We did eventually spot the tiny turn-off for the one we needed (“Pontoon”) and Joleen reversed the car onto it. Nothing as substantial as a roll-on/roll-off job in this area. At a squeezed, the ferry will apparently take five vehicles, though they’d have to be bubble cars. The larger ferry fits five comfortably, I’m told, and seven if they’re sandwiched rather tightly. Caitriona was in that situation once and it wasn’t until she was wedged in that she realised the was completely screwed if the very sank – she had no sunroof and couldn’t open her doors!
Bere Island’s around 7 x 3 miles in dimensions and the populations floats around the 200 mark. There are only two pubs and they’re pretty far apart. So if one’s shut, you’ve quite a walk to the other. We left pubbing till later and began by driving (the long way round) to Caitriona’s family home.
This turned out to be a fantastic old building set back about 100 yards from the sea within the only section of woodland on the island. The view over the sea was of Hungry Hill on the mainland, something it’s recommended to hike up if you have the time. Which I didn’t, sadly. It’s spectacular, frankly.
Inside the house was spacious and very old-fashioned. It had the kind of clean smell that reminded me of the dentist’s or doctor’s from when I was a child. All old furniture and wood with beds stacked in the rooms as you’d expect from a sizeable family. We stopped long enough to ditch the bags and sort out walking gear. Joleen had a few targets to hit photo-wise and they’d involve some hiking.
As it happened, some army types were kicking around in preparation for such an exercise and Joleen had a chat with one of them about the range and so on. I was told to “shut up” due to my accent prior to her engaging him in conversation. I’d not be a convincing spy. We did get to see the area where the “target-holders”, and I assume score-masters, sit. I’m sure if you spent long enough digging through the grey sand used to stop the bullets you could find yourself plenty of spent rounds.
Instead, we walked past and down onto some rather impressive rocks. The structure makes the island look like it was made of lots of narrow rock “plates” stacked up, which then toppled leaving them stuck into the ground at an angle. We found a very small enclave with a sand-like surface made entirely from smashed and ground seashells, predominantly blue and white in colour. The views were just stunning, and we were at sea level.
The first major touristy thing to see was the cross – a large white concrete religious symbol sat atop the highest point on the island, so therefore a bit of a walk. Mass is often held there, though there is a drivable track that is used to get the older worshippers up. The track is closed regularly, though, and also on the 31st of January every year to all public passage. Apparently this is to use a loophole in the law to prevent a public right of way being created – as long as it’s shut at least once a year, no right of way can be introduced.
Weighed down with calories, we returned to the car and drove further round the island to a point where we could walk to the lighthouse. This is a marked walking trail and we followed it for around 45 minutes. The lighthouse is perched on the western edge of the island and – you guessed it – offers a wonderful view. Two men were visible down below taking photos and making notes about it. A popular structure!
The tower has had a lot of work done on it to make it tourist-friendly, though the lights inside didn’t work and someone’s smashed all the exterior ones that would light it up at night. Also, by the time we got there, the wind was blowing clouds all around and over us to the view was… well. There wasn’t one.
As we left the house, Caitriona turned to us. “I just saw a guy with a gun! He saw me and turned, then walked back up the drive to the gate!”
Great. And here’s me with an English accent. I assumed she meant some wandering farmer with a shotgun. Treading delicately out to the front of the house, it turned out it was a couple of soldiers, all camo’d up. Facepaint, leaves in their hats, the lot. And about 18 years old. With big guns.
Caitriona gave them the OK and we disappeared off into the twilight for a couple of pints in O’Sullivan’s. The older army lot were in there. I assume they’d decided it was more fun to have a few drinks than go looking for recruits hiding in Land Rovers. Fair enough, I can understand that.
We walked home around midnight and the roads were completely dark. I’d brought my headlamp and wore it which made finding the path a lot easier. When we got back to the property, we spotted the “hidden” soldiers a little quicker than they perhaps would have liked.
We slept well. At least any potential burglars were in for a hell of a shock.