Youghal is situated at the mouth of the Blackwater River and looks out over the Celtic Sea. Given its location it has a unique mix of coastal and freshwater wildlife and fauna. For nature walks, please see our page on Walking Trails. There are several excellent locations around Youghal for observation. Details on Youghal with kind permission of Pat Smiddy.
Ballyvergan Marsh, which is located to the north of Redbarn, is a proposed Natural Heritage Area. The marsh is of particular importance as it is the largest freshwater coastal marsh in County Cork, and accommodates important plant and bird species. It is also the most extensive known-breeding site for reed warblers in Ireland.
The marsh can be accessed via Claycastle Beach or alternatively, from Redbarn Beach.
Stretching right down to the seashore, Ballyvergan Bog is techniclly a marsh and lays close to high tide level. In 1860, a railway line was built right through the centre and for years, a rifle range was used close to Claycastle beach, first by English forces, then by the Free State army.
Common Reeds dominate the marsh with water dock and lesser scullcap growing in ditches. The Marsh Harrier visits yearly and in Spring / early summer Sedge Warblers from Africa can be spotted. Autumn sees large gatherings of Swallows and Sand Martins. Flocks of Swift can also be seen over the marsh if the weather is good. ‘Garden’ birds like the Robin, Blackbird, Bullfinch and Wren are also common as are the Starling which use the bog from June to Autumn and into the early winter. Starling numbers can be swelled tenfold with migrants from Northern Europe.
Ballyvergan Bog is proposed for protection as a Natural Heritage Area due to its importance as a freshwater coastal marsh. A bird watch exists just off the Gortaroo Road (keep an eye to the left! The key can be obtained from Youghal Visitor Center). Other good vantage spots include the hill at Claycastle or the former rifle range.
Otters can be difficult to spot at Ballyvergan Bog given their nocturnal nature, though dawn trips may yield a sighting. Mink, Hedgehogs, Fox and Stoats all habitate the bog.
At the mouth of the Womanagh River, Pilmore Strand features intertidal sandflats with low sand dunes fronting onto the beach proper. Birdwatching here can be undertaken from the relative comfort of the carpark! Marram Grass is the main vegetation in the dunes with Sea Sandwort, Sea Holly, Yellow Horned-poppy and some Prickly Saltwort to be found. The rare Sea-kale can also be found.
Cord Grass, an invasive plant, covers much of the mudflat. Like the Marram Grass in dunes, it traps silt and causes a build-up of material that can signicantly change the ecological nature of an area.
Turning right from Pilmore Strand is a good spot to watch wading birds when the tide is high. A good tip is to walk along any of the beaches in Youghal when the tide is coming in – birds get pushed ever closer and tend to take off only at the last minute as you approach.
Birds spotted here include the common Oystrecatcher, grey plovers, sanderlings, dunlins and bar-tailed godwits. Also of interest (depending on season) is the Curley, Redshank and Whimbrel. Brent Geese can be seen during the winter months. Gulls have a year round presence.
This hill is composed of clay deposited by a glacier – hard to imagine that the stretch of beach was once frozen over! On the seaward side, years of erosion have substantially withered away the face of the hill. There is an ongoing battle to protect the lands behind the sea walls and barriers stretching along the coast from flooding. The hill is signifcant because it offers an ideal vantage point for bird watching – Ballyvergan Bog, the sea and landward side are all be easily observed! Gannets, Cormorants, Ringed Plovers and Sanderlings can be observed sea side. Swifts and House Martins nest in the houses along the road.
Keep an eye out for otters and Grey Seals.
As you walk up Claycastle Hill, keep an eye out for Wild Clary – a rare plant in Ireland and only found in about a dozen other locations in Ireland.
Slob Bank & Quays.
Hidden away from the tourists but a favourite walk and haunt of locals are the quays and slob bank. The Slob bank was built in famine times using labourers from the workhouse and the land behind the wall has been used as summer pasture since – it floods often during the winter. All types of sea birds can be easily spotted from the quays, with pidgeons roosting in some of the ruins of the warehouses and the old Youghal Carpets factory that once thrived here. Gulls are the most common bird. Along the Slob Bank, Turnstones, Little Grebe, Ruff, Green Sandpiper and Kingfisher can be seen.
Mahon Falls are located circa an hour’s drive from Youghal, the Mahon River tumbling out from the Comeragh mountains in a fantastic, 80 meter waterfall. Take the N25 from Youghal towards Waterford, passing through Dungarvan. At Lemybrien, take the R676 for Mahon Bridge. Parking is available, but the final trek to view the Mahon Falls has to be made on foot and is a walk of roughly two miles (circa 15-20 minutes).
While there, be sure to stop on the Magic Road! After taking the final turn for Mahon falls, there is a small decline approx. 150 meters further on. This is the magic road and if stop at the fairy tree situated a few yards from the road to your left and turn off the engine, your car will travel backwards up the hill!
The Vee is an area of outstanding scenery, located circa. one hour drive from Youghal. From Youghal, take the R634 to Tallow. Proceed through the village and when you reach the main road, cross directly over onto the N72 for Lismore. From Lismore, take the R668 for Clogheen.
The road will take you through the Knockmealdown Mountains, rising and falling through hairpin bends and wonderful views. You’ll pass Bay Lough – local legend tells that it is bottomless and home to the witch, ‘Petticoats Loose.’
Falling away from the apex of the drive, you’ll arrive at Kilballyboy Wood where a 3km forest trail awaits the explorers.
When you reach Clogheen, you can circle back towards Lismore by taking the R665 to Ardfinnan (Clonmel Road). At Ardfinnan, take the road for Newcastle and from there follow the signs for Mount Mellary Monastery – a Cistercian monastery that follow the rules of St. Benedict. There is a cafe, religious shop and church at the Monastery.
There is also Mount Mellary Grotto, where in 1985 thousands of people flocked on hearing news that that the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes had moved and was revealing messages to people.
From Mount Mellary, take the road to Cappoquin and then the N72 to return to Lismore.
The Old Deanery Gardens
The Old Deanery Gardens are situated about a mile from the historic town of Cloyne in Co.Cork, Ireland. The gardens are set in 16 acres of parkland surrounding a 200 year old Georgian House and feature a restored walled garden, large wildlife lake, woodland walks and a garden railway. The gardens are open by appointment from mid April to September. More information on the gardens can be found here.