We pulled into Mizen Head car park unusually late for us so passing through the gate, I backed into the first spot I came to. It turns out it was the last empty spot. It pays to be lucky.
Bathed in brilliant sunshine we soon had Escape Velocity semi level and we were in the mood for a stroll. While I cinched up the Merrells Marce said, “Can you see that thing on the horizon?” Of course the bulb eventually switched on and it had to be the sailing icon of sailing icons. Fastnet!
I hadn’t expected to see it from here; it’s a good nine miles off but it’s unusually clear today and we’re really high up here on the cliffs. I sat and stared at it for a long time. Thrills and chills.
Mizen Head is a pay as you go proposition so after closing time the ticket gates, not to mention the gift shop, are closed and you’re not getting down to the rock. I didn’t mind. I am in my happy place, by the sea. When you think about it, it’s hard to believe the crazy path we’ve followed that has led us to this storied place. Yes, thrills and chills, especially when we came across this half buried propellor from a wreck off the headland.
Up here in these high latitudes it takes a while for a bright sunny day to soften into pastel azure shades of dusk.
The Fastnet lighthouse kept us company, every ten seconds, all night long.
We woke up at a more civilized hour, apparently, than most of the funseekers rapidly filling up the parking lot around us. It’s a long hike just to get to the entrance in the gift shop and we did not waste a moment of this glorious sunshine. The path starts as a steeply inclined exercise in keeping one’s downward momentum under control. I’m with Bill Bryson, struggling to not flail like George Chakiris as a nearly out of control Shark in West Side Story.
It’s not very elegant or satisfying but the views are magnificent.
Mizen Head is the most southwestern point of Ireland and it’s the first — or last — sight of Europe for seafarers on this route. Like many headlands, and most here in Ireland, it’s rocky and forbidding and if you’re on a boat, you’ll give it a wide berth. Today the seas are calm but I can only imagine what it’s like in a blow.
The Head itself is almost an island so the first inspired bit of construction you come across is this graceful bridge spanning a deep canyon.
The old signal station is now part of the museum with displays on the history and significance of Mizen, and also the construction of the lighthouse on Fastnet Rock.
What could be more perfect. A sloop, brilliant in the off-shore sun, full-and-by, working her way around Mizen Head, well off.
It’s impossible to capture the scale and majesty of this dramatic landscape.
Looking around I’m noticing a lot of weary faces and that’s when I recalled seeing a small sign warning of the 99 steps straight up to get back up to the gift shop. In other words, leave a little in the tank. I swear there would be fisticuffs if they dared put a bench seat on the way up.
Finally, as we grew closer I could just imagine how good those upholstered seats are going to feel. We both flopped down, looked up and there was Fastnet, a beacon even to a campervan.
Thrills and chills.