecast was set fair, so we thought that in terms of doing a recce, it was probably now-or-never (or at least now-or-not-for-a-long-time).   We were joined by two friends from the club who also had a spare day, so we all aimed for the An Grianan ICA Centre to start the walk.   (By the way “An Grianan” is Irish for “sun” and the ICA is the “Irish Countrywomen’s Association” – a bit like the Women’s Institute in the UK.  We rendezvoused there today simply because it has a big free carpark).

Once we had all gathered at about noon, we set off down a slightly overgrown pathway, then through a smart modern housing estate, to finish up on the beach at Seapoint, which is actually a couple of hundred meters down the coast from Termonfeckin itself.   We discovered that there is an even bigger car park at Seapoint – with the added bonus of remarkable odour free composting toilets – so when we do the main walk itself (probably in November) we will probably start it here rather than in An Grianan.

Once out on the beach, it was business as usual in the weather department with a strong north westerly wind and heavy cloud pegging the temperatures back.   There were a few hardy souls out on the beach – and even a couple of swimmers – but nothing like the crowds of a couple of weeks back when the sun was really shining in force.   We headed up the beach into the wind, knowing at least that we would have it on our backs for the return.

It’s about 5km / 3mi up the shore to Clogher Head (the village – as opposed to Clogherhead the headland, which is a bit further on) and we were there quickly.   The beach, it seems, is pretty timeless except that at this time of year you have to step carefully to avoid treading in the numerous giant semi-liquid pools of lion’s mane jellyfishes which lie becalmed on the sand.   They really are quite stomach churning if you look at them too closely.  By this time, a lunch break was called for, so we found a few rocks with a bit of shelter from the wind and settled down for our sandwiches.

Once fortified by lunch, we pressed on and were soon stepping out over the springy turf of Clogher Head itself.   It’s a nice lofty spot, and as you come over the top of the headland, suddenly a panorama over Dunany Point and Dundalk Bay to the north opens up, with the Cooleys and the Mournes seeming to be so close in front of you they could almost hit you in the face.   I find them quite mesmerising, in a semi-mysterious sort of way.   Anyway, we kept our feet firmly on the ground and headed right over the top and down into the little harbour of Port Oriel, where the playful seals were waiting in the harbour to greet us – presumably in the expectation that we were bringing fish.   (I say “playful” but that’s a bit of anthropomorphism – in reality they were probably just hungry and looking for an easy meal).

For human beings, the prospect of an easy meal was indeed on offer, in the form of a little café which I think is only open in the summer (it certainly hadn’t been open last time we were there in the winter).   They serve a pretty good cup of coffee with Bakewell tart – which of course we had to avail.

At that point, we went down to say a phocine hello, then returned the way we came, over the headland and down the beach to the car park at An Grianan.   Like Sunday’s walk, it was an out-and-back shuttle but the views on the return seemed quite different – and the tide had gone out a lot – so the footscape, if there is such a thing, was different too.

So that completed our day.   We finished the recce just after 5pm and made our separate ways back to Dublin.   So a couple of us will be back in November to lead the walk, when doubtless time and tide will have changed everything again.   I’m actually looking forward to it already, as it’s a really lovely part of the world.


Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

Up at Clogherhead village, setting out on the Headland Walk to Clogher Head (not the same as Clogherhead) and then on to Port Oriel.   I like this walk because it combines both the easy dreaminess of the beach with the interest and challenge of a proper clifftop path Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) caterpillars grazing on ragwort (Senecio / Jacobaea vulgaris).   Ragwort contains an alkaloid which is toxic to most animals – including cattle.   So it is an invasive weed when it grows in arable pasture.   The cinnabar moth clearly isn’t affected by the toxin and by grazing on the ragwort helps to kill it off.   In fact the caterpillars concentrate the alkaloid in their bodies, making them taste bitter and indeed poisonous if eaten in large enough quantities.   So most predators – apart from one species of cuckoo – avoid them.
At Port Oriel.   It was actually quite cool and windy there, so we were glad of the sunny interlude.   The blue and white hut is a handy small café where obviously we had to pause to test out the coffee and cakes.   It’s a lovely spot though, despite the temperature, and we spotted at least six pretty big seals lolloping around in the harbour among the fishing boats Heading back from Port Oriel over Clogher Head, and then down to the beach leading to Seapoint.   Its a nice little outcrop with abundant cormorants perched on its rocky crags.
(For the geologically inclined, it’s the site of the Iapetus Suture, actually, where Avalonia collided with Laurentia 390 million years ago)
I have no idea what this object buried in the sand is but we decided not to hang around long enough to find out Rather splendid Kazuba composting toilets in Seapoint carpark.   They are pretty amazing actually as there is absolutely no smell and they seem to keep themselves spotlessly clean.   Whoever invented them deserves a medal
Looking out from Port Oriel to the Mournes (the right hand side of the ridge of mountains on the horizon) and Cooleys (on the left)
Interactive map

(Elevations corrected at  GPS Visualizer: Assign DEM elevation data to coordinates )

Total distance: 15067 m
Max elevation: 34 m
Min elevation: 0 m
Total climbing: 191 m
Total descent: -191 m
Total time: 05:30:55
Download file: Termonfeckin And Clogher Head compressed corrected.gpx

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