Over the Top: Healy Pass

The north side of Healy Pass. Photo courtesy Ian Smith.

He was in the middle of the road. No, I mean the middle. The road is around 1.5 lanes wide, there is no option but to stop. He beckons me to wind the driver’s window down and I do, reflecting that if this was in America you’d be wary of having a gun poked in your face but here, go with the flow. 

“Where are you from?” he queried in a distinctive Irish brogue and you immediately noticed the teeth in his mouth, or what was left of them. It appeared the fingers on one hand would have been sufficient to enable you to count what was left.

“Australia,” I replied.

The clothes he was wearing had had no relationship of any kind with a laundry machine, which was apparent when he thrust his hand determinedly through the gap in order to shake our hands.

“Welcome to Ireland,” he burst forth with a determined sincerity that caught us both by surprise.

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“Well, thank you,” I retorted and, no sooner had I said that then he was on his way at a forceful pace down the road, but this was no ordinary road. This was Healy Pass.

Found in south-west Ireland Healy Pass is a perfect diversion from the long Ring of Beara driving route. Photo courtesy Ian Smith.
Found in south-west Ireland Healy Pass is a perfect diversion from the long Ring of Beara driving route. Photo courtesy Ian Smith.

There are times when you visit countries that the unexpected eventuates, something happens to alter your journey that you hadn’t planned. It was when Tony, one of our hosts at Feynor B&B in Cork, heard we were going to Killarney, he told us to go via Healy Pass. 

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Now, I’d done quite a bit of research on Ireland and nowhere did Healy Pass crop up but, since Tony had taken us to Cork University the day before and it was excellent, we decided to try this Healy Pass. Now, as the gentleman without teeth disappeared from the rear view mirror, we were about half way up and already you could sense that this was some place special. 

Soon after we came to a stone bridge, a bit of a must-stop for someone like me and it didn’t disappoint but high up on the pass, near where it crossed, we could see a building. As the proverbial crow flies, it wasn’t all that far, but the twisting, windy, narrow road made it seem like an eternity before we got there. There were cars parked, people were walking here and there but one suspected not for long because the winds of Ireland can quickly chill to the bone those with inadequate clothing. 

Coolcrean Bridge, Healy Pass. Photo courtesy Ian Smith.
Coolcrean Bridge, Healy Pass. Photo courtesy Ian Smith.

The view from whence we’d come was a bit special and it was up here where funeral corteges from one county used to drop the body for the next one to pick it up and continue. Way in the distance Bantry Bay was being whipped up by the stiff breeze so we returned to the car and made for the summit, just 200m further on. If we thought all previous vistas were good, suddenly they all became inconsequential.

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The panorama looking west was simply stunning. Mountains to the left and right and the road descending its narrow way to down beside a large body of water called Kenmare Bay. Here and there the houses of property owners could be ascertained and occasionally a fence line could be made out but it was the scale of it all. You just couldn’t take it all in, didn’t know where to point your camera next.

There are spectacular views from the top. Photo courtesy Ian Smith.
There are spectacular views from the top. Photo courtesy Ian Smith.

Then came the descent down a road without barriers and Lorraine on the ‘wrong’ side but we were soon alongside the water again and heading for Kenmare.

Have you come across interesting characters during your travels? Tell us about them.

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