LOW tide was to be at midday at Nohoval Cove. I wanted to explore the location with the sea leaning away from it, exposing the area’s otherwise submerged, gnarly geology.
It just so happened that this day was a Sunday, and there was nothing overhead but an endless dome of blue and a single, giant burning star.
The winding boreen that takes you through valleys and over hills on your way south to the cove was as busy as I had ever seen. Upon approach, I had to snake reverse my car a few hundred feet to park it in the entrance of a relic cottage. My index finger jumped up and down from my steering wheel as six cars exited, all saluting and smiling at me.
After watching so many cars leave, I thought I’d have a good chance at getting close to the last parking point nearest the water, and luckily I did.
With heat from the sky dropping vertically, the old walking track of chipped stone and mud was parched dry, with little trickles from a ditch meandering their way down to the cove with me.
Your first view of the cove is at the bottom of a V shape, with a grass path to your left that takes you high up to a viewing point, the skeletal remnants of a time-worn building to your right and some more walking paths.
Passing the old stonemasonry at such an odd location had my imagination firing. What would you build in such a precarious place? A look-out? A home? Whatever it was, they couldn’t have chosen a more dramatic location on the south coast of Ireland.
There’s a curious juxtaposition I feel when I gaze out onto Nohoval Cove. It’s as beautiful as you would expect, with the brightness of the sky dappling so much gleam against the water and its constant motion, the softness of the water’s foam and its churning effervescence, the meditative sounds from the swell of energies that bounce from the cliffsides around you.
Standing peacefully at the edge of the cove is a potent dose of ‘nature’s therapy’. And then with a quick shift in attitude, maybe because of a slippery rock underfoot, a different kind of sentiment is summoned inside you; one of caution and survival. The sheer force and intensity from the violently choppy waters thumping against the sharp and jutting outcrops of rock. The loud blasts booming with every collision. Instead of focusing on the surface of the water, I began to think about the depths and the hidden threat of sunken boulders, mixing with thousands of tonnes of liquid turbulence, slopping in a vortex.
This is far from a sandy beach, to step into the water is to step into the invisible and unknown. It can be calm on some days, mind you, however this day was particularly wild.
I climbed and scaled along to the right hand-side of the cove. A man and his dog seemed to know exactly where they were going, so I copied their route. The dog was so blissfully unaware of any treacherous under- hum that could come crashing against it, wagging its tail ecstatically at me.
I ended up on a side where I had never been before, a side that was free of people and full of perfectly smoothed and polished rocks.
A lonely cave sat in the shadows, dripping with gentle echoes.
Looking across the cove I could see the scattered gatherings of families and friends and couples all trundling along their grassy path in the gorgeous spring sunshine.
The further out you get the calmer the water seems and it will almost fool you into thinking you could walk in it. Is it sandy there, I thought to myself. I placed my bag safely on a rock and attempted to step in, the water immediately raised up to my waist with an unstable rock at the sole of my trainers and then an onslaught of suds to my chest... Nah, you can’t walk there.
The most stunning sight at Nohoval is of the sandstone stacks. They’ve always resembled breaching whales to me, torpedo-like in their shape, pointed to the top and slightly convex as if they were hydrodynamic.
The geological strata are like the grooves on the throat of an enormous whale.
The first time I walked up the grassy incline to the main viewing point, I didn’t know what to expect, and as my eyeline rose and fell over the cliff’s edge and the sight beyond swallowed up my focus, a thrill ran through me. I get the same thrill on every visit. A quiet day and a quiet hour, perhaps sunrise or sunset, are optimal visiting times, I suggest.
* If you are visiting an area near water it is important to know the do’s and don’ts. See https://watersafety.ie/recreation/. Also stick to public pathways.
Next week: Richard visits Marlogue Woods, Cobh.