West Cork

I simply need to tell you all about a wild, beautiful, addictive and emotive part of the world. West Cork.

Over the past 6 months I’ve had a lot going on my world. I’m still living the Irish dream, working hard in the kitchen and an exciting project is in the pipeline. I really miss BlogDeMenthe which is my blog I re-branded into stevenmercer.co.uk last year. For the record it is still Blogdementhe.

It is West Cork which has brought me back. I visited Schull in West Cork about a month ago but it is only in the last week that my trip has taken a new, eery twist.

The murder:

In December 1996 Sophie Toscan du Plantier a French art producer was murdered whilst alone at her holiday cottage house near Schull in West Cork. The murderer has never been found and convicted. The Irish Guards had a prime suspect who there was never enough evidence to take to court. The French courts are currently in the process of taking him,a Bristish man to court in his absence in France. If convicted he could be a convicted murderer in France, but a free man in Ireland. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Sophie_Toscan_du_Plantier). I would recommend the West Cork podcast which i listened to on Audible but is a podcast as well I believe. This is where I heard the story last week.

When I visited Schull I had no idea about any of this. As i spent last week listening to the documentary I realised that without knowing it is I seemed to be visiting key landmarks in the story leading up to the tragic events of that night. As I write this post about the places I saw and things I ate, an expert in the murder story could be mistaken in thinking I was a tourist following her last day. To me, that is creepy. Very creepy.

My trip:

My trip started on a Sunday afternoon. I needed a few days away from the world. I had heard of the beauty of West Cork and was recommended Schull as one of the main tourist villages. The harbour hotel also had a cheap out of season deal. I was sold.

When you enter Schull it is hard not to be taken immediately by the place. The bend into the village you can see the harbour and the fastnet lighthouse behind it. Turn inland and the mountain is looking over you. Off season, all that really seemed to be open was the hotel, a couple of pubs, a cafe and a charity shop. I was ready for a good couple of days.

I bought a paper and sat in Nickie’s Kitchen next to the hotel. A lovely cafe, Tea and a scone with the paper and I felt calmer already.

I decided on a lazy afternoon and walked around, then had a couple of Guinness and some dinner. In typically Irish style I was down in the bar quite late and was given free food to celebrate the fact it was superbowl night.

A day to change me:

I agree, nothing creepy yet. Its day two that gets my heart racing. I decided to go running on a trail I found vaguely on the internet. I spent huge amounts of it lost and confused and used google maps to find my way. Lots of dead ends and lonely old farmhouses. It was beautiful. Views down to the Atlantic and out to the beautiful Fastnet lighthouse. My first look at how remote and how wild west Cork was. Had I have known the murder story it would have been eerlily quiet.

The most creepy part for me comes next. I have only found the link to Sophie today. The heart racing moment was thirty seconds ago and wasn’t on my radar when planning to write this post.

After my run, I decided to take a drive out towards the Mizen Head to see some countryside and maybe see some Whales.

My first stop was the Alter Wedge Tomb. It is locally known as the church of the poor. It was used for burials and worship. The views are beautiful. I just planned to have a quick look and on first look it wasnt much. tThe moment I got close I started to feel strange. That feeling when you are sure you’re not alone. I felt almost claustrophobic like I was in a  crowded room. It was unbearable and I had to take steps away. I simply couldn’t explain the feeling. I still cant.

Whilst researching this morning I typed in the area of where Sophie’s house was to see it is in Toormore. The village where I stopped to see the Alter Wedge Tomb.

From here I needed a drink. I remember simply opening google maps to see where my options were. I saw that there were two pubs next to each other in a village called Crookhaven. One must be open I thought. I drove around the headland to a very quiet village. I didn’t like my chances and the first pub I saw was indeed closed and I got back in the car to turn around when I saw someone going into O’Sullivans.

O’Sullivans in Crookhaven is a wonderful pub with beautiful views. I got lucky, he was about to close but said I could get some chowder if id like. I thought something to eat with my pint was a good idea. The chowder was unreal. A lovely deep flavour of crab, chilli and dill. I loved it.

Where do you think Sophie was last seen? Of course, O’Sullivans.

I then headed up to Mizen head. It was a little disappointing as it was all shut up and I didn’t see any whales so not a great deal to be said here.

Next comes another freak out moment. I sat in the car at Mizen head wondering if perhaps I should visit someone else seeing as it had been so disapointing. I looked up Three Castle Head. It sounded really cool. The castles have a very violent history. A drop of blood is still said to drop into the lake each day in its memory. There is also said to be a ‘Lady of the lake’. If you see her it is meant  to indicate your immediate death.

I started researching how to get there and I had that same feeling I had at the Tomb earlier that day. Why? Something really deep inside me forced me against the idea. I had no idea why and was already so creeped out that I just listened and dove back the hotel.

On the day of Sophies death before stopping into O’Sullivans she had been up for a walk at Three Castle Head. Had she seen the lady of the lake that day? And why was I so forcibly thinking not to go there?

Looking back I now realise that that day there was something really weird going on. I’ve never felt like it before. Was I being drawn to places… Was i being drawn away from places…

That evening I toured the pubs in Schull. Its a great place to go. Very small, very friendly. I had a fairly early night as I was exhausted from the day.

The following day I decided to visit the Baltimore Beacon.

The weather was intense. Strong winds and heavy gales. I reached the car park and started the walk up to the beacon. I almost immediately fell over and was covered in mud. I was even more determined to get to the beacon. I was almost being blown off my feet. When I reached the beacon I was jaw dropped by the wild beauty. Rugged cliffs in three directions. My next realisation was that there was a sheer drop in three directions. This included a sheer drop inland which was the direction of the wind. I literally hid behind the beacon for a second and thought about my next move. A thought about how important life was came over me and I found my way around the cliffs and back to safe ground, not before making a panoramic video which i will remember forever.

I got back into the car, remembered I only had the one pair of jeans and drove home in my mud and rain soaked clothes a changed man.