John and I are currently on a 2 year trip where we are pursuing our passion of trail running through the various landscapes and environments of the world. As we pass through each country we want to post our top pick for a trail run that we did. This does not mean that this is the best trail to run in that country. It just means that it was our favorite that we did. We are both using Ultraspire Fastpacks to carry our gear, hence the name of the column. Ireland was especially meaningful as it allowed me to reestablish contact with family who hadn't been seen in far too many years and for John to get to meet some of the Aunts, Uncles, cousins, and family friends. This run was not the longest one we did or most rugged but had some special components that made us pick it as our favorite.
Where: Dursey Island, County Cork, Ireland
Facilities/Trailhead: Dursey Island is located at the tip of the Beara Peninsula in southwest Ireland. It is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel of water that has a cable car connecting it to the mainland. This is the only cable car in Europe that goes over ocean. Local residents (there are 12 full time residents) and livestock (sheep and cattle) get priority for the cable car. There is parking at the mainland side of the cable car and additional trails (part of the Beara Way) are located there. A restroom and hot dog stand were also located there. There are no facilities on the island itself so come prepared.
Fees: The cost of the cable car ride was 8 Euros round trip. The cable car runs in the morning, afternoon, and for an hour in the evening. There is a long lunch and dinner break so plan accordingly so you don't get stranded on the island.
Terrain/Trails: The island is 4 miles long and just under a mile wide. The end of the Beara Way (206 km path consisting of a combination of single track, dirt, and paved country roads) is located on the island. There is a loop that can be done. The high route is single track that goes over the top of a series of hills to the end of the island at Dursey Head. The low route is along the gravel farm road that traverses the island. The trail is well marked with wooden stakes with a yellow hiker and arrows on them.
Distance: The trail on the island makes a 13 km (~8 mile) loop. Another 4 km loop is located on the mainland side from the parking lot and longer out and backs can be done further on the Beara Way.
Description: From the cable car there is a single track trail that heads up the hill to the right. This first part is the steepest part of the whole loop but it is not very high so it doesn't last long. Sheep graze in the pasture watching you as you go by.
The trail then rolls over a series of hills with the third hill being the biggest.
This is 252 meters high and has an old signal tower on the top of it. When we did it this hilltop was enveloped in clouds which made the tower very surreal as it appeared out of the mist. The tower is from the Napoleonic era where it was part of an invasion early warning system.
As you come off this hill toward the end of the island you start to feel like you are running to the edge of the earth. Besides a few scattered small islands and some sailboats there is nothing in front of you or to the sides but water. The view is pretty special.
Other fun facts: The island was once a depot for Viking slaves before they were shipped off to Scandinavia. It also had a history during the Irish Revolution in 1602 when a massacre occurred there by the British. It is frequented by bird watchers as rare birds from America and Siberia can be spotted here.